Tuesday, July 17, 2018

First Day in my First Atrium

So, fast forward a year after the events of my introduction to CGS post and we are in the midst of implementing our very first CGS Session (and we are all first-time catechists) - utilizing the materials for Level I with a group of 7 year old Summer Religious Ed Students.

I came back to the blog simply because I thought it would make a good place to record some of the highlights of our efforts. I hope to get some more pictures up here soon too.

We've been working hard all year to get our Level I atrium put together (and are still working hard on getting it put together!) and I've managed to use some of the presentations for our 2nd graders over the course of the last year with great success!

Yesterday was our first day of our first actual CGS session.

We put a LOT of effort into preparations and researching/finding creative solutions to using Level I materials with slightly older children. We especially put a lot of preparations into being ready to help 14 children enter into the atrium with a limited number of adults/teens, a limited amount of time and a limited number of practical life materials.

Here is some of what we did to make things work:

First of all we were fortunate enough to have three trained CGS peeps and one CGS enthusiast assistant (though two of the adults can't be there the whole time).

We started out in a homeroom and had some practical life/free shelf materials available there (including a great big line to walk with all kinds of goodies to carefully carry). Having a homeroom is helping us preserve the integrity and sacredness of the atrium and give special differentiation between the two spaces. We are also all removing our shoes when we are in the atrium.

We did the Introduction to the Atrium  and the Enthronement of the Bible almost immediately, but then brought everyone back to the homeroom to talk about what we saw and then keep most of the group busy while a few children were started on practical life lessons at a time.

Here is what we observed on the first day:

First of all, it's a great bunch of kids. No drama or behavior issues.

What I did notice was that some of the kids seemed particularly shy or not particularly happy to be there (at least no smiles). I was very pleased to see that all of them adapted very quickly to the atrium.

Here are a few examples:

Two little boys (one of whom might have been drawing guns when he first got into the atrium) asked for the presentation on flower arranging. They tackled this work with great enthusiasm and focus and were reluctant to leave the atrium when they were invited to go to recess. They changed their minds after a moment's discussion, but first eagerly showed me what they had *made* - two beautiful little floral bouquets that they had (without any suggestion from me) placed in front of the lovely statue of the Madonna and Child. I very carefully aimed for a pondering-rather-than-praising response and could only come up with "What does that make you think about?" Without hesitation, they said "Jesus" and happily left for recess.

That first few hours was really intense and it was hard not to be hurried (I'm sure I failed some of the time). We made some reasonable compromises, like allowing the children to present practical life materials to each other.

And it was good. It wasn't perfect. I realized rather quickly that I had forgotten some things that I meant to say (you kind of have to jump in with both feet in this thing!) and yet it was quite good and it worked. And God provides!

Some of our surmises were pretty on track, for example, we thought that it might be worthwhile to have a lot of the art and extension works (such as tracing packets and collages) ready to go since we figured it would help the pace of working through materials not go too fast and that artwork would be an especially good way to help them ponder the materials. I think this worked rather well.

In the end, the clearest sign on this first day that this new endeavor was working is that all of the children showed good signs of normalization: peace, focus, interest and joy. 

Introduction to An Unexpected Detour

Last summer I was peacefully going through my life in fairly expected directions when something unexpected happened. I learned that there was going to be training for Catechesis of the Good Shepherd (CGS) at a local parish. I knew these few facts at the time:

  • That CGS was a Montessori-based religious ed program (and I've loved Montessori for a long time) 
  • That friends of mine had traveled to neighboring states to take the training.
  • A friend of mine from my parish was planning to take the training (because our pastor wanted to get the program going at our parish).
  • The second person from the parish would only be charged half price. 
Connecting these dots caused me to check into whether my parish would want to send me along for the training as well. I was already working at the parish as a liturgical assistant, but thought it might be handy to have a staff member (who already loved Montessori) to take the training in order to help advocate for it, even though I didn't expect to be able to be a catechist - and I definitely had no intention of applying for the open position of DRE (who would be expected to implement the program).

 The pastor said yes and I rearranged my schedule in order to free up the week for Level I, Part 1 training. And fell instantly in love. Although she missed the first day of training, my daughter Kate joined me beginning on day 2 and has been by my side ever since.

We (Kate and I) took the fast track with training by taking Level I, Part 2 at another neighboring parish just a few weeks later. I tentatively and tenuously started to do what I could to help brainstorm getting
the program started.

There are a lot of twists and turns to the whole story, but, in a nutshell, my pastor asked me to take the job of DRE and promised to get me help (and hired a full-time assistant within a few weeks) and be very flexible regarding our family/homeschooling needs. After a lot of prayer and intense family discussions I said yes.

Just wanted to share a brief introduction to this new piece of my life as I am hoping to blog about some parts of the story/journey.
Beautiful Peg Doll Apostles painted by Bernie (age 18)

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

A Celebration of Our Family's Favorite Children's Book Illustrators

This post is based on a meme I participated in on Facebook.

It was so much fun to pick out favorite illustrators, but I wasn't able to include all of them on Facebook. These are from a list I just made of ones whose illustrations, especially (but also stories since many of them are both author and illustrator) had a huge impact on our family - and are really, in many ways, a part of our family.

C.W. Anderson Billy and Blaze

Virginia Lee Burton Mike Mulligan and His Steam Shovel

I hated having to pick between Mike Mulligan and Katy and the Big Snow. Mike Mulligan won out partly because we managed to find a board book copy when Frank was little and I think it was his very favorite thing for some time. I also have loved The Little House since I was a child.

 Barbara Cooney Miss Rumphius 

We were first introduced to Miss Rumphius when my sister kindly passed along to us a box of picture books that her girls had out-grown. Thanks Sharon! If you were to buy one book based on the recommendations in this post, I would pick this one.

"You must do something to make the world more beautiful."

Ingri and Edgar Parin D'Aulaire. 

Although their Greek Myths is probably the most read title at our house, I want to especially point out Abe Lincoln which was the first book we discovered of theirs and which completely captivated Ria when she was very small. 

Here is a description I wrote about that episode many years ago: 

When my children were young Abe Lincoln by Ingri and Edgar Parin D'Aulaire was one of their favorite books. My three year old daughter was making sand-castles in the back one day. While they looked like a collection of sand-hills to the untrained eye, she was kind enough to elaborate on their construction. "This sandcastle is like Abraham Lincoln's house," she explained, "because it has bear-skin rugs."

Tomie de Paola  The Lady of Guadalupe

We have so many favorites among his lovely books, but probably my favorite is The Lady of Guadalupe. Like Abe Lincoln above, it was the first of his books we were introduced to, in fact I believed I borrowed it from the same library at the same time as Abe Lincoln. Other favorites include The Legend of the Poinsettia, The Night of Las Posadas and his 26 Fairmount Avenue series, which is autobiographical.

Marjorie Flack. Angus and the Ducks

Angus in the Ducks holds an extra special place in our hearts for Gus, especially, at about age 2, learn to love stories and also because we have a very dear recording of Kate at age 3 or 4 reciting it from memory.

Now, I have to admit that Ria has always loved a read-aloud. When she was quite small, she would sit through chapter books such as the Little House books like no other child I've ever seen. (This doesn't by any means indicate that she was an angelic child - she was the only one of my children that seemed to resent - at least for a while - the arrival of a younger sibling). But when Gus came along, things got a little trickier. When he got to be about 2 years old or so, there was nothing that would get him more noisy and upset than when I tried to sit down and read a story aloud to Ria. He would babble and complain like anything and it seemed there wasn't a whole lot I could do. I was pretty stubborn too and wouldn't let him win the day, I'd at least finish reading the chapter I was on, even if I had to be quite loud and deliberate about it. At that time he wasn't very interested even in picture books for some reason - probably had gotten fed up with all the chapter books I read to Ria.

One day, though, I found just the right book for him at the right time. It was Angus and the Ducks by Marjorie Flack. We had found a lovely old hardcover copy at our library book sale and he loved it immediately. The illustrations are enchanting. The language is simple, but charming. He loved the dog and the duck noises were very funny. It's interesting how certain books have become major milestones for us in our child-raising. This one we will always appreciate because it's the book that helped Gus start to love books.

We also love The Story about Ping.

Maj Lindman Flicka, Ricka and Dicka

Arnold Lobel. Frog and Toad

We especially loved his Frog and Toad series. They are such a charming and engaging story of friendship, especially amidst the sadness and frustrations of life.

Robert McCloskey.  Blueberries for Sal

My personal favorite is Blueberries for Sal. "Little Bear and Little Sal's mother and Little Sal and Little Bear's mother were all mixed up with each other among the blueberries on Blueberry Hill."

I also have to mention that Make Way for Ducklings was a favorite of John's when he was a child. We also love One Morning in Maine and Homer Price so very, very much. 

Helen Oxenbury Clap Hands

I don't know that we ever had any other of her books, but Clap Hands was THE board book that every one of our kids loved when they were little.

Richard Scarry The Best Word Book Ever

Who didn't grow up with the most fun game of finding the different objects on the fabulously detailed and rabbit-covered pages of Richard Scarry's books?

Maurice Sendak. Little Bear  

All of my children enjoyed these funny little stories and I appreciated the underlying themes of gratitude and imagination.

Hilda Van Stockum  A Day on Skates

Although we love all of her books and illustrations, I think A Day on Skates takes the cake for favorite, especially in the illustration category.

Bill Waterson Calvin and Hobbes

Garth Williams Little House Series by Laura Ingalls Wilder

Pascale Wirth The Selfish Giant and The Happy Prince by Oscar Wilde 

When I asked Ria, who has always had a strong sense of beauty, which children's book illustrators had the biggest impact on her as a child, the first one that came to mind for her was Pascale Wirth because of the illustrations in our copies of The Selfish Giant and The Happy Prince.

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Tuesday Tidbits #7

Listening To:

Hamilton. I am intrigued.

Grateful For:

Having everyone home for the summer. Though life is crazier in some ways (and everyone tends to stay up too late at night!), the interactions and shared activities, stories, ideas, etc. are really wonderful. For example, we've had a little retro-tech theme going on around here lately. Gus and I have been scanning old family photos and the oldest and youngest kids both got typewriters...

Everything Keeps Coming Up...

Balance. This concept has been on my mind and heart a lot lately. It is really an answer to many problems, including perfectionism, the need to be controlling of everything, and counteracting the effects of consumerism.

The problem of perfectionism, especially has come up in a lot of my reading lately, especially the book on eugenics I'm still working my way through (an important look at history as well as a  perspective on many modern issues!) and the solution as presented by Pope Francis: "The world does not become better because only apparently 'perfect' people live there."

I think is also a great perspective:

Most people tend to allow the truth they possess so to dominate their thinking that they see few others truths that place their one truth in perspective and balance it out. There is probably no heresy in the history of the Church that did not have its truth. The problem invariably is that the one truth so took over the heretic’s mind that he was committed to cast out any number of other doctrines that clashed with his interpretation of it. – Fr. Thomas Dubay, Authenticity


Nothing new to report here, but I've been spending a lot of time in the garden lately.


Still plodding through the same books at the moment. :)


I saw Captain America: Civil War a few weeks ago (I went in with a little trepidation, because of the conflict between characters that I like!). It exceeded my expectations, but there was a lot going on that I needed some time to process. Last week I got a chance to watch it a second time (Hurray for Marcus Theaters' $5 Tuesdays!) and was really glad that I did. It's a thoughtful and even important movie and very entertaining too. While movies about good guys fighting bad guys can be inspiring, oftentimes it's the battles we have to fight with ourselves that are the most important.

It is kind of nice to be at a stage where everyone in the family is old enough to watch this kind of movie. It's another fun piece that all of the "kids" (half of whom are adults now!) get to process movies like this together.

Quote I'm Pondering:

One of my favorite essays ever is one by C.S. Lewis on the importance of old books. In it he talks about the blindness everone tends to have to the errors of their own age (I was thinking of this especially in terms of the concept of balance mentioned above:

The only palliative is to keep the clean sea breeze of the centuries blowing through our minds, and this can be done only by reading old books. Not, of course, that there is any magic about the past. People were no cleverer then than they are now; they made as many mistakes as we. But not the same mistakes. They will not flatter us in the errors we are already committing; and their own errors, being now open and palpable, will not endanger us. Two heads are better than one, not because either is infallible, but because they are unlikely to go wrong in the same direction. To be sure, the books of the future would be just as good a corrective as the books of the past, but unfortunately we cannot get at them. (emphasis mine)

Tuesday, June 07, 2016

Tuesday Tidbits #6

Well, I missed a week because of Memorial Day. Oh well!

Listening To:

Our teens and some of their friends meet on a weekly basis to work on a capella singing - including both secular and sacred pieces. They worked especially hard in recent months preparing Palestrina's Sicut Cervus and Byrd's Ave Verum to sing with the parish choirs for the Mass of Thanksgiving of our new associate pastor. I think it went really well and it sure was a lot of fun!

I've also been listening to a lot of Matt Maher lately. Favorites include: Abide with Me, Because He Lives, Lay It Down, and Lord, I Need You.

Grateful For:

Graduations! Terri has now graduated from high school and Kate from 8th grade. We had a beautiful high school graduation ceremony with our homeschool group (we tend to pass on the 8th grade graduation ceremonies since our kids have continued to homeschool during high school - but those are also available) and a lovely graduation dance in which all of the graduates were recognized.

Everything Keeps Coming Up...

Family pictures. My parents are celebrating their 60th Wedding Anniversary this month, so we are tackling the project of scanning the old family slides.

Me meeting the family dog, Patches, upon arriving home from the hospital.

Hanging out with Dad. :)


Baseball, Scrabble, Perspective and Sporcle. I don't think there's anything new on the list right now.


I started Fr. Michael Gaitley's 33 Days to Merciful Love a few weeks ago. My mom had bought it for me over Easter and one day when I was headed off to Adoration I picked it up on an impulse and decided to check what the recommended starting dates were. (They like you to set it up to finish on an appropriate feast day.) To my surprise and delight, I happened to pick it up on the only day in May (the 27th) that was listed as a recommended starting day.

It's a wonderful little book, very much in the same flavor as 33 Days to Morning Glory and intended as a follow-up to that book. In comfortably short daily readings, it offers a spirituality based on the writings of St.Thérèse of Lisieux which is particularly focused on appreciating how much we need God and how much he loves us.


Hail, Caesar! A Tale of the Christ

I've seen this movie reviewed in oddly different ways. As far as I can tell, it works if you can give it an uncynical viewing (and see it through until the end!), but if you try to read other things into it, it just doesn't work.

The movie is about Hollywood of the 1950s. Eddie Mannix (based on a real-life character) has a tough job at the studio holding together a cast of characters starring in various movies who are always getting themselves (and potentially the studio) into all sorts of trouble. With great artistry and a dry sense of humor, the story pokes fun at these various characters (and through them humanity in general) and their petty quirks and problems. 

The main movie being produced during the story is an epic story of Christ that looks an awful lot like Ben Hur. The movie studio is anxious to not offend anyone's religious sensibilities (which ends up involving a very witty conversation between Eddie Mannix and a group of religious leaders - a Catholic priest, an Orthodox priest, a Protestant minister and a Jewish Rabbi). Its production is unexpectedly halted by the disappearance of the main star, who has his own set of dramatic and intellectual adventures.

The story climaxes with a beautiful scene from the Ben Hur-like movie which is shown to impact not just the characters within that film, but also those involved in its production.

It's a quirky movie - very different from anything else I've ever seen, but we really enjoyed it.

Quote I'm Pondering: 

And if the good God wants you weak and helpless like a child... do you believe that you will have less merit?... Agree to stumble at every step therefore, even to fall, to carry your cross weakly, to love your helplessness. Your soul will draw more profit from it than if, carried by grace, you would accomplish with enthusiasm heroic actions that would fill your soul with personal satisfaction and pride. - St. Thérèse of Lisieux as quoted in 33 Days to Merciful Love

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Tuesday Tidbits #5

Listening To:

We picked up a selection of new music from iTunes in the last week or so, mostly for Ria's birthday. Some of my favorites include Bill Murray singing The Bare Necessities from The Jungle Book, On the Road by The High Kings,  Just Give Me a Reason by Pink (I wonder how many marriages have been saved by this song!), and Oceans by Hillsong United.

Grateful For:

Getting back to blogging! I am amazed that this is my fifth consecutive week of blogging! I decided to aim for some blogging on Tuesday mornings because that's my one "slow" morning of the week. It seems like having a little structure and a weekly goal is really working for me. I'm now finding myself looking forward to writing a blog post each week!

Everything Keeps Coming Up...

Being outside! Track, baseball, dogs, good weather, and not too many bugs yet. We enjoyed having our associate pastor and his sister over for dinner last week and got to eat outside with them. Father even played a little baseball with Frank. :)


We've pulled out our old Perspective timeline board game quite a few times since Gus got back from school. The game consists of historic event cards (pre-divided into four major time periods) and a board game on which the cards are played. Dates are on the back of the card (where you can't see them!) and the goal is to put them in order correctly. Others players can challenge your play and gain or lose cards depending on the wisdom of their challenge.

We've also added a few homemade cards over the years. This has been a family favorite for many years (maybe 10?). We also frequently make some adjustments to make it work better for us, like giving better players extra cards to start out with. I was so delighted to discover, when searching for an image for this post, that this game is now back in print!!! More information here: Perspective... The Timeline Game


Nothing new here, really. Still working on Sacramentum Caritatis with the high school catechism class and reading Emma and Imbeciles: The Supreme Court, American Eugenics, and the Sterilization of Carrie Buck on my own. Oh, and I've also grown fond of the Catholic website Aleteia.

After watching The Jungle Book, I am really eager to read the book.


 The Jungle Book

Gus and I went to see this in the theater last week and thoroughly enjoyed it. The music was wonderful - with plenty of nods to the original film. The storyline was terrific. Again, it kept most of the key parts of the animated movie, but without getting stuck in the mud. Bill Murray as Baloo and Christopher Walken as King Louie were fabulous. I loved how they let both actors really play it up as themselves. So fun!!!

The whole movie worked well in so many ways. I love how it portrayed mankind's relationship with nature and the other animals. Nature is beautiful and noble but also can be quite fierce. The animals are both afraid of man and in awe of him. Mowgli (representing mankind), in his turn is weak and vulnerable but also clever in a way that allows him to construct tools and strategies that make up for that deficit. He has the capacity for great destruction, but also for great good.

Quote I'm Pondering: 

The Montessorian and the liturgist in me were both made very happy by this quote from Sacramentum Caritatis (The Sacrament of Charity) by Pope Benedict XVI:

In the course of the Synod, there was frequent insistence on the need to avoid any antithesis between the ars celebrandi, the art of proper celebration, and the full, active and fruitful participation of all the faithful. The primary way to foster the participation of the People of God in the sacred rite is the proper celebration of the rite itself. The ars celebrandi is the best way to ensure their actuosa participatio. The ars celebrandi is the fruit of faithful adherence to the liturgical norms in all their richness; indeed, for two thousand years this way of celebrating has sustained the faith of all believers, called to take part in the celebration as the People of God, a royal priesthood, a holy nation.
So we've talked about the importance of beauty and fidelity in liturgy, but also spent a lot of time talking about perspective. Yes, we want really beautiful liturgies and we should do what we can to help build those up, but first of all, the Mass itself is perfect. Jesus comes to us and we receive the Eucharist and it is amazing! Never lose that most basic piece when thinking about the music or the homily or whatever you didn't really quite like.

It's also essential to remember that liturgies are a very human thing and will never be perfect and God understands that. After all, Jesus came down to earth as one of us and didn't in any sense of the word have the best of everything. I help out at our parish sometimes as a backup liturgist. In my mind this role could be considered to have two basic aspects.

  1. Set things up well to help things go as smoothly as possible, help people be comfortable/prepared for their various roles, etc. 
  2. Don't get upset that people will mess up sometimes, babies will cry, etc. 

That human aspect can actually be understood as a beautiful part of the liturgy too. I have long felt that a little baby noise makes things better in church. Maybe this is just because we are always praying and offering ourselves to God as seriously flawed individuals. It's good to have a little perspective and sense of humor about this!

One quote that has long been a guiding piece for me in understanding my relationship to the liturgy is  1 Samuel 15:22:

But Samuel said:
“Does the LORD delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices
as much as in obedience to the LORD’s command?
Obedience is better than sacrifice,
to listen, better than the fat of rams."

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Tuesday Tidbits #4

Running Through My Head Today:

Good Time by Owl City and Carly Rae Jepsen and Keep Your Head Up by Andy Grammer

I must admit that I didn't know who Andy Grammer was (though I did know some of his songs) until about a week ago when we found out that John had been given four tickets to the Brewer's Game which included an Andy Grammer post-game concert. The game was a lot of fun (even though the Brewers made the Padres look good, which is really saying something!) but went 12 innings and so the concert started really late - I think after 11. We stayed for 4 or 5 songs and it was a lot of fun.

Grateful For:

Having Gus home! He just finished his Sophomore year at Thomas Aquinas College. There are a lot of changes around here since he was last home and we were particularly excited to have him finally meet Zita! (They hit it off right away.)

Everything Keeps Coming Up...

Getting more active. John has had a Fitbit for awhile now and it has really motivated him to get in better shape. He does a lot of stairs during breaks at work. Terri is interested in becoming an EMT and wants to get in better shape for that, so she bought a Fitbit too. Most of the rest of the family were able to get pedometers on our cell phones and have been eagerly trying to pass the 10,000 steps mark each day. We are all wondering what would happen if we were able to track the steps of Zita the Space Dog. ;)


Baseball! Track season is winding down and Little League has started for Kate and Frank. Looks like we'll be rooting for the Cardinals and the Astros this year. :)


Aside from all the previously mentioned books that I haven't yet finished, I started re-skimming (i.e. going through the parts I've highlighted on my Kindle) Caryll Houselander's Reed of God. I made a little Marian notebook to try to help process and remember some of the wonderful tidbits from the 33 Days to Morning Glory Consecration and thought some of the choice quotes from Reed of God would be a nice addition. Unfortunately these kinds of things never end up as pretty as I'd like when I start copying out a lot of material (and I had picked out an un-lined notebook, which has its ups and downs) but I think it will be just ride to skim through when I need it.

The Reed of God is probably my favorite book about Mary. It's especially helpful for those who have grown up with misunderstandings about Mary or who have frustrations or misunderstandings about the role of women in the Church and in the world. 


Whenever our college kids come home, we are eager to share with them all of the movies and what not that they have missed out on since they were last home. For Gus, we started out with Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation, which was enjoyed by all. John and I saw it on a whim last summer and were amazed at how much we enjoyed it. The opera sub-theme alone made it worth watching. :) It's the fifth in the Mission Impossible series, but the first one that we had seen. It stands up pretty well on its own. Also, the stunts, which Tom Cruise does himself, are phenomenal.

Other movies on his catch-up list:

The Martian
X-Men (especially Days of Future Past)
Cutthroat Kitchen
Kids' Baking Championship
Captain America: Civil War
Jungle Book 

Quote I'm Pondering: 

Something I found on Facebook recently:

Love one another.
Jesus; John 13:34

The only remedy against loneliness is communication,
to touch someone, not only physically,
but gladly, joyfully, simply, in a friendly fashion.
It is quite easy if you really love people
but you have to love your brothers and sisters as they are.
Servant of God, Catherine Doherty, 20th century
I was thinking about this partly in terms of how God wants us to help others. Not only do we have to love them as they are, but we also have to remember that our job isn't to change who they are. Even though we need to strive for virtue and good judgment and things like that, we still approach a situation as ourselves, with all of our particular strengths and limitations. (More about that here: Living Differently - Be Who You Are Meant to Be). This is one way in which we can begin to define what we should do and how we can help in a particular situation. But this is also critical to remember in looking at others (and especially our own children!). Everyone has their own strengths and limitations and needs to accept and work within that context. I also find it help to remember (particularly in working to understand and appreciate others) that with certain strengths tend to come certain limitations. Which reminds me of another wonderful quote...

I distribute the virtues quite diversely; I do not give all of them to each person, but some to one, some to others… I shall give principally charity to one; justice to another; humility to this one, a living faith to that one… And so I have given many gifts and graces, both spiritual and temporal, with such diversity that I have not given everything to one single person, so that you may be constrained to practice charity towards one another… I have willed that one should need another and that all should be my ministers in distributing the graces and gifts they have received from me. – The Catechism of the Catholic Church #1937, quoting the Dialogue of Jesus to St. Catherine of Siena

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Tuesday Tidbits #3

Running Through My Head Today:

A Dream is a Wish Your Heart Makes from Cinderella (2015; Lily James) and It is Well With My Soul

Grateful For:

The transitional deacon who has been assigned to our parish for the past two years has been reassigned to our parish as his first assignment after he is ordained to the priesthood in a few weeks. There is a very interesting article about him here: Higher Calling Supplants High Court Dream

Everything Keeps Coming Up...

Mary. Yes, I'm finishing up my (re)consecration to Jesus through Mary with 33 Days to Morning Glory on May 13th. Last time I met with my spiritual director, I had a list of things I was working on and realized that the answer to all of them was to be found in turning to Mary.

This consecration includes 33 days of preparation and prayer timed to be completed on a Marian feast day. (You can view a chart here.) John and I were married on the feast of the Queenship of Mary and did St. Louis de Montfort's Marian consecration leading up to that day.

33 Days to Morning Glory by Fr. Michael Gaitley has a simpler format than the original preparation material  (it only takes a few minutes to read each day - and I really look forward to the material) but it is very beautiful and substantial and leaves you with plenty to reflect on each day. It is a very doable devotion for ordinary busy people like me. :)


We have really enjoyed the quiz site Sporcle.com over the last few years. We have spent many hours learning basic facts (like Countries of the World and Elements of the Periodic Table), memorizing bits of beautiful poems and speeches (such as St. Crispin's Day Speech from Shakespeare's Henry V, Sam's Speech from The Two Towers and Eisenhower's D-Day Speech) and even working on some basic religious knowledge, such as the Catholic Books of the Bible and the Top 200 Characters in the Bible. We have enjoyed plenty of the more trivial quizzes as well. ;)

By the way, one way to make some of these substantial quizzes more fun is to do them as a group/family. Also, for the ones newer to a quiz, they will often use most of the time themselves and let others help them for the last minute or so. Have fun with it!

I am currently reading Jane Austen's Emma and Adam Cohen's Imbeciles: The Supreme Court, American Eugenics, and the Sterilization of Carrie Buck. The former is rather light and delightful. The latter is rather heavy (though very readable) and I think will turn out to be an important piece of history and perspective. It is certainly very eye-opening so far (more below on this).


We recently watched On the Waterfront and Life is Beautiful. Both are serious and thought-provoking classics that I hadn't seen in many years. I liked both of them more than I had remembered. Most of the kids enjoyed both of them (Frank, in particular, really enjoys substantial, clever and meaty things for his age), but it's not bad to remember that that kind of thing is not everyone's cup of tea. Others opted out of both movies.

I'm quite sure that it's not a matter of superficiality of character. Everyone deals with great stories and the battles between good and evil in different ways. For me, a serious movie with dire struggles against terrible evil can bring comfort and peace because it genuinely applies to the real evils that I'm seeing in the real world. But for me too, there are times when laughter and lightness is the best medicine.

Quote I'm Pondering: 

It's really easy for me to whitewash the past and think that the great moral and social dilemmas and crises of our times have no precedence before, say, the 1960s. I imagine it's a part of human nature to glorify the past and look down upon what "kids these days" are doing. This book I'm reading on eugenics is a good antidote to this problem. In every age, people are called upon to stand up for what is right in the midst of terrible societal trends. Back in the 1910s and 1920s in America, eugenics (and especially sterilization of those seen as "unfit") was all the rage to "purify" the human race of unwanted tendencies, like mental disabilities and criminal behavior, which were viewed as genetically fixed for future generations. There's a lot more that could be said on this topic, but here' a little quote about one man who resisted this awful way of looking at people that gives a sense of the complex issues people were struggling with in our country a hundred years ago or so:

There was another way of reading the cases, however: as an expression of general societal unease with eugenic sterilization. There had been enough enthusiasm for sterilization that in a short period of time laws were adopted across the country. Nevertheless, it was now clear that not everyone was caught up in the eugenic mania, and the resistance was not just coming from the courts. In several states, governors vetoed eugenic sterilization laws and delivered strongly worded indictments. Nebraska's governor insisted his state's sterilization bill seemed "more in keeping with the pagan age than with the teachings of Christianity", and he declared in his veto message that "man is more than an animal".

Tuesday, May 03, 2016

Tuesday Tidbits #2

Running Through My Head Today:

Weird. I'm not sure that I have a song running through my head this morning.

Grateful For:

Gus and Ria at Mirror Lake in Yosemite

Homeschooling.  No, it's not perfect. Nor are any of the other options. And I question myself all the time about it. But the answer keeps coming up that it's been very good for us in many ways and my kids have always thrived with it and been pretty happy with it.

I love the closeness and camaraderie and interconnectedness it allows for.

Frank, Terri and Kate do science

Ria and Gus in college together!
 I love how much freedom it gives us to hang out with friends and family of all ages.

Frank and a little cousin
Michelangelo puzzle success with our friend, Joe.

I also love how much space it gives the kids for creativity and developing deep interests and talents.

They love making Halloween costumes!

Easter Cake by Terri, Bernie and Ria (with some help from Tolkien!)
Gus singing with an acapella group in college.

I love the ability to take the family on a three or four week road trip and see a bunch of amazing things in person, like the Grand Canyon, Yosemite, the Pacific Ocean and Meteor Crater. I love that we can pick some of the sites based on the Percy Jackson stories and Pixar's Cars.

We love our homeschool community in which we have found many fast friends and kindred spirits over the years and with whom we have enjoyed many activities, such as singing, group classes, park days, dramatic performances, spiritual activities and lots of just plain fun.

And we love our parish community, with whom we have many close connections, especially because of how they have welcomed us as homeschoolers and fellow Catholics. Besides Mass and the Sacraments and many friendships, we have done lots and lots of choirs and sports (mostly basketball and track) alongside our wonderful parish family. God has blessed us in so many ways!

Kate and her wonderful parish basketball team

Everything Keeps Coming Up...

Theology of the Body. Our youngest two are just finishing up the Theology of the Body for Middle School, which is being taught by my brother-in-law at our local parish. One of the incentives I've given my kids for taking this class (which is eight Friday nights in a row - not the most fun option in the world) is that there are certain movies they are allowed to watch with us after they take the class. Not ones with lurid sex scenes, of course, but certainly ones that get into complex issues relating to marriage and family, such as living together before marriage. The Theology of the Body background plus the opportunities for discussion brought about by some of these movies (which we really like, by the way) help us provide the kids with a wholistic understanding of the Catholic Church's teachings on marriage and the family without a judgmental attitude towards those who make decisions that we would disagree with.

For example, we watched Steve Martin's Cheaper by the Dozen this past week. One of themes present in the story is the oldest daughter living with her boyfriend, against the wishes of her parents. We had a great discussion about why the Church teaches against this partly because of the way they value marriage - to the point that they want each person to enter it in complete freedom, which is compromised by the commitments already present in cohabitation. It bears some similarities to why the Church won't let you get married while you are pregnant - because the expected baby can put extra pressure on the decision to get married. We also talked about how many couples who live together before marriage do so because they came from families that suffered from divorce and believe it will help prevent that kind of relationship (and how, unfortunately, the statistics indicate  that this is in fact unhelpful).


Still lots of Scrabble around here, of course, but I a great deal of our playing of late has been with the dogs. Did I mention that we have a puppy? Zita is her name (named after Ben Hatke's Zita the Space Girl series, which my kids love). She is a black lab mix and about four months old.  She really keeps us hopping but (and perhaps partly because of that) we have no regrets. We had to put our cat down last fall and our older dog is 11 and we have a LOT of energetic kid years left, so we decided it was time for another pet. We got her from our local humane society and were very impressed with the services offered there.


I am working my way through the 33 Days to Morning Glory Marian Consecration for my second time. I will be finishing up on May 13th, the Feast of Our Lady of Fatima, which also happens to be the anniversary of my first communion.

I just started reading a new book by Bishop Barron called Vibrant Paradoxes: The Both/And of Catholicism. It's a lovely book so far and I particularly enjoy that the essays are substantial, but short.

And after almost ten years (here is my last post on it from our previous reading) we are once again reading Pope Benedict's Sacramentum Caritatis with our homeschool high school catechism class. It an apostholic exhortation on the Eucharist and it is wonderful. It seems like the perfect way to wrap up our year of studying the Mass (we used Ascension Press's Altarations program, which we enjoyed very much).


Last night we re-watched Yours, Mine and Ours with Dennis Quaid and Rene Russo. Now, I know that this is a corny movie in some ways and the acting is not always the greatest, but I really love this movie. Yeah, it's partly that it's about large families and that it's so gloriously positive about having kids. But that's not really why I love it so much. It has this wonderful irony, which we spent a bit of time discussion during my college years about how someone can intend something for evil but that God can use it for good (or if you're more comfortable with it, it can turn out for the good). In this case, two large families are suddenly thrown together when their parents (both widowed, but had been high school sweethearts) reconnect at a high school reunion and get married before the families have even met. After lots of conflict and angst between the kids of each of the families (who are raised with extremely different styles of parenting), the kids finally get together and scheme to split the parents up. They do terrible (and in some ways funny) things to covertly cause tension in the marriage, but end up coming to a double conversion. 1. Once the kids stop fighting with each other and start working together to a common purpose, they actually start to like each other. 2. They feel remorse for the pain they have caused their parents. So, enough spoilers, but it's a movie I actually end up liking better each time I watch it.

Quote I'm Pondering:

"Mary, lend us your Heart. Bring us the Spirit. Pray that our hardened hearts would burn with love for Jesus. Help set our hearts on fire with love for him." (from 33 Days to Morning Glory)