Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Awakening.

Somewhere, in the recesses of my consciousness, I was aware that it was morning. But the drug of sleep was heavy upon me... and I didn't much care. My head was lead on my pillow and my face turned away from the alarm clock. Even if I had seen the time... even if it had said Noon... I wouldn't have moved.

I was becoming increasingly aware of the sunshine. I felt it on my eyelids. Invading. But I drifted numbly back into oblivion. A noise? The children. I don't care. I'm asleep. Again into the heavy darkness.

I might have stayed that way for quite a while had it not been for a tiny sensation on my cheek. A light pressure. Gentle. Careful. I slowly became conscious of the touch of a little hand upon my face, my forehead, my ear. Stroking, correcting strands of displaced hair.

The sensation was confusing. I was still partially in a place of dreams and this moment was like a dream. A most beautiful and tender moment, unlike any other; unexpected, disarming. I had the sense of being a child. I struggled to recall that I was not a child, but a mother.

I fought through my sleepy haze and saw through barely opened eyelids... tiny knees next to me, inching slowly forward, closer and closer. My eyes widened a bit and took in the miniature person by my side. Born just eighteen months ago. Gazing at me with intensity and devotion.

His little hand was suspended over my temple and he slowly lowered it again to move the hair from my face one more time. He brought his beautifully sincere eyes close enough to me so that our noses were almost touching. The fog was lifting quickly but I was struck silent and still in the presence of this loving innocence.

I had no desire to fall back into darkness but my body lay heavy and unmoving. Overcome by the moment. He looked straight into my eyes. Watching. Waiting. Inching.

My son's little arm moved forward and stretched across my neck. His knees had finally reached my side and he buried his soft head under my chin. I love you, he said. Actually, he said I wuv ooo... in his tiny little voice that so often makes me laugh. I love you, too... and I held him close in the embrace that he had been waiting for all along. And my tears fell into his hair.

Awakening. To the morning. To beauty. To gratitude. To joy. Every once in a while, God offers a moment of grace so pure and beautiful that life changes. In a household of many blessings, these moments come with frequency. But I am not always awake.

 "But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God's special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light." ~ 1 Peter 2:9

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Pentacost, Confirmation, and Cookies

It was a wonderful weekend...The great feast of Pentacost and Professor's Confirmation. Volleyball with the family, a birthday party, and a beautiful Summer rain. New friends who seemed like old friends and old friends who brought familiar comfort and joy. A few doors closed... a few more open.

I have surprisingly little to say today. There's almost too much on my mind A keyboard traffic jam. So I'll just bring out the photos...

I think the lousy quality of this photo must be divine justice for disobeying the direct order to not take pictures during the Confirmation mass. At least we didn't use a flash. The photo editor saved the pic from the trash since it was virtually black when we downloaded it. I'll just do what I do with all my lousy pictures and label them "artistic" and be content.

I love our diocesan cathedral. It is so beautiful. Just so you know, this photo was not taken during mass. We were only guilty of that offense once.

The coolest baby room EVER. Actually, it was the "bride's room" but when I asked for a changing table, this is what they gave me. Which reminds me... I think a church without a changing table just screams "Children not welcome." Seriously. Anyone who knows family life, knows that a place to change a diaper (besides the filthy floor) is a basic requirement for family friendly. Even a small table in a somewhat out of the way place would do. Because kids in diapers will do what they do... and they do not ask for permission or check the clock.

Professor's sponsor (Fr. Bona), Professor, and Bishop Lennon. 

My new favorite cookies. I saw cookies similar to these on Flickr and knew I had to give them a shot. I had two problems: 1) no cookie cutter and 2) a batch of excessively drippy icing; but all in all, I think they came out pretty cool looking. 

Did I mention that I made a LOT of cookies? About 200 actually. I only have photos of the flames and doves but I also made swords ("sword of the Spirit") and crosses. We had surprisingly few left by the end of the party. And... people ate the most colorful cookies first which is funny. :)


I used a Joanne fabric gift card that I'd been hoarding to purchase fabric for a Pentacost/Confirmation banner. I found a sturdy pretty red fabric in the home decor section and used a lightweight printed cotton for the letters. I printed letters for "Veni Sancte Spiritus" off the computer in the desired size and font and traced them onto the fabric after I had ironed on a layer of Heat 'n' Bond. The ribbon (which is not very visible in the photos) is white satin with gold swirls. A little cutting, a little ironing, a little sewing later... I had a rather nice reusable banner of which I got very lousy pictures.

The children provided decorations as well.






Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Pro-Life. What it Means.

Here is the winning video that Professor submitted to American Life League's video contest. This is what Pro-Life means to a 14-year old Catholic American boy (compressed into 2 min. 30 seconds). Please give it a thumbs up for him if you are so inclined. :)

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

How to Encourage a Real Prayer Life in Children

Father Darren has put together a list of suggestions for helping encourage a real prayer life in children. He did so in the context of a wonderful post about the home life of Pope Benedict XVI. I am using this list as a weekly examination of my spiritual parenting. I am a far cry from where I want to be but that's why I printed it out. :) I'm posting his excellent list below but please take a moment to read his entire post on Servant and Steward!


  • Children must see in their parents an authentic love of the faith and a desire to be faithful in every aspect of their lives, and in such a discipleship the children must sense the joy that comes from following Christ.
  • Children should see their parents in prayer, both before the tabernacle and at home.  Children learn from imitation.  If they see their parents pray, they, too, will learn to pray.  This means that parents must pray; this has to come first.
  • Set up a family altar, a special table covered with a cloth in a prominent place in the home.  On the table, place a Bible, a book of the saints, a book of prayers, a candle, a statue of a patron saint, a rosary, etc.  On the wall above the table hang a crucifix.  I always like the San Damiano crucifix because it also tells the story of the Lord's Passion and can be used throughout the year as a teaching device.  Use this family altar each day and try to do so at the same time of day.  Build it into the family schedule.  Everything else is secondary; God must come first.  Always.
  • Never water down the faith or the teachings of the Church, especially if they are in high school.  Despite the temptation, never pander the faith to your children.  They can handle it and they can wrestle with it.  Young people today simply want to know the truth; speak it to them plainly.
  • If you have to give a simplistic answer to a question when your child is young (for good reason) be certain to expound that answer as your child grows up.  Do not leave them with a second grade understanding of, say, Holy Communion or Confession when they're 16.
  • If you do not know the answer to your child's question about the faith, do not say, "I don't know; it's a mystery" (unless it genuinely is a mystery, but even then say something about it.  Remember: the Holy Trinity is the only part of Christian faith that cannot be known by reason; in the end, it truly is a mystery.  Everything else can be explained reasonably, even if only in part).  If you don't know the answer, simply say, "That's a great question and I don't know the answer to it, but I'll be glad to find the answer for you."  Consult your catechism, your pastor, a knowledgable friend, and scour the Internet if you have to.  Just find the answer.  And do so as quickly as you can.
  • Always to seek to show not only the beauty and simplicity of the faith, but also the reasonableness of the faith.
  • Study the history of the Church - especially if your children are in high school - to be able to explain what really happened with the Crusades, the Inquisition, Galileo, etc.  Common myths should be debunked.
  • Pray the rosary together at least once a week.
  • Go to confession at least once a month (more often if you need it) and bring with your children with you (to the church, anyway).  Let them see you enter the confessional and return to the pew to offer a prayer of thanksgiving.  Encourage them to go to confession, too.
  • Help your chilren examine their consciences from time to time, and provide them with age-appropriate guides.
  • Give your children a religious book at Christmas, Easter and other major celebrations.
  • Celebrate the day of your children's baptism with more festivity than their birthday.
  • Have a special dinner each year on their "name day," the feast day of the patron saint.
  • Name your children after saints and teach them their stories.
  • Talk about the saint of the day and the daily Mass readings at supper.
  • Talk about the Pope's travels or his Angelus addresses together.
  • Pray the Stations of the Cross together each Friday.
  • Go to Eucharistic adoration together as a family.
  • When running your daily errands, purposefully drive by your church and stop in for a moment of prayer together.  You know, just to say "Hi" to Jesus.
  • Share your faith struggles and questions with your children.  It's good for them to know that you wrestle with the same struggles and questions as they do, but be sure to reinforce your faith in the midst of doubts.  Teach the beauty of the words, "Lord, I believe, help my unbelief."
  • Be sure to show your concern for your children's faith and eternal salvation.
  • Never answer the question, "Why do we have to go to Mass today" saying, "Because I said so."
  • Monday, May 21, 2012

    Family Dreams, Volleyball, and City Champs... Again

    A family that prays and plays together
    There is a perpetual conflict in my household between distractions of the world... and God and family. I am so grateful for the many times when the Lord blesses us with a brief marriage between the two. Yesterday, the boys' CYO volleyball team entered the championship game undefeated, and came home with the trophy. And when I say "boys" I mean the Chief (Coach), Professor, and Crash all practicing, playing, and victorious together. A truly once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.

    The Chief saw his opportunity this year to have both of his eligible sons playing on a championship team and he did it. What an amazing experience for the guys... and for our whole family. Even Cookie got in on the act. After her disastrous and abbreviated club season, Chief decided to make her manager of the boys' team. She is a phenomenal player so she was able to challenge them during practices; and she has a lot of spirit... their biggest fan during the games.

    Great job, Coach!


    Keeping it Catholic.



    CYO (Catholic Youth Organization) participation can be a challenging thing sometimes. A lot of Sunday games. Organizational snafus. Tendency to schedule events at the same time as major liturgical celebrations. Strange rules. Communication difficulties. Lack of Christian identity at various levels. Coaching can truly be sacrificial in this group, but really, parent coaching is the best way to keep it Catholic and well-run for the kids. Ultimately, CYO provides a perfect potential scenario for truly Catholic competition. As parents and coaches, the only proper response is to run with it!


    Every one of the Chief's practices started and ended with prayer. And before every game, the boys gave a token of faith and friendship to their opponents. "Catholic goodie bags" that held a large holy card of St. Joseph (one of the patrons of the school for which they played), a laminated card with St. Thomas Aquinas Prayers before and after Mass, bookmarks with the Promises of the Sacred Heart to St. Margaret Mary and of Mary to Christians who pray the Rosary, and a piece of strawberries and cream Scripture candy (a favorite of my kids).

    Catholic "goodie bags"
    The Chief got the idea from the Puerto Rican and Hawaiian teams at US Junior Nationals last year. The boys on those teams brought baggies of their native candies to hand to opposing teams; that small act went a long way in establishing good will. I wasn't sure how some teenage boys would react to giving and receiving holy cards and such. I was surprised to see that the act itself had a very positive effect on both teams, regardless of the contents of the bags.

    Of course, there were a fair number of kids who left their bags on their benches. But the greater number took them home and many were appreciative.

    Keeping it Competitive.


    Victory!
    One important element of CYO sports is providing the opportunity for kids of all abilities to participate in sport. The difficulty to this approach is that, because so much of youth sports today is success driven to the max, people naturally abandon a program that fails to challenge and improve their kids. Finding a way to keep sport competitive and consistent with CYO principles can be a challenge for coaches. Congratulations to my handsome Chief for bringing out the best in these boys; body, mind, and soul.

    (I must confess that we had the advantage of having a couple of the most talented individuals in the state on our team. But the Chief has coached those boys since they began.)

    Keeping it Real.


    I am good for nothing (or very little) at championship matches. I spent last year in the gym bathroom. It wasn't my preference initially but it had a lovely effect on my nerves. This year, I managed to stay in the gym for most of the games but did leave at a critical point. I walked next door to the church, searching desperately for a way to get in. The neighborhood didn't seem to be the safest so I can understand that it was locked up tight, even on a Saturday afternoon... but I was still disappointed.

    I know you're in there, Lord, so I'll just love you from out here. I don't mind if they lose. YOU know how I feel about that. But I mind that they mind if they lose... and I'd love to see all my boys celebrating together today. You know how I feel about that, too. And You know all about my emotional constitution. So I'm just going to sit here and watch your beautiful birds play in that bird bath for three minutes. Then I'm going to go back inside and watch my boys play like a good mom should.


    Chief washing bird bath water and blue frosting off of Cub




    Gratitude.


    Professor started this season with conflicting emotions. He has played higher level ball and wasn't going to feel deprived by not playing with this team.  Not that he feels above everyone else... just that the world is opening up before him and he feels himself drawn to use his time in other ways. For example, he found it frustrating that practices conflicted with the Pro Life Youth Congress phone conferences and games interfered with much anticipated events. At certain points, he saw volleyball as an impediment to greater goals. Yesterday, he made sure to thank his Dad for putting this team together and creating this opportunity for our family and the team. And it was sincere and joyful gratitude.

    Crash was the youngest member of the team and under usual circumstances, would not have had the opportunity to "play up." Things worked out and for him, it really was his Dream Team; playing with the older brother who he looks up to so much, and for his dad who he describes as "the best coach in the world."

    It's been a good weekend. As we arrived home from the game, a rather simplistic prayer of thanks came to my lips...

    Things don't always work out the way I like, Father, but I am not tempted to complain today. Thanks.


    Next stop... Confirmation!!





    Friday, May 18, 2012

    7 Quick Takes : Pro-Life T-Shirt Contest Edition

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

    ~1~

    We just got word that Professor won the National Pro-Life T-Shirt Week scavenger hunt sponsored by American Life League (ALL). We had such a great time doing this along with a boatload of pictures and tons of funny memories.

    The rules were simple. Complete as many of the 180 tasks as possible during National Pro-Life T-Shirt Week. Wear the shirt. Take pictures. Simple... but not easy! I remember the moment when Professor decided to go through with it. We had purchased two shirts and had received the first 90 or so tasks. It occurred to us for the first time that we were perhaps biting off a little more than we could chew.

    You sure you wanna do this? 
     (extended silence) I think so. What do you think?
    I'm game but you have to make a firm decision because this has to be all or nothing. It's not as if we have a bunch of time to throw away.
    Let's do it.

    A sinus infection, cow, senator, and 170 tasks later, we uploaded the last of our photos and threw our shirts in the laundry. It has been a fantastic experience. Very highly recommended to any pro-life family. Thank you, American Life League!!

    ~2~


    One of the most valuable aspects of this competition was the experience of taking the pro-life message into the public eye...







    ~3~

    This is one of my favorite photos. The Professor had to strike a Luke Skywalker pose in a mall or public park. The Chief set up the shot and we laughed so hard when we saw it on the computer. Something about those mannequins just strikes me as so android.


    ~4~

    Here is another favorite. This is the Hadouken Street Fighter pose in a public park. I was taking the shot of Professor and Cookie and I noticed a little blue blip in the middle of the screen; I only discovered what Cub had been doing after I uploaded the shot later. He clearly wanted in on the action. I could not have planned it better myself.


    ~5~

    Professor ended up winning by a narrow 8 points. Interestingly, that was the point value of the task of shaking hands with a state senator... which we accomplished in an 11th hour dash to the home of Senator Tom Patton. He was literally in the act of packing up his car to leave town and took the time to return our call and invite us over to his home. He told us that he would wait for us to arrive and then would leave immediately for the state capital. I threw the kids in the car (almost literally) and we battled rush hour for the trip. I am grateful to Senator Patton for his generosity but even more for his solid pro-life beliefs and voting record.




    ~6~

    Not every photo required a public venue or outreach. Here are a couple of my favorite domestic shots...


    Really... this does take some fun-loving spirit...



    ~7~

    There are so many more photos that will bring back great memories for our family. The late night trip to a national monument. The search for a cow. Chasing down the mailman. The pro-life Mrs. Potato head. The many generous people we met in our adventures who took a moment to pause for a photo or lend a hand. 

    The experience was a wonderful time for our family but more importantly, it increased our commitment to pro-life work. Every person, born and unborn, is created and loved by God. Staying silent while our brothers and sisters in Christ are brutalized and destroyed is not acceptable. The funny photos are a good way to share the joy of this work... but in the end, it really takes incredible courage and great love to stand up and be a voice. Lord, grant us the grace we need to love enough!








    Tuesday, May 15, 2012

    30-Day Elimination Diet Conclusion = Happy Mama

    I've concluded my 30 day elimination diet of wheat and processed foods. Overall, the results have been incredibly positive. I also did a small reintroduction of flour and sugar on Mother's Day.  My splurge on Sunday consisted of 3 homemade chocolate covered macaroons (yum) which have only 6 tablespoons of flour per batch (plus the sugar and chocolate). Here's my brief (is it possible?) synopsis of the month and the splurge...

    ~ Lost one pound of retained water for the first 5 consecutive days. In spite of an increase in calories and fats, my weight has stabilized and I consider it ideal.

    ~ Joint inflammation decreased significantly within 3 days. I experienced significant increase in range of motion in my surgery knee that I haven't had in 10-15 years.

    ~ Carb flu on day 3 was horrible. Brain fog and fatigue for 1 to 2 weeks.

    ~ Week 3 brought significant improvement in several areas. Decreased hunger between meals. Increased alertness. I miss snacking on crackers and such but it really is mostly mental.

    ~ Having trouble with my water intake but that's nothing new. I thought I would begin to crave it as my body increasingly needed hydration but I am still have trouble drinking much of anything. I feel the effects of that and am hoping that the warmer weather helps me increase fluids.

    ~ Blood pressure is super low but that is nothing new. It dropped when I lost the retained water and I have had dizzy spells but I attribute it more to dehydration and lack of exercise than anything else. I often experience a drop when I don't exercise regularly. Last Walmart read was 105/56.

    ~ I have not been exercising regularly but have been playing volleyball one to two times per week. Very minimal soreness. No joint pain or injury which is so out of the ordinary that I am astounded.

    Reintroduction of wheat and sugar:

    After the conclusion of the 30 days, I had no desire to start reintroducing forbidden foods... until Mother's Day when Cookie made my favorite chocolate dipped macaroons! I ate three of them with zero guilt, knowing that I made the choice freely. The cookies were absolutely delicious and I'm glad I ate them! That was my first and only departure from the diet in over a month. My observations...

    ~ By the evening, I noticed a slight swelling in my hands. I have been removing my wedding ring to play volleyball since the water weight loss since I do not wish to lose it... but I did not have to remove it that night.

    ~ I was feeling good during the exercise but woke up very sore and stiff. Walking was painful for the first few minutes in the morning. This was how I used to feel every time but had not during the 30 days.

    ~ By dinnertime, the swelling in my surgery knee had increased so much that I was limping. By evening, my entire lower body, from my hips to my toes, was on fire. This was how I was used to living. It used to be my normal... lying in bed every night with pain everywhere, from the tips of my fingers down to my toes. It is possible that this episode is unrelated to the reintroduction of wheat and sugar but I'm inclined to draw a strong connection.

    ~ I took Advil and Benadryl around 9pm and experienced improvement. Today, I am feeling much better.  I'm somewhat disappointed that there appears to be such a strong connection between my diet and my health. On the other hand, it is easier to commit to a healthy diet when the negative symptoms are so strong.

    Conclusion:

    ~ It is clear that a permanent commitment to this way of life is required for my long term health and I'm okay with that. It isn't going to be easy but I assume that it will become easier over time as I adjust to shopping, cooking, and eating out with limitations. I have not imposed any changes on my family but there is already a positive effect on the children, particularly the girls, who watch what I eat closely.

    ~ I am not going to fret over splurges. I will be aware of the consequences as I make decisions over every macaroon and celebratory dinner. I can choose to be well and not feel sorry for myself. Why should I pout about the blessing of health? I should be praising God every time I start to feel that I am "deprived" of a goody instead of feeling down. I have been given a great gift of healing and gratitude is the only proper response.

    ~ It is my hope that my body will continue to heal from the effects of chronic systemic inflammation caused by my former diet. I believe that this is likely. It is my prayer that my allergies (which have been debilitating and increasing at an alarming rate in the last few years) will also respond to the changes.

    I really, really do like macaroons. For those of you who can eat them, I offer you my very favorite recipe (at bottom of this post). It's easy and absolutely delicious! Enjoy!


    And for those of you who can't eat macaroons, I found a lovely looking recipe for dark chocolate coconut cups sans wheat flour HERE. I haven't tried these yet but they're on my list!

    Chocolate-Dipped Coconut Macaroons

    1 pkg. (14oz) shredded coconut (about 5-1/3 cups)
    2/3 cup sugar
    6 Tbsp. flour
    1/4 tsp egg whites
    1 tsp almond extract
    1 pkg (8 squares) Semi-sweet baking chocolate

    1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Mix coconut, sugar, flour and salt in a large bowl.
    2. Add egg whites and almond extract; mix well.
    3. Drop by tablespoonfuls onto greased and floured baking sheets (if you don't grease and flour generously, your macaroons will stick hard and fast)
    4. Bake 20 minutes or until edges of cookies are golden brown. Immediately remove from baking sheets to wire racks. Cool completely
    5. Dip cookies halfway in melted chocolate. Let stand at room temp. or refrigerate on wax paper-lined tray for 30 min. or until chocolate is firm

    Makes about 3 dozen.



    Friday, May 11, 2012

    7 Quick Takes - Beyonce Edition (Rant warning)

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


    ~1~

    Well, I never thought I'd be doing a post about Beyonce. I don't think I could have identified one of her songs, or even her face, prior to this week. Alas, I have now had the experience of deliberately listening to her music and reading her lyrics in order to answer the "Why don't your parents let you listen to anything good or have any fun?" question from intolerant Catholic children who play sports with mine. Besides having to wash my eyeballs and ears out with anti-bacterial soap after my YouTube excursion, I think it was a relatively fruitful experience.

    What about my body, body?

    You don't want my body, body

    Acting like I'm not nobody
    You gon' make me call somebody
    What about my body, body?
    What about my body, body?
    You would rather go and party
    Somehow, somewhere I'll be naughty

    ~Beyonce "Suga Mama"


    ~2~

    My apologies to all of the Beyonce fans who read my blog who may misunderstand the point of this post. I don't  hate Beyonce. But apparently, I am viewed by some as one of "those" parents who strive to deprive my children of all fun and joy in life by not introducing people like Beyonce into their lives. I make no apologies for my positions but realize that music is a touchy subject. Even some very fervent, practicing Catholics have a blind spot in this area... not an ignorance, but an ignoring. Most of us do it in different areas of our lives. Some areas are decidedly more difficult to flesh out, but lyrics and lifestyles that very obviously  glorify sin and the objectification of human beings... that seems like a Catholic no-brainer.

    Tonight i'll be your naughty girl

    I'm callin all my girls

    We're gonna turn this party out
    I know you want my body
    Tonight i'll be your naughty girl
    I'm callin all my girls
    I see you look me up and down
    And i came to party

    ~ Beyonce "Naughty Girl"


    ~3~

    The kids do not want Beyonce on their ipods. They really just want these other Catholic kids to stop badgering them. While it is at least somewhat common to be misunderstood by non-Christians, it is particularly disturbing to be ridiculed by other Christians for choosing to live a Christian lifestyle. It is disappointing for them to have to listen to their peers repeatedly make ignorant and intolerant judgements about those who think music should always honor the Lord. They also wish that their peers would love Him enough to make better choices.

    Enough Beyonce quotes. If you didn't know, you know now. Let's keep each other accountable.

    ~4~

    Female peer: "You have to listen to this. You have to. I adore Beyonce. Listen to this... (she sticks an earbud in Cookie's ear).

    Cookie: "No thanks."

    Female peer: "Your parents don't let you have any fun. You can't do anything. No good movies. No good music..."

    Professor: "Hey, do you have any classical music on your ipod?"

    Female peer: "Uh... I think I might have one... (checking ipod)... um, yeah... I have one. Have you heard of Beethoven?"

    Um. yeah. we've heard of Beethoven. :)

    ~5~

    So, these other kids are completely fixated on this issue and they feel the need to nag and ridicule others about it constantly. They cannot wrap their brains around the fact that anyone their age would not be in love with the culture they adore. They can't see outside of their very limited cultural bubble. Who doesn't know and love Beyonce? If you don't know Beyonce, you must be backwards, boring, repressed. It must be your parents fault. They can't comprehend that a young person would actually choose not to listen to music that glorifies sinful behavior and objectifies women (and men). It confuses them to imagine that there is someone out there who hasn't actually even heard of Beyonce before. So they set their sights on the "poor baby innocents" and determine to convert them. So much for tolerance.

    "I'm not talking to you until you start listening to Beyonce," says the boy. I laughed when I heard what he said. My grade school memory kicks into gear and I giggle... Is that a threat or a promise?

    ~6~

    I sat down with Cookie to make sure she knew her own mind. As I suspected, she knows it rather well. She loves music and takes lessons. She sings in a choir. I occasionally have to separate her from her ipod so her brain can rejoin the family. She is always singing. She chooses her music and she chooses great stuff. I showed her Beyonce so that she would know. I showed her Beyonce's lyrics. I told her that we have never talked about Beyonce because we have never really thought about Beyonce... or Jay-z or Rihanna or Brittany Spears or a thousand other cultural idols. I told her it's not about keeping fun out of the house... but keeping beauty and goodness alive. The kids listen to what the Chief and I listen to so this is not hypocrisy. And she understood everything before I even said a word. The discussion wasn't particularly necessary although I think she appreciated the time I took to make sure.

    Does my family listen to secular music? Sure we do. Lots of it. We just don't listen to trash.

    "Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind" ~ Luke 10:27

    ~7~

    We have known some fervent Catholic families whose children know every sordid line from every popular song on the radio and sing them loudly without shame. And the parents don't even flinch. Blind spot. They worry about secular sex education in the schools and abortion and pray a daily Rosary... but there is no shame in allowing their children to absorb, memorize, sing, shout, and buy the spirit of the world. There is something particularly disturbing about listening to a child sing the music of Beyonce. If you are confused about this issue, then I suggest printing out the lyrics and having your child read them to you in a quiet room. That should clear things up quickly.

    I'm not judging the hearts of Christian parents out there who allow this stuff in their kids' heads. I know parenting is tough and confusing. But I am evaluating and judging the music in the light of our Christian faith... and stating the obvious.

    "Let the word of Christ richly dwell within you, with all wisdom, teaching and admonishing one another with psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with thankfulness in your hearts to God. And whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through Him to God the Father" ~ Colossians 3: 16,17

    Someone, please tell me where... where in Sacred Scripture or the tradition or teaching of the Church of Jesus Christ it is ever stated or implied that raising one's voice to glorify sin is ever acceptable for a Christian? Is there not enough good and pure music available to satisfy us that we must give ourselves over to the spirit of the world in this? I believe that there are saints who would have suffered martyrdom rather than allow the profanity of much modern music to leave their lips.

    I had no particular opinion one way or the other about Beyonce before the last few weeks because I was ignorant about her and her music. I am now informed. On a relative cultural scale, she is not the worst. When held up to the light of Christ, her music clearly does not belong on a Christian ipod.

    Beyonce is a beautiful and talented woman. I pray that she will one day use those gifts to build up a culture of goodness, beauty, and life. Until then, she will not be on our playlists.



    Wednesday, May 9, 2012

    every life {is} beautiful

    If you haven't seen this website yet, I suggest you take a moment to indulge. Watch one video. Come back later for more. Bring your smile. Bring your tissues. every life {is} beautiful





    Tuesday, May 8, 2012

    Catholic Tenor sings "Blessings"...

    Cookie's wonderful voice teacher, Daniel Foran, is not generally a follower of the "Christian rock" genre but one particular song has grown on him. In fact, he found the message so profoundly moving that he recently made his own recording of Laura Story's "Blessings".

    I have been meaning to post his video recording for a while and now the time is right. Will you please join me in prayer for Dan's father? He recently fell from a ladder and has been on a respirator for the last week... and I know the Foran family is living the message of this song.





     "Blessings"
    by Laura Story
    We pray for blessings
    We pray for peace
    Comfort for family, protection while we sleep
    We pray for healing, for prosperity
    We pray for Your mighty hand to ease our suffering
    All the while, You hear each spoken need
    Yet love us way too much to give us lesser things

    'Cause what if Your blessings come through raindrops
    What if Your healing comes through tears
    What if a thousand sleepless nights
    Are what it takes to know You’re near
    What if trials of this life are Your mercies in disguise

    We pray for wisdom
    Your voice to hear
    And we cry in anger when we cannot feel You near
    We doubt Your goodness, we doubt Your love
    As if every promise from Your Word is not enough
    All the while, You hear each desperate plea
    And long that we have faith to believe

    'Cause what if Your blessings come through raindrops
    What if Your healing comes through tears
    What if a thousand sleepless nights
    Are what it takes to know You’re near
    And what if trials of this life are Your mercies in disguise

    When friends betray us
    When darkness seems to win
    We know that pain reminds this heart
    That this is not, this is not our home
    It's not our home

    'Cause what if Your blessings come through raindrops
    What if Your healing comes through tears
    And what if a thousand sleepless nights
    Are what it takes to know You’re near
    What if my greatest disappointments
    Or the aching of this life
    Is the revealing of a greater thirst this world can’t satisfy
    And what if trials of this life
    The rain, the storms, the hardest nights
    Are Your mercies in disguise

    Friday, May 4, 2012

    My Relationship With Bacon...

    Bacon Strips "Anatomy of Perfection" by TheWordShop


    A month ago, you could not have convinced me that I would ever be happy to cook a pan of bacon. Or that I would inhale it as soon as it hit my plate. Or that I would feel no guilt about it at all. And suffer no stomach ache as a result of my indulgence. Aaah... bacon!

    Before I began this elimination diet, I viewed foods like bacon as the enemy and I actually didn't really enjoy eating it. My stomach felt uncomfortable when I consumed it... like the way it feels after I eat a big doughnut (or two). Things have changed, however, and I am now a bacon lover, my stomach handles it just fine, and I eat it guilt-free.

    I don't know why this change has come about but my working hypothesis is that my body, since I have eliminated processed foods, has naturally begun to crave real foods. Real nutrients. Healthy fats. I come to the table hungry and leave satisfied. I consume more calories and fat than I did before and yet my weight stays steady and healthy. As I reported at the beginning of this trial period, I actually lost 5 pounds of retained water during the first week. Imagine losing 5 pounds of anything while indulging in bacon!

    Can bacon possibly be healthy? We do purchase the pricier organic, nitrate-free bacon which makes it sound a little better.  I have also been doing some reading which suggests that the fat in bacon is similar to the wonderfully healthy fat of olive oil. Admittedly, I can find a negative article for every positive one I read and admit that I find it all confusing. The long and short of it is that I can't imagine that it's any worse for me than all the garbage I was previously consuming. And... it doesn't appear that my body objects. Quite the opposite.

    I'm now waiting for my body to start craving brussel sprouts... but I'm not holding my breath.

    Wednesday, May 2, 2012

    It's a Girl

    It's a Girl... the three deadliest words in the world...



    And how is this so different from the way American mothers so casually dispose of their preborn daughters and sons?

    Tuesday, May 1, 2012

    Underachiever


    When I was a Sophomore in high school, I was assigned a research paper that was to make up a percentage of my overall English grade. I purchased a sizable stack of index cards per instructions and immediately set to work filling them in. As I sat surveying the small mountain of ridiculous index cards growing steadily taller on my bedroom floor, I decided to weigh the matter a little more carefully. I considered the grade that I had in the class at the time (an "A") and subtracted the percentage of the research paper from that grade to see what would happen. Nothing too horrible. I came to the conclusion that I was willing to accept a slightly lower grade rather than go through the pains of putting together a huge paper that I was not in the least interested in writing. Since that was the only research paper I was ever asked to write in high school, I graduated without that particular  pleasure. I also advanced easily to the honors English class in my Junior and Senior years and earned college credit on my AP English exam.

    It is humbling to say it but I was the classic academic underachiever. If I applied myself in the smallest degree, I earned high grades; but I discovered very quickly that I didn't need to do much at all to keep myself at least on the path to graduation. Eventually, I simplified my standards to two points: 1) remain eligible for sports and 2) graduate honorably enough to get into college. If I did my homework at all, I did probably 80% of it the same day that it was due. I can recall putting together a project in three hours that I should have been working on for weeks... and getting it back with glowing praise and very high marks. I remember laughing at teacher comments such as "You clearly spent much time and effort on this!" It didn't always happen that way, but it happened enough to get me through to graduation and into college.

    Underachiever. The term plagued me. It meant that the grade did not match the potential. So much talent. So wasted. Oh, the hallway discussions that I had with my teachers! If only they knew that I really, really didn't care about grades. I just wanted to get out.

    I recall as a 16-year old imagining in class that my plaid uniform skirt was glued to the desk chair, hoping to mentally decrease the intensity of my desire to flee. If I couldn't flee, by virtue of being stuck, than perhaps I wouldn't think on it as much and wouldn't be as miserable.

    Art class was one place I thought I'd like to be. I dreamed of attending a prestigious art school after graduation. But my classmates considered it a blow off class and acted accordingly. Many labeled themselves "dumb" at art and were graded according to the teacher's relative perception of effort. So they continued to make it a joke. During class, these students were loud and constantly making a rude thing of a lovely idea.

    Once, I spent three hours on a small art homework assignment. Stippling. I chose a difficult subject, labored over it, and neglected my more academic subjects so that I could complete enough to call it a composition. It was only worth 15 points. I had given more than I had time to give and knew I had done good work. The paper came back to me two days later with a B+ on it and the comment "So disappointed that you didn't give this more time. Excellent work clearly done at the last minute. What work you have done here is worth an A+. I'm docking you a letter grade for not showing me a bigger composition and greater effort."

    A couple weeks later, I did my art homework during study hall 30 minutes before it was due. I received an A+ with the remark "Brilliant!" Lesson learned? Three hours is not worth the 15 (or fewer) points. So I became an underachiever in art, voted "Most Artistic" female of my graduating class... with nothing to show for it. I remember my art teacher sighing at me. Telling me how frustrating it was for her to see my talent wasted. And then walking away. Wasted. I'm a waste. Just let me out of here.

    High school for me became much more about learning how to get through a system than about getting a  great liberal arts education. The deck seemed stacked against me in so many ways. I was stuck in the inanity for four years... and so I accepted mediocrity and that grating label of "underachiever." They were right. I was capable of so much more. But not there... in that place.

    I knew a number of students who had a lesser grasp of material than I did but who earned better grades than I. One of them paid me $50 to write a paper for him (since I was an "honor" student). Which is why he got better grades than I did. He just found a way to do it that overcame his lack of ability and drive. I guess I just didn't care as much.

    I went to school because I could not go to volleyball/track practice unless I went to class. I wasn't really a bad kid. I cared about people. I had a lot of ideas and creativity. I thought life was interesting. I had friends. I was on student council. I won some awards. But inside I was screaming to get out. When graduation day finally came, my friends all cried and talked about the best years of their lives. I was startled and thought: Good grief! I sure hope not! No tears even threatened to fall from my eyes... and I am a crier by nature.

    Goodbye, ugly walls. Goodbye, mean kids. Goodbye, unhappy teachers. Goodbye, boring. Goodbye, underachievers, overachievers, mobile unit kids, nerds, jocks, preps, stoners. Goodbye, labels. Goodbye, prison. Goodbye, moral cesspool. Goodbye, fear.

    Hello, Life.

    I went to a private college prep co-ed Catholic high school. Where drug addict students were extraordinary ministers of the Eucharist, where religion teachers mocked the faith, where sexual harassment was frighteningly real, constant and ignored. A "good" school where I learned little of academic worth but a lot about "dog eat dog" and how bad I am at quick comebacks. Where some teachers partied as hard as the students and laughed about it in class. Where getting through the day without some depraved idiot telling me what color underwear I was wearing (because he stood at the bottom of the stairwell to find out) was a victory. Where purity is trashed and no one cares. Where drama is king and maturity is scarce.

    This is one of a hundred reasons that we homeschool: We can take the garbage out of "education" and give the student the power and freedom to actually learn.

    An important thing I have learned as a home educator is that education is not the transmission of one person's knowledge to another... education is something that an individual does for himself. I cannot educate my students if they do not choose to be educated. I know that from my extensive firsthand experience of watching frustrated teachers throw much education against my brick wall of obstinacy. Some brilliant people make horrible teachers because they do not understand what it means to teach. And they do not understand why some children resist learning. Sometimes I hear parents talk about their underachieving teenagers. I listen to their frustration and concern and can sympathize as a parent... but I feel for the kids even more. Maybe they are living what I lived and just need someone to get them out.

    My feeling about school was intensely negative. But it was my world. There were no other options. There was no freedom. And if it was hell to me... well, I still had to get up everyday and try to focus on academics and achievement. Like trying to paint a beautiful portrait ... while sitting in a tiny, leaky boat... in the middle of a hurricane.

    If I could attend high school all over again, I think I would be even more miserable than I was the first time. I would be more educated, wiser, more mature, more creative, more passionate, more faith-filled, more disciplined... and all of those improvements would make me even more desperate to escape. I don't think I could fit back into that box without ugly consequences. I'm sure that if my husband gave me grades on my wifely and motherly duties that I would quickly find my "underachiever" label again. Thankfully, I no longer work for grades and labels.

    There are days when I just know that my daily grade is a big, fat F. Mercifully, God doesn't record it. After Confession, he doesn't even remember it. His name is Mercy. I get a new page every day. And my label?
    Beloved.


    Psalm 40
    1 I waited patiently for the Lord; he inclined to me and heard my cry. 2 He drew me up from the desolate pit, out of the miry bog, and set my feet upon a rock, making my steps secure. 3 He put a new song in my mouth, a song of praise to our God. 






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