Showing posts with label Child Rearing. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Child Rearing. Show all posts

Monday, July 21, 2014

God is in the Details; Mom is in the Laundry Room

Or, uh...  maybe she's not...

I love this sentiment.  And I know perfectly well that it's true, but I have such a long time before I find it out for myself, it's more like a dream bubble.  Sort of like how I have a crazy notion that I'm going to drink a quart of lemon water and exercise first thing in the morning instead of drinking coffee and playing on my computer. It'll happen some day.
She says, "You're kidding, aren't you?
As if you had it hard, crazy woman?"

 It could theoretically happen.  (Sure it could.)

But, right now I'm having a dickens of a time with laundry.   Piles and piles of it, made all the worse because we have a pool and all the bathing suits and beach towels that come with it, make a constant, never-ending circuit through the washing machine.  Ugh.  Nice problem to have, I guess --  if you're a kid dropping your wet swim trunks and towel in the middle of the bathroom floor and expect a clean set to appear by the next day.  (Haha!  Get over it, kids.)  

But if you're me, it gets pretty tedious.  Especially living in this particular house, which has the "convenience" of a laundry room upstairs with the bedrooms.  Seems like a good idea, right? And maybe it is for some people; but it's not working for me.  The problem is that I don't usually hang around upstairs during the day.  The "action" is downstairs, so I go down there and just plain old forget about the laundry. I put it in the washer in the morning with every good intention -- and then promptly forget about it until the next morning.  When it is, of course, smelly and sour and has to be washed again.

Just this morning I finally succeeded in folding and putting away a basket of towels that I'd had to re-wash three times! The towels finally smell nice and clean but they're three shades paler than they were when they started.  I'm sick of the sight of them, and forgetting them every day three days in a row has caused a veritable laundry log jam.  I'm not sure if anyone in the house has had clean underwear for a week now.
(Don't worry, though...  It's not as bad as it sounds; people around here wear swimsuits a lot.)

So, the solution? Either I hang out upstairs more (ignore the children and type blog posts, right?), or set the alarm on my phone to remind me to run upstairs and change over laundry.  (Which will work if I keep my phone on my person all day -- something I seldom do, especially if I'm swimming...)  Or I get the children to remind me...  Ahahaha!  Yeah. Riiight.  Maybe if I remind them to remind me...

But what else can I do?

=sigh=  Maybe all  I can do is take heed of the meme.  I thank God I don't have
worse problems than forgetting about the laundry -- when so many people in the world still wash their clothes with rocks on riverbanks.  When there are folks who'd be delighted to do their own laundry, but can't because they're too ill.  When moms reach that time when they have almost no laundry because their children are grown and gone, and the house seems very quiet without the washer and dryer running all the time behind the sounds of their voices.  And there is nothing but the one meager load of clothes to wash twice a week or so, which they don't forget about because there's not much else going on in the house.  And, did I say it's quiet --  and lonely? And rather dull. But the clothes are always clean...

It doesn't change the irritation of always forgetting the laundry, or going up and down the stairs to tend to it, but when I imagine all the dirty clothes as symbols of a happy house full of active dirt-absorbing children, I have to agree:  even smelly laundry is a blessing.

Especially if it's smelly because I was hanging out with the children when I forgot about it.

(Still... Here's to figuring out a way to avoid doing that! Maybe memory supplements are in order...)

Friday, January 31, 2014

Feast Day of the Apostle of Youth

January 31st

"Enjoy yourself as much as you like – if only you keep from sin."

~ St. John Bosco

One of the mottos of our life -- especially since we've raised teenagers, these words of Don Bosco's are simple to understand, but, boy, they can be difficult sometimes for a young person to carry out! St. John Bosco knew the problem well, caring for the bodies and souls of  scores of boys and girls in Italy in the late nineteenth century, and parents today know the same challenge.   It doesn't matter when in history a child lives, life can be full of confusion and trouble -- especially when the child is trying to find his footing on the way into adult life.  In Don Bosco's day, just as in ours, enjoying one's self while not sinning could be a trick to pull off.   Going out to have fun with friends very often carried the temptation to walk the tightrope of morality  in the best case -- and to jump right off, in the worst.

And it is tough out there to "keep your nose clean," especially in the teen years -- when everything's in turmoil, anyway. But, as if that weren't enough, our children today are bombarded with assaults to their purity, their integrity, and their faith at every turn. There's practically no escaping it!  It's too easy for the best of kids to give into pressure and believe that enjoyment means fun that is "adult" or illicit. In their hurry to grow up in a world that forces adult themes on them from day one, it can be easy for young people to forget the simple pleasure of wholesome fun.

I guess most of us here in the choir probably see the problem.  But what can we do?

Here are some thoughts -- stream-of-consciousness style:

(Do please feel free to skip this meandering if you like! It's long!)

Stress wholesome fun!  This is easy.  Just play! * Start with rolling the babies  a ball, end with pitching it to them. * Teach your toddlers to roll the ball to one another. * Teach one to praise the other when they catch it.  Never forget what a joy your babies and toddlers are!  (They grow up so fast!) * Make dimples in your cheeks more than you creases in your forehead.  * Praise one another behind each other's back.  * Never criticize behind another's back.  * Correct, when necessary, gently and in privacy.  * Choose your children's friends wisely and exclusively for as long as you can. * Be ruthless about it.  * Teach them to discriminate friendships safe and unsafe for their souls so that when they can choose for themselves, they'll do so wisely.  * Make up softball (or football or volleyball) teams with parish families and make sure to play together after Mass every Sunday possible. ( This is far more valuable for children's far-reaching growth and development than any "organized" sport you will ever enroll them in.) *  Never take for granted what a joy your single-digit children are! (They grow up so fast!) * Play card and board games as a family. * At the drop of a hat. * Often.  * Turn off the TV.   * Laugh. * Laugh as often as you can.  * But never tease. * See good wholesome movies. * Screen them ahead of time (Google them!) for content and make a big deal out of seeing them together and with friends. * Explain why these movies are good movies. * Explain why you don't see other movies.  * Be a good example; don't see a movie you wouldn't want your children seeing.  * If in doubt, don't go see a movie (or play, or concert) you wouldn't invite the Blessed Mother to attend.  * Enjoy every moment with your adolescents and young teens! (They grow up so fast!) * Read good, wholesome books. * Tell your children about them.  * Read out loud.  * Every day. * Recommend good books to everyone in the family.  * Explain why they're good books. * Explain why others are not. * Tell the story of your life. * Detail your best moments * Include your embarassing moments. * Laugh at the silly stuff!  * Explain your mistakes. * Tell what you should have done differently and why. * Listen to your children's stories. * Ask them about their day.  * Even if you've spent the whole day with them!  * Apologize when you're wrong  * Spend one-on-one time with each child (and your spouse!)  as often as you can. * Even if it's just while you load the dishwasher. * Sing. * Sing a lot. * Loudly. *  Even if it's badly. * Spend every moment you can with your teens and young adults!  (They grow up so fast!)  * Praise good behaviour; never qualify bad behaviour as anything other than bad, but discuss it always in relationship to Our Lord's Sacred heart.  *Talk about God. * In everything you do.  * Be on a first-name basis with the saints.  * Include them in all the good stuff, not just the trouble!  * Blend the Church calendar in with all the other calendars that are important to your family.  * But make God's appointments always take precedence.  * Be sure your children know it is an occasion to be sad for others when they pressure you to put God second (or third, or worse), and never never give in.  * Introduce Mary as a second mother; love her tenderly; depend upon her. * Pray.  * Smile and even laugh when you pray. * Pray alone. * Pray in pairs when you go out walking.  * Pray in groups altogether. * Pray in the morning.  * Pray at night. * Never miss the family rosary.  * Pray when you get in the car.  * Pray when you arrive home safely.  * Bless heaven and earth with smiles and laughter.  * Enjoy every minute of it.  * As much as you like.  * Only keep from sinning.

We're still in the trenches here at our house, in this business of child-raising  -- and I guess we will be until the day we die.  We've found out that parenthood most definitely doesn't end when the children move out of the house!  Out of our ten, we have four sons and one daughter officially "on their own" now and have been parenting for twenty-five years.  And we're still learning; make no mistake!   Each child and each passing year brings its own challenges and lessons.  We don't have it all figured out and never will.

But we have learned a couple things: 1) We can never, ever rest on our laurels; the devil would like nothing better and the world is a tough competitor for our children's hearts and souls.  We have to keep vigilant, keep studying, keep praying.   And, 2) We must always call on our heavenly patrons for their invaluable help. By prayer, and when possible, by reading their words of advice. There is little we've learned about raising children (especially teenage boys), for example,  that we haven't gleaned from St. John Bosco and the Salesian method.  Anything we might have thought we figured out ourselves, we later learned was a teaching of the good Salesian Fathers. You have to know, then, that it's with great caution that I suggest anyone follow any of our examples, but with the greatest confidence I recommend you to the writings of Don Bosco and his the traditional method of his Order.  It's for good reason that our saint is called the patron of youth; his influence with them was great on earth -- and is still great today from heaven.

Good Don Bosco,  Pray For Us!

Prayer to Saint John Bosco

O glorious Saint John Bosco, who, in order to lead young people to the feet of the divine Master and to form them in the light of faith and Christian morality, didst heroically sacrifice thyself to the very end of thy life and didst found a fitting religious Institute destined to endure and to bring to the farthest boundaries of the earth thy glorious work, obtain also for us from our Lord a holy love for young people, who are exposed to so many seductions, in order that we may generously spend ourselves in supporting them against the snares of the devil, in keeping them safe from the dangers of the world, and in guiding them, pure and holy, in the path that leads to God. Amen

(Indulgence of 300 days)

Prayer of St. John Bosco to the Blessed Virgin Mary

O Mary, powerful Virgin, thou art the mighty and glorious protector of holy Church; thou art the marvelous help of Christians; thou art terrible as an army in battle array; thou alone hast destroyed every heresy in the whole world. In the midst of our anguish, our struggles and our distress defend us from the power of the enemy and at the hour of our death receive our souls in paradise. Amen.

(Indulgence of 3 years)

Books for children:
Stories of Don Bosco
St. John Bosco and St. Dominic Savio (Vision Book)

For us older folks:
Forty Dreams of St. John Bosco: The Apostle of  Youth
Biography: St. John Bosco (F.A. Forbes)
Several pamphlets about the Salesian method and Don Bosco can be found here, as well.

Some former posts with more ideas for today's feast day, plus links, here.

* This is a repost from a couple of years ago -- with a couple of small updates to reflect our growing and "moving out and up" children.

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Words Mean Things

From the Mom Files: vintage July, 2008.  A look back, at a topic that's always fresh in our parenting journey.  Check out little two-year-old William! Goodness, how time has flown!  But, this post is still so much of what I still think about when raising our children. And -- now -- in watching our little grandbaby grow and learn, too.

Our two-year-old was rudely stopped mid-cavort across the dining room floor the other day because he'd stepped on a dreaded goat head. No matter how hard we try to keep the floors swept here, no matter how hard we try to enforce the "shoes-off-at-the-door" policy, we just can't keep the dang things out of the house. And, oh, man, do they hurt to step on!

So, our little guy, having unfortunately stumbled onto one, let out a Yowl, of course, followed by this pieced together junior tirade of frustration: "Goathead foot hurt! Again! Again! Again!" (Which is the translation of what really sounded more like: "Goheed foot hoot! 'Geen! 'Geen! 'Geen!")

I couldn't help but smile as I scooped him up to pluck out the sticker and kiss his dirty little foot. What tickled me, though, was not an inappropriately wicked sense of humor (Really!), but the fact that William had understood and used the concept of "again" so perfectly. Isn't it amazing?

I love it! I love watching the world come together for the children, and I love listening to them learn to communicate about it. The good and the not-so-good. And even dumb old goatheads. Little ones learn language so easily, with so much serendipity, really, it's nothing short of miraculous. Just two and a half short years ago, this little boy could not hold his head up by himself. And now he understands and can communicate abstract concepts! It's amazing!

And, scary, too, in a way. Little ones listen to us more closely than we realize sometimes. Not just the simple meanings of words impress themselves on those little ears, but nouances and subtleties that we adults take for granted ~ until we hear them out of the mouths of our babes.

"Tomorrow is always a long time," my four year old has told me, understanding the full meaning of that concept more clearly, I think, than we adults do in our hurry. How easily I say to him, "I don't have time now; let's do it tomorrow. Or later." He knows I'm missing the boat I think. Gabey understands that tomorrow really is a long way off. How important it is to make now as important to me as it is to my little four-year-old ~ and as important as it is to Our Heavenly Father, who judges me on every single now.

Have you noticed how differences between Like, Love, and Hate become part of the children's lexicons very early on, in their hearts and on their tongues? William "yikes" cookies, but he "yuvs" Mommy and Daddy, and, incidentally, anybody who gives him a cookie... If we pay attention, we can't help but hear the constant learning process going on, and it can be sobering to realize how we parents communicate our values in our daily actions and communication.
In saying the rosary, the little ones learn early that Mary and Jesus are people we love very much. Why on earth would we spend so much time saying their names over and over again if we didn't? If we speak words of Faith ~ our prayers, the names of the saints, references to the Mass ~ with a smile on our lips, the smallest child understands that these are beloved things. If we say, "We get to go to Jesus' House this morning!" instead of "Hurry up! We have to go to church!" children get the meaning very clearly.

Likewise, in family life, the long term relationship amongst siblings can be determined early by how Mama and Daddy speak of brothers and sisters to one another. If we repeat over and over again, starting in infancy, "Your brother/sister loves you so much. Isn't God good to have given you to each other?" we set up an expectation and responsibility in each child that can only lead to good. Along the same lines, if we praise a child's good behaviour by saying, "Look what a wonderful example that was for your little brother/sister?" or "Look at the baby! I bet she learned to say 'please' by listening to you, didn't she?" we begin a habit of good associations that can help bridge the years of petty squabbles every family's bound to have.

Of course, conversely, if we slip into the habit of comparisons, or criticisms, they learn to be negative and jealous. Children learn charity, or the lack of it, with the same eyes and ears.

I was drawn up short one day, when one of our children said she didn't ever want to go to Mexico because there were so many illegal aliens there. I have to admit, that at first I laughed about that. It really was a pretty funny line... But then I felt terrible that through our conversation, we had unwittingly given her the impression that she was not supposed to like Mexico ~ that Mommy and Daddy had a grudge against Mexico, and that whatever illegal aliens might be, they were something to dislike. And while I have grave misgiving about some of the immigration policies in our country, I truly mean no grudge against the Mexican people. Some of my favorite people are Mexican and I admire the special love Mexico has traditionally held for the Faith. Nevertheless, I had inadvertently started my daughter down a path to bigotry against these people. My unguarded tongue and lack of complete explanation had misguided her.

It's easy to make the same mistake when discussing individuals. Gossip is such a natural and easy trap to get caught in, almost everyone is guilty of it sometimes. We often don't even realize we're doing it. Like most extended families, ours struggles with fallen-away family members, and some who have a difficult time fighting off the temptations of the world. And we do talk about it, oftentimes without the care we should. The children need to understand that following the examples of these loved ones is worse than riding a unicycle on the edge of a cliff. But, there's also a fine line between passing on a warning and passing along scandal.

One of the best ways we've found to try and prevent crossing that line is to talk about bad examples with the children, not in front of them. It's always best to avoid letting them overhear us talking about other souls in trouble; we must be conscious to carefully and briefly explain a bad situation and make a lesson of it. And, then, most importantly, we have to spend more time remembering these people in our family prayers, than we do in talking about them. We teach our children this guideline for talking about others: If it truly does not help you or the people involved to discuss a problem, dont' discuss it. And satisfying curiosity doesn't help anyone.

If you're a chatterbox like I am, this can be a serious challenge! But, the children hear everything. More than we think they do! More than we might like them to! And it all gets filed away in those little brains. We can't be vigilant enough! So many words, so many images bombard our children's senses, and with so many bad influences in the world, it's so very important to make sure that those receptors can filter out the junk and find what is good and true. Our examples, our every word, have to resonate in their hearts, from their earliest memories, with love and consistency. We have to consciously fill every moment, every single now, with words and actions that lift them ~ and us! ~ heavenward.

To some this may sound like obsession or fanaticism. (And I've heard it described that way...) But can something be bad ~ or overkill ~ when it's about love? We can't love God too much. We can't love our children too much with Him in the formula ~ when we love them through and for and because of Our Heavenly Father and His Goodness.
Is there a more important lesson for our children to learn than this? Do we consciously teach it to them? Or can they pick it up instinctively? They could stumble across it, I guess, but why take that chance? It's our job to teach our children about Divine Love through our love ~ in all our actions and in all our words. We have to start telling them in the cradle. And then we have to keep on telling them.

Again and again and again.
PS: Don't worry. I didn't stop to take that first pic up there of poor little Yuyum crying after he hurt his wee tootsie. I may giggle sometimes, but I would never stop to stop a picture... &:o) It was actually taken later on when he was play-whining. Just thought enquiring minds might want to know... &:o)

Saturday, February 18, 2012


This is my mother's high school graduation picture.  Doesn't she look like a movie star?  Everyone looked glamorous in portraits taken in the 1940s and '50s, didn't they?  But, still, really... while my Mom was truly lovely, inside and out, she was just a simple country girl from rural North Carolina, prettily freckled, with auburn hair and a decided tendency toward wearing plaid. She had nothing whatsoever in common with a Hollywood Startlette -- except for her glamorous senior picture.

 Back in Mom's day, everyone wanted to look like Audrey or Liz or Grace.  And why not?  Their images were not necessarily untarnished, but the persona that exuded from their publicity shots was graceful, feminine, and really, truly beautiful.  They appealed to our naturally ingrained idea of aesthetics, and with a practiced hand at makeup, a carefully chosen wardrobe, and a phographer who knew how to get the look, almost any girl of my mother's day could look -- and feel -- like a movie star -- at least for her senior portraits.

But, oh my stars! Perish the thought that any of my daughters would want to look like a movie star nowadays!

Not to say that modern movie stars aren't beautiful women; many really are.  But, a large majority of the publicity shots they circulate are neither attractive, nor particularly dignified.  They can certainly "clean up" well when they want to, but, more often than not, their dirty laundry is hanging out for everyone to see, figuratively and literally.  The classic beauties of our day, in the media, and very often out here in the real world,  are either lost under faddy attempts to be extreme and "cutting edge" or they're purposely blase'.  And they leave nothing to the imagination, if you know what I mean.

It's shameful.  What a distraction from the real beauty God has given them.

The classic beauties of my mother's day were worthy of imitation --  if not always in their lifestyle, usually in their appearance -- while today's teenagers have women like Lady Gaga and Brittany Speers for role models. Heaven help us.  And, though, most teenage girls don't try to imitate Lady Gaga in their senior pictures, it's unfortunate that her media popularity forms part of the background against which girls today form their tastes -- and their values.  This worries me, because it's practically impossible to completely insulate our children from what goes on in the world -- and it's really not a good idea to even try.  Kids have to know what they're inheriting from us, and what they have a responsibility to try to fix if they're going to make their world better.
But what's a Catholic mother to do?

I have my mother's senior picture displayed, along with many images of the Mother of God -- all over the house--  in hopes that these are the models our girls will use to compare against what they see in the world.  I want the gentle smiling face of the Blessed Virgin, in her purity and modesty, to form the background of their decision-making, every morning when they get dressed.  I want them to remember the beautiful, modest image of my mother's senior portrait and aspire to that kind of dignified and graceful beauty.

It's also a good exercise to discreetly comment to the children (the boys and girls) about someone who is inappropriately dressed, judging the outfit, mind you, and not the person.  We say things like, "Well, that would be a really cute shirt if it were a couple sizes bigger," or that dress would be perfect with a satin and lace neckline and sleeves, wouldn't it?"  And we make sure to comment on well-chosen, modest outfits, too.  The Sisters, especially, point this out to the young people, complimenting them to encourage them in wholesome choices.

And, not the least important, we just simply don't buy clothes that are immodest.  Just doesn't happen on my watch.  When the children grow up and begin to buy their own clothes, I continue to observe and remark on how beautiful and how handsome they are -- and how their Guardian Angel would or would not be pleased with how they looked.  And did they consider that when they got dressed this morning? 
It's a choice we need to teach our children gently but firmly:  Decide, dear children, to be beautiful inside and out.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

For the Feast of the Presentation of Mary

Monday, November 21st
(A repost from 2008)

It is traditional belief that St. Anne and St. Joachim dedicated their only daughter, Mary, to God in her earliest years, offering the great sacrifice of having her brought up in the Temple. Not in their own home. It's a difficult concept for loving parents to get their brains around.

Having done it myself, I can understand and sympathize with the difficult decision to send older children ~ teenagers ~ away to be educated. But toddlers? It's hard to imagine.

But Mary was no ordinary toddler.

We have to understand that Our Blessed Mother was singularly blessed, not only in her spotless person, but in her parents. They obviously heard God's Will and had the courage and faith to obey it. The place for their extraordinary little girl, the woman who was to be the Mother of God, was away from the world,in a place where she could be raised as close to the Father as it was possible. There were some of the saints who were dedicated in the same way as small children, and it was surely no easy decision for their parents to make, either. But, it's heart-rending, isn't it, to think of it in terms of our own families, our own small children?

Sure, we want our children to be saints. But, to dedicate them to God so completely that we give them up? In this day and age, the practical application doesn't even exist. Maybe that's a good thing. Who on Earth could we trust so completely?

But, we can dedicate our children to God without sending them away. In fact, in our times, one of the best ways to dedicate them to Heaven is to keep them centered in our homes, steeped in our Faith.

We can teach them service to God through our example in practicing the Corporal and Spiritual Works of Mercy.

The boys can learn to serve at the altar, the girls can learn to arrange the altar flowers and take care of the linens. (These are things young Mary undoubtedly learned to do!)

When we educate our children, we can be sure to teach them also the universal interrelationship with Divine Providence ~ in all that they learn, in math and the sciences, language, art, and music, even shop class, home ec and PE.

By our example, we teach them habits of goodness and respect for the discipline of faith.

We pray for them and teach them to pray.

It all comes round in a circle, back to God: cause, effect, and purpose. When our children laugh and play they can send their wholesome happiness heavenward, and it will be received as prayers. When they sleep, when they wake, when they celebrate, when they suffer, our children can be gaining merit. Every minute of the day. We dedicate them to God by teaching them to dedicate themselves to Him. Whether they are two or twenty-two, we, as their parents, can and should teach them that their identity is with and through Him. And that, whatever their eventual vocation is, saecular or religious, they will find no greater happiness on this earth than they will knowing, loving and serving God.

Teaching them these things, and living with Christ the King as the center of our family universe ~ this is how we dedicate our children to God.

In this day and age, it's not an easy thing to do. The world, the devil, and our own bad inclinations all conspire against us. It's not easy overcoming the message of the average American saecular humanist ~ who doesn't understand that goodness is happiness and worldliness is not. But, it's well worth the trouble; the rewards are eternal!

Saints Anne and Joachim are ideal patrons for parents whose goal is to raise their children above the world. And the Blessed Mother, herself, is the tenderest guide.

Prayer for Mothers

Father in heaven, grant me the grace to appreciate the dignity which you have conferred on me. Let me realize that not even the Angels have been blessed with such a priviledge - to share in your creative miracle and bring new Saints to heaven.
Make me a good mother to all my children after the example of Mary,the Mother of your Son. Through the intercession of Jesus and Mary I ask your continued blessings on my family. Let us all be dedicated to your service on earth and attain the eternal happiness of your kingdom in heaven. Amen.

Prayer to St. Joachim and St. Anne

Great and glorious patriarch, St Joachim, and good St Anne, what joy is mine when I consider that you were chosen among all God's holy ones to assist in the fulfillment of the mysteries of God, and to enrich our earth with the great Mother of God, Mary most holy. By this singular privilege, you have become most powerful with both the Mother and her Son, so as to be able to obtain for us the graces that are needful to us.

With great confidence I have recourse to your mighty protection, and I commend to you all my needs, both spiritual and temporal, and those of my family. Especially do I entrust to your keeping the particular favour that I desire and look for from your intercession.

And since you were a perfect pattern of the interior life, obtain for me the grace to pray earnestly, and never to set m heart on the passing goods of this life. Give me a lively and enduring love for Jesus and Mary. Obtain for me also a sincere devotion and obedience to Holy church and the sovereign pontiff who rules over her, in order that I may live an die in faith and hope and perfect charity. Let me ever invoke the holy Names of Jesus and Mary. And may I thus be saved.

Friday, May 6, 2011

Low-tech Woman in a High Tech World

Petra --Book art by Brian Dettmer.
You've got to go check this guy out!

We've been using Google since the nineties here at our homeschooling household, and, let me tell you, it was a heaven-sent replacement for our garage-sale-set of 1959 World Book Encyclopedias*.  But I have to admit I do miss leafing through those musty pages, following the reference leads from book to dusty book.

 I have a cell phone, too, of course and am always grateful for the security of instant contact in an emergency -- not to mention the ease of communicating with our far-flung family.  And,  no kidding, texting is the bomb!  But, man oh man, is it hard now to really remove myself from distraction; focus on anything from prayer to following a recipe is almost always interrupted by a text or phone call. (Bless you, though, children, this does not mean I want you calling or texting less!  I'm just sayin'...)

A prenatal MP3 player...
Get yours here!
  I have an MP3 player, but have fond memories of record albums and 8-track tapes.  I had a wonky 8-track player in my first car that played everything in high speed;  Monster Mash is hysterical when the  Beachboys sound like chipmunks.  And I still enjoy listening to music on the radio -- just for the unexpectedness of it.  The MP3 player never plays songs I don't like, but it also never serves up anything new, either.

It's an amazing technological world our children are growing up in.  And it's wonderful and exciting, but I have to admit that it worries me, too.  Though we have Blue Ray players and laptops and wireless Pandora at our house....  we've tried hard to keep things real, too.  We've brought our children up in a farm setting so that they would understand the cycle of life and the beauty of God's providence in nature.  We've tried hard to instill a good work ethic and a core of creativity and practical ability.  All the kids know how to cook, for instance, and can figure out how to corale an escaped cow into the barn if needed.  They can play for hours with nothing but chalk and rocks and jumpropes.   And time to curl up with a good old-fashioned book is a luxury they all enjoy.

  But they are still children of the digital age. There's no getting around the fact that the world is spinning around our babies very, very quickly and it's all very enticing.  Everything is instantaneous and loaded with fireworks.  Anything a child could possibly want is at his fingertips -- a click away.  If a kid wants to be a ship's captain and sail the seven seas, he doesn't have to read a book or play pretend with his Leggos, or learn how to sail so someday he can own his own boat--  all he has to do is click a couple buttons, fly through Paypal, skip the tutorial, and he's off in an amazingly detailed and exciting adventure on the high seas -- in a video game.  Easy.

And, sure it's fun, but is this high tech, high speed environment really good for "growing up"  our next generation? Is it good for the psyche of our nation that these things are taken for granted? Since I'm an "old-timer,"  I can Google my research but still remember how to use an encyclopedia; I can enjoy my cell phone and appreciate not being lassoed by a phone cord to one room in our house; I can slip in my earbuds and power walk to Jack Johnson, but remember the hours of Statler Brothers spinning on the turntable of my parents' stereo when I was a kid...  And I like having that history.  This next generation doesn't have the comparisons and appreciations that my peers and I do.  Children today arrive in this world on a Disney digitally-simulated rocket ride into space -- and don't remember the rickety old wooden roller coasters of my youth... 

No babies really inhaled nicotine
in the making of this image --
we certainly do hope...
 And I haven't even touched on the topic that worries me the most: the sad fact is that a lot of what's "out there" is not as wholesome as the high seas adventure computer game I mentioned -- but it's just as easily accessed.   How do we work around not only the innocent diversions of our high tech world, but the dangerous temptations and the evil that is also just a click away?  How can parents and educators compete with it all -- and teach children enough focus that they can really apply themselves to anything amidst all the distraction?

Our second son, Kevvy, has a blog where he discusses a lot of these issues dealing with education and technology and it's interesting to see his take on these things.    He recently linked to an educator in a high-tech high school who  lamented:

Not long ago, students would ball up scraps of notebook paper and pass them around the room. They now instant message three friends at once. Boys would tuck copies of Sports Illustrated under their textbooks — now they open another tab at They no longer fold elaborate fortune-tellers out of loose-leaf; instead they go online to check horoscopes or play role-play games. When I spoke at a conference last year on being a young teacher in a progressive technology school, the most important understanding shared was that I was not as interesting as what they could pull up on their screens.  (Find the link to the rest of the article here.)

Cartoon taken from Paul Silli's blog post
 "Why Should School Districts Invest in

It's a puzzle, isn't it?  What are ya gonna do?  It's not like technology is just here for a trial run and we can decide against it....  We don't have too much trouble in our world keeping tabs on things, though; our Catholic school kids' experience is low tech for the most part and closely supervised, and we can easily control our homeschoolers' use of the computer, --but it's easy to see how gadget control in the classroom could be a problem in the larger world.  If it's not laptops, it's cell phones; and if it's not cell phones, it's ipods...  Kids these days!  =sigh= 

I guess there's consolation in the fact that every new "modern day" has its unique problems.  Our great grandparents worried about the dangers of electricity and our grandparents watched the effects of television with a wary eye (and rightly so, imho) -- and the effects of these inventions have been enormous -- but most of the world  now takes them for granted. For better or worse.

If only the better part of discrimation came with the worst part of all the access; if only wisdom came with the knowlege. Like most new things, we always have been and always will be able to choose how much -- and whether or not -- we use technology.  It's not all bad.   I'm convinced that there are ways of harnessing the use of modern technology to enhance education and further our society in good and wholesome ways.  And I know that there are teachers and parents out there right now who are working toward this goal...  But it does seem like a the very nature of the problems with our day's new inventions makes them difficult to control.  Information is everywhere!  And it's not all good, either.  It scares me for the upcoming generations.  Too often our worst instincts take over and before we know it, the lowest common denominator becomes the norm. 

Horse and Buggy Days -- Paul Detlefsen
 But don't get me wrong -- I'm not living like the Amish here in Western Colorado; I'm as addicted to technology as anybody. (Check it out: I have a blog!)  But I still wonder if we weren't really better off in the days of the horse and buggy when we provided our own entertainment -- by writing letters and sending them by snail mail, by playing our own music instead of listening to someone else's recording, by reading stories aloud instead of watching television, by enjoying nature instead of playing the wii, and by talking with each other in person instead of texting.  I wonder if we weren't happier when we had less.  When we saw and heard less and perhaps understood more.  I mean, when life was slower don't you think enjoyment may have been sweeter?

Wouldn't you like to live in a Jesse Wilcox Smith kind of world?

I would.

But, then,  before I had internet access, I don't think I knew who Jesse Wilcox Smith was...  And in less than ten minutes, I was able to download seven of her beautiful paintings and share them with others who might not have ever heard of her. 

So, hmmm... Technology: good or bad?

I don't know.  It's complicated.

*  Just an interesting aside:  Check out how to repurpose old encyclopedias:  Hints from Heloise, June, 2010

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

On potties and phonics and the changing of the seasons...

In a little nook by the radiator in the bathroom sits a little blue potty and a bag of Pullups ~ that William, who's good-n-three-years-old now, wants no part of. And I'm ok with that. Seven or eight children ago I might have been worried he was falling behind the curve, but I don't fret over that sort of thing any more. When William is ready, he'll learn in a snap; if he's not ready and we force the issue, there will be sorrow and anguish and mountains of peed up pullups.

We've found out the same thing about children learning to read. It serves no purpose to rush them if they're not ready. Sometimes a four-year-old is rarin' to go, learns to read in three months, and is reading Tolkien by first grade (we've had a couple so inclined), but just as often, an active little six-year old is more interested in exploring the universe than in learning letters -- and you might as well try to teach your husband how to crochet than teach that first grader phonics until he's ready for it. And he will be sooner or later. You just have to watch for it and be ready yourself, because when the time comes he'll make up ground fast. Late bloomers' flowers are spectacular for the anticipation. We just have to accept that their seasons may not be the same as everyone else's.

It's a shame that, in our day, our culture has lost the understanding of the seasons of nature that our forefathers had, because it serves as such a perfect analogy to life. The medieval farmer knew when to start looking for the signs of spring, but didn't start sowing seeds until the hints of nature told him the time was exactly right -- for each field, each new year. And though the timing of the little things changed and the weather affected the crops differently for each harvest, he knew he could rely every year on winter's rest, springs renewal, summer's labor, and fall's harvest.

In our day, we're so used to the artificial control of the climate, in the way of air conditioning and heating, and are so accustomed to the mass production of our food in greenhouses far from our homes, that the deep meaning of the change of seasons has been lost on us, in our understanding of practical things and in our connection with God in our world. A faithful farmer knows that storms and drought and temperate weather are cyclical and out of his control, but he also knows that they're in God's plan just as the new cycle of the seasons will turn on the axis of His universe and there will be a new start every spring, just as unpredictable, but equally in the hands of our heavenly Father. Who clothes the lily, Who numbers the sparrows, Who counts the hairs upon our heads.

To everything there is a season; a time for every purpose under heaven.

There are big seasons and little ones. At the same time we're watching for little William's time to move into the big boy world of personal hygiene, we're talking to our oldest son, Paul, about major life decisions: his career and his upcoming wedding. And all the while, here we are, Dan and I, approaching the end of our child-bearing years, the liklihood of grandchildren looming in the near distance. It doesn't seem possible. We were only just married ourselves, and potty-training Paul! The seasons have passed quickly. But, we've enjoyed the spring and the summer and it's only right that we start to move into the autumn of our lives. And I'm ok with that, too. While we watch the leaves change and start surveying our harvest, our children crowd up around us, in the springtime of their lives. It's all good; God's hand is on the wheel.

And Autumn has always been my favorite time of year.

Friday, June 5, 2009


A Job Description

POSITION: Mom, Mommy, Mama, Ma, Dad, Daddy, Dada, Pa, Pop

JOB DESCRIPTION: Long term, team players needed, for challenging, permanent work in an often chaotic environment. Candidates must possess excellent communication and organizational skills and be willing to work variable hours, which will include evenings and weekends and frequent 24 hour shifts on call.. Some overnight travel required, including trips to primitive camping sites on rainy weekends and endless sports tournaments in far away cities! Travel expenses not reimbursed. Extensive courier duties also required.

RESPONSIBILITIES: The rest of your life. Must be willing to be hated, at least temporarily, until someone needs $5. Must be willing to bite tongue repeatedly. Also, must possess the physical stamina of a pack mule and be able to go from zero to 60 mph in three seconds flat in case, this time, the screams from the backyard are not someone just crying wolf. Must be willing to face stimulating technical challenges, such as small gadget repair, mysteriously sluggish toilets and stuck zippers. Must screen phone calls, maintain calendars and coordinate production of multiple homework projects. Must have ability to plan and organize social gatherings for clients of all ages and mental outlooks. Must be a willing to be indispensable one minute, an embarrassment the next. Must handle assembly and product safety testing of a half million cheap, plastic toys, and battery operated devices. Must always hope for the best but be prepared for the worst. Must assume final, complete accountability for the quality of the end product. Responsibilities also include floor maintenance and janitorial work throughout the facility.

POSSIBILITY FOR ADVANCEMENT & PROMOTION: None. Your job is to remain in the same position for years, without complaining, constantly retraining and updating your skills, so that those in your charge can ultimately surpass you

PREVIOUS EXPERIENCE: None required unfortunately.On-the-job training offered on a continually exhausting basis.

WAGES AND COMPENSATION: Get this! You pay them! Offering frequent raises and bonuses. A balloon payment I s due when they turn 18 because of the assumption that college will help them become financially independent. When you die, you give them whatever is left. The oddest thing about this reverse-salary scheme is that you actually enjoy it and wish you could only do more.

BENEFITS: While no health or dental insurance, no pension, no tuition reimbursement, no paid holidays and no stock options are offered; this job supplies limitless opportunities for personal growth, unconditional love, and free hugs and kisses for life if you play your cards right.

*Footnote: There is no retirement. Ever.

H/T: One of my oldest friends and one of the best moms I know, Caroline C.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Dominic's Quest for Civility

Yeah, well... So I may have let it get away from me a little over the past couple of years. It's sad, yes, it is; but I admit it.

We've become a bit lax at mealtimes.

You know it has to be true if your fifteen-year-old takes the floor, raising his voice over the din of circus acts, to present an impassioned plea for civility.

For heaven's sake, have some civility, you hooligans!

And he's right. It's time to get things in hand. We used to have much more in the way of polite repasts when the big boys were little boys. We had somewhat organized conversation, the forks were set on the left and the knives on the right; if we didn't have our napkins in our laps, we did at least have napkins. But, in the last few years, all that has dissolved into more of a free-for-all. It's embarassing, but true.

And hard to fix. There are lots more of us now, for one thing -- and lots more going on with so many ages, temperaments, and pursuits. Because of his job, Dan is rarely home for dinner, so it's usually just me and the kids, which makes things, ipso facto, more casual. Less structured. Sometimes haphazard. Occasionally chaotic. And, to add to the fun, William, bless his sanguine little heart, has been compared to young Helen Keller at the table. (Yes, I know. Isn't that awful?) We have a hard time keeping him in his seat, and rarely get through a meal without his treating us to either a fuss fit or a stand-up comedy act. We really do know these are bad habits we have to break. And we all work on him (when we're not laughing at him), but he's singularly stubborn, and going through an eating phase, which makes things even more interesing.

(Have you ever tried working a child through an eating phase? We've learned through the years that, annoying as they are, they're temporary, normal and not worth obsessing over. And, though it may seem like coddling to his oldest brothers who don't remember their own food phases, those of us who live with William have just accepted his three-year-old menu. It's simple; life is good as long as you give him: peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, dry cereal, bananas, or anything with noodles --and you have to let him talk about how he's eating worms the whole time he slurps the noodles down, and keep the secret that Mommy grated carrots into his spaghetti sauce. Piece of cake. Which, is incidentally something he will also eat.)

Thankfully, though, outside of William, all the children will eat anything you put in front of them, possibly even if it's moving. The fact is that they usually don't stop talking long enough to notice if anything's moving, much less whether or not it's something they like or don't like. At any given mealtime, two or three different conversations are generally going on at one time, merging, changing, and morphing into and out of one another like traffic on the Beltway. There are the occasional crashes yes, and sidetrips to coffee shops and comedy clubs. And the occasional musical interlude, with Anna very often carrying on her own private little concert down at the end of the table. One or two of the teenagers is likely to be wildly gesticulating in response to a tease-fight and breaking loudly into other conversations to garner support for an argument. Or someone, usually Theresa, is jumping up to grab a book to look for the passage that illustrates what she's talking about. And there's no sense in interrupting the conversation, you know, to ask someone to pass the bread or butter or iced tea pitcher; it's easy enough to just reach across and grab what you need. Why not? And elbows on the table are not as bad as feet on the table, right?

=sigh= You get the picture. Mealtimes here are more like a German Biergarten than a Victorian Tearoom. And, though I really can't say I'd like for our dinners at home to be formal and stiff with tearoom manners, I'd like for us not to scandalize any visitors who might not be the beer-stein-swinging sort.

So, in defference to Dominic's quest for civility, and because we really do need to discipline ourselves better, we made a stab at a polite dinner tonight. Napkins were folded at every place, and, after a little coaching, everyone put one on his or her lap (some after trying them on their heads first). Elbows were kept off the table (except for when it was necessary for two or three of the kids to illustrate how bad it looks to eat with your chin resting on your hand). Mouths were kept shut while chewing (except for those people who simply had to say something, regardless of whether their food was swallowed first or not). The tea pitcher and crackers were passed politely to waiting hands (and completely around the table from hand to hand, when deemed necessary). The chicken and noodles were eaten with a minimum of slurping (and William, by some quirk of fortune, didn't say the word "worm" even once).

Dinner was eaten, and it was not painful. We made it through just fine. Conversation still merged and swerved, running over and through, in and out, but tonight it kept hitting the Courtesy Traffic Circle -- which slowed things down a bit.

And gave us something new to talk about.

We'll see how dinner tomorrow night goes. It wouldn't surprise me a bit if the traffic circles are ignored in favor of driving over medians and grassy berms.

* Here's something fun to check out: a manners-based blog called The Goops Gazette!
* And here is a wonderful article: Courtesy: An Essential Element of the Catholic Home
**Heaven knows, we need all the help we can get! Any pointers out there?

Sunday, March 1, 2009

A Mother's Quiz


Do my children say their morning and night prayers?

Are my children trained to be polite at all times?

Do I teach my children to be good losers at play?

Do I fail to recognize faults in my children because they are mine?

Are my children learning to be calm when things go wrong because I myself am a patient mother?

Are my children learning to be charitable and tolerant of the faults of others because I am charitable and tolerant?

Have I fulfilled my obligations of instructing my children regarding holy purity, or have I allowed them to shift for themselves, getting their ideas from other boys and girls, bad movies and pictures, ungodly literature?


Is Christ the center of my life and of all that is done in my home?

Is there a picture of Christ or His Mother in my living room and not just in the bedrooms?

Is there a holy water font in each bedroom of my home?

Do the members of my family pray grace before and after meals?

Do my children know the Angelus because we recite it before grace in our home at noon and in the evening?

Would Christ approve of the magazines and comic books I allow into my home?

Is my phone used to receive and spread noble thoughts?

H/T Esther, from Elena

Thursday, November 13, 2008

What Parents Want

We want our children to at least make some attempt to hike at a pace that the old folks can keep up with. Actually and figuratively. We want our children to take off their shoes and socks and put them where they belong and not in the middle of the floor right in front of the door.

We want our toddlers to go to sleep when we put them to bed for their afternoon naps so they don't crash (in the weirdest places) right before dinner. We want the kids to have fun and enjoy one another's company, but not outside our bedroom door at 6:30 on a Saturday morning.

We want them to pay at least as much attention to us as to the computer.

We want the children to study hard...

play nicely...

and clean up after themselves!
And, we want them to not sit so close to the wood stove.
(I don't know who took this picture, kids, but SHEESH! Next time scoot their little butts back about three feet, ok?)

"Parents are not interested in justice, they're interested in peace and quiet."