October 31, 2012

Birds of a Feather

You know, I'm not a real "group therapy" kinda gal.  But in this regard, I'll make an exception:  if you are a Catholic homeschooling mother, find yourself a support group.  I mean a good support group.  Christian is good; Catholic is best.  Find a group of like-minded Catholic homeschooling moms who are loyal to the Magisterium of the Church and share the same moral values and goals you do for raising children.

Together, you and these families will supply each other with spiritual cousins and the best possible peers you can find.  You will find that a good support group can be incredibly uplifting and very affirming in your vocation as a Catholic homeschooling mother.

For example, I wish you could have heard our discussion on the playground last week at soccer:

"Believe me," one mother snorted.  "I would NOT be doing this if God hadn't told me to do it."

Another nodded in agreement.  "Yeah," she said.  "I mean, do you think I do this for FUN!?"

(...*agreeable laughter*...)

Now, that might SOUND very negative, but if you were there you also would have seen the wry smiles of understanding and the humorous, loving glint in the eyes of mothers who (essentially) lay down their lives for their children EVERY DAY.  A scientist.  A lawyer.  A fund raising executive.  A real estate agent.  A teacher.  Each of them readily could enjoy a life of gainful employment and luxurious material perks with her additional income.

Instead, these mothers
teach several different grade levels of school and make hundreds of anonymous sacrifices daily so that their children intimately may know, love, and serve God in this world and be happy with Him forever in heaven.  After all, isn't that what it's all about?

(...please, do not start singing "The Hokey Pokey" here...)

Kathy, you were right -- this DID wind up on my blog, because the inspiration of fellow soldiers in the trenches was too good not to share!  The remembrance (and laughter!) of that single conversation already has buoyed me up on several occasions.

I hope it inspires anyone reading this also to know that, despite what our culture, the media, and the entertainment industry might tell you, you are NOT alone out there.

Ultimately, however, while the company you keep is important in life, in the final estimation it is up to you.


As our parish priest once wisely pointed out, Judas kept the best of company, and look what happened to him. 

October 30, 2012

Hurricane Sandy

Breezy Point, NYC - Hurricane Sandy, October 2012
Our hearts and prayers are with the folks up and down the Eastern seaboard who suffered loss of life and so very much damage from Hurricane Sandy over the past several days.  The emergency and rescue workers are our heroes.

"Do not look forward to what might happen tomorrow.  The same everlasting Father who cares for you today will take care of you tomorrow and every day.  Either He will shield you from suffering or he will give you unfailing strength to bear it."
(St. Francis de Sales)

O God, to whose commands all the elements give obedience, we humbly entreat you, that the stilling of fearsome storms may turn a powerful menace into an occasion for us to praise you. Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.  Amen. (from the Roman Missal)

May Our Lady enfold you in her mantle.  Please be assured of our prayers!

October 28, 2012

Priesthood Sunday

Today, the last Sunday in October, traditionally is known as Priesthood Sunday.  Please be sure to thank your parish priest today, and thank and pray for any other priests whom you may know.  Our Lady assures us that they need our prayers!

October 27, 2012

Tomorrow Is Priesthood Sunday

Tomorrow, the last Sunday in October, traditionally is known as Priesthood Sunday.  Please be sure to thank your parish priest this weekend, and thank and pray for any other priests whom you may know.  Our Lady assures us that they need our prayers!

October 21, 2012

Top 10 Tips for Wheelchair Etiquette

This past week, our Co-Op teen class generously welcomed my eldest son and me to share with them our "Top 10 Tips for Wheelchair Etiquette"!  We'd like to share them with you:
Wheelchair Etiquette

1.  The wheelchair is a part of the person's personal space.
Handling someone else's wheelchair or hanging items upon it implies a close, familiar, or familial relationship.  Request permission before taking such liberty. 

2.  Introduce yourself, shake hands, and talk normally and directly to the person, not the care giver.  Neither stare nor avoid eye contact.
Relax and make an open, friendly, first impression -- just as you would upon meeting any other person!

3.  Offer assistance, but don't insist.
It's kind to offer assistance -- just as you would upon meeting any other person -- but do not be pushy if the offer is demured.  The person in the wheelchair knows best what assistance s/he really needs.

4.  Use normal vocabulary.
Speak normally, just as you would to any other person.  I first learned this from our blind neighbor, when I mentioned "seeing" something and then apologized with embarrassment.  He laughed and assured me he "sees," just in a different way.  People in wheelchairs can "run along" or "walk down the street" or generally progress, too, just in a different way.

5.  Sit down, if possible, for an extended conversation.
It is awkward for a seated person to arch his/her neck back over a long period to converse with a person standing close by. Consider sitting down for an extended conversation or, if that's not possible, going down on one knee to speak at a mutual eye level.

6.  Answer children's questions matter-of-factly.
If I had a nickel for every child who innocently pointed at my son in his wheelchair and asked loudly, much to their parents' chagrin, "What's wrong with him?", I'd be as rich as Croesus.  Children are (sometimes brutally) honest.  But, they also respond well to honesty and kindness in return.  Simply smile, encourage the child to say hello or acknowledge the individual personally, and quietly explain the difficulty in brief, simple terms.  For example, my son has cerebral palsy and other related diagnoses, so I usually just say, "Well, this is [name]!  And his muscles don't always work the way they're supposed to, so he uses a wheelchair to get around."

7.  Thank the person and consider offering future assistance.
Express to the person how lovely it was to meet him/her -- just as you would upon meeting any other person!  If you feel moved to do so, make a sincere general offer to assist in the future, with whatever might be needed. 

8.  A person with a disability is not a "poor cripple."  In many ways, he or she is just like you!
It is difficult enough to compensate for a disability in one's life without enduring excessive and sometimes embarrassing or demeaning pity.  Try to see the unique, individual person and not his/her infirmity.

9.  If you don't know, just ask!
It is so heartwarming to receive even the most awkward inquiry when it is prefaced or made simply with genuine kindness, interest, or concern.  I'd much rather educate someone helpfully than have a person miss an opportunity to feel more comfortable around those with special needs.

10.  Afterward, remember the person in your prayers.  Pray for his/her strength in dealing with the disability, and thank God for your opportunity to care for others.
On the most elemental level, having or living with someone who has a severe disability brings a whole new level of appreciation to the old adage, "Well, at least you have your health!"  I can't speak for every person who is disabled, but I can tell you that my own experiences over the years have revealed that they are just like any other person you'd meet (do you sense a theme here?).  It's just that sometimes their cross to bear in life might be more visible than yours. 

I encourage you always to reach past your own hesitations and extend a hand of welcome, both literally and figuratively, to anyone you might encounter who has special needs.  Even if you don't know precisely what type of help or welcome to offer, your genuine smile and open kindness will be a thousand times more comforting to that person than if had you remained silent in your uncertainty and sidled away.

Who knows?  You just might be meeting the friend of a lifetime!

Thank you! 

October 20, 2012

The Gift of Humility

This week, another homeschooling mom showed inspiring humility by sharing with me (...okay, "venting!") some of her frustrations that day.  It seemed everything she had spent the past two decades teaching her children had flown directly out the window!  The laundry was mountainous; the kitchen was a sticky mess; and school work that day was most characterized by inattention.

Go figure!

Now, I will have you know that this mother is widely regarded as a "Super Mom" around here, so you know where I'm going with this:

"Whew!  Thank God!  It's not just me!"

It's never easy to have a "bad day" with our children, and on the most elemental level I think we moms actually are consoled by shared conversations that include the selfish relief of, "Whew!  It's not just me!"  When we see "Super Moms" who really DO have their act together in so many ways and for so many years, their "bad day" here or there gives the rest of us the encouragement of knowing that, even for the most talented mothers among us, not every day is perfect, even in homeschooling.

Now, I'm not encouraging you here to go out and gripe gloomily and endlessly about your vocation as a stay-at-homeschooling-mom (or whatever your parental situation is), which actually is quite a privilege.  I am, however, encouraging you not only to be a good listener to your mom-friends when they need to vent, but also to welcome the shared support of reciprocity in that regard.  Allow yourself to share your frustrations or perceived failures with a trusted confidant who shares similar moral and family goals, and I'd be willing to bet you both will end your conversation by feeling the relief of released anxiety.

Lift each other up in prayer and be renewed in your commitment to the gift of the lifestyle that God has given you and your family!

It is a gift of humility for us to step out from behind The Polite Facade we all wear to face the public.  Share that gift with a dear friend who can help you reorient your focus back to being on your knees, not in frustrated defeat, but in the triumph of grateful supplication and prayer.

As I like to say:  "In homeschooling, not every day will be perfect, but every day will be blessed."

So, the years might fly by, but if today feels like an eternity, think about what God might be wanting you to learn today -- and perhaps it's not geography, math, nor algebra.

Plus, in the immortal words of Scarlett O'Hara, don't worry about it too much.  Because, "after all, tomorrow is another day!"

October 14, 2012

Halloween + All Saints Costumes!

For many years, we were the fortunate attendees at an "All Saints Party," hosted by one of our homeschool group's wonderful families.  With a parade of saints, potluck dinner, hayrides, tree swings, saints' candy path (you knew there had to be candy, right?), bonfire, and a late night music jam, there was something for everyone, from toddlers to teens.  As the beneficiaries of this fabulous evening, we never really ran into the dilemma of "Halloween costumes" vs. "All Saints costumes."

Until now.

After nearly 20 years of welcoming well over 100 people to this festive annual event, and with their children all grown, that family understandably has retired from hosting it.  God is so very good, however -- another family generously has stepped up to open their home and continue the tradition.  (Thank you!)

The new "All Saints Party," however, will be held the weekend after Halloween.


"But, what will we do on Halloween!?" my children wailed (yes, we get plenty of practice with scary noises around here).

Trick or treating, for me, absolutely is out of the question.  There are far too many literally evil cultural influences on display and afoot on Halloween night to throw my lambs to the wolves just for the sake of a bag of candy.  The devil requires only the slightest invitation to.... (*shudder*).  Ugh.  Perish the thought.

But, because my children are well-schooled on the actual origins of "All Hallows' Eve" (the Eve of the Feast of All Saints, or all holy [holy being "hallowed", as in "Our Father, Who art in heaven, hallowed be Thy name..."] souls), the interest is there to dress up and indulge one's sweet tooth.

So, welcome to The Great Costume Debate!

It's actually not a huge problem around here.  My children still all are Lilliputians, who have neither the exposure to nor the stomach for the nauseatingly macabre costume fare available on the general market.  But, they still want something with the appropriate "wow factor" for the season.

Hellooooooo, St. Denis!

If you have a boy who is looking for a Halloween costume, while you are looking for his All Saints costume, then St. Denis is the man for you!  While many male saints can be represented in costume with a wide and varied assortment of masculine accoutrement and dangerous weapons, I've only seen St. Denis justifiably portrayed carrying around his own decapitated head.

No, really!  It's true!  Look here:


Another great resource for costume ideas for little ones always can be found on Lacy's blog at Catholic Icing.  She has costume ideas for both girls and boys.  She even has lists of groups of saints for family dress up!

And of course, here's an awesome list of saint costume ideas, from kilts to crosses and peasants to priests!

A blessed All Hallows Eve!  Enjoy!

October 11, 2012

An Opportunity for Charity

"I love Blessed Mother Theresa of Calcutta (who's going to say they don't, right?).  I loved her philosophy of, “Show me the money!”

No, really.  It’s true.

When I worked for Catholic Relief Services (CRS) (crs.org), we were well-familiar with Mother Teresa’s Missionaries of Charity (motherteresa.org) based in Calcutta, India.  CRS was one of the first organizations in the early 1970s to recognize her vital mission.  “They gave me milk, when no one else would,” she remembered when visiting the agency’s headquarters in Baltimore, MD in 1996.  Since the agency maintains a presence in Calcutta, CRS staff have volunteered in Mother Teresa’s homes for the dying and other establishments for “the poorest of the poor.”

And it was a well-known fact that if you were able-bodied and showed up on her doorstep, you didn’t show up empty-handed.

“You’d better have either a check or a mop in your hands,” one agency member cheerfully recalled, shaking his head with a grin.  “Mother is nobody’s fool.”

Mother Teresa advocated that one must never deny a person the opportunity for charity, for that act of charity might be the salvation of that person’s soul.  But, charity must be given not only in the coinage of the world but in the currency of heaven, too:

“Let us more and more insist on raising funds of love, of kindness, of understanding, of peace. Money will come.  If we seek first the Kingdom of God, the rest will be given.” (Bl. Mother Teresa of Calcutta)

I invite you today to open your hearts and your resources to some extraordinary, special-needs students, who are seeking the Kingdom of God, striving to learn about and understand, through hands-on science, the world which God created for them!  It might seem like a small, superfluous, or simple thing to support a little child’s science class when there are many, many critical needs in our world today.

But, God has placed each of us within each other’s orbit to do what we can for those who are closest to us.  For a child with special needs to comprehend even one more tiny aspect of the world around him – that IS a vital need!

And these children are right here in our local community, in our own back yard.  As a matter of fact, one of them is there right now.  Here.  In my own back yard.

No, really.  I can see him out the kitchen window.

He’s my son.

“If you can’t feed a hundred people, then feed just one.” (Bl. Mother Teresa of Calcutta)

I humbly present and encourage you to support an inspiring opportunity for charity – my son’s special needs science class of some of the most severely and profoundly disabled and delightful children in Ms. Sally Grove’s class at Rock Creek School in Frederick, MD.

The details of her course (making abstract concepts real), materials, and costs (less than $650 for the entire year!) may be found here (and below at the end of this blog post):

I hope you will join me in supporting these kids and Ms. Sally (she was Frederick County’s “Special Educator of the Year” last year!).  Every dollar counts – even $5.00 means the world!  And if you donate by October 16th and use the match code, “INSPIRE,” your gift will be DOUBLED!

“Let us not be satisfied with just giving money. Money is not enough, money can be got, but they need your hearts to love them. So, spread your love everywhere you go.” (Bl. Mother Teresa of Calcutta)

Thank you so much for considering these kids in your hearts and prayers!!!
“Let Me Get My Hands on That -- Making Science Real!!!”
Rock Creek School
Science Teacher:  Ms. Sally Grove
My Students: Learning science can be tough for any student, but for my special needs students, it is especially challenging.  I teach the best students in the world!  Our school serves over 100 of the most severely and profoundly disabled students, ages 3 to 21, who function developmentally from Toddler to 2nd Grade.  I teach middle school science.

My Project: My students require hands-on learning materials they can view, touch, and maneuver to understand abstract concepts and make science REAL.  Manipulatives allow a hands-on experience to make science real, fun, and meaningful!

Project Details
RE266 - Lens & Prism Set
Lakeshore Learning
LC3540X - Prepared Slides - Complete Set
Lakeshore Learning
FS326 - Super-Safe Prisms - Set of 6
Lakeshore Learning
BA109 - See-Inside Bucket Balance
Lakeshore Learning
EA133 - Count Up & Count Down Digital Timer
Lakeshore Learning
JJ159 - Lakeshore Electricity Lab
Lakeshore Learning
DS575 - Simple Machines Activity Cards
Lakeshore Learning
DS574 - Simple Machines Discovery Set
Lakeshore Learning
GR700 - Life Cycle Sequencing Kit
Lakeshore Learning
DD904 - Life Cycle of a Frog Elementary Specimen Set
Lakeshore Learning
FS491 - Human X-Rays - Set of 18
Lakeshore Learning
CE501 - Magnetic Field Wonder Window
Lakeshore Learning
LC1011 - Sink or Float Exploration Kit
Lakeshore Learning
EE512 - Lakeshore Magnet Kit
Lakeshore Learning

Project cost excluding donation to support DonorsChoose.org
5 Donors