Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Sewing helps and goodies...

I think about sewing way more than I actually sew. However, I sew fast and furiously when I do get around to it. From time to time, I pick up wonderful links and tips around the internet. Here are a couple I found recently (or rediscovered) for those of you who love to sew...

DIY Magnetic Pin Holder using a lovely antique ceramic dish
 I own a Grabbit and do like it but find it to be a bit shallow for my needs and not very lovely. Great for those times when I take my sewing on the road with me... but not even close to as lovely as this DIY version.

Lovely Magnetic pin holder from Skip to My Lou
Hot and Cold Therapy Corn Bags
This is a great site for everything you ever wanted to know about making microwave corn bags. I made a ton of these several years ago with removable Minky covers and we still use them. Very nice for elderly who are frequently cold and inactive. My husband's grandmother used her frequently to warm her lap and hands. A great use for your scraps and feed corn is super cheap.

Top 100 Tutorials
The Long Thread has a listing of what she thinks are the top tutorials from 2008, 2009 and 2010.

5 Yards of Bias Tape from One Fat Quarter
I've posted this before but it never stops being cool.

Anniversary Gifts... What I Gave My Guy

15 Years at the Foot of the Cross
Truth be told, I don't usually get my husband anniversary gifts. There just aren't many things that he needs or wants. Okay, well... there are always books. But as much as I understand his affinity for books, buying them for every romantic celebration gets old. So he buys the gifts and I get pampered.

This is a big year for us... fifteen years of marriage. I wanted to get him a special present but decided against it for the same old reasons... until an opportunity fell into my lap. A great big thank you to the people at Easy Canvas for giving me the chance to try out their services!

I've been wanting to enlarge a wedding photo of us for years and I love how this turned out. (My apologies for the poor quality of my photos... they don't do justice to the print.) The wrapped canvas is a very nice look. I ordered an 8" x 10" because I wasn't sure where he would want to hang it. Where did it finally end up? He took it to work to put in his office. In spite of the fact that I won't be able to enjoy it in my home, I certainly can't complain with his choice of display locations!

Canvas prints have attracted my attention for years but I have held off with a purchase since my home seems to be in a state of perpetual renovation. But I have grand plans... and another one (or twelve) of these canvas prints would fit perfectly... once my walls are actually patched and painted. :)

You might be wondering what my husband's anniversary gift to me was this year. Well, so am I! Our anniversary was a month ago but we haven't had the opportunity to go out for our dinner yet. I opted to wait until then to open my gift. :)

Friday, August 26, 2011

7 Quick Takes Friday - Amusement Park Edition

We spent a day this week on our annual trip to Cedar Point. We plan this day for when most kids are already in school and before the end of the gorgeous weather. This means that the hour-long (and often much longer) lines are significantly shorter and the crowds are much thinner. This fact does not really detract from the overall affect of being thrown together with a mass of sweaty, sunburned, noisy, stinky, flesh-baring, screaming humanity. It was (and almost always is) a very fun day. It was (and almost always is) also a rather challenging day. I was so exhausted that I slept through the alarm clock the next morning. Apparently, it beeped for several minutes about two feet from my head before the Professor dragged himself out of his own bed to come in and turn it off. I never thought I'd hear my teenager grumbling at me for oversleeping!

I did a lot of bench sitting on our amusement park excursion due to the fact that I still have a nursing baby. That means I did a lot of people watching. One thing I noticed throughout the day was many young men walking around with rosaries around their necks. Cool, I thought. Must be lots of Catholics here. Youth groups or something. But then I noticed that these youngsters and their pals didn't act particularly Christian. At all. And their appearance and apparel in other ways was not... um... consistent with the original purpose of the rosary. I have since learned that this is a trendy fashion accessory for some young people. huh. Then I found this photo and things started to make sense...

David Beckham wearing FOUR rosaries for the sake of ... fashion. 
One unfortunate (but very common) side affect of spending the day with all kinds of people with all kinds of different germs, is that we often come home with something contagious. And in spite of the fun that we all had together that day, I would have preferred to stay home myself rather than have a 9-month old with the full blown influenza today. This is the worst illness he's had in his short life; he's either sleeping fitfully or is awake and inconsolable. Oh, and vomiting. I almost forgot that one. Poor, poor baby. Waiting to see who it hits next.

I'm convinced this is the Flu Bench. He was in the stroller most of the day and I was careful to keep his mouth off of things and fingers out of his mouth. It was the end of the day and we were all wilting... my vigilance was wilting. He lost a shoe. He lost a sock. I gave up. My arms gave out and I put him down by that bench. If we could see germs with the naked eye, I'm sure the flu bug would be visible right there underneath his beautiful and healthy little paws.

In a moment of artistic genius (or was it just heatstroke?) I snapped this photo of the Professor and Little Cub... through a garbage can. I call it "Orange You Glad We Recycle?" Yes... it was likely heatstroke. *sigh*

Speaking of orange... we decided that everyone in our group should wear orange so that we could easily spot one another in the crowd. It was a great idea really (thank you, Chief). No one was lost and we received many compliments and "I think your group is over there" type comments. Professor wore his St. Maximillian Kolbe shirt that he received for Easter and had five or six inquiries about it which he was  nicely prepared to answer.

Since we don't yet have a vehicle that fits all of us, the Chief splurged and rented a 12 passenger van for the drive. It was wonderful. Kind of like having one's own airport transport vehicle... but more comfortable. Perhaps we'll have one of our own someday soon. :)

Thanks so much to Jennifer for hosting 7 Quick Takes Friday at Conversion Diary!

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Online Voice Lessons: A Beautiful Adventure

My daughter loves to sing. Just ask her brothers who tease her mercilessly about her frequent bursts of joyful vocal expression. Fortunately, she understands the language of boys. She knows their gentle teasing is a sign of affection... and she reciprocates (in boy language) by chasing them around the house in a threatening manner. Which they understand to mean that she loves them, too.

At any rate, we all know she loves to sing and I have been thinking for a long time about the possibility of voice lessons for her. I have procrastinated and hemmed and hawed and employed all kinds of academic musings toward the problem. My own brief foray into lessons as a preteen was disappointing; a grumpy and discouraging teacher combined with terrible allergies made short work of my enthusiasm and embarrassed me into giving up that dream. So I have been careful with this one... I didn't want to just jump into lessons. There are also practical considerations in a large family dynamic. What to do?

Well, we did find a solution in the person of Daniel Foran, who is a practicing Catholic and professional performer and... he was homeschooled himself. Actually, he was the 9th of 14 children. Makes my family look tiny! So he knows our situation more than the average bear.

I wrote an article this week for CatholicMom in which I describe a little of our journey so far with Mr. Foran. It has been a good one. If you are looking for this kind of instruction for someone in your life who is serious about music or if you just want to read about a really cool Catholic guy... check it out. And please, please, please... listen to him sing! Check out his multimedia page for that privilege.

The lessons that Cookie has been taking are all online. It sounds odd, I know... but it has opened up a wonderful door for us; and I recommend this path for those who, like us, are willing to take on a bit of adventure to explore a dream.

Monday, August 22, 2011

When Daddy Does the Christmas Shopping...

The Chief had a bubble machine in his Amazon wish list for at least 4 years. Christmas would roll around and he would do his level best to convince me that one of our kids should have this machine. After several annual wifely rejections, he decided that asking my opinion was no longer productive and he went ahead and purchased it for our 6-year old. When he shared the news with me, I knew he had just spent too much money on a lousy gift. That just shows you how much I know about these things; apparently not much. The evidence is in...

My humble apologies to the Chief for doubting his shopping abilities. This is so much cooler than pretty much any idea I had (even if she did have to wait 8 months to use it). One female child was inspired to say: If I get married, I want a bubble machine for a wedding gift! Perhaps her sister will just lend this one to her. :)

Update: Just wanted to add that this is not our pool although we are blessed to have a family member who lets us swim in it. We are quite spoiled by (and grateful for) their generosity!

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

The Day They Came to Repossess the Corvette...

Several years ago, I was home alone with my three young children when I heard a loud banging on the door. It sounded as if a large person was taking a fist and smashing it into my door. I nervously looked out the window and saw a giant flatbed truck filling up my little street and two burly, surly men standing in front of my home. BOOM. BOOM. BOOM. Against my better judgement, I decided to answer the door.

"Open the garage! We've come to repossess your husband's Corvette." He shouted this at me and when I told him that we didn't own a Corvette, he got positively purple. He assumed I was lying and continued to demand that I open the garage. At the time, we only owned one car (not a Corvette) and my husband had it at work. I assured them, once again, that I had no car in there and if we did, it would not be a sports car.

They were convinced I was lying and treated me like a thief, yelling and grimacing and threatening. I don't know that I can blame them for that; it must be a nasty business at times. Still, it was rather unpleasant. They returned a couple weeks later with the same results. More banging, more shouting. Eventually, they went to my mother-in-law's house looking for my husband's alleged vehicle. They finally stopped haranguing her when she cleared up the case of mistaken identity by furnishing his social security number.

Over the years, we received other collections calls and notices for the man. My husband opened a letter from the man's niece which begged him to come home. The family loves you, Uncle... please come back to us. I even had a telephone call from his weeping mother. I assured her that she had the wrong person. "But isn't your name Melody?" Yes. "Then you are married to my son!" No. I assure you that you have the wrong person. You see, my husband has the same name and this mistake has happened before... She started to cry again.

Since we moved into a different city, we've not heard a peep from his creditors or family. But I think of him sometimes; this man who shares a name with my husband and has made such a mess of his life. I pray that he's gotten his act together and returned to the arms of those who love him. And I thank God that my husband is the man he is. That he rises each day and goes to his job to provide for us. That he loves us and communicates that through his words and actions. And that he has no interest in purchasing a Corvette.

May God bless the lost man and bring him safely home.

Monday, August 15, 2011

In honor of the day...

Madonna of the Magnificat c. 1485, Botticelli

Thanks be to God for the gift of our Blessed Mother and the Feast of the Assumption. Love you, Mama Mary.

Listen to John Rutter's Magnificat performed by the Cambridge Singers HERE.

Throw a little party... these "Assumption Cupcakes" from Catholic Cuisine are so pretty!

Friday, August 12, 2011

7 Quick Takes Friday (4)

Joining Jennifer at Conversion Diary for 7 Quick Takes Friday...

~ 1 ~
Anyone else getting up before dawn to see the annual Perseid meteor shower? I would like to do this with my children but I have the nagging fear that they won't go back to sleep once we've watched for a while. It is really a funny thing to have to argue with children to sleep in. You must sleep in! But Mommy... No. I don't want to see you out of bed before 10:00! Having multiple tired and grumpy children all day is worse than losing a couple of hours of productive time in the morning. Having said that, I do think it would be very cool to get up for this space event... although frankly, I'd prefer a sunrise by the ocean.

~ 2 ~
My notice of intent to homeschool paperwork for the school district is finally done. It's not actually difficult to do, it just requires a bit of focus. This is the year I officially have my fourth child "doing school" so it seems bigger to me. I have to upgrade from a letter sized envelope to a 9 x12 to fit all of the papers.

~ 3 ~
I have a terrible habit of reading multiple books at the same time. It is a habit I'm trying to kick since it just seems odd and distracted. I am currently rereading Great Expectations (Dickens) and enjoying it as if I'd never read it before. The problem is that I have two more books waiting for me on the shelf. Calling out to me. I'm telling you, it's like trying not to think about the chocolate bar in the cupboard when the craving for chocolate is at its peak.  The new books waiting to be read are Weightless: Making Peace with Your Body by Kate Wicker and The School of the Family: A Renaissance of Catholic Formation by Chantal Howard.

~ 4 ~
Fitness goals update: I'm doing fairly well overall but my fitness level has taken a dramatic nose dive with the broken toe incident. There is a great deal that I could have done over the last few weeks to stay in the game but there is also a great deal that I have not been able to do; and since my preferences have been more important to me than my level of fitness... well, let's just say I haven't done much.

The good news is that the toe is healing and the only thing that is still difficult is lateral movement. Which pretty much eliminates beach volleyball. Which was the fitness goal that I set for myself one year ago during my pregnancy. There is one more session before the weather turns foul and it begins in 4 weeks. Can I do it? I'm doubtful. But since it really would be a lovely date night opportunity with my husband, I'm motivated to give it a shot.

~ 5 ~
Speaking of date nights... For most of my married life, I thought that people who scheduled a weekly date night with their spouses were a bit over the top. My husband and I talked daily and shopped together with the kids and were best friends; why would we need so much structured away time from the family.


It has recently come to my attention that there is hardly any worldly thing (other than a clean house) that I would like more than a weekly date with my husband. That doesn't mean that I always needed one. Things change.

 ~ 6 ~
What to do on a date night? The most obvious thing to do is to go out to eat. I used to enjoy this much more than I do now. Many times now I'd rather grab a quick sandwich or bowl of cereal and do something more active. I trust that there will come a day when I no longer care to do active things. When that day comes, I will go out to dinner with him as often as he pleases.

~ 7 ~
Babies are such fun at birthday parties. They are fun to dress up and dress down. They are fun to water. (see first photo). And they are fun to feed. The perfect party guest.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Student Time Management help, please...

I'm looking specifically for courses, planners, tips, etc. for guiding a student to productive and independent time management. One of my biggest academic goals for the kids is for them to be almost entirely self-directed (with accountability to mom and dad, of course) by high school. Academic, extracurricular, social... I want it all in their hands. If they can learn this life skill, they'll be in great shape for life beyond home.

So can you help me out with resources? My junior high student is a great self-learner so even a good book on the topic would be useful. I saw that Franklin Covey had a class but it was over $100! Free is best but I'll happily pay a reasonable sum for a good resource.

Here Lies Froggy...

Crash's tadpole will never swim again. We have been nurturing his (her?) little fishy body for weeks and waiting for the metamorphosis to take place. And just as his color started to change... he goes belly up. He looked great this morning. Perhaps Jellybean's piercing little girl screams sent him over the edge.

Crash wanted to bury him and he did, but Professor thought the event was incomplete without the appropriate epitaph for the headstone...

"Seikilos! It must be the epitaph of Seikilos!"

Son, I'm not even going to pretend I understand what you are saying.

Apparently, the Seikilos epitaph is the oldest surviving example of a complete musical composition... which was discovered on a tombstone, written by Seikolos for his deceased wife. (How Professor knew this, I cannot say.) It goes something like this (translations vary):

As long as you live, shine,
Let nothing grieve you beyond measure.
For your life is short,
and time will claim its toll.

(Listen on YouTube)

We discussed whether or not this was fitting for a Catholic tadpole but Professor insisted that since "Froggy" has no immortal soul, we were clear either way.

I did call the company to beg for a new (free) tadpole knowing that it is not their policy to grant such requests after so many weeks. I told the woman how faithfully we had adhered to the rules for tadpole caregiving and how disappointed Crash was... and how he paid for the little creature himself. She explained that the process of metamorphosis is actually rather stressful on the tadpole and it is not uncommon for them to die during the process. She was happy to send him a new one. God bless her.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

The Ultimate Friendship Bracelet... Made by Haley

I recently stumbled across a sweet Etsy shop run by a young lady named Haley. I really like the simplicity (and washability) of knotted rosaries and Haley makes hers into bracelets... a great idea. Talk about the ultimate friendship bracelet!

Now a high school senior, Haley has been making rosaries and rosary bracelets and providing them free to youth retreat participants. After her job was eliminated due to the flagging economy, her dad suggested that she try her hand at selling the bracelets as well as donating them. It was not her preference to sell them... what about the ministry she provided? But dads are wise, eh? and Haley has discovered an opportunity to replace her modest income and continue the ministry she loves at the same time.

Haley has made over 1,000 custom bracelets in addition to what she has on Etsy. She has made custom colors for high schools, weddings, graduations, funerals, First Communions and retreats. I can think of many more applications for Catholic families such as Christmas gifts for the kids to give friends or family members, stocking stuffers, Easter basket gifts, teacher appreciation, Catholic sports team spirit gifts....

Please take a peek at Haley's shop on Etsy. You can contact her via the Etsy convo system or email her family directly at knottedrosary@ sbcglobal.net for more information about custom colors and orders. And say a prayer for her while you're thinking of it; that the beautiful faith she has in her youth will continue to blossom and touch lives.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Put out into the Deep: Homeschool Challenges and Changes-Part 2

For the record, I do not despise traditional methods of education or learning that is done within a specific building or institution. What I strongly disagree with is the "conveyor belt" method of schooling children which demands that all children must learn the same things, the same way, at the same age and in the same timetable. I have always felt that way and strongly so. When I recently read through Oliver DeMille's A Thomas Jefferson Education, I was given a kick in the pants (that I very much needed) when he suggested that it is not only institutional schools who disrespect children this way... but homeschools as well.

DeMille's is the most recent in a long list of Summer reading material that I have been devouring. I must understand what is happening in my homeschool and begin to adjust accordingly in the new school year.

As I wrote in my first post, I found myself in a considerable state of anxiety at the end of the last school year. What on earth am I doing? How is it that my kids are learning so well? It's not anything I'm doing. But what about the dreaded gaps? What if I'm missing something? High school is coming. And college. If I were a drinking woman...

And what does this type of anxiety and fear produce? A very, very bumpy homeschool journey. When I'm afraid, I yell. When I'm afraid, I fixate on the clock and call others' attention to it constantly. When I'm afraid, I attempt to gain control by making others afraid. Do you know what will happen if you don't get this spelling word correct right now??? You'll never get into fill-in-the-blank University! Fear produces a type of insanity that seriously interferes with our communication with God. And it hurts our children.

In May, I stumbled across a relatively new book called A Little Way of Homeschooling by Suzie Andres (also author of Homeschooling with Gentleness) and eagerly read through it. There have been a number of times in my life when I can mark a significant change of life or heart by the reading of a particular book. This was one of those times. I finished out the year with a peace and joy that I hadn't felt about our school in a long time... and was determined never to go back. If you have any anxiety in your homeschool I highly recommend this book.

Suzie Andres writes about Catholic unschooling, and while I am not ready to embrace a full unschooling approach, the fact that unschooled children grow to be successful and faithful people struck a chord within me. All this stress about the details is wasting my time. Wasting God's time. I realized that I have been focusing so much on the workbooks and lists that I was forgetting about one critically important element... the children.

After I finished the last page of that book, I went downstairs and talked to my children. And read to them. We baked something. We laughed together. I hugged the ones I hadn't hugged in a while. I made a point of looking them in the eyes. I completely ignored the work I had wanted them to accomplish that day. It was the best day that we'd had together in a long time.

The next day, I began revisiting some of the books and articles that had formed my homeschooling worldview, some of them were Catholic (Mary Kay Clark, Kimberly Hahn and Mary Hasson, Maureen Whitman) but many were not. I read John Taylor Gatto again (his books always get me a little fired up) and Charlotte Mason... and ordered some new things from the library.

John Holt is considered the father of the unschooling movement. I'd never read his books before but I'd read a lot about him. I borrowed all of them, read most of them, and eventually came to a final but most important book: How Children Fail. That was the one worth reading. I recognized myself in those pages. The floundering children. The fear-driven, bullying teachers. I have been both. In spite of the fact that Holt is not overtly Christian, many of his ideas struck me as consistent with a life of faith. In spite of a few things that just seemed too odd for me (such as the idea that a world government is the solution to lasting world peace), I found the book to be critical to my understanding of true education.

Following Holt, I read A Thomas Jefferson Education based on the recommendation of Andrew Pudewa. It added an exciting perspective that has further influenced my path. In a nutshell, the author suggests that the way to achieve the high level of true education that founders like Thomas Jefferson achieved is to build an academic foundation on two elements: mentors and the classics. While Holt writes that education happens when teachers get out of the way, DeMille believes that education happens when teachers become actively engaged as mentors and lead students to educate themselves. The two philosophies can appear opposed in practice but I see more similarities than differences at the core; namely, respect for the dignity and intelligence of the student.

Neither Gatto nor Holt are overtly Christian in their writing. DeMille is a Mormon. And so begins for me the distillation and discernment process where I take their ideas, hold them up to the light of the Catholic faith, and discard or add them to the framework of my homeschool.

The one critical action that I have taken is to immediately adjust my approach (in speech, attitude and activities) to education in my home and to apply some ideas from my reading. I have also allowed my oldest child (13) to read much of what I am reading and discussed it with him. This is your education, son, and you must take responsibility for it, decide where you want to go with it, and understand how it is to happen.

The most wonderful and surprising result of the adjustments is that there has been a rather rapid increase in the amount of real education happening in our home. As the pressure has been taken off of the older students, their enthusiasm for learning has begun to increase into an almost passionate energy. Two months ago, I was watching that love of learning fade under my fearful watch. In a very short period of time, the children have found their way out from under that weight and I'm seeing transformation. Yes, we're still on our Summer break... please don't remind my kids!

The one thing that is clear to me is that this new path is going to require much more of me; but the work will be different. Instead of pushing papers and fretting, I will be engaging in something bigger with people I love. Am I nervous? Oh, yes. But also very excited.

The next few weeks will see the refining of our direction and schedule. The Chief and I will be sitting down to plan and dream. And I have one more book on my list remaining to purchase and read. The School of the Family: A Renaissance of Catholic Formation sounds like the perfect way to conclude my Summer homeschool renewal. After all, an authentic Catholic eduction really boils down to the pursuit of sanctity and love of our Lord. Thanks be to God!

To be continued...

(Please note: our homeschool decisions are in no way a judgement on yours. Each family and child are as unique as fingerprints. I do not believe that God has made us to travel all in the same way, as if we are soldiers or machines.)

Put out into the Deep: Homeschool Challenges and Changes- Part 1

Friday, August 5, 2011

Put out into the Deep: Homeschool Challenges and Changes

I gotta tell you... sometimes homeschooling is like driving up a mountainous, overgrown, gravelly, pothole-filled, single-lane road... in the rain... with the brakes hung up.

It's not always like that but it is sometimes. I begin my planning each year ready to eliminate the difficulty. I throw money at it by buying better and more materials. Ah ha! I tell my husband. I have finally found the perfect curriculum! He looks at the bill skeptically but agrees to the experiment. I plan out the details and try to force. it. to. work.

Lest I be misunderstood, please know that I love homeschooling and I think it is worth the lumps and bumps. The children are growing well and learning in spite of me. But for a few years now I have been looking for a better way; flailing around in the dark reaching for the answer. This past year I became convinced of this and struggled and prayed like never before for the solution.

The problem is... me. I know that. I keep buying books and programs and trying to fit square pegs into round holes. I keep trying to play teacher without really understanding or embracing the essence of true education... which is entirely different from just "doing school."

This Summer was a period of discernment for me. I have been praying and reading and examining myself and my children. The short explanation of my discovery? I am getting in the way with my limited understanding of what education is and how it happens.

My first discovery is that because my own experience of academic education is limited to institutional school, that is what I have been bringing into my homeschool. I never wanted to do this. I wanted to find a different way; but my limited options (ie my own ignorance) have left me with this default. I dislike it and end up feeling anxious and inadequate on that rocky, grating road.

I know our educational priorities: God, family, academics. What is the best way to get there? I have always disagreed with the idea that the goal of Catholic homeschooling should be to return to the "glory days" of the 1950's Catholic schools. When we see the product of those institutions, how can we seriously say that they were successful? They were not.

My Seton catalog got the boot. Too much like that failed old school approach. As the teacher, I just can't do it to my family.

My next step was to look at the other catalogs and methods: classical, montessori, unschooling, Charlotte Mason, eclectic, literature-based, unit-study, unschooling, independent study, charter, online...

We've been picking and choosing as we go; coming oh-so-close every year to enrolling in different programs to ease my anxiety. I've spoken on the phone and exchanged emails with all of them. I've had my credit card in hand and then backed out at the last minute. We are often asked if we use a program... Oh, a little of this and a little of that. It has been the best approach for us of the options I saw but feels disjointed. It is not the answer I seek. Where is the magic curriculum that will bring the answer? Where is my magic pill?

As we came to the end of the last academic year, I was filled with anxiety. All I could see were the lists and the unchecked boxes, the scope and sequence charts and the words "high school cometh soon" behind my eyelids as I tried to sleep each night.

No. This was not what God wants for our homeschool. Fear is a poor leader. I felt that I knew the answer... that it was lying hidden on my heart... but that I was afraid to explore it. What does God want from my homeschool? The words of Jesus haunt me at times like these; "Put out into the deep" He says and I cringe and stretch a little bit and then stop just as it begins to frighten me. And then I read the words of Blessed John Paul II...

"Do not be afraid. Do not be satisfied with mediocrity. Put out into the deep and let down your nets for a catch."

And so it began. Another journey to the deep... seeking that to which we are called. And where shall He take us?

To be continued....

(Please note: our homeschool decisions are in no way a judgement on yours. Each family and child are as unique as fingerprints. I do not believe that God has made us to travel all in the same way, as if we are soldiers or machines.)

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

This is the Stuff You Use... A bunch of firsts

It's been a crazy month! They're all a little that way but each one is uniquely crazy. This one is particularly notable for a few "firsts"...

My first broken bone.
I've broken ligaments... and lamps... and hearts... but bones? This is a first. I'm grateful it was a relatively tiny one.

My first traffic violation.
Ticket courtesy of a traffic cam on the way home from Mass. Oh-so-frustrating. However, it's not the first time that I've broken a traffic law... I've just always gotten away with it before. So I had it coming.

My sixth child's first steps.
*sigh* He's a little young yet but I knew it was coming. I can't tell whether my heart leapt or fell. I give him two weeks to get the hang of it and then my wee lad will be toddling. Hopefully not over any staircases.

In honor of this month of firsts, I happily share a great little song by Francesca Battistelli. She sings about lost keys, lost phones and traffic tickets with a whole lotta joy and gratitude. I love it when this one comes on the car radio. If it doesn't, I sing it anyway (just ask the kids) and pretend to remember the lyrics. Enjoy!

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Thoughts on Voris...

So, I apparently opened a can of worms by posting a Michael Voris video. I had no idea. Well, I guess I had some idea since I've seen people like Mark Shea go bonkers about the guy. But Shea goes bonkers with frequency about so many things... I guess I just wasn't paying too much attention.

In the post in which I apparently committed the crime of including Voris, I also include video from Cardinal Arinze, Fr. Z, and a link to a letter from Steve Ray. I have received no negative communications regarding those guys... but I guess there's still time for that.

I thought about it a little and had an "oh-no-will-they-all-still-like-me-if-I-keep-the-Voris-video-up?" moment. It passed almost immediately and I've decided to keep it there for the very reason I posted it in the first place... which is...

I really like to discuss, think about, share and grow in the study and practice of my faith. Mr. Voris had some things to say about a topic that was on my mind and I, aspiring to some maturity, thought he said some things worth considering and sharing. I did not say that I thought he is always perfect in fact or presentation; I simply shared his take. In fact, my only commentary on his video was: "Michael Voris chimes in below..." Totally assuming that grown-ups can take what is good and leave the rest.

Now... if Voris had used the type of language I have recently heard coming from his opponents, I would never have posted it. I also delete anonymous comments that are inappropriate. If you don't like something I post and want to share your respectful opinion (this was also done and I appreciated it), you are most welcome. I think we all know the difference.

Our faith should inspire passion. Healthy debate is good. I recall that my own first steps toward fully embracing the Catholic faith (and pivotal points in my ongoing conversion) were inspired by strong negative emotion. In other words, I was angry with certain things I heard or the way they were presented. That strong emotion  jostled me out of my lukewarm state and made me define what I believed. It led me to deep discernment and study and I have changed my position on numerous things over the years as a result. There's a place for people like Voris and Shea in the Catholic world... even though they don't quite get along with each other.  The Church is a colorful place.

Related to the topic of the original post: I don't generally kneel to receive the Eucharist. But I would like to. My diocese discourages even genuflection. Consequently, I find the topic extremely interesting.

Pat Archbold weighs in on Voris: Voris, Corapi, And The Ned Flanderification Of Catholic Commentary

Monday, August 1, 2011

Before and After...

One year ago today...

Coming up on 9 months old...

Review: How to Stay Catholic in College

How to Stay Catholic in College is a 17-page booklet published by Catholic Answers and sold by The Catholic Company. The intended audience is Catholics going off to college for the first time and my review boils down to this:

If proper catechesis hasn't already been done in a college students younger formative years, this booklet is not going to fix it. However, it many be helpful as a starting point for discussion. If a student is well-formed with great family communication, this booklet is probably largely unnecessary but may still help facilitate discussion.

In my opinion, this booklet could be of the greatest use in a parish youth group where study and serious pursuit of faith is regularly present. High school students specifically could very easily be led through the ideas and use them as starting points for relevant discussion. 

The author, Christopher Kaczor, has been a student at several Catholic and non-Catholic colleges and universities and is now a professor... so he's familiar with his topic! He uses this booklet to address the extensive problem of loss of faith in college and the abandonment of moral principles.

Kaczor properly identifies college as a key moment in a person's spiritual journey. Which way will you choose? He provides general encouragement for Catholic students as well as touching on particular topics as they relate to the faith such as:

~ Classroom learning
~ History and Science
~ How to approach specific subjects which can easily undergo secular manipulation
~ Empty and false philosophies such as materialism, existentialism and relativism
~ Learning outside the classroom
~ Development of a healthy and faith-centered social life
~ A brief nod of warning to the dangers of alcohol and sexual activity

~ Two key temptations every college student faces - and how they stand in the way of God's plan for your life
~ What to do when your faith wanes or disappears: A simple exercise every Christian should practice that will make the love of God come alive in your life
~ God is waiting to help you choose a vocation... a career... a spouse... and a life
~ Crucial books every Catholic - expecially college students - should read to be inoculated against the errors that destroy faith

This booklet reads much like a letter to a favorite nephew who is about to leave for college. It is definitely written for those who already have a solid foundation of faith. There is simply no way to impart such a thing through 17 pages if it does not already exist. But again, it could be a very good starting point for opening or continuing communication.

I do not think that I would purchase this for my own children because we cover these topics on an ongoing basis but I would consider keeping a stack on hand to include with graduation gifts. As I said earlier, youth ministers and priests may find it a helpful way to guide discussion for those youngsters charged to their direction.

*This review was written as part of the Catholic book reviewer program from The Catholic Company. Visit The Catholic Company to find more information on How to Stay Catholic in College . They are also a great source for a Catechism of the Catholic Church or a Catholic Bible.

"Are they soldiers?" The case for kneeling...

It seems that the Catholic laity must continually be pressured by our own to stop genuflecting and kneeling before our God. Such an unnecessary and sad family feud. So it comes as no surprise that recent support for kneeling from Rome is being received with great pleasure all across the Catholic world. If you haven't seen it yet...

"It is the sign of adoration that needs to be recovered. I think the entire Church needs to receive Communion while kneeling." ~ Cardinal Antonio Canizares Llovera, Prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments. More at Fr. Z's...

After reading this, I just had to dig up one of my favorite Cardinal Arinze videos of all time. He is so delightfully loving and precise. If you have 5 minutes, watch the entire video. If you have less, be sure to watch at least starting at 1:00.

For those who can't access YouTube, here are some highlights...

"Those who removed the kneelers have done damage to the Catholic community."

"The Church from Rome never said to remove the altar rails. If you can find any document from Rome saying remove the altar rails I will give you a turkey." 

"If you believe that Christ is our God and is present, why don't you kneel? Why don't you crawl? Why not show respect? I grant that a diocese has the right to give instruction so that the congregation moves in the same way; when to stand or sit or kneel. The documents from Rome do not go into too much detail, allowing dioceses some freedom. When the diocese regiments too much it becomes material for us to talk to the bishop privately. And our language should be: Why do you regiment the people of God? Are they soldiers? Allow them some freedom...

...Are they soldiers? Where is freedom? Why not let the people of God who have received Jesus... somebody likes to kneel, another person wants to keep standing, another one wants to sit. It's alright."

And around the internet...

Steve Ray responds to being chastised for genuflecting before receiving the Eucharistic in this letter.
Attached below his letter is a letter from Rome providing clarification on the subject. 

Michael Voris Chimes in below...


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