Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Ad astra per aspera!

Ad astra per aspera means: To the stars through difficulties! I joyfully report that JB, Little Man and I started Our Roman Roots today. I think it is going to be just what the doctor (read: the Divine Physician) ordered to give some extra balance and organization to our week. We loved it, and we worked so well together. We sang, laughed, talked, wrote and drew and drew. Little Man copied "ugly sailor" and nauta foedus into his notebook. So often, real learning is happening, for us, when lots of fun art supplies are combined with some wonderfully meaty topic like the roots of our faith and culture (or should-be culture). What I thought would begin as a our "little Latin lesson" took 4 hours! I am happily tired -- still fighting a fluish headache, congestion and hot throat. JB and J loved Latin and asked for more and more. The format is so engaging. Details to follow...
note: J and I finished The Matchlock Gun by Walter D. Edmonds (1941) -- so "politically incorrect", a real classic, no twaddle here! I had ordered all of this wonderful material from Adoremus Books right after Christmas. Also, the chores we have been practicing since the fall are really bearing fruit. M was very helpful. All kids and Mom prayed and heard the saint of the day. JB went to her guitar lesson. A friend came over. Mom prayed a Rosary. We ate all meals at home. Mom "Tues. tackled" the upstairs bathroom tub and the fridge. Dad built a new guinea pig abode. Our sick dog is well. Today was very close to what an ideal day can look like, in this family. Sure, I could list several missing factors, but I won't. I know the Blessed Mother is helping us. She is truly "...our light, our sweetness and our hope..."

Monday, February 25, 2008

The Pope on an "education in goodness"

Here is a link to the big goal. The first 6 months we home educated, I postponed blogging and kept, instead, "Mom's Weekly Lesson Plan Journal", a spin-off of my time management style, which is to keep a monthly calendar on the fridge and write a weekly "to do" list, which would be modified daily by what was actually done, aka a "to done" list. When I was pregnant with Mags, my friend Jenny taught me this sanity saving device. If a mom gets too attached to her "to do" list, she risks being out of touch with the real and pressing needs of her children. Children of any age need to know that they are blessings to their families. I have longed chaffed against the idea that it is the job of the parents to keep their kids constantly active and entertained. One of the reasons we have a decline in large families is because we have so many high maintenance adults. Many in my generation were raised with too much too often. Too little or non-existent prayer is a disease in this country; there is no "education in goodness" without prayer.

My bottom is dragging -- quite literally!

OK, all you moms know that "carrying the baby between the knees" feeling later on in pregnancy. That is very similar to what goes on with my achin' hips. I feel like I am being dragged downward, from my pelvis to the floor, and my lower back hurts. I am so very grateful to whoever invented aspirin, because it sure helps. So does sitting down. The problem is that I am in no mood for sitting, as I have so much to do here at home in the way of housework and organizing. There is something about Lent that makes you want to get ready, just like an expecting mother nests. Our beautiful faith is all about wiping the slate clean. We welcome the new and enjoy freshening the old and tired.

While I wish I had my vigorous skeleton and muscles back, I know God knows what He is about. There are times when I find my disability enraging. And, honestly, I am the "passive aggressive" type so that rage manifests itself in a manner symptomatic of types of depression. It is a depression. After I catch a cold or flu, I notice how slow my mental processes are, how achy my joints and how bad my overall attitude is. I have up on my bulletin board this Scripture to look at when I am feeling low: For God did not give us a spirit of timidity, but a spirit of power, of love and of self-discipline. 2 Timothy 1:7

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Trying to stay well and hoping to inspire "a well-furnished imagination"...

I woke up this morning with a swollen throat and so tired. To say the least, I am no ball of fire today. A couple of weeks ago, I started to read Hilaire Belloc's book on William the Conqueror. It was my son's passion for reading about knights and all-things-medieval that got me interested in this period of English history. I just printed out this link to an essay by Frederick D. Wilhelmsen on Belloc. When I am clunky, I often read essays, as you can learn alot in such a few pages. Some learning notes: Jay's five day, 7th birthday celebration has come to an end. He is sitting on the carpet below me (I am under blankets in our leather recliner.) building from one of his new Lego kits. We ate and played and talked, since Wednesday, with family and friends. Lots of art work, reading, writing and problem solving, as well. I continue to be amazed at how the questions they ask, in the context of real-life preparations, drive us to cover the skills they need to master. JB made a movie that I hope to post here soon. She and I started making "memory books," what some call "scrapbooking". Mags is turning a developmental corner; while she is not as involved in book study, as in years past, she is improving herself in other areas. She is getting so much better with her personal organization, which is a big goal for all of us this year. Little man is more naturally prone to being organized, but needs to work on diet and nutrition. A Lenten family goal is to make homemade meals and snacks -- hopefully, sharing with others when we can. Too much take-out, eating out and frozen foods zap the budget and is not good nutrition. We are doing better with our prayers and Bible reading. I am working on a fruitful observation of the Solemnity of St. Joseph, as I have a special devotion to him. To close, I want to note a phrase that Laura Berquist uses in her wonderful book, Designing Your Own Classical Curriculum; she encourages us parent educators to provide our children with "a well-furnished imagination." I love that. I am constantly challenged to go back to the "drawing board," and make sure our daily activities match our long-term goals -- which are loving God, loving each other and reaching out to others to the best of our ability. The Lord blesses even our smallest efforts when our hearts are full of love for His Most Sacred Heart and the Immaculate Heart of Mary.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

...the lure of self-sufficiency...

While reading the "Prayer for the Morning" in Magnificat, I was further awakened by the last petition of the intercessions: deliver us from the lure of self-sufficiency, we pray. How do we consciously work on that one, many might ask? In my own experience, it was life-threatening illness and continued disability, upon the delivery of our third child, that really brought this message home to me. I, like so many of us, had my day timer, my babysitter, my tennis lessons and shopping trips, my ladies' Bible study, my cooking, reading of cookbooks and various glossy magazines, my new minivan, my day trips with kids and friends, my parish activities, my playgroups, my ability to rush around and pack in fun and work and play. All this comes to a screeching halt when someone falls seriously ill. It is not so much missed (though that is very true) as it is impossible to pull off.

Now my days are slower. Not as slow as those years of illness from 2001-2004 (2005-2006 was hard, but much better). I saw specialists in medicine that I did not even know existed. It has been years since I've had to fill a prescription for myself, Praise God for that! I still have rheumatism, accompanied by some disability; but, for the most part, I am back in the saddle. This morning's petition reminded me to not be lured back to the making of myself as a god. This is really a challenge for me as I am a sanguine temperament and love to be out and about with friends. I enjoy stirring up ideas, but not so much following through with them.

Lord Jesus, during this extra-long Lent, please stir my heart toward You and Your Divine Will for me and my family. When I yearn for the pleasures of this good earth, help me to moderate them with the even greater joy of being your loving servant. Amen.

Monday, February 18, 2008

My poor husband

My poor husband is out shopping with the girls -- poor, poor man. He is in the "in" with me; however, as we got-it-done here at home. With his being off work today, all manner of odd jobs were done. We are gearing up to host a mid-sized family party on Friday to celebrate our son's 7th birthday. I have been a bit dreamy today thinking of my babies. I was working as a real estate agent when I became pregnant with our first child; and, thanks be to God, the wise and wonderful women I worked with threw a baby shower for me and encouraged me to stay home, if it was feasible for us.

And, yes, it was. My mother-in-law, in her usual respectful way, mentioned how smart it would be to buy a house on my husband's income. We did that, back in May of 1994. I have been an "at home" mom ever since. I made a little money in 1998 as a freelance newspaper writer. Then again, in 1999, as an assistant preschool teacher. That has been the extent of my paid career (oh yes, in 1994, I cooked and served in a tea room for about 6 months). Our Mimi is much in my thoughts and prayers this month as this is her birthday month; she and Jerry's dad will be here in a couple of days.

My husband's parents have been with us every step of the way. They live over 320 miles away from their grandchildren and still manage to be such a big part of their lives. Two of Jerry's cousins are also in the Atlanta area; one of whom has little children. What a blessing a family can be! It was not so long ago in this country that children grew up in the same town, maybe even the same home, were two or three generations had been raised. I am a Southerner on both my mother's and father's side. Atlanta is often referred to as the "New South". It is really very different from the way my husband and I grew up.

I often think about when a break from tradition is a good or bad thing. In general, I am very traditional. Often ideas touted as new are not really new. Rather, they are the same old "wolf in sheep's clothing". Authenticity is so very different from novelty. What is truly authentic is purity. Now, that is a "new" idea! This month of February is such a good time to think about our hearts. The heart is intimately tied to the will. Are we filled with self love or God's love?
Thank you, dear husband, for being such a selfless giver. You are beautiful!

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Mom's Latin Update

I think I really impressed everyone this afternoon, on the way from Target to Learning Express, when I sang "Twinkle, twinkle, little star," in Latin, with Our Roman Roots (click here for link). Just so no one thinks home education is a blissful "walk in the park," every moment of every day, complaints bounced all over our minivan. Here in a minute, my hubby is taking everyone to our favorite Vietnamese restaurant for St. Valentine's Day. A steaming bowl of rice noodle soup should fortify me; and, boy do I need to keep up my strength for my often unruly bunch of scholars.

Wrapping and unwrapping gifts...

I love history and stayed up late last night reading The Old World's Gifts to the New, a concise, moving romp through history from primitive man to the early colonial period in America. What sets this book apart is the author's love of mankind, warts, wars and all. While we have inherited original sin and all that it entails, we are also heirs to all the good, true and beautiful ideas and inventions mankind offers over the ages. I love this book (click here for a link from Neumann Press)! We are celebrating life this weekend with one birthday party, a baby shower (for three expecting moms) and our TORCH father/daughter dance. Life is a gift! We have been down with varying levels of flu this week. There is nothing quite like feeling well again after being extremely fatigued.
Our third child turns 7 this coming Wednesday, and I can hardly believe it.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary and American History

Many weeks ago, my friend Rachel and I decided to encourage each other to a more prayerful life by becoming "scapular sisters". We chose the blue scapular, and, well, these scapulars lay dormant for a while. Yesterday, we met at St. Andrews and, since Fr. Mike was in and available, we finally had our scapulars blessed and are wearing them. Click here to see what's behind this gentle-yet-firm devotion.

My JB is very sick with the flu. Please say a prayer for her. Little man and I read lots of American history this morning. The history of the American Revolution is fascinating. We read about Captain John Barry and John Paul Jones, about General Washington and the perserverant General Cornwallis (We all know about Washington's valor, but his contemporaries were of such mettle as we do not see among leaders these days). We often call those men of our great-grandpa's generation the "great generation". I'd nominate these late 18th century leaders as the "fearless generation". If there was a risk to take, they took it.

I think many men these days have lost faith in themselves and their endeavors because they have no faith in their Creator. There has been alot written lately about men and boys. Take the historical angle. What did the French Enlightenment do to men? When reason supposedly triumphed over faith, the hearts of men shrunk and their minds became soft and calculating. A warm heart, full of faith and love, always accompanies a clear conscience and a decisive, risk-taking mind. Purity of heart is the basis of all good decisions and strategem.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Peter Kreeft on Discernment

Lent is a time of discernment. Click here for an essay by a Catholic master and one of my very favorite writers, Peter Kreeft.

A Parent's Prayer for the Gifts of the Holy Spirit

Loving Spirit of God, on behalf of myself and my children, I ask You for:

the WISDOM to perceive the way You are leading my child that I may not hinder You in him

the UNDERSTANDING to fathom the workings of my child's mind, so that my judgements will not be harsh, but gentle

the KNOWLEDGE to correct when it will strengthen and to be silent when my words will hurt

the COUNSEL to give guidance in the right amount, the right way, at the right moment

the PIETY that makes me a Christian inside and out, so that I never preach what I do not live

the FORTITUDE to weather the storms and doubts that assail my own spirit, and be a source of strength and courage to my child in weathering hers

the FEAR of YOU, LORD, that is not terror but awe and reverence in sharing with You in the creation of another human being for time and eternity

Heavenly Father, help me to deal with my child in the same spirit I want You to deal with me. Amen

Saturday, February 9, 2008

Mom begins Latin studies

At our 4pm Family Mass, we sang the Lamb of God/Agnus Dei in Latin, and it was lovely. My parents encouraged me to study Spanish as a youth. After having travelled to Mexico, Guatemala, Spain and Argentina and had some solid courses in college, I am fluent but have, over time, become rusty in my speaking skills. As I embark upon my Latin studies, I understand the concept of inflection from having conjugated all those verbs en espanol; I am curious to see how inflection works with nouns. I hope to stir up some interest at my parish for a family-style Latin study group.

Some quick notes: Dad and son are revisiting our Godzilla movie collection. These have long been a family favorite. Jay loves to draw battles. His two favorite subjects are medieval battle scenes; and, he likes the quirky, slow moving monsters in these sci-fi flicks. M wants to quit the clarinet for a while, after three years of lessons. M read all the Spiderwick Chronicles, and JB, J and I want to read them before the movie comes out. All of us, except Dad, learned so much Friday afternoon at TORCH coop classes. Today, Mom got to have a morning out and met Rach for early Mass, Confession and a yummy, leisurely brunch at this restaurant in our historic district. Then, I came back and took 5 kids shopping and for hair cuts, picked up Jerry, went to Mass and a very fun banquet for our parish Boy Scout troop of which our little man is the smallest member. I had forgotten that I signed the girls up for a game night with our youth group (at nearly the same time) and it was funny how it all worked out.

I am signing off to read my World Book Encyclopedia (I got a whole set at a library sale for $10 just as I decided to bring the girls home for study and saw this as one affirmation among many I received at the time) article on "Latin Language" and "Latin Literature".

Thursday, February 7, 2008

a time to be silent and a time to speak

Around 4pm, I curled up on the couch in our family room with one of my favorite books on the liturgical year, A Continual Feast. We are all thinking about feasting and fasting and the value of fasting as a means to repent, a turning back to God. Below is the famous Scripture from Ecclesiastes 3:1-8 (NIV). It is on page 89 of A Continual Feast. After fasting yesterday for Ash Wednesday, the children and I enjoyed a "mini-feast" at luncheon with my dear, dear sister in Christ, Rachel and her daughter, Autumn. We feasted on discussion and play, built a Lego battlefield, cleaned rooms and painted hooks. Both of us moms are very fond of the widely known quote of Cardinal John Henry Newman, "To know history is to cease to be Protestant." We often discuss history and the lives of the saints. Today we were talking about Hillaire Belloc's very important book, The Characters of the Reformation. Belloc's studies and ideas are a light to a confused and darkened cultural landscape. (Belloc was a contemporary and dear friend to the more famous writer, G.K. Chesterton.) We Catholics need to wake up and listen to inspired voices, like Belloc, so as to get our Lord's saving Word out into the world. The world, the flesh and the devil are to be conquered by full participation in the sacramental life of the Church. We should not be surprised when human beings fail, no matter how much grace they have received. We ought to be very surprised and impassioned that the truth is so hard come by these days.

Mother Church gave us the gift of the canon of Scripture so as to help us hear God's will for each and every person. The Eucharist came before the canon of Scripture; and, it is from this most Blessed Sacrament that we have what is today widely known as the Bible. Rachel and I are both converts and fervently believe that, one day, there will be a time for unity among Christians. We both try our best to feast on God's Word -- this is for you, Rach:

There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven:
a time to be born and a time to die,

a time to plant and a time to uproot,

a time to kill and a time to heal,

a time to tear down and a time to build,

a time to weep and a time to laugh,

a time to mourn and a time to dance,

a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them,

a time to embrace and a time to refrain,

a time to search and a time to give up,

a time to keep and a time to throw away,

a time to tear and a time to mend,

a time to be silent and a time to speak,

a time to love and a time to hate,

a time for war and a time for peace.

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Berta and Elmer

Well, I'd sure like to know more about this artistic team, Berta and Elmer Hader, the authors and illustrators of the beautiful picture book, The Big Snow. What is in a name? On another funny note, number 3 child has decided to really suffer this Lent. He has given up corn, yes, corn. No, he does not eat corn everyday. There is no love affair with the vegetable.

I was temporarily in Heaven today as my husband worked from home, and we all prayed the Noon Mass together. Number 2 child kept whispering to me if she could just go to the bathroom for a sec to see how her ashes looked...I quietly whispered back to wait until Mass was over. She was ok with that.

What a sweet life this is. Full of ups and downs and ins and outs. I would not trade it for anything. Just when we needed to step back and take stock, Mother Church opens Her arms wide and receives us as we are. Acceptance and love are intertwined. Our Lord demands so much of Himself and so little of us. At the same time, we must strive to be holy because it pleases Him so much. It is so unoriginal to say this, but....God does not need our effort. It is truly a "love thing" -- meaning that He desires our goodness because He loves us so much that He wants to see us happy and content. As Fr. Mike said as much today, a high price was paid for our salvation. I hope my dear children will grow to understand the compassion of our God.

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Tuesday Tackle

Boy! We have alot to tackle today. I am ready to take the kids with me to vote; a presidential election year is exciting!

Click here for a delightful link to a posterboard Lenten calendar for one child or the whole family. How easy is it to glue cotton balls on a lamb! Lamb of God, You take away the sins of the world. Have mercy on us!

Monday, February 4, 2008

Our goofy cat, aptly named "Trouble"

We have a cat who has the very expensive habit of chewing through laptop computer power cords. I was off the computer a while last week as we waited for the replacement cords. Jaybird is slowly recovering from his chest crud, and we are busy over here re-decorating rooms and moving furniture. Moving furniture is really a family hobby: "...wonder what that would look like over there??????"

Tomorrow morning I hope to haul down here to the kitchen before everyone awakes and write some learning notes. We are attending a Lenten talk and Mardi Gras party at our parish tomorrow evening.