Monday, March 12, 2012

It's Official

I've moved Life at Le. Rheims over to  Is it a perfect blogging setup?  No, but after using Blogger everyday for over a month, it was a no-brainer.  Blogger is OK, Wordpress is great.  There are things I'm still not happy with over there, but it's a far sight better than here.

So, if you wouldn't mind, if you're still reading this, please, please, please, head on over there, Life at Le. Rheims, and check it out.  Tell me what you think.  If you like it, try clicking that Facebook "Like" button and maybe even following me by e-mail.  Thanks!

Life at Le. Rheims

Thursday, March 8, 2012

So Thankful to Be So Tired

Today, I'm just thankful for sleep.  It may not seem like much to some, but to parents of small children, sleep is precious enough as it is.  Now, add in to the mix three sick children over two nights, and I'm exhausted.  On Tuesday night, quite out of the blue, the Scientist started complaining of a tummy ache.  Of course, in his own words, he told us that, "[He wasn't] quite sure how to describe it.  It hurts a great deal, but it's not from hunger." When I told him that, at least, he wouldn't have to do school work the next day, he responded, "Yes, but I'm sure I'd much rather do that than be sick right now.  And you know how much I'd rather play than do school work, Mom."  Have I told you how much I love the way he talks?  His "phraseology", if you will?  I do. But I digress.  After about three bouts of vomiting, he proclaimed himself to be all better and fell asleep.  This was around two in the morning.  He slept the rest of the night on the couch.  Three guesses where mommy slept too.  That's right, sitting upright, because we only have one three-seater couch in our living room.  Finally, around 6 AM I got up, woke up the Husband, and we switched places.  He took to the couch and took excellent care of the morning routine while I got some much needed needed sleep, albeit no where near enough.  When he awoke, the Scientist was fine.  He played all day and had not a hint of illness about him.  Great!  Wonderful!  Excellent!  All done!

Sure.  Right.  Because that's how things ever work around here.

Fast forward to last night, after bringing all five little ones over to my sister's for a birthday party (don't worry, I apprised her of the situation and it was all agreed upon that, as the kids had all been together on Monday night, they were already exposed to whatever he had, it wasn't a problem to bring them; this ain't my first rodeo.) we came home and put all the kids to bed.  Around 10 PM, we heard terrible retching coming from the kids' room, and we knew.  It wasn't over.  We went in to find the Ninja Monkey, poor thing, covered in yuckyness, and terribly upset.  We cleaned him up, gave him a bath, brushed his teeth, the usual, and lay him on the couch to rest.  After about an hour or so, he was back to his usual self.  The husband, to his credit, had the whole thing cleaned up and spic and span within about 10 minutes.  He's good like that.  Thank God, because I'm not.  Yay! Good!  All done!(?)

Yeah, right.  Just as I was getting ready to put Ninja Monkey back to bed, a certain Pirate Princess came to the living room door.  I went over to her, picked up to bring her back to bed, and then it happened.  Now, one thing you must understand about her is that she is the best possible patient.  Seriously.  From a very, very, ridiculously young age, has always taken her medicine, even eye and ear drops, with no problems and no fuss.  When she throws up, it's exactly the same way: no problems, no fuss.  She started to heave, and quickly put her hands over her mouth, to hold it in, until she could get a bucket.  Once I grabbed the bucket, she politely threw up into it.  She got a bath too, because having long hair, you guessed it.  Not pretty.  But, she dealt with it like the trooper she is.  Finally, all clean and dry and warm again, she snuggled on the couch with her dad.  Until, she made a gurgle, sat up, and grabbed the bucket to throw up again.  Seriously, I don't think I've ever seen a more considerate vomiting not quite three year old.  Well, at least the Ninja Monkey was fine.

Of course he was.  (See that?  I was being facetious.)  It basically just kept going on like this, back and forth between the two of them, with the Husband and I cleaning up as we went, and the pile of gross things growing with every bout.  (It's times like these when I'd be super thankful if we had our own washer and dryer.  For now I'm thankful it's only some dirty laundry and nothing worse).  I count myself lucky that I only had projectile vomit hit my face once the whole night.  Yay me!  I sent the Husband in to bed around 2 AM and all of this finally ended, a little after 4 AM when they both fell asleep, he on the floor and she on the couch.  I, of course, sat down to write this (this blogging thing, it's like an addiction) and now I'm going play on the computer until the morning (because every other seat is taken up by children, sick and not sick.

It's times like this when it can be hard to be thankful for anything.  When I'm tired and achy and hungry and covered in yuckyness it can be hard to remember that this job of motherhood is mine by choice.  I chose to accept God's will in my and walk the path He chose for me.  I chose to accept children openly and willingly and all that comes with them.  It's time like these when I need to remember that love is not a noun but a verb.  It's a choice we make, to love.  You may not be able to chose who you are attracted to, but you certainly can and do choose who to love.  Deciding to love someone means deciding to put their needs first, to do all you can for them because you want whats best for them, even to your own detriment at times.  To love my children means to be awake, here, at 5 in the morning, with no sleep and no where to sleep, and happy to do so because I know it's what I should be doing.  Am I happy about all that gross laundry I'll be washing later?  No, I won't lie.  But I am happy to be able to care for my normally healthy children in their time of illness, and that's something I'm truly thankful for.

By the time you're reading this, I'll probably be sound asleep.  And so, I'm also thankful for a soft, warm bed, and a place to rest my weary head, because after a couple of nights like this, it's just about all I have energy to be thankful for.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Not Just for Magazines Anymore

I dream of having a homeschool room someday.  Hell, I dream of having a house, but that's beside the point.  In said house, I would love to have a room devoted entirely to our homeschooling.  It gets a little depressing, trying to squeeze in all the books, the manipulatives, the books, and the books, and the books, knowing there will never really be enough space where you are but not sure when you'll ever be someplace else.  This doesn't even take into account the art supplies, the mounds of paper, and the many little things one needs to really do it up, homeschool style.  So, I figure I have two choices: give in to the depression or learn to work in the space I have.  I choose to make the space work for me, and this gives rise to most of my Works for Me Wednesdays posts.  Today's is no different.

Since the boys are in first grade and kindergarten, we have a lot of work books.  There's handwriting, spelling, phonics, and our math meeting books (for each boy).  Then there's the books that are like the work books.  You know the ones.  You don't write in them, but they're the same size and shape as your typical work book, and they're paperbacks to boot.  Large, non-hardcover books don't like to stand nicely on shelves.  They flop. They bend.  They droop.  They fall over and make the entire shelf look a hot mess.  We have, all told, about 12 - 15 work bookish books for the boys, and while this may not see like a lot, remember, we also don't have a lot of space in which to keep them.  After dealing with this issue during all of last school year, where the books were shuffled on and off the table, in a big messy pile of slippery, floppy books, I decided I needed something to keep them in.  This had to stop.

The solution it seems was easier than most of my space/mess problems.  As I was walking through the local Tarjay one day in September, it hit me.  Magazine files.  They're perfect for this.  Like so perfect this is basically exactly what they were made for: holding floppy books neatly.  I bought two of them, one for each boy, in a lovely shade of teal to go with some other baskets I have in my living room, stuck their books in them, slapped their names on them, and voila!  The end of the messy book problem.  We stick them on a shelf in the living room when they're not in use, and when we need them it's super easy to just grab the whole box of whichever boy is currently working.  Then, when we're done, the file gets put right back.  Done.  And done.

So nice and neat and not slippery
This may seem like an overly easy or simple solution, but c'mon, isn't that the kind of solution most of us like best?  Sometimes, the best answer to a problem is the one it's easiest to implement.  They're cheap (mine were $4.99 from Target) and come in many styles to fit in with one's decor (because no one wants their entire home to scream "homeschool"). These may not work for you.  They may not work for me next year or whenever the boys are older and their books are bigger.  But, for now, these are a life saver for my tiny homeschool table.

Any suggestions for keeping books neat and tidy in a small space?

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

How To: Bury the "A" Word

Waaaay up high, where little hands can't reach it
While going over some things for Lent with my kids last week, one of the things I reminded them of was that we don't say a certain "A" word during Lent, not even on Sundays.  We discussed what we sing instead, and why, and what the "A" word means, and all that lovely stuff, but they just didn't seem to get the importance of it.  You see, I love singing the "A" word.  It's in almost all of my absolute favorite songs, such as "Jesus Christ Is Risen Today!" and "The Strife Is O'er".  It's one of my favorite parts of Mass, always has been.  Let's face it, the "A" word rocks, and singing it just takes it to a whole. 'Nother.  Level.  I have always looked forward to Easter Sunday, for as long as I can remember, not only for all the awesomeness that is Easter (both religious and secular) but specifically for the return of the "Big A".  I want my kids to feel the same way, and that is how this next project was born.

Burying Wrapping the "A" Word

This is apparently a fairly old tradition in the Roman Catholic Church at least that dates back to the Middle Ages.  Before the start of Lent, the faithful would intone one last, glorious rendition of the the "A" Word and then, they would bury a magnificently decorated scroll or banner of some kind, emblazoned with it, in a small coffin.  There would be a huge candlelit procession from the church to the cemetery. Once buried, the candles would be extinguished, signaling the beginning of Lent.  There it would remain until the just before dawn on Easter Sunday, when the congregation would again process, in darkness this time, to the grave.  The coffin would be exhumed and carried back to the church where it the scroll would be brought out and all would sing a joyful chorus of the "A" Word, letting all know that Christ is risen and all is right with the world again.

Fast forward to now.  Our parish does not do this ceremony and has not as along as I've been alive.  I'm not sure if it ever did.  When I read about it though, in my searching for Lenten activities, I liked the sound of it.  When my children just weren't getting how important the absence of the "A" Word is during Lent, I knew I had to try it.  Just one problem.  We don't have a yard, much less a graveyard in which to bury anything.  Not to be deterred, I decided that main point was to put the word away in a real way and that burying was nice, but wrapping would work just as well for my purposes.  And so, out to the dollar store I went.  I got some purple wrapping paper and a shirt box and got to work.

My supplies.  Pretty minimal = happy mama
First, I wrapped the box, top and bottom separately, to make it easier and faster to put the word away without losing the kids' attention.

I promise this looks way neater in person.
Next, I went online and found some pretty awesome and "churchy" fonts, and once I decided on one to use, I printed our a page of card stock with the "A" Word written on it, all pretty and large.  I, of course, decorated it with gold glitter and let it dry.  I mean, it's the "A" Word people.  It deserves all the sparkle I can spare.

Do you think it needed more glitter?
Finally, I gather the kiddies around a table in the living room.  I explained once again how important the "A" Word is and how much we miss it when it's not being used at Mass or at all.  I told them that we were going to wrap it up and place it up high to remind up not to say it at all until Easter.  I also told them that we would open it on Easter Sunday morning, just like the present it is.  We'll probably also end up displaying the glitter-bedecked sign in a place of prominence all through the Easter season.

All snug in it's little box

Complete with a gift tag
So, there you have it.  My city/apartment friendly version of burying the "A" Word.  There is only one down side I've seen so far: the Pirate Princess has now fixated on singing the "A" Word, something she never did before I made such a fuss over NOT saying it.  Oh well, I can't win 'em all and there are far worse words she could be using.  I'll count my blessings while I may.

Let me know if you use this idea in your own homes.  I'd love to hear from you!

Also, don't forget to read (the Infant of) Prague Blog today for my post on St. Chrodegang.  Don't worry!  I didn't know who he was either.

Monday, March 5, 2012

Monday Musings: Correcting Prayers

We pray with our kids.  Always have.  We've had a nightly family bedtime prayer routine since the Scientist was actually going to bed, so about 4 months old.  It hasn't always been what it is today (i. e. a listing of all the people and things we need to pray for followed by the Rosary) but it's always been there.  When he was a baby, it started as a simply "Hail Mary" before we laid him in his crib.  As he has grown and as we've had more children, it has become a little longer and more encompassing of standard Catholic prayers and private family ones.  For a while it was the big three (an Our Father, a Hail Mary, and a Glory Be) followed by an Angel of God and, of course because this is me, a prayer for spiritual adoption by Bishop Sheen, and then a nightly remembrance of every need and want, and everything for which we were thankful.  Suffice it to say, our children have grown up being virtually immersed in prayers (and this isn't even touching on public prayers, such as attending Mass).

Perhaps if we used this, they'd know that
there's no such thing as "stewman".
That being said, they don't exactly say their prayers all that well.  I mean, they do and they don't.   They pray, but the words they use to say the big three aren't exactly always quite intelligible by anyone except for me (not even the husband understands them all the time).  For instance, one night, after the Rosary, the Scientist asked me if I could tell him what "strewman" meant.  I looked at him, quizzically, for a few moments.  I asked him, "Strewman? What do you mean 'strewman'?"  He responded with a repetition of, "You know, 'strewman'?"  Then it dawned on me.  "Strewman" was actually what he in his six year old mind had made of the words of the Hail Mary, "amongst women" (yes, I say the archaic "amongst", and that's what he was hearing that caused the confusion).  I told him what it meant, and he contemplated my answer for a moment.  "Amongst women.  St'women.  A mongst women.  Amongst women.  Ok Mom.  Thanks."  If he doesn't know that we're talking about Mary specifically out of all other women then is he really "getting" the prayer?  I'd like to think so, but I can't be sure now.  Should I have corrected him long before this?  I knew that he wasn't pronouncing everything quite right, but I chose to see it as just a kid being a kid, and one who doesn't always speak clearly at that.  I'm just not sure.

With these thoughts circling in my mind, I began paying extra close attention to the way the prayers sounding coming from both him and the Ninja Monkey during our nightly Rosary.  While this is made up of prayers they've said or at least heard every day of their lives and that I specifically taught both of them over the last two years or so, I noticed they were not only not saying them clearly, but they weren't even saying all of the words.  Specifically, neither of them say the words "the fruit of" in the Hail Mary.  According to them both, the prayer is, "Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with thee.  Blessed art thou amongstewmen, and blessed is they womb, Jesus."  Every time they say it, I have this great urge to interrupt them and correct them.  I haven't yet, but I have tried to correct them afterwards, and to over emphasize them when I say the prayer myself.  While it doesn't seem to be having too much of an effect on them, I don't think I'm ready to break in to their prayers with corrections just yet.

You see, this is where the dilemma comes in.  I truly believe that they mean every word they say in those prayers, and that, to the best of their young hearts' abilities, they believe them to be true.  I also know that they love the Blessed Mother greatly, and that they know that praying the Rosary is a way we can show her how much we love her Son, and vice versa.  I'm not sure that perfectly reciting the words is what matter the most at this age.  I know it matters, but is it of the utmost importance?  Perhaps all that really counts right now is the meaning, the intention, the love pouring out of their young hearts, and not the jumbled mess of words pouring out of their young lips.

So when does the balance shift from placing the importance on the fervor to placing it more equally on both that and the pronunciation?  I don't know the answer to that one just yet, but then again, my oldest is only six.  He's getting ready to make his first Penance and First Holy Communion.  Both of those are events where the words matter and matter greatly.  He can't very well make a confession is he doesn't know the proper form and it would terrible if he didn't respond with the proper "Amen" after receiving the Precious Body and Blood.  I think about now is the right time to start really emphasizing the words themselves, and the importance of saying them as clearly and correctly as one can.  But I still believe that God, in His infinite wisdom and mercy, who created these children, knows what they mean and knows that the heart is willing, even though the words are failing, and He accepts prayers full of "Stewmens" and lacking "fruits" as much as the ones that are full of them.

So now I want to know: Do you interrupt your children while they pray to correct their mistakes or do you leave it up to good modeling on your own part and hope they figure it out on their own?

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Not So Silent Sunday

I confess.  I've already broken my own rule about not posting on Sundays, but hear me out.  It's not much more than what I wanted to post, i. e. a post of a prayer or holy picture.  I mean, it is, it's a full blown post, but it's about a saint. St. Casimir, to be exact.  And, it's not even posted here.  It's posted on my other blog, the one I co-write with my brother, Tim Harvey (I'm sorry.  I will never get used to referring to my brother using the name of our beloved dead cat.)  So, in the interest of attracting more people to the holy study of the saints, I'm posting, and I'm sharing.  Please, please, please, please, please head on over there and check it out!

(the Infant of) Prague Blog! St. Casimir

Saturday, March 3, 2012

God Save the People

Sometimes I wish I had my Flip video glued to my hand, or better yet that I had those slightly creepy security cameras stationed throughout my apartment.  I don't think I'd mind all the craziness of a reality TV show based around my life, either, as long as there was plenty of footage.  Why?  I'd know that moments like what happened yesterday afternoon would be preserved some place other than my mind. (The bad stuff could always be edited out later, in a few years, when no one remembers us.  It would be like a seriously intense set of home movies.)

The Superhero, in his Red Link Halloween Costume
While sitting at the computer desk, typing away, researching St. Patrick's Day stuff for another post, the Superhero came in and climbed up onto my lap.  After a couple of snuggles, he slid back off, told me how much he liked my outfit (you know, the sweaty tank and yoga pants I'd had on since Zumbaing after lunch?), and then sat on the couch.  He was so quiet I had just about forgotten he was even there, until I heard the singing.  Floating over to me was the quietest, cutest voice, and what was he singing?  Oh, just a little Godspell.    Yeah, that Godspell, the one about Jesus dressed as Superman/a clown, the one that is, I'll be honest, one of my favorite musicals ever (what can I say? I'm a sucker for Stephen Schwartz).  As he sang, not quite the right melody or key, "God save the Peopuuuuulllll! God save the people!  God save the Peopuuuullllll! God save the people!", I couldn't help but smile and think of how lucky I am to have my kids and to have my life.

You see, foolishly, I don't always remember things like this or moments like that.  I don't always think about how amazing my children are or how much my husband loves me or how there are far worse places to live than Le. Rheims.  No, usually I'm mentally complaining about how much I want a house, how small the kitchen is here, how much the economy sucks and how there don't seem to be any jobs, about how no matter how hard I try somethings just don't turn out right, and about anything else you can imagine.  Usually, these thoughts cycle through my mind on a daily basis.  And while I try to remain upbeat on the outside, the thoughts are there.  And that's why I wish I had my video camera on hand yesterday.  I'd play the Superhero's off kilter version of " God Save the People" on a loop in my living room.  That sweet voice saying those singing those sweet words really did remind me that God did in fact save His people, as the song continues, "from despair", and that life will not always be this hard, that money won't always be quite this tight, that a house may one day be our home, and that, God willing there will be more babies and more moments like that one.

God save the people, from despair.  Thanks Superhero.  Mommy owes you one.