Monday, March 12, 2012

It's Official

I've moved Life at Le. Rheims over to Wordpress.com.  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.

Friday, March 2, 2012

I'm Not Ready for St. Patrick's Day

Hi!  I gather you're here for the awesome post on St. Patrick's Day that I wrote when I was still blogging on Blogger.com.  Well, fear not.  It's still up, just not here.  I've moved this whole blog over to Wordpress.com.  So, to see it, just click the giant link below, and you'll find it.  Thanks for stopping by!



A Trip to the Library

"...Has made a new girl of me, for suddenly I can see the wonder of books!" -- She Loves Me, the Musical

Sorry, I just had to finish that.  I love that song.  I also love books.  I mean like I could give up most other creature comforts and conveniences before I could live without books.  When i went to Italy in college, one of my favorite parts of the trip was a stop in a monastic library, where we able to hold books that were two hundred year old books.  The place smelled like books.  It was amazing.  I'd live in a library if I could, surrounded everyday  by books, by reading, by readers.  Also, I wouldn't have to deal with my least favorite part of the library: the returning.  I would love to have enough space (and money) to own every book I ever read.  Not just a copy of it, but the exact copy that I poured over.  It would be so comforting to be able to open the same copy of a book and be able to read all my own notes in the margins, to rethink old thoughts, to see if I still agreed with myself.  Oh yes, books are a glorious thing.

My love of books is, I think, why I want so much for my children to start reading.  We would be able to read together or I could watch them read on their own.  Best of all, they could read to me!  When the Scientist read Jake Skates last week, I literally jumped for joy.  Finally, my plan was beginning to come to fruition (the one where, because my children are terribly well read they will inevitably take over the world and be the Pope and President and other important people who together end abortion...it's not a well thought out plan, but it is a plan).  To this end, both the Scientist and the Ninja Monkey have their very own library cards.  They've had them for almost a year now.  In that time though we had only visited the local library about 10 times, and that was mostly for playing checkers and making crafts.  So this month, I decided it was time to start over, to try harder to make it to the library at least every other week (which is good, because then maybe we'll stop accruing so many fines).  To this end, we went to the library last Friday.  Here's how it went.


 First, let me begin by saying that I rarely get to take out books of my own at the library, as the kids section is where we spend most of our time and I don't feel right about traipsing around the adult section with at least three kids in tow most times.  We head straight for the welcoming children's room, with its large, sunken story time area and low shelves that a kid friendly.  The steps make it easier to entertain the Pirate Princess, as she loves playing airplane on them.  I'm never sure if this is the appropriate posture for a library or not, but we haven't gotten kicked out yet.


Second, I must say that we rarely have a well formed plan of what we want to get or even a general book list from which to draw.  I know, I know.  Book lists abound for Catholics, for homeschoolers, for 6-7 year old boys just beginning to read who are interested in astronomy.  I just never seem to remember them until we are at the library itself.  This is when the real fun begins (and in case you were wondering, I'm not being facetious, I really do enjoy this part, even if it is a bit chaotic).  I start by taking a general survey of the theme for the month, as displayed on the back wall.  If it's something we're interested in, I head there and grab some appropriate books to sort out later.  If not, I start asking the boys what they want to study this week.  Both of them almost always ask for the same basic books every time; the one wants books on dinosaurs and the other on trucks.  Easy peasy, until you realize you've read the same Jurassic Shark book about eight times.  Somehow though, we manage to sort through and find some age appropriate books that we haven't already seen.  It's a challenge but one I enjoy.


After we have all of their books,  I turn them lose and begin my own search.  I pour over almost every title on the main book case (main section for the little ones), and grab a book here and a book there, thinking all the time I've only gotten a couple and just have to find some more.  The result?  More books than any of us could read in a a month, let alone two weeks.

I lug them all over to the desk, make an arbitrary decision as to who gets to take out which books, and apologize profusely to the librarian as she has to check out the average 25 books we take out each time. I attempts to shove them into whatever extra shopping bag I happened to have found in the van right before coming inside, and then off we go.

When we get home, the kids love showing off the books to Dad, and "reading" them (even the baby is in love with books, which I must say has me tickled pink).  They lay them all out around the living room and we must end up reading through close to half of them right then.  The other half may never see the light of day while we have them, but my thinking is that we have them.  The opportunity is there to read, and that's enough for me.


Finally, they all get put up on the "library book shelf", so that said baby can't also attempt to taste the books when nobody's looking.

Our most recent library trip was a success.  I say this because there were no tantrums, no mommy constantly telling them to be quiet to the point of becoming the nuisance, and no fits when it was time to go home.  Everybody found something to read and no one went home empty handed.  That's a good trip in my book, but there are some things I plan on doing differently for next time (and from now on, I hope).

  1. I absolutely must have a plan.  I must have a plan of who is coming and how long we are staying and how many books we are each allowed.
  2. I absolutely must have a list.  A specific for this trip list.  One that is well thought out and is relevant to our current studies.
  3. I must have a backup list, for those just in case times when they really have nothing I need or want.
  4. I must take advantage of my computer and try to place as many books as I can that I am planning on taking out on hold.  The beauty of being in Newark is that we have a huge library system.  The problem is that, obviously, not every branch has the same books.  If I really want something, I need to look it up on their website, and place it on hold because then i can request it be sent to my local branch and a few days later (usually) it's there.
  5. I must remember to not let all of my "must haves" and my planning keep this from being a fun activity to share with my children.  I do, after all, want them to love reading, books, and libraries as much as I always have.


So now I want to know: do you have any tips or tricks to making a successful library trip with small children?



Thursday, March 1, 2012

Thankful Seussday

It's just like Thankful Thursday, but with Seuss stuck in the name did you see what I just did there?  Oh, and  remember that regardless of his horrendous personal behavior, he wrote some damn good children's books.  Just don't give him your money if you believe every baby deserves the right to be born and therefore possibly read any of those books.

Read.
Read Dr. Seuss.
Read him to the kids in your life.
Read him to yourself.
Read him when you are down, and when you are up.
Read him for the silly rhymes.
Read him to see the deeper meaning.
Read him to  forget the world outside.
Read him to remember it.
Read him to laugh.
Read him to ponder.
Read him to remember that people can change.
Read him to become a child again.
Read him to be a better grown up.
Read him to become tongue tied.
Read him to untie your tongue.
Read him to remember that life begins at conception, that
         Hitler was evil, that you shouldn't let strange Cats
         into your house when your mother is out.
Read him to make new friends.
Read him to rekindle old friendships.
Read him to practice rhyming.
Read him to understand the beautiful thing that is the English language.
Read Dr. Seuss.
Read.


Related posts: How to Not Give Money to Planned Parenthood Inadavertently

When was the last time you read your favorite Dr. Seuss book?


Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Magnets!

Back to Works for Me Wednesdays, which, sadly, will not be about Dr. Seuss.  Try as I might I just couldn't figure a way to work him in.  I was really going for a full week of Seuss, good and bad, if you hadn't noticed.  Also, quick note: it's a leap year!  We get a free day.  How cool is that?  Anyway, onward ho!

In my extremely small kitchen there is no room for just about anything (including cooking, at times).  Last week, when I wanted to participate in the Stations of the Cross project, I had to use the small space between the burners on the stove as my work station.  Safe, right?  I'm sure anyone still reading this knows that this kitchen is the current bane of my existence (that, and Zumba, with whom I am developing a love/hate relationship at the moment).  There's one wall on which to hang anything I may need to hang.  In a basic kitchen that serves only as a place to prepare and possibly eat food this isn't a real problem.  In a kitchen that is also a classroom, it kinda totally sucks.  One of my solutions for working with this one wall is to make the display space, what little there is, as changeable as possible.  And so, I give you: The Magnetic Strip!

I don't front.  This is what my strips looked like
when I decided to start taking pictures.
These strips come in varying lengths and widths, but for my purposes, I chose the 1/2" by 24" size, in white, so as to not be jarring against the cream colored walls of our kitchen and therefore be just a background on which we can hang our "stuff".  Trust me, if you think there's a lot of "stuff" from regular school, try actually living in the school room, 24/7/365.  "Stuff" abounds in the house of a homeschooler.

Each strip comes with essentially super-strong double sided mounting tape, which I hope won't destroy the paint when I remove them.  Even if they do though, I think paint might be easier to fix than holes left after removing screws.  It comes with about eight magnets and, while they do the job, they are the one thing I complain about.  They are literally just the magnets: small metal disks, with nothing to prevent anyone, like an adventurous 18 month old who climbs onto the kitchen table the moment her mother's back is turned, from swallowing one (this hasn't happened yet, thank God, but I really need to switch out those magnets soon).

This is what it is supposed to look like most days.
Neat and orderly with schoolwork and projects
hanging, well, neatly.
Some Dr. Seuss independent activities
Note the ridiculously small magnet.










We have two of them hanging below the posters and above the table, so this gives us 48" of hanging space.  At the moment, I try to keep the boys' work on separate strips, but that won't work in the Fall (because I'll have three students).  I tend to use them for just the basics.  Once a math assessment or spelling test is done, up it goes on the strip with all the fanfare it is deserving (after getting a sticker of course) and remains there for a respectable amount of time (until, say the next test is ready).  If there's a back side to a page that is to be completed at a later date or time, it goes up on the strip to keep it in my line of sight.  I tend to forget things like papers when they go away into folders, even if it's supposed to be temporary, so this helps me remember silly things, like math worksheets.

Makes a nice place to hang Valentine's
While we generally use them for a basic bulletin board of sorts, there are many different uses I can think of for a classroom setting, let alone for use in an actual kitchen (read: not a classroom).  On birthdays, we hang up pictures of the birthday child.  On holidays, you could hang up all the fun homemade decorations that really don't fit anywhere else but can't be thrown out (just yet).  There's also the possibility of using it as a "Do Now" activity station, where you simply hang a couple of different worksheets (I use this term loosely) across the strip and let the child choose which one to do while you finish your coffee prepare your supplies.
 
Dr. Seuss independent activities
If you're not a homeschooler, these are still a great way to display your child's artwork or your own photos and even to use near a desk for holding papers you can't afford to lose on the mass of slips that is your desk (it's not just me, right?).  The possibilities are practically limitless.  That's why these magnetic bulletin strips work for me.

So now I want to know: do you have any clever space saving display ideas?

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

On How to Not Give Money to Planned Parenthood Inadvertantly

If you're pro-life, like I am, then you probably have serious issues with Planned Parenthood, Susan G. Komen for the Cure, the March of Dimes, and several other organizations.  Then there's the people you most likely take issue with as well, including Kenneth Cole, Gwyneth Paltrow (and her mom, Blythe Danner), and President Obama and his entire cabinet and staff, among others. Much as we all know to stay away, keep back, hide our wallets when these clear offenders against life come knocking at our doors, there are other, less obvious individuals and groups from which we should be withholding our financial support -- such as Dr. Seuss.
If only Theo. S. Geisel was as
sensible as Dr. Seuss and Horton
I know, I know.  I love his work.  I really do.  It's fun, it's catchy, it's a part of American (in particular) childhood that most of us share.  It's loved by kids and grown ups alike.  And the proceeds still go to his widow, who, along with her husband while he was still alive and continuing to the present day, presents large donations to Planned Parenthood.  That's right folks.  Every time you purchase a copy of Horton Hears a Who, with it's beautiful message that "a person's a person no matter how small", Audry Geisel (Theodore S. Geisel aka Dr. Seuss' widow) receives a portion of the price, and with that money, she supports the murder of innocent, "small" human beings by donating to Planned Parenthood.  It's not a small thing to consider, especially when one thinks about the millions of copies this book in particular and all of his books have sold worldwide.  All those individual sales add up, and even just a percentage of a percentage is a large amount when talking Dr. Seuss sales.

Now, I'm not saying drop Dr. Seuss and his zany characters like a bad habit.  Far from it.  What I am saying is to be careful as to how you procure copies of his books. If I flatly refuse to give money to Planned Parenthood via Seuss, how do I satiate my thirst for more Seuss you may be wondering?  Easy peasy.  I got this.

How to avoid giving Planned Parenthood money and still keep reading those rhymes:
  1. Use the library, fool.  They are a great resource and, what's more, the librarians in the children's sections are usually more than happy to do Seuss read alouds if they have a crowd.  At least, mine are.  If yours aren't, I feel for you.
  2. Used book stores and websites offer a wide variety of both titles and pricing.  And you can take advantage of somebody else already making the purchase you didn't want to make (because maybe they didn't know or, sadly, didn't care).  No money from you is going to Planned Parenthood.
  3. Curriculum swaps.  Especially if you homeschool, you can not afford to not be on at least two to three different swap lists.  People are constantly trading, selling, and sometimes outright giving away extra copies of books that are simply collecting dust in their homes but will be joyfully put to good use in yours.
  4. Ask your relatives and friends.  I don't know about yours, but my family and friends are a great resource for old books, especially of the children's variety.  Then again, my family could easily populate a small country on its own, so maybe scratch this one.  Aw hell, go for it.  What's the worst that could happen?
And if, after all that, you still can't find enough Dr. Seuss without purchasing new copies (which I highly doubt, but just in case), remember the words of Dr. Seuss in Horton, and juxtapose them with Theodore Geisel's actions.  He preaches respect for life, "no matter how small", and then proffers money to the single largest abortion chain in the country.  No amount of funny words or silly sounds or giggling is worth more than a single baby saved from abortion because the Geisels didn't have your money to donate to Planned Parenthood.

Monday, February 27, 2012

Seuss on the Loose




That's my all time favorite Dr. Seuss book.  I love the (even more than usual) zany rhymes and the ending, where Mr. Knox gets Mr. Fox in Socks, sir, and the latter is a "tweetle beetle noodle poodle bottled paddled muddled duddled fuddled wuddled".  Reading this aloud to my kids is one of my favorite things to do. Listening to their squeals of delight get louder and louder with each crazy line that is added to the tongue-twisting fun can help anyone find their silly side.  Dr. Seuss' left us with some truly worthwhile childhood entertainment and when it is read with any semblance of feeling and fun, the result is nothing short of infectious laughter and a bringing out of the child in us all.

Pirate Princess liked the swag
Much as they tried, the Target near us did not provide this experience during their Dr. Seuss Storytime this past Saturday.  Oh there was a nice enough space cleared out of the ladies accessories department, so the kids could sit on the carpet, and as I didn't know what to expect, I thought this was decent.  There were a couple of signs directing people towards the story time area and when we got there (about a half and hour after it started, the first group of kids was just leaving.  We sat the kids down (except for the young Scientist, who for some reason was refusing to leave my side) and a Target "team member" gave us some actually quite nice kiddie "swag", in the form of a reusable Lorax shopping bag with a snack (apple juice, crackers, and fruit snacks), and some coloring stuff, and even a felt Lorax mustache/bookmark.  Then, one after the other, two different Target peeps sat in the reader chair and read to the children who had gathered.  The first read One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish and the second read another of my favorites, Green Eggs and Ham.  We waited for the fun to start.  If we had stayed past those two books we'd still be waiting.

After the nice bags and the buildup from the website, I have to say, I was disappointed here.  I'm sure the team members who did the readings were trying their best, but the readings were just...flat.  There was hardy any emotion in either.  It was as if they had never heard these books being read before.  The one man even called him San-I-Am.  SAN!  Can you believe it?  Then it hit: there's a good chance they hadn't ever heard those books being read before.  That just made me sad, but I digress.  It was such a shame to have those books read by people who just didn't seem to get it.  Reading to kids is all about knowing how to be silly, to be vulnerable, to let childhood come storming back in with a bang and how to not be afraid to sounds like a total dork while doing it.  These team members did not tell a story.  They read the words on the page.

Seuss 'Stache Smiles (they're hiding)
After the requisite fifteen minutes (we felt it would be rude and set a bad example to the kids to leave without staying for a polite period) we walked away to find a less crowded spot and let the kids explore their bags.  The boys particularly loved the 'staches, and Reagan had quite a treat with the fruit snacks.  Hester just loved carrying her own bag around the store (granted, we decided to do a quick bag inspection as we got the the checkout lane, because neither the husband nor I wanted to deal with any possible accidental shoplifting incidents that day.  Not on Rex Manning Dr. Seuss day.)  All in all, though the reading itself was lackluster at best, the day was not a total wash.  We even reread the books from the morning during our evening story time, more to get the "bad taste" of the earlier readings out of our metaphorical mouths than anything else.  And, the kids now have new library book bags, which is good, because I start to feel like a lazy parent when we use the Dunkin' Donuts pumpkin bags from Halloween past St. Patrick's Day.

So now I want to know: what is your biggest pet peeve about bad reading?  Or, how do you make read alouds enjoyable (for you and your kids)?

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Silent Sunday

I have no idea where this image is
from, but when I saw it, I fell in love

The Memorare

Remember, O most gracious Virgin Mary, that never was it known that anyone who fled to thy protection, implored thy help, or sought thy intercession was left unaided.
Inspired by this confidence, I fly unto thee, O Virgin of virgins, my mother; to thee I come, before thee I stand, sinful and sorrowful. O Mother of the Word Incarnate, despise not my petitions, but in thy mercy hear and answer me.
Amen.
(I plan on trying to keep Sunday as the Lord's Day, and not a blogging day, so I won't be posting more than a picture and prayer each week, unless I really feel called to it.  No promises, but it's a plan for now.)

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Second Book!

Look who just finished his second real book! It's his first library book and we didn't get to post a picture after his first book last week, so he made new promise to share this one with everybody. I don't know which of us is more excited, him or me. I love nights like these.
The book is Jake Skates, by the way, and it was adorable and a good choice for little boys.



I'm Not Being Facetious


If you have kids, or are close to kids, then you know that they say the most amazing things all the times.  Sometimes though what they say is particularly awesome; so awesome in fact that you think about the child and the words all week, tell everyone you know, and want to make sure that there isn't a person you haven't told of the awesomeness that is this child.  This week, I've had a couple of those moments.  (I have 5 kids, I'm bound to have multiple awesome things, right? It's something like the law of probabilities, I think.  I'm not really sure as I don't do "math").

She loves "Hims", she just can't
remember His name.
Last Sunday, as we were trying to get out of bed, my four year old came into my room and started his usual Sunday morning rant.  You see, while we don't generally have any issues with letting the kids watch TV, we have this rule, about Sunday mornings.  Simply stated: no TV.  It's not a religious thing; I just hate being late for Mass, especially for no good reason.  To me, watching TV is not a good reason.  So little man and I go through this every week.  He rants at me that he just has to watch TV, that I'm a mean mommy for not letting him, that he isn't going to Mass (because apparently he thinks we leave four year olds home unattended?), that I have to let him watch something.  I respond with a string of "no", "I don't care", "there you go again, mistaking me for somebody who gives a damn", etc.  The usual.  This week, however, I had some help in the rant response department, and it came from an unlikely source: my two year old daughter.  Now, granted, she'll be three in April, and granted, we try to expose our children to as much of our Faith and beliefs as they can handle, but I still was not expecting this exchange:

Her: "Mom, what's Hims name?", as she pointed at the crucifix on my wall.
Me: "Hims name is Jesus, baby."
Her: "Mom, Hims have lots of boo boos?  Jesus?"
Me: "Yes, baby.  'Hims' have lots of boo boos."
Her: "Yansom, Hims, Jesus (again, pointing), have lots of boo boos.  We needs to go to Mass to make Hims boo boos feel all better.  Yeah, we do.  We needs to go to church."

I personally think that's a pretty good lesson on theology from a two year old, even if she is almost three.  We do go to Mass partly because in praying and uniting our sacrifice with His, we are striving to alleviate His suffering.  It was definitely a moment of feeling, "At least I must be doing something right."

If I'm doing something right in the theology department then I'm not sure what I'm doing in the math department.  My six year old son told me he was being facetious the other day.  We finished part of our math lesson and I told him we only had one more page left.  He responded with, "Oh fun."  I apparently mistook his meaning, because, when I said that I was happy because he really does seem to enjoy this part of math, he stopped me to make sure I understood what he was trying to say.  "Mom, I was being facetious.  I didn't say, 'Oh! Fun!' like I was excited.  I said, 'Oh, fun.'  I was saying the exact opposite of the words I was using.  I was being facetious."  Should I be upset that he doesn't enjoy math as much as I thought, or excited that my six year old is correctly using the word facetious (one I find far too many adults confusing with sarcastic)?  I'm not really sure here, but I'm going to go with the excited response.  He might not love math but, clearly, his vocabulary skills are not lacking.

He certainly looks like he's enjoying his math.
The way I see it is this: we only have them for so long while they are actually "ours", to mold, to teach, to impress upon with our beliefs and quirks, our tastes and spirit.  I'm going to choose to see both of these as successes in the parenting collumn, partly because they aren't as common as I'd like, but mainly because, childhood is too short to be beating ourselves up looking at the down side.  My children are learning.  The little girl may not remember that "Hims" name is Jesus, but she certainly knows what is what in the theology department.  The big boy may not love math, but he can correctly use a word that gives some adults pause.  To me, those should be celebrated now.  We can sort out the bad bits later and fix them up then.

So now I want to know: do you celebrate the small things or sweat them? What's your parenting style in these situations?

Friday, February 24, 2012

Good Times, Guilt Free

I went out to dinner last night.  I don't mean to McDonald's or Pizza Hut, either.  I went to an actual restaurant, with real plates and silverware and *gasp* cloth napkins.  There was nice lighting and interesting foods on the menu (disclaimer: i don't eat interesting foods, but I like reading about them).  Best of all, there was good company.  Grown up company.  Company that wanted to converse and laugh, to discuss religion and dance class and all manner of various and sundry things.  Company who did not want me to cut up her food or get her a new pack of crayons for the hostess.  Company that just wanted to be companionable.  It was so pleasant.

We laughed.  We laughed loud and long.  I laughed until my sides started to hurt.  We tried new things.  Yes, I actually tried new foods.  See that "s" there?  It means more than one.  I tried goat cheese and pizza with egg on it, and they were both delicious.  We even had desert.  I haven't had spumoni in years, but I had it last night.  The evening was, to say the least, good fun.

We like to document when I try a new food, just like we do
with babies, b/c it's almost as auspicious an occasion.

In case you couldn't tell from reading the above, I don't get out much.  Not like that, at least, with a couple of girlfriends (or a sister and her girlfriend, whatever), and no kids, and no need to rush back home at a moment's notice because someone got sick or won't sleep or any number of other reasons.  It's not that I can't.  The husband is pretty good about being left home with the kids.  It's that, usually, I prefer to stay home, to stay with the kids and the husband, and that doesn't make for a lot of grown up time.  But tonight reminded me that, even a mom to five kids can and perhaps get away from it all from time to time, if only for the night.  I feel refreshed,  and ready to take on the next however many weeks or months of just being a mom.  I feel like I could cut up a million hot dogs, refill a thousand sippy cups, and do laundry 'til the cows come home.  It's easy to feel guilty about leaving our kids, or our spouses, for any time, especially when it's for something as unnecessary as a dinner with friends.  But I'm starting to think that, once in a while, it is actually absolutely necessary.  It's amazing how one night out, without the kids but sharing stories about them, can not only recharge your batteries, but remind you how much you really do love doing all those mommy things.  I really do love being a mom, a stay at home mom, all of it, even the parts that often keep me from often having evenings such as last night.

So now I want to know: what one little respite from Momdom helps you reboot and feel ready to face it all again?

Thursday, February 23, 2012

God is Good, Because I Have The Green Machine

Very like The Green Machine, but mine is actually green,
with running boards.  Oh how I love those!
I have a 12 passenger van.  I love it.  I don't mean I kinda like it.  I don't mean it's sorta nice to drive and has the space I need so I'll keep it.  I mean I seriously love it.  I know I shouldn't be this attached to anything, but I can't seem to help it.  It's my favorite "thing" in the world.  When I drive it, I feel like I'm literally on top of the world, surveying the other, tiny cars from my seat up oh so high.  The ride is smooth and the seats are comfy (the driver's seat at least, and I don't ever sit in any of the others, so I can't comment), and when the AC is on, it's so nice and cold.  I love this van so much that, on our trip down to Disney World this past summer, I chose to do the lion's share of the driving.  The trip is 1000 miles each way.  Like I said, I love this van.
Soooooo many seats. :)
Other cars I've owned, not so much.  A few years ago, another time when we were a one car family, if I needed the car for the day, I'd have to drive the husband to work.  This involved getting up earlier than usual, getting the kids all dressed and bundled, hauling them outside regardless of the weather, driving to his office, and then doing it all in reverse by myself to get home.  I hated that car; "Ugly Car", as I called it.  It was small and cramped, a Ford Escort, in white, with dark tinted windows.  I shudder just thinking about it.  I would try to put on a good face, but all that hassle just to go to a doctors appointment or weekday Mass, or anything else I may have needed to do during the day seemed like a lot.  I know I would grumble about it more than I liked and more than I should have.

God is good.  Whenever I started inwardly griping, He would send me the reminder I need that He has blessed me in incredible ways.  Inevitably, it would happen.  I would see "her", the mother with the stroller, usually covered in a clear plastic rain shield, with a baby practically swaddled a la Randy in "A Christmas Story" to keep him warm in the driving rain.  As I drove past, inwardly complaining about how hard the morning was, there she would be, walking to work or probably to the babysitters and then on to work, with a baby, in the rain, in the cold, in a stroller.  Have you ever seen a grown woman shrink to about three inches tall?  That's what it always felt like.  Here I was, in my (now) nice, warm, DRY, car, with my children in car seats and, more importantly, not out in the nasty weather.  Here I was, with my (overwhelmingly) good life, with a husband who worked so I could stay home, with a backseat full of healthy children, and a home to go home to, where we could spend most of the day dry and cozy until it was time to pick said husband up from work.  Sure I owned a stroller, but in car insurance terms, it was my "pleasure vehicle", not my primary means of transport.  If we went for a walk, it was because we wanted some exercise or fresh air, not so that we could get to work, and it was never in the rain or snow or cold.  Seeing "her" always put my life, and car, into perspective insanely fast.  I had it good, and she, she was the one with a right to complain.
My "other ride"
One might think that having seen "her" once, I'd never have this problem of grumbling over the good things I had again.  Of course, one would be wrong, or this wouldn't be much of a post.  It still happens from time to time.  When I feel worried over the loss of "our" job, and the hard times ahead, I hear about a friend who was abandoned in her time of need, and I remember that my husband is here until the end so comparatively I have it great.  When I feel like I have too much laundry to do or clothing to wash or [insert random daily household task here] I remember that there are some women who would love to have the work, because it is only because I have five healthy children that I have almost 50 pairs of socks to wash each week.  I have it so good it hurts sometimes.  I just haven't figured out the trick to remembering it constantly, and so, from time to time, I'll begin to grumble.  I'm thankful that, when I need Him most, the Holy Spirit gives me a good kick in the pants to stop complaining, and start being thankful for the many blessing I have that other's don't. God is good because I have (among other things) the Green Machine.

So now I want to know: is there one thing that is constantly popping up to remind you to be thankful for all the blessings in your life?

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Ashes, Ashes

Artist's rendering.  Real "crosses"
usually a dark smudge, am I right?

We all fall down.

I know this has nothing to actually do with Lent or Ash Wednesday, but I always find myself thinking about it as I prepare to "get my ashes".  For some reason, it seems quite profound to me, even if it does come from a childrens' rhyme.  It reminds me that, during Lent in particular, "we all fall down", purposefully, prostrating ourselves before God to try to repent and return to Him who is our Salvation.  "We all fall down" to beg God's forgiveness and to do penance.  "We all fall down" to take up our cross so that, in doing so, we might lighten the load that we have placed on Christ's shoulders.  "We all fall down" so that, come Easter, we can rise with Christ, singing a joyful Allel...you get the point.

And so, today, as I receive our mark of the ashen cross on my forehead, I will try to remember that "Ashes, ashes" is just the beginning of the powerful season of Lent, where we are given daily opportunities to fall down so that we might be raised up at its end.  Just something to think about.

Possible Lenten Activities (in case you haven't decided yet)

1) Stations of the Cross weekly (at least) with the kiddies.  (I had better at least try this one, after making that giant display)
2) Purposefully practice the Corporal and Spiritual Works of Mercy
3) Pray the Divine Mercy Chaplet daily
4) Read from a classic work on Catholic spirituality, theology, hageography, etc.  Basically, holy reading :)
5) Fast daily
6) Abstain daily
7) Picket abortion clinic weekly
8) Pray the Rosary daily
9) Attend daily Mass
10) All of the above. :)  J/k

Works for me Wednesday  projects will return next week.  Something in me doesn't think that crafting posts are quite appropriate on Ash Wednesday.  That, and most of those reading will probably not have the functionality of a rock by the time they read this post, what with the fasting and all.

So now I DON'T want to know what you will be "doing" for Lent, as we're not supposed to ask those things, right?  But, if you have any other ideas to add to the list, please feel free to share!

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Stations for Le. Rheims

Hi!  I gather you're here for the Stations of the Cross post I wrote in February.  The thing is though, I've moved the whole shebang over to Wordpress.com.  So, please, click the link below to check it out over there.  And, if you like it, why don't you hit the Facebook "Like" button and maybe even start following me by email.  Thanks for stopping by!


Monday, February 20, 2012

Are You Ready?

Because Lent starts on Wednesday.  I know, right?  I've been trying to prepare for it for the last two months (pretty much since right after Christmas) and it has still managed to sneak up on me.  So far, aside from pinning a whole bunch of awesome links to my Pinterest boards, I haven't really done much to make ready.  I have so much to do today and tomorrow, like buying a purple table covering of some kind (preferably wrapping paper, for our bulletin tabletop), and hitting up the craft and dollar stores for the supplies for several of the projects I'd like to attempt with the kids.  Whew! That's a lot to do in two days, not counting the schoolwork and library trip I've been promising them for about three weeks.  So, in case you are as far behind as I am this year, I thought I'd write a post sharing some of the ideas I've found thus far that are still very doable in the time left.  Hope they help!

1) This year, we plan on burying wrapping the Alleluia!  Since we live in an apartment, we don't have a yard, but the idea is still the same.  On Tuesday, after reminding the kids what Alleluia means and why we sing it and more importantly why we don't sing it during Lent, we'll take out a prettily printed piece of paper with the word on it, place it in a nice box, and wrap it up.  We'll leave it on display where the kids can see it, but not touch it.  Then, on Easter Sunday (or whenever we get home from Easter Mass) we'll unwrap it and sing it up!  Absence makes the heart grow fonder, right?  Maybe that's why singing "Jesus Christ Is Risen Today!" has always been my favorite part of Easter morning.

2) This next idea I got from Lacy over at Catholic Icing.  We're going to make up a sacrifice box.  Basically, each of us, mom and dad included, will pick one or two things that we will give up for Lent, and place them in some sort of box, which will then be put away until Easter.  In our family, we don't count Sundays as part of Lent, so we may be letting the stuff out for Sunday afternoons.  I haven't decided yet, but a good, small-space friendly idea, either way.

3) Our main Lenten daily activity will be the merciful cross I found on Pondered in My Heart.  With little more than a construction paper cross and some flower shaped Post-its, we'll have a very visible reminder of how much (or how little) we've done for our fellow men in the way of the Corporal and Spiritual Works of Mercy.  It's a nice little lesson, and again, very easy to do in a small space.

4) In addition to those, we'll also be using Lacy's Lenten calendar for kids, as it will easily fit in to our Saxon math meeting book routine.

As for weekly ideas, we are already, thank God!, in the habit of saying a daily Rosary, so to add prayers into our Lenten routine, we're going to try for at least weekly, if not (I hope) daily Stations of the Cross.  That apartment idea will be posted tomorrow, on How Tuesdays.

Speaking of Tuesday, tomorrow is Fat Tuesday!  How excited am I?  It's the one day of the year when I really don't mind if my kids eat as many treats as they want.  What is the point of the austerity of Lent if we have nothing to miss?  I'm hoping to actually start the day off with Nan's potato pancakes, for the husband, and possibly doughnuts, as that is, apparently, some kind of German tradition, which the husband says we need to incorporate into our childrens' lives because they are part German.

So now I want to know, do you have any special Fat Tuesday, Mardi Gras, Fastnacht Day, Shrove Tuesday, Pancake Day?  Anything special planned for Lent?

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Thank God She Wasn't Typical

Feast Day: February 18th in France
April 16th everywhere else
Always listen to your Mama.
We all know the story of St. Marie Bernadette Soubirous, right?  I mean, she lived in the mid-1800s, was poor and uneducated, but holy and honest.  She lived a simple life, tried to learn her Catechism (with children half her age), and help her mom with the housework.  Oh, and at the age of 14 the Blessed Virgin Mary appeared to her and used her to spread devotion to Christ and His church and to her name as the Immaculate Conception.  No big.

Except that it was.  As Bernadette was out for a walk with her friends, just gathering some firewood, she was left behind.  She wasn't as healthy as the other kids (on account of her living in an old jail cell that wasn't considered fit for the prisoners to live in anymore) and so she was a little slower than they were.  All of a sudden, she heard the loudest gust of wind ever.  She looked up and saw that none of the trees were moving, which was weird, but she figured it was just a fluke and went back to what she had been doing.  She heard it again, and right before she [probably] thought, "OK, this is just getting weird", she looked up again, and there she was, the beautiful "Lady in White", shining and sparkly and as amazingly gorgeous as anything Bernadette (or any of us) had ever seen.  She was all dressed in white, with a white Rosary, a blue sash around her waist and with the absolutely coolest "shoes" ever: a yellow rose on each foot.  Now, while Bernadette was at first confused as all get out, as  I'm guessing most 14 year old girls would be, before long, it was as if she had known this "Lady" all her life (because she had, right?) and she felt completely at peace.  This is when it gets interesting (because visions of beautiful glowing women apparently aren't where it ends).

Bernadette didn't know what to tell anyone, so she kept her mouth shut.  Should she have told her mother that she saw something she couldn't explain? Probably, but she was after all only 14.  Her friends though, got the story out of her.  Luckily for her, they were good friends.  They told her mom.  Mommy Soubirous, not used to this sort of thing (since, after all, Bernadette was the first, OK only, one of the family town to have a miraculous vision).  She forbade her daughter going back to the grotto where the "Beautiful Lady" had appeared.  Normally, Bernadette would have stuck to any command from her mom like glue, but for some reason, she couldn't stay away.  Perhaps she knew somehow that listening to her one mom would be keeping her away from her other Mom?  Who knows?  But Bernadette totes went back to that grotto.  Could you imagine if this had happened today?  If Bernadette's mom had been all, "You are not going back to that grotto?!" and Bernadette had been all, "It's my life, mother, and if I want to spend it going to see the 'Beautiful Lady', I will."  Thank God it happened when it did.

Anyways, so the "Lady in White" asked Bernadette to keep coming back for two weeks.  Over those weeks, people started following Bernadette, even though she didn't ask them.  The crowds grew larger and larger.  Bernadette was hauled in by the police to be questioned, she was criticized by her parish priest at first, she was even examined to determine her mental state (read: is she cray-zay?).  Eventually, her pastor recognized that Bernadette was one special girl, but for those first two weeks, she was attacked on all sides.  The only thing that kept her going was her special friend, the "Lady in White".  On the ninth visit, the Lady asked her to drink from an invisible spring.  To all the onlookers, it appeared that Bernadette had really lost it this time, as she was, for all intents and purposes, "drinking" mud and eating grass.  Of course, over the next couple of days the spring did pour forth, and as we all know now, that spring has healed thousands of people.  Good thing Bernadette wasn't a typical teen of today, right?  ("You want me to do what? Eat grass?  Suuuuure..." *backs away slowly from the Lady*)

Eventually, the Lady asked for a chapel to be built.  And Bernadette, being Bernadette, made the request, plainly and without question.  The priest asked for the Lady's name.  Fair enough.  You want a church, I want to know who it's for.  Bernadette asked the Lady, and, even though she didn't understand the answer, she took it back to the priest: "I am the Immaculate Conception".  Word, right?  Bernadette hadn't a clue as to what those words meant in and of themselves, let alone what they meant in that way as that phrase.  But, being Bernadette, she carried them to the priest, repeating them over and over in her mind.  This if finally when the tide began to turn for her.  Her pastor knew that, while he knew what that meant, there was no way that Bernadette, at 14, poorly educated, in a poor, rural area, could possibly know what they meant unless God Himself, or, you know, His Mom, had told her.

Throughout all of the trials, Bernadette never once wavered in her steadfast love of the Lady.  She eventually entered a convent, where she was treated badly by the jealous prioress.  Bernadette returned the jealousy, not as we might want to (in my case it would be in a true "Bitch, please" style), but with love and humility.  After suffering for many months, because, as Bernadette said, the healing spring "was not for [her]", she died.  Her last words were about the beautiful Lady, Mary the Mother of God, who had been with her always.

St. Bernadette's quiet courage could teach us all a lesson: don't worry about the perils or pitfalls, about the trials or troubles you may face in the world; just keep coming back to our Lady and she will lead you straight to God.  I try to remind my children, my sons in particular at the moment, to think of the saints as their friends.  It's easier to do this with a saint as flatly normal as Bernadette.  But I also try to remind them of her greatness.  In just being her, in just following the Lady, she gave hope to millions around the world, and her example still reminds us all that God chooses not as men choose, but the smallest and least likely among us for the biggest trials and tasks.

In the end, God rewarded Bernadette with an extra special gift: her body is still, over 130 years after her untimely death at the age of 35, totally incorrupt.  For reals.  Look:

I'm dead, but my skin looks fantastic.
To quote one of my all time favorite songs about the incorruptable saints (because apparently, there's more than one): "Saint Bernadette still looks mighty fresh though she's been dead for years / Her cheeks still have a pinkish hue and there's color in her ears."  It's almost like He was telling everyone who persecuted her here on earth, "She's with Me. Back off."

St. Bernadette, Pray for Us!

So now I want to know, who is your favorite young saint and why?