Thursday, January 31, 2013

What New Year's Resolution?

Now that January is drawing to a close, do you remember your promises to make 2013  a better year?  If you are like my husband, you stay quiet and pray.  If you are like my husband's friend, staring at your belly button is enough contemplation for one month (that kind of deep thinking is reserved for babies).  Here are a few more reflective
resolutions ~

"My resolution is to be less naughty, so Jesus will be happy."  M.B. (7 years old)

"My resolution is to be more thankful!  Each day, I will write four things in a journal for which I am grateful. Today, I was grateful for the bright sun and the light snowflakes; for my daughter's phone call; for my neighbor sharing some homemade soup; and for the kids in Newtown, Connecticut going back to school with love and support from our country and prayers." B.H.

"I resolve to make the Sacrament of Reconciliation more of a priority in my life. I know that regular attendance at the Sacraments is a source of grace in our lives, and I personally know that frequent reception of the Sacrament of Reconciliation gives me the grace and strength to refrain from behavior that is not-pleasing to our Lord." A.J.

"My resolution is to spend more time alone with my spouse."  J.J.

"My resolution is to use my filter."  E.J.

"My resolution is to be nice to my baby sister."  J.T. (six years old)

"My resolution is to calm down and realize that everything really is not that urgent." H.B.

"My resolution is to not throw things when I get mad."  M.J. (4 years old)

"My resolution is to be more like Mary. While that is a VERY tall order, it really means that when I'm being impatient with my husband I remember how calm and appreciative Mary always was with Joseph. When the girls act up, I remember how Mary felt so blessed to have Jesus while using loving discipline (not that Jesus ever needed discipline!) Really it's all about perspective and how Mary viewed her life to help me put my "small" issues into perspective."  D.P.

"My resolution is to be the quarterback in the book club." R.J. (9 years old)

"My resolution is to also like the swords Grandpa made for my little boy."  B.L.J.

"My resolution is to . . . is to . . . I have no idea."  M.J. (six years old)

Friday, January 25, 2013

Catholic Curricula

Readers have been inquiring about curricula.  The following content may also be found at the end of Catholic Teacher Daydream's "Literature and Curricula Page."

After researching and teaching from several textbooks, I am confident in my curricula library.  The following publishers are student/teacher friendly. Subjects that influence your children's faith offer a Catholic approach, and successfully teach different types of learners:
Catholic Heritage Curricula

When our family began learning with Catholic Heritage CurriculaI gained an academically and spiritually sound textbook library that met our family's needs.  Many of the CHC books are excellent choices for classrooms, too. 

As a former school teacher I value lesson plans, to be certain that my students reach educational standards.  CHC provides weekly lesson plans for every grade. From emergent readers to high school, CHC provides beautiful, informative, fully Catholic and affordable curricula.  

Catholic Heritage Curricula's philosophy is, "Homeschooling should be a joyful, natural offshoot of parenting and family life, not a "weight" to be dragged along the path throughout childhood!"  Having CHC books in our home school has made it possible for us to live that philosophy.

The following is a partial list of titles I recommend from CHC.   Grade 1-8 CHC Lesson Plans,  Faith and Life Religion, Language of God Series, Art with a Purpose, recommended Reading texts, Social Studies curricula and Science.  Writing Workshops I - IV.  
Click on the following link: to explore more titles*

Spelling is important for intelligently expressing what you know.  Like many emergent spellers, my children do not always hear the correct sound (phonogram) for correct spelling. Did you know that there are phonics rules that you were not taught in elementary school?  It is important to learn these rules taught in All About Spelling.

With a doctorate in Language, Marie Rippel, author of All About Spelling, has created a perfect method of teaching spelling. Visual, kinesthetic (touch), and auditory styles of learning are implemented.  All About Spelling utilizes precise lessons, so instructors explain the rules of spelling in a child friendly manner.  Students use flash cards, letter tiles, and a filing system for sounds, letters, rules, and words.

This phonics program has finally created correct spelling in my children's writing.


Math-U-See is the math program our family unanimously agrees upon.  Author and founder, Steve Demme, implements three key components in his program: 1) Instructional videos and manuals for teacher and students. 
2) Manipulatives - blocks and fraction overlays for hands-on learning. 
3) Student text with practice, review, and real life applications.

Math-U-See offers a unique approach to teaching math.  Rather than teaching several math concepts in each grade level, Math-U-See encourages mastery of one concept (and review of earlier concepts) in thirty lessons.  For example, students master fractions in approximately one school year, before they study decimals.  Each lesson utilizes a four step approach: 1) Prepare for lessons using video and written instruction. 2) Presentation of new concept using the DVD, manipulatives, written examples, and discussion.  3) Practice for mastery using student text and Math-U-See web site resources.  4) Progression after mastery with written evaluations, and students teaching the "material back to you."

Questions or comments?  Please email me:
Or simply leave a comment on this post.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Beautiful, Catholic Baptism

St. Anne's Helper

Few moments are as treasured as the participation of the Catholic sacraments.   Celebrating Baptism is one of those sacraments that is a bright and beautiful gift of Grace.

This past weekend my husband and I joyfully attended our brand new Godchild's Baptism.  Before Rose was born, as in many preparations for Baptizing infants, there was an invitation, from her parents, for us to be her Godparents. This honor was accepted and adored; and the bond between Baby, Godparents, her family and ours will never be broken.  In all baptisms this bond creates pride, a sense of responsibility and happiness.  Preceding the sacrament, is the blessed birth of a new creation from God, which any parent knows is indescribable joy.  We anxiously anticipate the reception of baptism by visiting the priest, inviting friends and family, and praying for the child.  

"Holy Baptism is the basis of the whole Christian life, the gateway to life in the Spirit (vitae spiritualis ianua), and the door which gives access to the other sacraments. Through Baptism we are freed from sin and reborn as sons of God; we become members of Christ, are incorporated into the Church and made sharers in her mission . . ." (1213 CCC)

On the day of our Goddaughter's baptism my husband and I awoke early to help our friends prepare for their child's special day.  We flew down a distance to their home, the evening before, and were staying with them.  Her six siblings required shirts, ties, dress pants, dresses, tights, shoes, and quick breakfasts.  Peanut butter was removed from Rose's three year old comical brother's face and hands. Excitement radiated in the busy house.  Her mom fed, then dressed Rosie in a white onesie.  With her blonde hair, blue eyes, and round cheeks Rose was a vision.  Mom hung the family baptism gowns before leaving.  Not one, but two crisp cotton gowns were embroidered by Baby's grandma.  She had carefully stitched siblings' and Rose's names, with their baptism dates, until seven brothers and sisters were painstakingly listed.

John 3:5: Jesus answered, "Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God." 

The Catholic church Rose's family attends boasts a grand, warm, baptismal bath at the back of the church.  Towels and chrism were prepared.  Rosie's mom informed my husband and I about full immersion of the baby, because we were unaccustomed to this manner of baptizing.   We were not prepared for the awesomeness of what was to happen.  The Mass began with the parents answering "Baptism," to the priest's inquiry about their intentions for their child, and five signs of the cross were placed on her forehead.

As the priest gave his homily, Rosie's mom prepared her for her baptism, by undressing her down to the diaper.  As predicted this did not bode well with Baby, and by the time we walked to the baptism waters, Rose expressed this unhappiness loudly.  A favorite image of baptism is the parishioners' eyes following the baby.  Little ones perch high upon Mom's or Dad's laps to see the baby; and adults stretch, so as not to miss a single moment.  Everyone is smiling, and we can feel the Holy Spirit enter our blissful hearts.

"to baptize (Greek baptizein) means to "plunge" or "immerse"; the "plunge" into the water symbolizes the catechumen's burial into Christ's death, from which he rises up by resurrection with him, as "a new creature." (1214 Catechism of the Catholic Church)

Acts 2:38: And Peter said to them, "Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit."

While the priest spoke the words, "I baptize you in the name of the Father, and the Son and the Holy Spirit, he gently glided Baby Rose through the water, immersing most of her body.  I held my breath and prayed that he wouldn't drop her.  Others must have done the same, because I heard people exhale when he finished.  Baby cried loudly, and the congregation laughed a little.  At that moment, at every baptism, I wonder, if we are laughing because it is a bit funny when the baby cries, or because we have so much happiness bubbling inside us, laughter has to escape.  Before the Mass was over,  we praised God because the newly baptized baby had "put on Christ."  We felt the Holy Spirit's divine presence.

This sacrament is also called "the washing of regeneration and renewal by the Holy Spirit," for it signifies and actually brings about the birth of water and the Spirit without which no one "can enter the kingdom of God." (1215 Catechism of the Catholic Church)

Baptism can not be explained more proficiently than the preceding verses from our beloved Catechism of the Catholic Church, or our Holy Bible.  However, this weekend, and the baptisms of my own six children lend themselves to an appropriate description of baptism, as well:  "A wonderfully Divine day in the lives of our babies that shall never be forgotten."

(Thank you to Rose's family, for enabling us to celebrate Rose's special day with your family; and asking us to assist in her faith formation through our prayers, and sacrifices.)

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Not Recommended for our Family

A few days ago a good friend of ours offered my husband this exercise contraption, via email:

BOSU Balance Trainer is recommended for adults by a majority of physical trainers for short bursts of cardio such as hops, jumps, step-ups, leaps, lunges, etc. Adults can even use it as a weight bench to add a balance challenge during traditional weight work.  Stand, or kneel on the dome while doing traditional stretches to add more range of motion.  Cost is a little over $100.00.

While he meant no disrespect to the makers of BOSU, my husband knew better.  Our children would not be using this muscle machine for its intended purpose.  In fact, Eric guessed that I would not being using it correctly either.  The following was Eric's reply:

Dear Friend,

No thank you.  If we had it, Julia and Emily would use it as a spring board to reach the higher kitchen cabinets, the boys would spend all day trying to emulate Mary Lou Retton's perfect 10 on the vault, and Mary would spend the evenings jumping up and down on it, singing annoying songs. The money I would need to spend for medical bills and property damage - not to mention the cost for a few visits to a therapist - would not be worth the physical benefits it provided.


Saturday, January 12, 2013

Mom versus Dad

I'd call it a friendly battle of the sexes.   My husband and I have enjoyed this banter about whose job is tougher, since our first was born.

As a mom to one I rarely won the battle. It was an adjustment, not hard. My husband had to earn twice as much now that I wasn't working.  I didn't know how to cook, so I didn't.  And despite Eric being tired after a long day at work, I immediately passed him Emily when he walked through the door.  
Two more children, and I was catching up! I learned how to cook for a big family, and made our house a home.  I began  home schooling, and cheerfully embraced my vocation . . . most of the time.  But, on the days everyone was sick or fussy or both, I boasted that moms were stronger.
The twins survived toddlerhood
The twin's birth helped me win a few more races to the martyr finish line. Carrying eleven pounds of babies, and helping two toddlers survive was strong artillery for my side.  I had mastered laundry, so that shirts and sweats made it through four boys. Still, Dad renovated our farm house, worked more than sixty hours a week, and had two more mouths to feed.
One more baby girl. My husband and I continued to trade war stories, and winners.        
This afternoon the children went sliding. I did not pester the older siblings, and dressed the little ones by myself.  Our youngest cried because her fingers didn't fit in her gloves.  Her hysteria increased as mittens frustrated her too. They flew across the entry, because they were "boy color."
After I stuffed her into snow pants, boots, jacket, hat, and last year's gloves, I moved on to Michael. His snow pant strap broke,  until I found a safety pin buried in the junk drawer. I was getting warm, but finished preparing Michael for the elements.
My eight year old, Ryan, put his gloves on before the rest of his winter wear.  Apparently, they were "impossible to get on," so he wasn't taking them off.  I dressed him from head to toe. His jacket zipper broke. Michael loaned me his safety pin for the zipper and three were ready.
Safety pin returned, Josh was next.  Mary's hat slid over her eyes. She was tired and hot waiting for her brothers. I empathised.  Joshua couldn't  get his boots on. I checked for old, wet socks tucked in the bottom. No. He stood, jamming his feet in. No. I tried shoving them on from the front. No. How about lifting him up and "dropping him into the boots?" No. Now I was sweating. Boot dirt covered my sweater. Finally, my six year old sat on my lap and I pulled with every ounce of strength.  POP! They were on.
I was breathing as if I had just run a 5K. The big kids took a little kid's hand to head out. Not soon enough. Michael needed to go to the bathroom, and everything had to come off!
Half an hour later, I stood at the top of our backyard hill, watching my blessings slide. I couldn't wait to win our friendly battle of the sexes, tonight.  I definitely had the harder day.  
Eric arrived from work looking exhausted. "How was your day?" he asked me trying to appear interested.
"The kids went sliding," I said, tucking my story away for another day. It wasn't the time to beg for affirmation by explaining how hard my vocation was.  He squeezed my hand and reminded me how good it was for them to get fresh air and exercise.
It was all I needed to hear. He didn't tell me that I was a better parent, or more patient. He didn't tell me that moms are stronger than dads. In our traditional marriage a kind observation beats winning the gender battle.  We both win.
Still, a little friendly competition never hurt.

Monday, January 7, 2013

Gift of Confidence

When something is hilarious, we often hear, "What a knee slapper." But, how often do we really slap a knee? The other day, little Mary did. She belly laughed until her cheeks turned rosy, and nodded her head in disbelief. "How could anything be this funny?" my four year old seemed to ask herself.

Her sister and I reminded her to breathe. "What's so funny?" we asked.

Mary pointed at our white board, incredulously. Emily had printed "W-a-s-h-i-n-g-t-o-n." We remained confused until Mary explained, between giggles, her observation: "Emily doesn't know how to print as good as me. She wrote "M" upside down." 

Because Mary knew how to print the "M," in her name, it was clear to her that "W" did not exist, and that Emily needed help. We played along and asked her to show us how to print "M" correctly. Mary sighed at our slowness, and proudly showed her older sister how to print "M" right side up.  Oh, to have that joyful confidence again.  Wouldn't it be wonderful?

   "M" upside down