Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Offer it Up

Danielle Bean has a great post on the Catholic practice of "offering it up", joining our little sacrifices throughout the day to the sufferings with Christ in the passion.
I don't remember as often as I should, but when I am truly grateful for this is when one of my dear ones does something to get my Irish up(or is it my Italian?) I say to my Jesus, through gritted teeth, "I offer this up for you, for the person who is bothering me now". Immediately, I feel relief, and the anger dissipates. I think this is because I am such a rank amateur, Jesus is still plying me with sweetness to keep me going.

I need you every moment, my Jesus!


Christina is the only member of our family who has mangaged to eat an entire meal with chopsticks.

Chinese food is an excellent motivator!

Sunday, February 25, 2007

Where do you do pre-school?

Mommy Life is written by pro-life author Barbara Curtis, mother to twelve children and a professional teacher, has written a new book on deciding about whether to send your child to preschool.Mommy, Teach Me it sounds like something a homeschooling mom could really relate to. She has an in-depth discussion of this issue on her blog.
I caved in to pressure and sent my 3 year old Christina to special ed pre-school last year, one with the shortest day I could find (2 1/2 hours)however, that nagging feeling never left me, although it wasn't an entirely unpleasant experience. She had a enthusiastic, loving young teacher, whom she bonded with, however, I just felt, that I'd rather do the bonding with her. And so, now that she is 4, she is homeschooling with her two sisters. Christina seems very comfortable at home, and doesn't miss the pre-school.

The issue with a special needs child,however, is that no matter how many years I've homeschooled and taught as a professinal teacher(9 years homeschooling, and 15 years as a professional teacher) I don't have Speech Therapy training, Physical Therapy training, etc. This intimidated me. This year, however, I found my self-confidence, and began a co-operative, Montessouri-based preschool twice weekly with homeschooling friends, and it's working out beautifully. I use the book, Natural Structure as my inspiration and guide.
BTW the specialists can come to your home in NY state for free, throughout the school years, just as they did in Early Intervention, taking the pressure off being knowlegeable in all these areas as well. A homeschooling friend who has worked part time in a special needs school for years, advised me thus, "don't send her to school, she is advanced, and there she will start to imitate the less advanced children, and lose what you've done with her".

Dr Bill and Martha Sears, who reccommend Barbara's book, are famous La Leche League advisors, parents of nine children, and authors themselves, and they have helped me raise my girls,with their many excellent books. Thanks to them, I am a committed 'attachment parent'. This naturally led me to want to continue our special bonded relationship as my daughters' teacher.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Walden Media's Homeschool Outreach: Ripples

Walden Media has a new newsletter as a special outreach to homeschoolers called Ripples. In it you will find resources for homeschooling families to expand their knowledge about the subjects of Walden's recent films.
For example, after reading my review of the new release, Amazing Grace, and seeing the powerful true story of William Wilberforce's championing the abolitionist cause in England, you may want to read a biography specially commissioned as a follow-up for the film. I admit to only a passing knowledge of this Christian hero,though I was familiar with the story of the hymn, I never knew they were related, and am grateful that these contributions to our heritage of faith are being memorialized and re-inscribed into our cultural lexicon.
I have also used their 'reverse' approach for my recovering reluctant reader. Seeing the movie Bridge to Terabithia first and then reading the 1977 Newberry Award winning book may initially go against the grain for homeschool purists, however, if the movie gets the child to read the book, you have accomplished your goal. The film may be the inspiration for a until study; as the movie Amazing Grace was released on the 200th anniversary of the British Parliament's vote to end the slave trade, this becomes a unit on the abolitionist movement, and how it led to the Emancipation Proclamation in America.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

AmericanPapist: Not Your Average Catholic!: Megapost: Bella, the movie we need to see.

AmericanPapist: Not Your Average Catholic!: Megapost: Bella, the movie we need to see.

Mardi Gras Brunch

Happy 'Fat Tuesday'!

Here's what I served for bruch today.
I know brunch is unusual for a Tuesday, but keep in mind we're homeschoolers, and Mom didn't get these beauties done till 11:00.

Strawberry Crepes- just fill your favorite crepe recipe with Polander All Fruit preserves seedless strawberry jam, dust with confectioner's sugar and voila!
Happy Mardi Gras!

Monday, February 19, 2007

What is Lent?

Wonderful posts on this topic are at Life in My Domestic Church and in By Sun and Candlelight. Don't forget the new Lenten Blog, These Forty Days as another great resource, as well as Catholic Culture.org, and there's my personal favorite, Around the Year with the Trapp Family.Here is a great thought from this blog,
"We are not fasting in commemoration of Our Lord’s fast of forty days, but are
imitating Him in his fast of preparation — preparation for His great work of
Redemption. It is the same with us. Once a year we take forty days out of the
three hundred and sixty-five, and we too fast in preparation: in preparation for
the commemoration of our Redemption.
We all should get together and work toward the restoration of the meaning of Lent. People nowadays see in it just a gloomy time full of “must nots.” That is a great pity, because Lent is a solemn season rich in hidden mysteries. We must also keep in mind that Lent is only a part of the great Easter season, that it is for Easter what Advent was for Christmas, and that Lent taken by itself would make no more sense than Advent without Christmas at its end. Therefore, we should let Holy Mother Church take us by the hand and lead us — not each soul alone, but the whole family as a
group — away from the noise of the world into a forty-day retreat."

"Stop Putting Yourself Down!"

This is a quote from me to myself as I read the beautiful homeschool mom blogs I have in my sidebar. I constantly feel inadequate while reading their wonderful saint's day ideas, organized homeschool schedules, delicious home-baked breads, original recipes, handicrafts, (don't even get me started on sewing), books they are reading, and writing, TV they are NOT watching, crops and livestock they are raising, and multiple clean, well dressed,literate happy children pictured in their blogs.
Raise your hand if you feel that way too.
Hmmm . . . I thought so.
No matter how often I remind myself that we bloggers pick the sunshine to blog about, I feel uneasy reading about the lives of others. I'm happy to see that Danielle Bean and Family Centered Life have commented on this too, with overwhelming responses from their readers.
Let me concur with these fine mothers, saying that sometimes my blog makes my family laugh heartily at me! In other words, a true hypocrite I blog about ideals I don't live up to(see the above) but still strive for. My one consolation is what a priest said long ago in a homily, "all Christians are hypocrites, because we have Christ as our ideal, and we fall short. However, if we fail to strive, we have given up the good fight".
So, please keep in mind what a new reader of mine told a friend of mine, "I know how Leticia finds time to blog, she neglects her kitchen floor."

Sunday, February 18, 2007

Thirty Day Novena to St. Joseph Begins Today

I pulled coffee mug off the shelf today, and noticed that it was the St. Joseph mug. This is how Our Lord reminds absent minded bloggers about the 30 day Novena to St. Joseph!
St. Teresa of Avila on devotion to St Joseph:
"I wish I could persuade everyone to be devoted to this glorious saint, for I have great experience of the blessings which he can obtain from God. I have never known anyone to be truly devoted to him and render him particular services who did not notably advance in virtue, for he gives very real help to souls who commend themselves to him. For some years now, I think, I have made some request of him every year on his festival and I have always had it granted. If my petition is in any way ill directed, he directs it aright for my greater good."

Feast Day of Fra Angelico

The patron of Christian artists was born around 1400 in a village
overlooking Florence. He took up painting as a young boy and studied under the watchful eye of a local painting master. He joined the Dominicans at about age 20, taking the name Fra Giovanni. He eventually came to be known as Fra
Angelico, perhaps a tribute to his own angelic qualities or maybe the devotional
tone of his works.
He continued to study painting and perfect his own techniques, which included broad-brush strokes, vivid colors and generous, lifelike figures. Michelangelo once said of Fra Angelico: “One has to believe that this good monk has visited paradise and been allowed to choose his models there.” Whatever his subject matter, Fra Angelico sought to generate feelings of religious devotion in response to his paintings. Among his most famous works are the Annunciation and Descent from the Cross as well as frescoes in the monastery of San Marco in Florence. He also served in leadership positions within the Dominican Order. At one point Pope Eugenius approached him about serving as archbishop of Florence. Fra Angelico declined, preferring a simpler life. He died in 1455. HT American Catholic

I was fortunate to have an Irish friend who worked at the Political Institute at San Domenico de Fiesole, teaching English to the political studies students. What a life he had, living in a cavernous 200 year old farmhouse (or was is it a barn?) driving to the cafe through the Tuscan countryside which looked like the background for a Da Vinci fresco, for a breakfast outdoors of Italian pastry with a breathtaking view of Florence, teaching English till noon, and having the rest of the day to explore the artistic treasures of Florence, a living Renaissance art museum, with a famous church around every corner. We went to a Bach concert in a baroque church one evening, walking the packed streets of Florence, where the lively social life happens outside in the shadow of amazing architecture, like the Piazza della Signorini, with its famous bell tower. Florence is intoxicating, and I couldn't bear to leave it for 2 weeks, even to accompany my Austrian friend to Pisa for a day trip. I fell in love with the churches, the people who are so easy to meet despite my poor Italian, and the art which never ends.

Fra Angelico's work is everywhere in this, his city. I was particularly enchanted by the monastery of San Marco, for he had painted a magnificent fresco in every cell(pictures here are all from San Marco). It had been inhabited by one of the powerful Medici family, thus explaining such opulence. My favorite was a painting of the Easter women peering into the Tomb of Christ, searching for his body, while He floated above them, beckoning them to look upwards.

Now being a talented artist didn't qualify him for sainthood, however, from his life story it seems that Fra. Angelico, the angelic friar resisted the temptations which abounded in Renaissance Florence, temptations to pride at his success, to wealth, and glory. To be recognized for greatness during your own lifetime has been the root of the spiritual downfall of many famous artists(Pablo Picasso, the famous misogynist springs to mind).

May the Lord always free me from the desire of having my work exalted, and receiving praise. Fra Angelico, pray for me.

Saturday, February 17, 2007

The Chronicles of Narnia: The Children's" Passion"?

Children trapped in a terrifying world of air raids, and night time bombings, caught between clashing forces beyond their understanding. Shipped off to remote places in the country, with forbidding, invisible hosts. This is the prelude to their entry into a fantasy world called Narnia.
Suddenly, they are handed roles in a titanic battle to vanquish the dark forces which have enveloped Narnia. Lord Aslan, whose return has been foretold, sets up his camp in Narnia. Empowered at last by his faith in them, the children spring into action, finding the hero within, all except for Edmund, who proves weak-willed in the face of temptation, in the form of Turkish Delight. Their eventual triumph, along Edmund's redemption lent hope to children in post-war Britain, and to children of a post 9/11 world of similar fear and uncertainty.

The Chronicles of Narnia has been called "the children's passion", for it's role in introducing a Christian-inspired film for general distribution. Producers agonized over whether to include C S Lewis's Christian symbolism in Aslan the lion king of Narnia, who dies in a crucifixion-like scene and is resurrected. The director and cast, when queried, denied direct attempts to use Lewis' religious symbolism.
Steve Greydanus of DecentFilms.com opines:

In the end, Lewis’s omnipotent lion does come to life in grand fashion on the
screen — along with much of the book’s religious meaning (though not all; for
more, see full review, coming soon). It’s also worth noting that, in spite of
all the reluctance to talk religion, the religious importance of the stories
hasn’t been lost on Disney, which hired Motive Movie Marketing to run the same
kind of grass-roots outreach to faith-based groups that proved so successful
with The Passion. Promotional events at churches have coached pastors and
leaders on using the film to do outreach in their communities.
After years of chilly relationships between Hollywood generally — and Disney in particular — and certain segments of American Christendom, LWW could represent at least a partial thawing. For Christians who’ve felt for years that Hollywood wasn’t
willing to acknowledge their existence, Disney’s church-based overtures may be a
welcome sign of change. For their part, Disney executives must surely be
delighted to have a film, or even a franchise, with the potential to bring in
even viewers previously determined to avoid anything with a Disney logo.
At the same time, religious considerations have to matter to Hollywood not just in
the marketing process, but in the creative process. Filmmakers don’t need to
share the religious views of a Lewis or a Tolkien to adapt their works, but they
do need to be willing to try to understand and honor the relationship of those
views to the work. If that ever caught on, the thaw might become a springtime.

Review of The Bridge to Terabithia

As a misfit teen in the brutal junior high school world after my best friend Leslie moved to Connecticut in 7th grade, I walked to school in the woods, while on the watch for bullies. Sometimes, on the way home from school, I'd sit down in the woods, and imagine I lived there, free from the problems of adolescence in the 1970's.
You can imagine my delight, then, in seeing part of what I thought was my unique experience, come to life on the screen in "The Bridge to Terabithia", released yesterday. This faithful film adaptation of the Newberry Award Winning book by Katherine Paterson of 1977 is a wonderful look into the fantasy world of two adolescent friends who have a rough time in school (no, I hadn't read it as a child, but my children will certainly read it).
What's beautiful about "The Bridge to Terabithia" is that their fantasy, instead of just acting as an escape, gives them courage to face the challenges of life, and become more compassionate. Soon life will test this newfound courage.
Take your older child(the mythical creatures are scary to little ones) to see it and enter into their world of heroism and adventure.

Walden Media stopped "Cursing the Darkness"

It's no coincidence that three of the three last movies my children have seen in theatres have been from new Walden Media, on Town Hall.com, Brent Bozell writes:

I'll be forever grateful to my parents, authors both, for teaching me to read.
Not how to read, just to read. In a simpler time, before the Internet,
before the electronic video games, before cable, before iPods, this was not
the challenge it is today. We lived in the country with rabbit-eared
television sets with access to less than a handful of stations, half of
which crackled with snow, and it really didn't matter anyway because we were
allowed only two hours' viewing per week -- so we read. Hollywood is in the business of entertainment. It has befuddled me forever why this industry, which in a bygone era registered extraordinary financial success simply by putting great literature on the silver screen, all but abandoned that formula in the past 40 to 50 years in favor of, well, junk. I'm looking at today's movie listings in my nearby multiplex: "Norbit," "Hannibal Rising," "The Messengers," "Epic Movie" and "Daddy's Little Girl." If any of these are books, they would be the kinds of books the Bozell children were notallowed to read.
Then along came Walden Media in 2000, and in seven short years this new studio has taken Hollywood by storm with its commitment to retelling great literature, especially the most popular and well-loved children's literature. The visionary behind Walden is business tycoon Philip Anschutz. A deeply private man, Anschutz hasn't given a press interview in 30 years, but you just have to like how he summed up before a Christian school audience in 2004 his decision to enter the gates of Hollywood: "I decided to stop cursing the darkness." Rather than
complaining how Hollywood isn't making good movies, he decided to make them
himself. As Walden President Mike Flaherty points out, "We have a
paradoxical mission statement, which is to use films to get kids reading." While
many parents think movies and television are replacing the printed word, Walden
is employing the delight of visual media to create delight in great stories
between bound covers. Walden is most serious about this task. The studio
is in contact with more than 100,000 teachers and librarians every year,
always looking for what Flaherty calls "the canon of literature that
everybody has read." C.S. Lewis, meet Hollywood. "The Lion, the Witch, and he Wardrobe," the first of the Narnia series, was a blockbuster success, grossing over $750 million, and two sequels now are in production. Charlotte's Web" was another
commercial success. The newest Walden movie, "The Bridge to Terabithia," won the
Newbery Medal as the best children's book of 1977. Flaherty cites how Lewis
talked about the paradox that "great fantasy heightens the readers' sense of
reality and responsibility." J.R.R. Tolkien said the same about his "Lord of the
Rings" trilogy. Heroes give children a more heroic imagination and worldview, a
joy "beyond the walls of the world."

Friday, February 16, 2007

Eucharistic Adoration is the Cornerstone of my Spiritual Life

Intentional Disciples has started a discussion on Eucharistic Adoration experiences. It's a growing trend which gives me tremendous hope in the future of the Church. Here's my love story between myself and Jesus in the Monstrance.
Eucharistic Adoration is the cornerstone of my faith life, besides the Holy Mass. I first attended in my twenties as part of a 40 hours prayer campaign for my parish, and I was struck by my feeling of closeness to Jesus. When my husband was courting me, he told me he was going to introduce me to his "best friend"; I was awestruck when he took me to visit Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament. I knew then that he was a keeper!
During the first year of our marriage, we lived near a Perpetual Adoration chapel. Every argument we had as newlyweds, found us going there, one by one, and finding reconciliation.
When, six months after our wedding, I was unemployed; I had no insurance and my husband's job was seasonal, ending each winter, I was delighted to find myself pregnant. I ran to Adoration to say "Thank you and help!" The next day I found a job with insurance which completely covered the birth of our first child.
Once, at forty hours adoration, I saw a young woman, who has Down Syndrome, lying prostrate before the Monstrance. "How many mothers would give their right arm for a daughter like that, Down Syndrome or not?!" I thought.
Within four years, I was a mother like that with a daughter with Down Syndrome. I took her to Adoration as a baby in her car seat, but, as a roving toddler she came less frequently. One day in Advent, I took a chance and brought her into the adoration chapel.She waved enthusiastically at the Monstrance saying, "Hi Jesus!" and I patted myself on the back for teaching her about the Real Presence. Until, when we were leaving, and she again waved, and said,"Bye Jesus!" As if she saw Him standing there. That was an awesome moment, to realize that Christina and Jesus had a relationship independent of her mother. Thanks to Adoration, one of the greatest blessings of my life!

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

I love babies too!

But have lost three of my children to miscarriage. This is a great article by Karen Edmisten at Catholic Exchange which explains how those of us with 'smaller' families sometimes feel slighted in the faithful Catholic world of wonderful large families.

Sometimes I'm grateful for having a relatively small family, as it gives me more time to help my special needs daughter, Christina, but other times I imagine her wrestling on the rug with little brothers she won't have.

Sometimes I realize I wouldn't be able to blog if I had a large family, and then I read a post from a glowing expectant mom, and I'm wistfully rubbing an empty belly.

It gives me something to offer up for Lent, this longing for another child. I think of a friend whose children all died before birth, who offers her suffering for abortion-minded mothers, and I am humbled.

Because Children Tell it Best

In the spirit of St. Valentine's day....
A group of professional people posed this question to a group of 4 to 8 year-olds,"What does love mean?"The answers they got were broader and deeper than anyone could have imagined.

"When my grandmother got arthritis, she couldn't bend over and paint her toenails anymore.So my grandfather does it for her all the time, even when his hands got arthritis too. That's love"Rebecca- age 8

"When someone loves you, the way they say your name is different.You just know that your name is safe in their mouth."Billy - age 4

"Love is when a girl puts on perfume and a boy puts on shaving cologne and they go out and smell each other."Karl - age 5

"Love is when you go out to eat and give somebody most of your French fries without making them give you any of theirs."Chrissy - age 6

"Love is what makes you smile when you're tired."Terri - age 4

"Love is when my mommy makes coffee for my daddy and she takes a sip before giving it to him, to makesure the taste is OK."Danny - age 7

"Love is what's in the room with you at Christmas if you stop opening presents and listen."Bobby - age 7

"If you want to learn to love better, you should start with a friend who you hate,"Nikka - age 7

"Love is when you tell a guy you like his shirt, then he wears it everyday."Noelle - age 7

"Love is like a little old woman and a little old man who are still friends even after they know each other so well."Tommy - age 6

"During my piano recital, I was on a stage and I was scared. I looked at all the people watching me and saw my daddy waving andsmiling. He was the only one doing that. I wasn't scared anymore."Cindy - age 8

"My mommy loves me more than anybodyYou don't see anyone else kissing me to sleep at night."Clare - age 6

"Love is when Mommy gives Daddy the best piece of chicken."Elaine-age 5

"Love is when Mommy sees Daddy smelly and sweaty and still says he is handsomer than Brad Pitt."Chris - age 7

"Love is when your puppy licks your face even after you left him alone all day."Mary Ann - age 5

"You really shouldn't say 'I love you' unless you mean it. But if you mean it, you should say it a lot. People forget."Jessica - age 8

And the final one -- Author and lecturer Leo Buscaglia once talked about a contest he was asked to judge. The purpose of the contest was to find the most caring child. The winner was a four year old child whose next door neighbor was an elderly gentleman who had recently lost his wife. Upon seeing the man cry, the little boy went into the old gentleman's yard, climbed onto his lap, and just sat there. When his Mother asked what he had said to the neighbor, the little boy said,"Nothing, I just helped him cry".
When there is nothing left but God, that is when you find out that God is all you need.
Sent to me by Sr. Bernadette Ballasty in Chile
HT: Nancy Scarlata

Malaspina Communications

St. Blog's Cinema Reccommends Cause of Our Joy

If you found the name of this blog in the National Catholic Register article, What's Playing at St. Blog's Parish?" welcome!
I have two blogs, and have a post on my movie reviews on Causa Nostrae Laetitiae, my other blog. This is my homeschooling Catholic family blog, where I share my experiences raising three daughters Gabby. 13, Isabella, 9, and my special needs almost 5 year old Christina with Down Syndrome. Stay a while and get to know them, and watch them teach me what it is to grow in love. See why they, with the Blessed Mother, are the cause of my joy!

Monday, February 12, 2007

The Little Flower's Way of Sacrifice

I read The Story of a Soul as a teenager, and it marked my life forever. I decided to become a cloistered nun, and live a life of sacrifice and prayers. Well, my vocation is different as a married mother of three girls, and the prayer is more irregular, but the opportunities for sacrifice remain.
A good way for us to 'keep track of' our sacrifices is with Therese's 'sacrifice beads'. The purpose is not to get prideful about our sanctity, but merely to remind ourselves that little acts of love throughout the day DO add up, and to remind us to offer them for a good cause. I like to remember something I read in the news, like Portugal's referendum on abortion, or a sick or deceased relative, or for the good of my family.
Therese, as a girl prayed fervently for the conversion of a condemned criminal who was an atheist, and she read in the paper that at the last moment, he reached for the crucifix and kissed it, she rejoiced that her prayers had been successful.

Sometimes, when my daughters are at the end of their patience with me or one another, I just say, "grit your teeth, and pull a bead!" Then, when something wonderful happens, I remind them to take partial credit for it, because of their sacrifices.
There are kits available to make these beads, or they can be made with any large wooden rosary beads, string, a miraculous medal and a crucifix. The trick is to cross-thread the beads, so they can be pulled and remain in place.

Sunday, February 11, 2007

Feast of Our Lady of Lourdes

Go and visit Just Another Day in Paradise for a amazing slideshow and litany in honor of Our Lady of Lourdes.

Saturday, February 10, 2007

The Individual Education Plan Meeting and the Homeschooling Mother

Melissa Wiley just attended her son's first IEP meeting in order to obtain speech therapy for him. It's a scary thing to sign the paper which puts your child in the pipeline of public education, but we must remember that we are consumers of bits of the system, and we take their suggestions into consideration, and accept them according to our own judgement. It can be difficult, and we need to support one another when self-doubt sets in.
Christina, age 4 who has Down Syndrome was in the system since birth, and I have signed so many IEPs I lost count. I've had 5 therapists coming to the house,for 4 years, which can be quite invasive, as they are eyeballing the cleanliness of the house, and how busy the older girls look while they are there(look busy girls!)Last year, the IEP committee, combined with these therapists, bullied me into putting Christina in a special needs pre-school. I looked for a local school with a short day (2.5 hours)and she had a very caring young teacher. However, a year later, her test results showed no increase in progress compared with home,and the school officials refused to let me meet next year's teacher, so I went with my mommy instincts and withdrew her from school. Now, once again, the therapists come to the home, but this time, two of them have been badgering me to put Christina in kindergarten next year. Sigh. That's why it was so good to read about your self-assurance as a homeschooling Mom of a special needs child. We need to organize a support group, like NAATHAN.What do you think, readers? Is there a need here?

Just Whose Values are We Teaching Our Children?

One of the great unspoken tenets of public schooling is the chance liberal educators see to indoctrinate our children in their world view. As a former public school teacher, I can assure you that public school teachers consider parents the 'great unwashed' who are barely qualified to raise, much less educate their own children. They see themselves as saviors who will enlighten our children in the ways of political correctness. Reading, writing and 'rithmatic are secondary, which explains the national test scores in America. Why do you think Adolf Hitler made homeschooling illegal? If you have any doubt about this, just try and tell a schoolchild that you don't believe in Global Warming! My CCD kids were horrified when I told them! They have such trust in their teachers, and take everything they say as doctrine.
Melissa Wiley posts about a PBS special on homeschooling which features the ubiquitious Robert Reich, Clinton Secretary of Labor, not Education, portraying homeschoolers as parents brainwashing their children in their own values. So? Better our Catholic values, than their libertine, 'anything goes' nonsense!
One parent night at my public junior high school in the 1970's, my attorney father asked an important question, "what do you mean your teaching 'values clarification' to my daughter?
Whose values, are you teaching her?"
The Social Studies teaching, not used to being questioned, got flustered,and turned to charm mode, "oh, you know, right and wrong", to which my father continued to press him, "No, I don't know what YOU consider right and wrong, please tell me since you are teaching the class, what do you base your morality on?" This went on until the teacher's back was quite literally to the wall, at which time his face was beet red,and he stammered, "we teach the values of the Constitution of the United States!"
This shows how teachers since the sexual revolution, have taught their Kinsey-based pseudo-morality to your children, with very little opposition from parents, and less from clergy. When my parents opposed the sex ed program's teachings on homosexuality and abortion, they had NO backing from friends or priests, only a courageous school board member, a Baptist, and his minister stood up to get an alternative health program which they disparagingly labelled, "Health B". When I tried to sign up for this program, the teacher queried me condescendingly, saying, "what's the matter, honey, your parents don't want you to learn about sex?" I, having rehearsed my answer at home, shot back, "NO, I know all I need to know on that subject, my folks just don't want YOU teaching it to me!"

Friday, February 9, 2007

Homeschool vs Catholic School: Can we work together?

Fr. Totten asks Amy Welborn if there is a way for homeschooling families to work with the Catholic school to the benefit of both. The posts are most enlightening.

THESE are the Good Old Days!

"Let's watch our videos", Isabella's been insisting, to break up the winter doldrums. Cabin fever had set in, lots of freezing temperatures and not a snowflake in sight makes for three restless girls. So, I relented, and we started unpacking our family videos which usually center around birthdays, Christmas, sacraments and big snowstorms.
Well, it's 2 hours later, I still have an ache in my side! What a great time we had! As Isabella said, "there's a big laugh in every film."
Not only is surprisingly touching to see your grown up teen as a bouncy toddler again, or your verbose 9 year old as a quiet toddler, and the frail baby who is now an active preschooler, but watching our interactions which seemed so serious at the time, are hysterical to us now. We didn't realize what comic talent we possessed.

Daddies take toddlers for sled rides and topple them face-first into the snow, when the puppy jumps aboard, pinata-bashing leads to birthday girls getting boo-boos on their foreheads, we laugh over babies with bed-head, and the girls shriek,"Mom, why did you videotape me with that awful outfit?"
We all make mental notes on which videos to show to potential husbands with the caveat, "so, you really want to marry her? Watch this first."
I hope we can replace our broken camcorder with one that I can post online you we can share the good ones with you. Sit down with the kids, and re-visit the 'old days', and you'll realize that the best is yet to be.

Lenten Resources from The Trapp Family

I am a big fan of "The Story of the Trapp Family Singers" wherein Maria details many lovely celebrations, both liturgical and familiar for the Easter season which we seem to have lost from our transplanted European culture here in the US.
I love the detail she takes in describing how to decorate the Easter eggs, it's a true art form; no supermarket decorating kits for the Trapp family! Especially touching is the description of the Easter Triduum, and the emotions it evoked in even the smallest child. She tells of the intense beauty of Catholicism at it's best.
There is a blog called, Around the Year with the Trapp Family which goes into Lenten customs in great detail. See what they have to offer to help you plan your Lenten observations.

Wednesday, February 7, 2007

How Special Daddy Is, He Allows Me to Do What I Do Best: Homemaking and Mothering

Thanks Danielle, for reminding me that my husband has gifts that I don't! He is very physical with the girls, and they love it, he pushes them harder to reach their goals than I can, and no one else can show them what their husbands should be like.

When I teach on Saturdays and he's in charge of the house, my Christina looks like a World Vision child, dirty, in her pjs at 3PM, hair stuck together to the back of her head in a ball, sporting a saggy diaper, yet she's SOOO happy to be playing with him, she could care less!
You know what else? He's funny! We'll watch a silly kids movie or a comedy, and he'll use the laugh lines with us over and over again till they become a 'Daddy line'. Something Dad always says. This gives our family it's own identity as we now have inside jokes. The girls think Dad is the funniest guy alive.
And thanks, Man with the Black Hat for praising homemakers. I'm so often tempted to say, "I'm a homemaker, BUT I teach English", to justify my staying home most of the time, and that's too bad. Homemaking is an honorable profession, which can be taken to the height of an art form, as so many of you bloggers do. In honor of homemaking, I hereby give you:
the view from my kitchen window.

There's my prized African violets, my only successful indoor plant in a long time.

The curtains, no, I'm not talented enough to sew them, but I did tack the lace trim and silk tassels to the toile curtains, for an elegant touch.

I have bought houses by the view from the kitchen window, and wouldn't even consider a home where the sink faces the wall. You just spend too much time there to miss out on life staring at nothing. You should see the sunsets from here!

See the playhouse? I have the girls in my sights most of the time here,at the swings behind it, and the locked pool deck gate as well. Good for peace of mind.
See the winter version of my well-loved Mary garden? In a month, there will be Primroses and Crocuses there. I'll post the pictures.
Sometimes, I remind myself how lucky I am to have a husband whose hard work permits me the luxury of being a full time homemaker, homeschooler, and mommy.

Thanks, honey,
and Happy 15th Anniversary

What I wish I had the courage to say in person

A note to the elderly who like quiet at Mass to hear themselves pray (who doesn't?) PLEASE leave the crying room to parents with noisy children! Or if there is no crying room, leave us the last pew, so we can make a quick getaway to the vestibule.
Don't sit there and scowl at us if junior gets restless, we're doing our best to hide in the back. Take the front pews we dream about occupying someday. . .in about 10 years.
For a funny take on Catholic Mass etiquette, see my post on Causa Nostrae Laetitiae.

Tuesday, February 6, 2007

Monday, February 5, 2007

Sunday, February 4, 2007

The Catholic Blog Awards Nominations

HT Curt Jester
Nominations for the 2007 Catholic Blog Awards are now being accepted. This year the categories have been streamlined and categories such as most bizarre blog have been removed. Also there are no seperate men and women categories this time.

1. Best Overall Catholic Blog
2. Best Designed Catholic Blog
3. Best Written Catholic Blog
4. Best New Catholic Blog
5. Best Individual Catholic Blog
6. Best Group Blog
7. Best Blog by Clergy/Religious/Seminarian
8. Funniest Catholic Blog
9. Smartest Catholic Blog
10. Most Informative & Insightful Catholic Blog
11. Best Apologetic Blog
12. Best Political/Social Commentary Catholic Blog
13. Best Insider News Catholic Blog
14. Most Spiritual Blog

Go and vote for your favorite blogs!

My Hero Turned 75 Last Week

My two brothers, Rob and Bill,(seen here with my Dad) their spouses, my Mom, and I collaborated on a birthday party for my father, Ralph for his 75th birthday. You can see a slide show here.
Let me tell you why he's my hero. Born during the depression to Jim , an Italian immigrant from Pietrelcina (the birthplace of Padre Pio) and Filomena, an Italian-American born on Mulberry Street in the heart of New York City's Little Italy. Ralph William Crafa was born breach at 13 pounds into the kitchen of a working class family of six children. Sharing a large old house in a working class neighborhood in Flushing, Queens with various relatives was a study in Italian American culture. Their father played mandolin, violin, and 4-string banjo in an Italian band. Often, practice was in Filomena's cavernous kitchen, while she made Sunday dinner of macaroni with homemade sauce.
Life was difficult for the Crafas during the Depression, but they all went to St. Michael's Catholic School, and enjoyed baseball games in the backyard when their father wasn't looking. He had a large tomato garden in the small yard, which provided tomatoes for Filomena's fresh Italian tomato sauce. Once, the boys joked, "Hey, Pop, if you see a tomato with stitches on it in your garden, DON'T eat it!".
World War II broke out and the Crafas sent their dog Queenie into the military, since they were all too young to sign up. Their father had volunteered for World War I, but, as he like to brag, "the Kaiser heard I was coming, and quit!" The German Shepherd served with distinction, and when she returned, the boys went to pick her up, and were warned that the war might have changed her temperament. As they opened the crate, she jumped into their arms like old times!
She had an intense dislike of the vegetable vendor, however, and used to chase him down the driveway, spilling produce as he ran!
Filomena took a job to help support the family, as a receptionist at Flushing Hospital, where she translated into Italian and Spanish. This left the two oldest daughters, Teresa and Barbara in charge of the brothers on Saturdays. The orders from Mom were to clean the house, and the boys were to have money for the Saturday double feature when they cooperated. They, however, had a better idea. They wreaked havoc until the sisters threw them out, and locked the doors. Then, they knocked incessantly on both front and back doors till Barbara would beg Teresa, "just give them the money and tell them to get OUT of here!"
When the Korean War broke out, Joe went into the Army, and Ralph volunteered for the Airforce. He spent the next four years at the base in San Antonio Texas, dealing with the inevitable cultural clashes. Like when the Southern privates played what Ralph called, "hillbilly music" under his barrack window, waking him up in the morning, Ralph countered the next day by blasting his favorite singer, Mario Lanza's operatic arias. Going into downtown San Antonio was a culture shock as well, as Ralph's black friends had to enter the movie theatre from a separate entrance, sitting in the balcony, or were barred from his favorite Italian restaurants altogether. He couldn't understand segregation, because on Prince Street in Flushing, blacks and whites lived together in harmony.
Returning home to start college at 21, Ralph's found his family had moved to West Islip, halfway down the South Shore of Long Island, to a little home on a lake. Ralph who always had artistic talent, painted a seascape mural on the living room wall, which has remained there for the last 50 years though his parents had long since sold the home. He attended Adelphi University on the GI bill, while holding down a full time job, at Doubleday close to the school, and graduated Magna Cum Laude, going on to Fordham Law School. While at Doubleday, Ralph used to cross Franklin Avenue to pray for a wife at the statue of St. Anthony at St. Joseph's Church. An Irish Immigrant mother of three named Helen prayed in front of that same statue, for a husband for her daughter, who was working as a secretary at LILCO, while attending night classes at Hoftsra University. Around this time, Ralph's friend Don set him up with a girl named Eleanor Bonk, who lived near Doubleday in Garden City. After two years of dating, my parents married in St. Joseph's Church, in front of the St. Anthony statue where both Dad and my Grandmother had prayed.
Their early married life involved sacrifice, living in the old house Helen and Theodore owned in Garden City, as Dad continued to hold down a full time job as one of the first computer programmers at General Motors in New York City, as he attended Fordham Law. He used to arrive home on the train from the City at 11:30 at night, eat dinner, and go to bed. Their only time together was on Sundays during my Dad's study breaks, when they would eat dinner with one set of their parents.
Soon I announced my coming into the family, and my mother quit work to prepare for my birth. She lost her father that year, saddening my first Christmas. By the time Dad was studying for the Bar Exam, I was teething, and crying so loudly, the neighbors would tell my Mom, "She's going to be an opera singer!". Of course, being a fan, Dad like that idea!
Four years later, my brother Bill was born, with a deformity in his legs that required him to wear them in casts for months. Dad's first job as an attorney which he held for 20 years, was at the Aetna Insurance Company in Garden City. My parents bought our home in Northport when I was entering Kindergarten, a charming town with a century-old Main Street ending in a lovely harbor. Dad had a long commute, but wanted to raise his family here. The year was 1967.
Three years later, in 1970, my youngest brother Robert was born. We grew up roaving around our quiet neighborhood and soon the boys and I were old enough for baseball. Dad was an umpire for my softball games, and a coach for the boys' Little League teams. Soon he found himself Commissioner of the entire Northport Little League.
To be continued. . .

Saturday, February 3, 2007

The Sorrows behind the Joyful Mysteries: The Presentation of Our Lord

Isabella, Christina, and Gabriela pray at the Book of Life at the Shrine of the Holy Innocents, where their three brothers are memorialized in the Book of Life.You can register your miscarried children's names here.
As we grow older, some of us realize that just because we love God, it doesn't leave us free from pain and suffering in this life, in fact, the closer you get to our Lord, the more He seems to demand we detach from the world and want only Him. Padre Pio said it was like when a baby is weaning(from the breast), you give him a little sugar in the bottle, so we, in our spiritual infancy got a lot of good feelings from prayer. As you get closer to the Lord, He often seems to hide, to remind us that we love Him for His sake, not for the rush we get when we pray.

This period, the dark night of the soul, as St. John of the Cross called it, began for me when, as a new mother to 18 month old Gabby, I found myself pregnant again. I was thrilled. For 3 weeks, I was so happy, I even toured a birthing hospital. That night, I began to spot, and soon Patrick Simeon's 6 week old life was inevitably ebbing from me.

Why do they put miscarrying mothers in the labor and delivery area, where the joyful sounds of birth are everywhere? I saw a 16 year old mother who had just delivered a baby, and I wanted God to tell me, "why me, and not her losing the baby?" I wouldn't let my OB do a D and C until I myself checked the sonogram screen to see that the baby was detached, and gone. Then I let out a wail of the banshee, at the horrible news that my son had died on St. Patrick's Day. My aunt Teresa, a nurse at the Catholic hospital, kept trying to console me, but it was useless.
The next morning, I left the labor and delivery area empty armed and with a broken heart. I attended a wedding, though not the reception, as I was still weak. I saw an old friend, hugged her and just sobbed. My husband was just as devastated, but couldn't express his feelings the way I had. He was just afraid to conceive again and relive the pain.
On the Feast of the Presentation in 1996, I read this testimony at a special Mass of healing from miscarriage, stillbirth, and abortion. We read our stories, named our babies on special certificates, and offered them on the altar of the sacrifice of the Holy Mass. It was very healing for me, and for those timid single girls who came alone, sitting in the shadows, mourning their abortions. I believe it was my offering to God of the suffering I endured at the loss of Patrick Simeon, for those post-abortive women which prepared my heart for a new baby.
Our next pregnancy was successful, four years later, Isabella Maria was born. Two miscarriages followed, and I began to feel cursed, like the barren Old Testament women, and never dreamed that, five years after Isabella's birth, that God would bless us with my little Christina, who has Down Syndrome. I refused all tests beside sonograms, fearing that they would cause a miscarriage, and she was healthy at birth, however, only my family and I knew about her Down Syndrome before she was born. How did we know? Let's just say that we had some advance knowledge from Someone who loves us infinitely. Wait until my article comes out in the May/June issue of Faith and Family to find out!!

Friday, February 2, 2007

Gabby and I made up this quiz on the Baltimore Catechism, try it on your kids!

Do You Know Your Baltimore Catechism?We made up this quiz after I 100% on the Bible quiz, then checked the top quiz list, and saw that there were no Catholic quizzes there (and some horrendous ones on the occult and sex.
Thanks to savy, well-catechized Catholics, "Do You Know Your Baltimore Catechism?" has made it to #43 in the quizzes!
Well done! If you don't get a good score, buy a Baltimore Catechism here.
You are a 100% traditional Catholic!

Congratulations! You are more knowlegeable than most modern theologians! You have achieved mastery over the most important doctrines of the Catholic Faith! You should share your incredible understanding with others!

Do You Know Your Baltimore Catechism?
Make Your Own Quiz

Thursday, February 1, 2007

Catholic Kingdom Activities and Writing Contests

There's a perpetual carnival at Catholic Kingdom. It's a medieval themed website full of creative activities for Catholic children. Their motto is, "Learn, Love and Live the Faith". I picked up a flyer about it on the March for Life. Take a look.

Sam Brownback on Homeschooling

"I would like to take the opportunity to highlight the work of the Home School Legal Defense Association. Currently in America, we see the erosion of the family unit, increasing amounts of violence in video games and television shows, and a general lack of concern for the sanctity of human life. Pro-family groups like HSLDA are pivotal in setting America on the right track. While HSLDA continues its important work, we should remember that a society can remain healthy only when every human life is treated with the respect and dignity it deserves."
—Senator Sam Brownback