Reading material meme

Lorri of The Mac and Cheese Chronicles wants to know what I’m reading. I won’t count any book I haven’t actually opened in more than two weeks which makes this list very short:

The Seven Habits of Highly Effective Families: so far, very interesting. At the end of every chapter there are discussion questions for older family members, and family activities to include younger children. It is basically about forming a family vision about where you want to go (in life) and how you want to get there (together).

That’s it on books. I’m also trying to read the latest issues of The National Catholic Register, Faith and Family, and Heart and Mind magazine.

But mostly, I’ve been online flipping between Emmanuel Books, Mother of Divine Grace, Amazon (for reviews and superior descriptions – I’ll support Emmanuel Books, even though it’ll cost me more) and the IHM Conference pages. I plan to go to the conference on Friday, June 8th (anybody want to meet me there?) and want to have my book list ready.

The Saints Meme

Tagged by SFO Mom.

List four favorite saints, two favorite blessed, and a person who you think should be a saint.


St. John Neumann: I feel that through his intercession, a miracle of healing occurred with my son Fritz.

St. Apollonia: patron of tooth problems, I also feel that her prayers aided in Fritz’s healing and his on-going dental issues.

St. Therese of Lisieux: her “little way” is hard and steep, but I feel it most closely matches the challenges faced by stay-at-home moms.

St. George: since we recently celebrated his feast day, he’s on my mind right now.


Blessed Teresa of Calcutta: of course. How can I not be inspired by a saint I grew up admiring?

Blessed Charles de Foucauld: I saw someone else had listed him, too. His apparent lack of success in converting Muslims and his death at their hands despite their friendship inspires me to have faith that whatever work I do will eventually bear fruit even if I do not see the results myself.

A person I think should be a saint:

Pope John Paul II.

New vocabulary word

Every now and then, you just have to teach your kid a big word. A little word won’t do.

Obviously, when discussing matters of religion, new vocabulary words like transubstantiation will eventually need defining. Perhaps your young man is into guns or crime shows or detective work. Ballistics might become part of his word list. And if your child is learning music theory, lots of long, foreign words like fortissississimo might be necessary to describe your child’s preferred style of expressing himself on the piano.

And sometimes, just regular conversation requires a good knock-out punch of a word. My parents always used big vocabulary words with us, and then directed us to the big dictionary to figure out what they meant. When big words started coming out of our mouths, they would praise us with, “That’s a fifty-cent word!” Eventually sophisticated vocabulary becomes a habit.

I often find myself using big words even though I know that the kids have no idea what I am saying. This most often happens when I’m getting excited about a topic, and the time space between my thought and the word coming out of my mouth is extremely brief. I’ll use the first words that come to mind, and they are often pretty hefty. Half the time the kids just ignore much of what I say and grasp the general meaning of my point. This worked to my great advantage once when I was pretty upset with the kids and started expressing in a loud and rapid manner exactly how I felt about their behavior. Out came one awful word, and I felt horrible and worried about using it – until I realized that nobody even noticed. They just thought mom had pulled out another big word that they hadn’t learned yet.


Recently in grammar, Fritz is learning about adjectives. One of the exercises is to list two adjectives for each of the nouns. Horse: spotted, small. Boy: tall, skinny. Boat: big, fast. Building: tall, window-y.

Nope. That just won’t do. Window-y doesn’t cut it. I could have left it at that and had him come up with another adjective, but I also think a kid needs to learn how to express himself. If he wants to point out that a building has windows (as compared to places like many army buildings that don’t), this is a legitimate requirement. If there happens to be a word that fits the bill, why shouldn’t I teach it to him?

And so, Fritz learned the word fenestrated yesterday. We admire the city skyline filled with tall, fenestrated buildings. The prisoners longed for a fenestrated barracks so they would know when it was day or night. Fortunately, his grammar worksheet wasn’t being turned into a teacher who might think he was making things up. That happened to my nephew, Jack, whose third grade teacher, apparently unfamiliar with Lemony Snickett’s Series of Unfortunate Events, told him that penultimate was not a word. Ignorance is my penultimate pet peeve; arrogance is the trait I despise the most.

On the radio

Would You Go With Me by Josh Turner

He’s cute, has a great voice, and sings such romantic lyrics:

Would you go with me if we rolled down streets of fire
Would you hold on to me tighter as the summer sun got higher
If we roll from town to town and never shut it down

Would you go with me if we were lost in fields of clover
Would we walk even closer until the trip was over
And would it be okay if I didn’t know the way

If I gave you my hand would you take it
And make me the happiest man in the world
If I told you my heart couldn’t beat one more minute without you, girl
Would you accompany me to the edge of the sea
Let me know if you’re really a dream
I love you so, so would you go with me

Billy: What’s he singing about, Mom?

Me: He’s singing to the woman he loves, asking her if she’ll go with him, even if he doesn’t know where he is, even if he’s lost and doesn’t know the way.

Billy: He needs to buy a GPS.

Was that the sound of romance dying…or is it just my cell phone ringing?

Take Your Child to Earth Day

When was Earth Day – last Sunday? Sorry, it’s not a high feast day around here. We take our responsibility as stewards of God’s gifts pretty seriously, but too many “Save the Earth” types are prejudiced against big families. I don’t get that – after all, per person, my family consumes less electricity, water and gas than a family of three or four: our house is much smaller than Al Gore’s.

Today is Take Your Child to Work Day, another ridiculous idea. Back in the days when Bill worked for a civilian firm, our kids were too young to attend any of the pomp surrounding this day. Now our kids are old enough, but he’s never had a job that left him free for the day to shuttle children around from one activity to another. Because Take Your Child to Work Day isn’t about taking your child to work at all. It’s about taking a day off work to spend it at your office doing activities unrelated to work at your employer’s expense. It’s really Have a Fun Day at the Office Day. And if I wanted the kids to spend the day doing fun stuff with their dad, it wouldn’t be at an office with someone else’s choreographed activities. We’d go to the beach or a park or a museum – definitely not the office.

My husband’s office is having events all day today, and they’ve chosen an Earth Day theme. What could be more fun (please note the dripping sarcasm) than combining two idiotic secular holidays into one big celebration? My husband assures me that he will be somewhat available to spend some amount of time with us as we move from activity to activity through dense crowds of kids all hyped up because they’re missing school for the day (and I include my own in that judgmental statement). Times like these are when I kick myself for not buying those kid leashes that seem so awful until you have more than two kids to keep track of in a crowd.

I’m sure the day will be lovely. I also plan on getting out of there right after lunch, even though they promise a puppet show at 1 pm. Petey will just not care about puppets by that time. Pray I don’t lose anybody!

Kids, religion and behavior

There is no shocker in this news article title: Study: Religion is Good For Kids.

According to surveys of parents and teachers, the most well-adjusted and well-behaved children have parents who agree on religion and attend services regularly (which I assume means closer to once-a-week than every-Christmas-and-Easter).

The study did not address which denominations had the best behaved kids, but I can guess that Bible Baptist parents have the most polite kids with lots of “Yes, Ma’am”s and “No, Sir”s. I hope nobody spends a lot of money doing a survey to conclude what is pretty obvious from free observation.

Buried at the very bottom of the article was one huge caveat:

It’s also possible that the correlation between religion and child development is the other way around, he said. In other words, instead of religion having a positive effect on youth, maybe the parents of only the best behaved children feel comfortable in a religious congregation.

“There are certain expectations about children’s behavior within a religious context, particularly within religious worship services,” he said. These expectations might frustrate parents, he said, and make congregational worship “a less viable option if they feel their kids are really poorly behaved.”

Yes, I suppose it’s possible that organized religion is driving away all those bad kids. You know, on the one hand they’ll preach that you’ll go to hell if you don’t come to church, but on the other hand they’ll tell you that your brat isn’t welcome there. I could see that, sure. Because limiting access to Heaven and making it a private club is really what it’s all about! (But that’s okay: I’m in! I’m in!)

Yes, I’m sure it’s because churches make bad kids feel unwelcome that inspires parents of good children to suddenly start going to church for no reason whatsoever. I’m sure the behavior correlation has little to do with a parent’s sense of right and wrong, the teaching of consequences for our behavior and personal responsibility for our actions, and the emphasis on treating others as we wish to be treated out of love and honor for God (and not just because we happen to be in a good mood at the time).

But if this is the case, then there are a whole lot of parents who aren’t getting the message. Just stand in the back or the vestibule during any Catholic Mass and you’ll see lots of frustrated parents with poorly behaved children. That’s where you’ll find me!

Day N/A, Week 26/27

While traveling, I brought along a few workbooks – a minimal amount of school: mainly grammar and math. Math is just one subject you can’t cover quickly, at least not with my kids. Either they do it, or they don’t. And they can manage to take a long time to do it. At one point, one of my kids said, “What kind of a vacation is this?” I received crossed arms, a hostile stare, and a flat-out refusal to work. Is it any surprise that he spent the next hour in a chair in a time out? We moved on to the day’s events with his schoolwork undone. The next day, a not-so-busy day, he had twice as much work to do, and he sat working while his siblings played outside.

It amazes me how unreasonable children can be, even past the so-called “age of reason.” I explained at the beginning of our trip that we need to do math so that we can be done with school by the end of May. Everybody agrees that the sooner we are done with school, the happier we’ll be. Unfortunately, my idea of “done with school” is finishing the workbooks and textbooks, and their idea of finishing school is just a matter of stopping the work.

It’s not that I’m tied to the curriculum and feel we must plug along and check every single block. Believe me, I have disregarded more than a few things. Music appreciation is sandwiched in car rides with little comment or discussion about composers, music style, or instruments used. And the soundtrack to The Blues Brothers counts as classical music, right? If my 7 year old knows how to scat, this counts as culture, right, right?

Even though I don’t make my kids memorize every answer in the Baltimore Catechism or learn the names of the artists of all the fine art we sometimes observe, math is one subject I really don’t want to skimp on. Correction: we fail to do the speed drills, and perhaps my boys could use a bit more flashcard work to come up with their answers to “8+2” or “8×6” more quickly. Perhaps. I’m not convinced this is truly necessary, though. Time will tell.

One friend, an experienced homeschool mom, told me she always does the speed drills, but only has her girls do half the problems on the worksheet. A non-homeschooling friend and former teacher of 5th grade also suggested only doing some of the math problems on the worksheet if it was taking too long. Honestly, the mere idea of only doing a fraction of the problems has me gasping for air and doubled over in mental anguish. I just can’t do it.

Looking back at my report cards from when I was my boys’ ages (my mom kept them!), I had glowing reports about my reading skills. I learned to read before kindergarten and took off from there. I loved it and devoted many hours of my childhood to devouring fiction. If my mom made me “play” outside, I took a book with me. I had reading and writing down.

But arithmetic? Naw, my skills lay elsewhere, or so my teachers thought. It just didn’t come easily to me, apparently. I don’t actually remember having trouble, except maybe with speed drills (Ha! Is this why I don’t make my kids do them?), but I guess when compared to my reading, where I was many grade levels ahead, I seemed rather dense. But despite my supposed stupidity, of which I was blissfully unaware, I remember in the 5th grade being placed in the “smart kid” math class. And that was that. I was smart in math, and nobody could tell me otherwise. In middle school, I was missing one math class a week to spend an hour talking about higher mathematical concepts like infinity, and in high school, I was doing my homework assignment for the next day during class time. Somehow this not-so-good-in-math-but-boy-does-she-read-well kid managed to get college credit for Calculus I and II with her AP test scores. Go figure.

And so I’m not willing to skip half the work, just because my kids struggle a bit. I’m not willing to accept their suggestion that they “just aren’t good in math” when it takes them a long time to do a problem. I have seen that it sometimes takes ten or fifteen times with me walking them through every single step of the problem before it gets easier for them. It just seems to me that doing half the problems means it would take me twice as long to convey a concept, no?

Many of our subjects begin to wind down as we get into these last six weeks of school. I could breeze through the rest of our history lessons in two weeks, probably. The same goes for science and grammar. I don’t care if they don’t finish their handwriting workbooks. And another trip to the National Gallery of Art will count as completing art for the year. But math? We’ve got five and a half weeks of math to go. And finish it, we will!

Sacramental Saturdays

Last Saturday, my niece, Morgan, made her First Holy Communion. I missed most of the Mass, since little Pete was temporarily demonically possessed. He would be nice and quiet outside the building, but as soon as I went into the chapel, he would begin to wail. He didn’t seem to suffer nearly as much the next day when we went to church.

Here is Jenny before the Mass. She seems so calm, huh?

She, too, had issues that morning. And then I left her in the pew with my parents while I dealt with devil-boy.

This is how she spent the rest of Mass after I left her. I was relieved.

This is Katie snuggling with her Uncle Glenn.

The only person in this photo I know is Morgan who is on the end closest to the camera.

I love these group shots. The kids all look so lovely.

Here are my parents, my sister, Barbara, my brother-in-law, Bill, and Morgan. Even though half the people in the photo are looking at the other camera person, I think it’s a nice shot of them.

I have no photos of my Dad’s Easter Vigil Mass. As luck would have it, I turned on my camera, lined up for a shot as they were beginning the confirmation portion, and tried to zoom in. The camera went dead. I looked at my sister, Beth, and mouthed that my batteries were dead. “Mine, too,” she mouthed back. Oh, well. It freed me to pay attention to the prayers and blessings of the ceremony, I suppose.

I did enjoy this Mass. I was worried – I had forgotten to bring tissue. I’m one of those emotional crybabies. As soon as I saw my Dad’s name in the program, I started to well up. I concentrated on following along in the missal and the program, which was great, since those running the show didn’t seem to know what they were doing. I was so distracted by trying to guess what would happen next that I completely forgot about crying! In defense of my parents’ church, I will say that their church building is under renovation and they were in a rented hall with limited access prior to the Mass. They also don’t have a pastor right now, since the last one died recently (may his soul rest in peace). Their lack of rehearsal showed, but it wasn’t really their fault. It kept me from having mascara running down my face, and that’s all that really matters, right?

Thankfully, the three youngest were left at home. Fritz and Billy weren’t too happy about being there, and did a lot of complaining. Is the attitude thing normal for an 8 – 9 year old boy? It was late, especially since we had only been in the central time zone for about 48 hours. But they’ve managed to stay up to midnight for special events like New Year’s Eve with no trouble. Fritz was so sulky that I told him if he didn’t shape up, he wouldn’t go to Communion, and if he didn’t go to Communion, he had to return to Mass the next morning to try again. I really thought I’d have a few more years before I had to deal with this.