Saturday, February 27, 2010

Book Review: U Got 2 Love

Ok, I have to admit when I was perusing the selection of books available on the list for The Catholic Company's Book Reviewer program, that I hesitated before taking the plunge and giving U Got 2 Love a whirl. For one, I pretty much abhor texting language. Send me an email, text or IM that uses "u" instead of you or even worse "ur" for your and I likely won't acknowledge that I ever got it. I'll turn a partially blind eye to LOL or my personal favorite ROTFLOL (When I read it aloud I can't help but think of Scooby Doo.) but, for the most part I'm too much of a grammar snob to conform to text lingo. So the title of U Got 2 Love put me off a bit. I did a little online searching on the author, and found some YouTube videos. Turns out, Fr. Stan Fortuna is a pretty cool guy. I decided I could look past the U and 2 in the title and give the book a chance.

I have mixed feelings about this book. The grammar snob in me hated the book. If you've ever heard Fr. Stan talk (just google him and check out a YouTube video) you'll see that he drops the g's in a lot of -ing words. When speaking, that doesn't bother me all that much. However, when you also write like that, it's enough to make someone like me want to slam their head against a wall.....repeatedly. If you are like me, and you pick up on typos and then fixate on them, this book is certainly not for you. To be fair, Fr. Stan does tell you in the introduction that he purposely left the g's off of words because that's how he speaks and he wanted the book to sound like him linguistically. I'm sure this drove the poor proofreader insane, not to mention this poor reviewer.

Now the book itself, wasn't bad. It's certainly not a fast read. Fr. Stan takes quotes from Pope John Paul II, Pope Benidict XVI and various saints and explains to the reader why it is essential that we love. This book is not light reading. Maybe it's the dropped g's that made me feel this way, but I found this book to be very heavy on the theological philosophical. He explains many of the considerations (there are 33 in all) of why "U got 2 love" very well. There were a few considerations where I felt like his explanation was just going around in circles and I found myself on the verge of "spiritual indigestion" (St. Augustine, anyone?). Aside from the dropped g's, I think the book was actually well done and it will force you to think. It would be a decent Lenten read.

Given that the dropped g's drove me nutty, I have to say that my favorite portion of the book was the compilation of quotes at the end of the book called "The Love Zone." I'm not sure I would have selected that as the title for this portion of the book, but it's not my book. I found the quotes contained in this section to be inspirational and thought provoking. And best of all, no dropped g's!

I take issue with the fact that this book is supposed to be geared to teens. I suppose if the teens in question are reading on a college level then sure, it's for teens. Personally, I'm not buying it. I wouldn't run out and buy this for a 7th or 8th grader who's being confirmed. The book will be too lofty for them. I teach a 7th grade CCD class and I seriously doubt that any of those kids would be able to easily read this book now or within the next year. Not to mention much of vocabulary is on what I would consider a college level. This would probably be a great book for a young adult group. In our parish, the young adult group is for 18-25 year olds. I think this book would be perfect for that age range.

As an aside, I don't suppose it wouldn't be in the spirit of love if I sent Fr. Stan a box with a bunch of g's and a little note saying "I thought maybe you could use these," would it?

This book review has been brought to you by the letter G. Remember kids, G's are letters, too!

Actually, this book review was written as part of the Catholic Book Reviewer program from The Catholic Company. Visit The Catholic Company to find more information on U Got 2 Love.

A complimentary copy of U Got 2 Love (complete with missing g's) was provided to me by The Catholic Company in exchange for my honest review.

Friday, February 26, 2010

Snow (again)

I'm thoroughly tired of snow. I have seen a blanket of white stretched across my property for more days than I care to remember. We had one day this week where it looked like we were finally going to start seeing the grass again. It rained all day on Tuesday and lots of our snow began to melt at long last. I was hopeful that we were finally on the way to seeing more than just white. Sadly, I was wrong.

Starting late on Wednesday night the blasted snowflakes began falling again. I was still hopeful that the snow wouldn't stick since I heard the glorious sound of melting snow for two days. It was above freezing and everyone knows that snow doesn't stick when it's above freezing.

The school district decided to have a shortened day yesterday since the snow was expected to fall all day into today. Fine. I can deal with a half day. The roads were perfectly clear and the half day was totally unnecessary. The 5:30 wake up call from the district yesterday morning was also unnecessary and annoying.

Last night the snow started coming down with a bit more oomph. I was still hopeful that school would be in session, but after a quick run to Little Caesar's to get my Crazy Bread (It's an addiction that I'm embracing now that I finally have a Little Caesar's close to home.) I realized that my hopes for a normal Friday were fading fast. Ugh! The worst part was knowing that we were likely going to get another early morning wake up call from the school district.

I didn't sleep well last night. I woke up at 1:30AM on the family room couch and realized that Bryan and I both fell asleep watching the Olympics. I got him up so we could go to bed and that's when Bryan wanted to play with the telephone. For some reason, he wanted to make sure the phone was nice and close to our bed for the school wake up call. I was in favor of shutting off the ringer and letting the answering machine take the call. I managed to convince him to keep the ringer off, but the cost was I was not wide awake. It's hard to sleep when you know that you're going to get a call that startles you awake at 5:30AM. Between my annoyance at impending early morning annoyance and my incredible wakefulness after playing with the ringer settings on the phone, I scarcely got any sleep last night. When I did manage to fall asleep, I had very vivid and odd dreams that startled me awake. (I keep having odd dreams that involve Ellie dying. I'm finding these dreams to be very disturbing.)

At 5:08AM that dreaded wake-up call came. Ugh! Another snow day. I'm so tired of snow days. Earlier this week the school sent out a revised calendar that took into account all the snow days. The administration, not wanting to extend the school year decided to strip the school calendar of just about all half days and days off between now and June 18th. Spring recess is virtually eliminated. Good Friday is the only day of Spring recess that hasn't been touched [yet]. I'll be pulling Madeline out of school on Holy Thursday and the Monday after Easter. I scheduled our dentist appointments for the Monday after Easter nearly 6 months ago, so I'm rather irritated with the school for the calendar change. Now that we have another snow day, I'm fairly confident that the school will probably turn Good Friday into a school day.

I've had it with snow and snow days. And to top it all off, Bryan and Madeline are both under the weather.

I'm ready for Spring.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Sweet Temptation

Could this child be any more of a temptress today? Adorable and wearing a Reese Cup shirt. I'm very thankful that Madeline hasn't decided to parade around in her Jolly Rancher's tee. Hopefully she doesn't get any ideas from her little sister.

Bryan thinks Ellie's choice of clothing is rather amusing given the circumstances. I told him I'm going to see if I can find a hamburger tee for her to wear. He didn't find that quite as funny.

Small Successes-First Week of Lent

Celebrating the little things in life that add up.

1. I'm on top of the laundry! Yay! Of course, now that it's snowing [again], I'm sure there's a good chance I'm going to get buried in laundry once more.

2. My decluttering Lent project is moving along nicely. I haven't actually bagged up most of what I'm giving away for the 40 bags in 40 days challenge, but I'm certain that I'm on track to successfully get rid of at least 40 bags of superfluous stuff.

3. I have fed my children nice well balanced meals every night this week. Two vegetables have made their way on to their plates just about every night since Ash Wednesday. Funny how me not eating candy [for Lent] has focused me on providing better dinners for my kids. The kids are loving it. Poor Bryan isn't exactly amused that I'm serving up chicken almost every night since he gave up meat for Lent. I need to add a few meat free dinners to the rotation.

Bonus: I got my girls hooked on the Holy Heroes Lenten Adventure. I wasn't sure Madeline would go for it, but she did. She's asking me every day if a new video has been emailed to me. Ellie is loving the coloring pages. Now I'm wishing I had done the Advent Adventure with her last year. The girls are praying a decade of the rosary with me every day and they're actually asking to do it.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Book Review: The Handbook for Catholic Moms

I recently had the opportunity to review Lisa Hendey's The Handbook for Catholic Moms through the Tiber River blogger review program. The book is focused on nurturing the heart, mind, body and soul of the Catholic mom. The book is written in a very engaging style that will keep you turning pages. It reads like you are having a nice chat with a good friend.

I particularly liked the way the book was set up. The book is divided into four parts: Heart, Mind, Body and Soul. Each section has several well-rounded chapters which are peppered with inspiring quotes from the catechism, Pope John Paul II and many others. All of the chapters are prefaced with scripture that tie in nicely with the subject matter. Following that, each chapter starts out with an introduction of Lisa's experience in this area, be it personal experiences or observations she has made. Then you'll find a few sections that discuss the subject at hand. Every chapter features contributions from another Catholic mom or person who can offer more insight or a different perspective. At the end of every chapter you'll find sections entitled "Mom's Homework" and "Web Resources". "Mom's Homework" offers suggestions for implementing the subject matter into your life. The "Web Resources" section will direct you to a few sites that can give you more information on the material presented in the chapter.

As a whole, the book covers pretty much every facet of being a Catholic mom. The book is a nice mixture of encouragement, catechesis and sound advice for being a Catholic mom in today's busy world. The reader may find that a chapter here and there that doesn't exactly apply to her at this point in time, but those chapters are filled with plenty of wisdom for mothers who are in those situations.

I loved the book. I think it should be on the bookshelf of every Catholic mom. It offers encouragement, and plenty of valuable information to help today's Catholic mom carry out her vocation as a mother.
You can purchase this book here.
I wrote this review of The Handbook for Catholic Moms for the Tiber River Blogger Review program, created by Aquinas and More Catholic Goods. For more information and to purchase, please visit Aquinas and More Catholic Goods.

Tiber River is the first Catholic book review site, started in 2000 to help you make informed decisions about Catholic book purchases.

I received a free copy of this book from Tiber River in exchange for my honest review.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Comfort Food

Over the years, I have heard lots of people talk about comfort foods. I'd listen to the people and wonder to myself what exactly made a food a comfort food. I didn't get it, and I certainly didn't understand it. Generally speaking, food is something I view as fuel. I run (skip, prance, tap dance, leap, and wander) around the house all day. I graze on food almost constantly from the time I wake up until I go to sleep. If by comfort food these people mean that feeling that you're not going to die from feeling hungry, then I got what they meant.

I gave up candy (all candy) for Lent. Today is day seven of no delightful sugary confections. I've had days where I wonder why I chose to do this to myself. I could have easily forgone cookies or some other tasty treat, but instead I cut right to the core and placed candy, deliciously tart and tangy candy, off limits. I'll live. I keep reminding myself off all the other equally sugary foods that are tart that I can still have, like fruit. Anyway, I've come to realize that the candy I consumed in copious amounts was comfort food. Imagine that! I had comfort foods all along and I didn't even realize it.

From my candy fast, I've come to realize that other comfort foods lurk in the background. Since Ash Wednesday, I think I've consumed a baked potato loaded with butter just about every day. (I love butter!) When I was a kid, I lived on (or tried to at the very least) potatoes (baked or french fries), bread (generally rolls and crackers), fruit and candy. Now that candy is temporarily out of the picture, I've come to find that I'm hitting my old standbys.

I have to say that I'm just really surprised to discover that I actually have comfort foods. I'm even more surprised that I don't really miss the candy all that much. I just wish that I didn't find myself standing at the pantry several times a day instinctually reaching for candy only to realize what I'm doing at the last second. I really need to put some notes up in the pantry reminding myself that it's Lent before I accidentally eat candy.

I like this video

Most mornings I eat my breakfast with my laptop in the dining room. I like to check my email and read some blogs while I eat. In many ways, it's better than listening to two small people chew loudly or bicker at the kitchen table. Actually, I've spent most of my life eating breakfast alone, so it's not just because of the kids that I go and hide in another room. I guess I'm just an anti-social breakfast person.
Anway, I was reading the blog ADAM'S ALE and I clicked on the video you see below.
I can think of a few people who could benefit from watching this.

Monday, February 22, 2010

The difference between personal and work e-mail

I realize it's been nearly nine years since I've had a work email address, but I would imagine that the common sense rules that applied then still work for today. For one, forwards and joke emails are probably not a good idea. Signing your work email up for all sorts of email lists from stores is also not a good idea. A work email is not meant to be your personal email. It's as simple as that.

Now how you conduct the reading and deletion of your work email is another item that should be handled differently than how you might handle your personal email. Sure you can delete any email from an address you don't recognize in your personal account, but it's probably not wise to delete emails in your work account simply because you don't recognize the sender's address. That makes perfect sense, right?

So why on earth am I seemingly ranting about work vs. personal email habits? Well, last night I emailed Madeline's art teacher (our district posts the work email of all teachers so parents can contact the teacher if necessary) and asked if she would like our surplus crayons for the art room. We have more primary colored crayons in our house than two children can possibly use in a lifetime. In the past, I have sent surplus crayons to Africa with my sister-in-law, and I have donated some to Ellie's preschool. I figured that the elementary school could probably use these crayons and I could recoup some space in my kitchen pantry (win-win situation if you ask me). I was hoping the art teacher would respond and let me know if she would take the crayons off my hands. I got no response, but I kept telling myself that not everyone checks their email obsessively like me. Fortunately, Madeline is every bit as impatient as me, and she couldn't help but mention to the art teacher that I sent her an email last night asking her if she wanted our crayons. The teacher said she'll take the crayons, but she also let Madeline know that she deleted my email without reading it. Why? It turns out the art teacher doesn't open emails from people she doesn't know. Hmm. Is it just me, or does it seem a bit odd that the teacher deletes emails from the parents without even reading them? In the first line of my email I introduced myself as Madeline's mom and even made sure I told her who Madeline's class teacher is so there would be no confusion. With an email practice of deleting before reading, you can't help but wonder how many opportunities for donated items this teacher may have missed.

I guess the bottom line is this: With personal emails have a field day and delete at will. When it comes to work email, you should make sure you know what you are deleting before you hit that button.

Pillows and Apple Juice

Ever have one of those days where you just wish you could hit a reset button? Occasionally, those days crop up in my life. For the most part, I can make lemonade out of most lemon days. Sometimes it's easy and other times it takes an effort of epic proportions. Other times, I just lose it and the day takes on a crash and burn feel. I'm not a fan of crash and burn days. They make me feel guilty and leave me feeling disappointed in myself. With that in mind, I try to make sure I can turn the lemon days into lemonade days whenever possible.

Today has not been the greatest day for me. I started off my day with a painful awakening at 4AM. The lovely new pillow I purchased yesterday gave me a stiff neck, incredible pain in my shoulder (the joint) and sciatic nerve like pain running down my right arm and into my fingers. My spine feels like it is totally out of alignment. Apparently, it wasn't bad enough that the my lower back issues were coming back last week. My neck decided it had to get in on the action, too.

I was a total grouch this morning when the alarm clock went off at 7:20. Bryan was seemingly chipper and when I snapped at him and then Ellie a few moments later, he made me realize that I was taking my frustration out on them. (I frequently point out to Bryan when he misdirects his irritation at something towards the girls, and today he caught me doing exactly what I admonish him for doing. Well played, my friend, well played.) I was still a grouch after that, but I kept my grouchiness to myself. Ok, I did hit the new pillow a few times. (I was trying to flatten the overstuffed neck traumatizer out a bit--it didn't work.)

By the time I left the house to take the girls to school I was able to function like a pleasant person. Since I'm left handed, I was able to deal with the fact that my right arm was in a lot of pain.

I took things relatively easy this morning while Ellie was at school. I did a little cleaning, printed the new Lenten Adventures things for today, put away some laundry and listened to a few pod casts. It wasn't an earth shatteringly productive morning, but I didn't sit around brooding over my pain.

When I picked Ellie up from school, I figured we'd head home, eat lunch and watch TV or play. I don't have to pick Madeline up from school today since I did the dropping off. I was happy in knowing that I could relax the rest of the day. I had a couple loads of laundry that would need to be done and a dishwasher that would need to be emptied, but with an entire afternoon ahead of me, I walked in the door feeling like I could tackle this day head on.

Within minutes of arriving home, I got whacked with a truck load of lemons. On Thusday, I marveled to myself about how great it's been that I haven't had to clean up a spill in a long time, with the exception of the couple ounces of water Madeline spilled on the kitchen counter that morning. Since it was only water, it was no big deal. Everything that got hit with the water was easily cleaned up in about a minute. I thought about how great it is that Ellie almost never spills, and I wondered why it's generally Madeline who is the spiller of sticky juices. Juices, that splatter on the table, the chairs, the floor, the pantry doors, the sliding glass door and anywhere else juice can dare to fly. Spills upset me. Madeline spills and instantly she's wailing like a toddler and I find myself annoyed and yelling. It's never a pretty picture, and that's why I was so happy that I haven't had one of those spills in a long time. I even stopped to thank God for keeping my kitchen spill free and I prayed that we wouldn't see a spill for a long time--perhaps a few years down the line.

I'm sad to say that my prayer to keep my kitchen spill free was not granted. Maybe God didn't like that I wasn't patient with my child when she spilled a little water on Thursday. Maybe He didn't like that I was angry with my husband, who was on his way to work when the spill occurred, for leaving his partially filled cup on the counter top. I blamed Madeline for being careless, and I blamed Bryan for leaving his cup out. I did not, however, blame myself for losing my temper when the spill happened. Anyway, as I busied myself with getting Ellie's PB&J sandwich made, we had a spill in the kitchen. The kind I prayed to not have to clean anytime soon. Half of the kitchen table was covered in apple juice. Two of the chairs were hit, one table leg was dripping with juice and the puddle and splatter pattern of the juice on the floor was nothing short of impressive. I have no idea how much juice was in that cup when she sat down. I suspect it was at least half full.

I sighed audibly when Ellie said "Oh no, I spilled." She didn't cry or carry on like Madeline would have. She was calm and she asked me if I could clean it up. I think she even apologized. Anyway, I stood there looking at the sandwich that was to be made, then to the calm child before me, and then the mess (look away, it's bad). Getting down on my hands and knees to clean was the last thing I wanted to do. Then, I noticed the merciful cross on the basement door. "Bear wrongs patiently," I thought to myself. And, that's what I did. I didn't raise my voice or belittle my child for what was clearly an accident. When I realized that she had destroyed Madeline's paper crown that we made at the art museum yesterday, I thought again about our merciful cross. Madeline would have an opportunity to earn yet another flower today. She too, would have an opportunity to perform a spiritual work of mercy towards her little sister. She can choose to forgive this injury to her personal property and earn a flower, or she can choose to be angry and unforgiving and gain nothing as a result.

I cleaned the spill without complaint and went back to making Ellie's lunch. Then, I ran a load of laundry that contained apple juice soaked kitchen towels. When Ellie was done eating, I swept and mopped the kitchen floor. I wish I didn't have to mop that floor, but now that it's done, I'm glad that I have a clean floor. I dare not pray that it stays that way, unless of course, I want to be mopping in the very near future.

I think I've done a good job of making the best of an otherwise miserable day. I'm sure at the very least that Ellie appreciated that I didn't freak out when she spilled her juice.

In case any of you are wondering, I gave myself a flower for not losing my temper over spilled apple juice. I'm sure Bryan will find my latest flower to be rather amusing.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Good Deed Beads

Last year Madeline received a string of good deed beads from our church during the first Sunday in Lent. The good deed beads were essentially a one decade rosary that had a fixed Our Father bead and moveable Hail Mary beads. On the end with the fixed Our Father bead is a crucifix and the other end has a miraculous medal. These good deed beads, or sacrifice beads, can be used by the child to keep track of his or her good deeds throughout the day. All you do is pull down a Hail Mary bead for each good deed and the bead stays in place. Madeline loved keeping track of her good deeds last Lent. (Actually, she kept track of them well into the Summer.)

I liked the good deed beads for another reason, they're perfect for introducing a young child to the rosary a decade at a time. I like that the beads stay in place when you pull them. That makes it easy for a small child to keep track of how many prayers he/she has said.

Ellie developed a habit of grabbing Madeline's good deed beads a few months back and praying Hail Marys. It wasn't long before she was asking for a set of her own. After examining the beads that Madeline had, I figured out how to make them. They're really very simple to make and the kids love them.

I'm making good deed beads with my kindergarten CCD class this Sunday, so I decided to make an example for the class and snap some pictures to offer a tutorial here:

You'll need 11 pony beads, twine or crochet yarn (I used 100% nylon crochet yarn that looks like a silky twine), scissors, a crucifix and a miraculous medal (your local Catholic gift shop will likely have these). I also use a candle to heat seal the ends of the twine. Doing this step is optional, but it keeps the ends of the string from unraveling (provided the twine is not 100% cotton, only synthetic fibers will melt).

Your first step is to cut a length of twine that is about 18-24 inches long. (I like to make sure I have enough twine to work with when making knots.) Then, thread the miraculous medal onto the twine and knot it into the center. Once you make the knot, thread the twine through the pony bead. One side of the twine goes through each end of the bead. Then you pull the twine so that the bead is up against the knot. Repeat this step for the next nine beads.

Once the first ten beads are all threaded on the twine, then you make two knots (one on top of the other) about an inch down the twine from the last bead. (This is so the child can pull the beads for good deeds.)

Next you thread the Our Father bead onto the twine. (Make sure the bead rests firmly against the knot.) Both ends of the twine go in at the same time.

Then you thread the crucifix on the same way.

To finish it off, you make two knots between the Our Father bead and the crucifix.

Once you finish with the knots, you trim off the edges. This is where you may want to run the ends of the twine over a flame to seal the ends. Be careful not to get too close to the flame or you'll singe the twine and possibly yourself.

If you're doing Holy Heroes Lenten Adventure with your child this Lent, these beads would be perfect for the rosary portion of the Lenten Adventure since it covers a decade of the sorrowful mysteries at a time.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Pant Woes

I have some major issues when it comes to buying pants. Most people I complain to tell me I should be happy with my issues, but it doesn't console me. My pant issues range from plumber's butt to baggy hips, and length issues (either too short or too long). For the most part, finding a pair of pants that fit is a challenge. Most people, when they look at me, think I'm being facetious when I bring up these issues. I'm really not.

I get it, I'm skinny. I shouldn't have any issues with clothes fitting me, right? Well the sad truth is that I do. At 5'5" I'm at the mercy of the designers as to whether I'm considered average height or judging by some pants, tall. Most designers of women's pants assume that the woman has some curvature in her hips. I've got nothing, and there's nothing I hate more than feeling like I've got pouches of fabric on either side of my hips. Pants also don't like to stay up on me--even with a belt. (Probably because I'm also lacking a butt.) What's a gal like me to do?

For the past year, GAP has been my go to store for pants. Their jeans fit me well even if the name of the jeans is a bit much for me. Umm, I'll take two of the "Sexy bootcut," please. Are you kidding me? Why can't they just call them the skinny stick jeans that don't cause plumber's butt? Don't you have to have some curves to be "sexy"? Just this past Saturday, I splurged and ordered myself a nice pair of "hip slung" white linen trousers from the GAP. (I like the name hip slung, doesn't sound like something I don't want to say in front of my kids.) The pants were close to $60, but with a 25% off coupon, and some GAP rewards certificates, I got my nice trendy pants for under $30. I was confident that they would fit perfectly.

My GAP order arrived today. Immediately I was excited that my white pants had arrived. I tried them on right away and the excitement instantly died. They're a bit long, the pockets are are toeing the line of making me feel like I have pouches on my hips and the waistband is loose. Ugh! I want so badly for these pants to fit me. My only hope would be for them to shrink in the wash. They're linen, so I think it's possible they could shrink, but I'm not sure how likely that is. Part of me wonders if ordering a 4 would help, but then I think there will be other fit issues.

I know there are more important things in the world to worry about than these white pants that won't see any use until May, but I'm bummed. I had such high hopes for these pants. I sincerely doubt I'll be gaining any weight to make the waistband fit since nothing sticks to me as it is. And really, who gains weight to fit in pants? I think that's an almost unheard of practice.

Small Successes-It's Lent

Celebrating the little things in life that add up.

1. I survived three consecutive snow days and a three day weekend with my sanity in tact. I am, however, really irritated that the public school will not be getting out until June 23rd. School could have easily been held this past Friday.

2. I played the role of Super Mom on Friday. I got the girls out of the house so Bryan would work in peace and quiet. I met my parents at Chuck E. Cheese for lunch. The girls were very happy that they got to play at Chuck E. Cheese with my parents. Friday was one of those days where I think I rated as pretty awesome in the eyes of my girls.

3. I finally picked up my girls' fluoride prescriptions at the Target pharmacy. I placed the order before the first snow storm this month and then totally forgot about it until the phone rang yesterday with a reminder that I ordered the refills 10 days ago. Ooops! I kept thinking there was a reason I should go to that particular Target and I couldn't figure it out.

I wish I could say that my house was sparking clean, but with everyone being home for 6-8 consecutive days that didn't all overlap, I'm just happy to have a kitchen that looks clean and the laundry in different stages of actually being done. I have lesson planning to do for my CCD classes and a lot of things to do around the house. What I'm lacking, unfortunately, is motivation. Maybe on Monday when I get 2 1/2 hours to myself I can get something accomplished.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Delight from the Arts and Crafts Sweatshop

Ever since Madeline was in preschool for about a month, I have been referring to the school where I send Ellie as an arts and crafts sweatshop. They crank out enough paper projects in a school year to ensure that your house will be totally engulfed in flames in minutes should your house have a fire. Pity me, because by the time Ellie graduates from kindergarten, I will have amassed 5 years worth of projects from our beloved arts and crafts sweatshop.

Ellie brought home this project today which simply amused me.
I couldn't help but share it here.
You should be able to click on the image to read the little story. If you can't, never fear, I have typed out the text!
My Own Octopus
If I had my own octopus....
"I would feed it.
He would live in my house
but sleep outside in the
He eats cheerios and jelly fish.
His name is "Elliefish"
He is not a good pet!"

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Let's review shopping etiquette!

Thanks to the outgrown shoe fiasco of two weeks ago, I have had to make more trips than I care to remember to The Children's Place to return, buy, exchange, and buy just one pair of dress shoes for Madeline to wear with her Easter dress. I sure hope people are looking at her feet during the Easter Vigil! (Not really, but I've gone through a lot of trouble for these shoes.) During my many shopping trips (Not just to Children's Place, but other places, too.) I have encountered a few strange shopping scenarios.

Let's discuss the woman who wanted to split her purchases in The Children's Place on Saturday morning, shall we? She wanted to do two separate orders. (Same payment method, just so we're clear.) Why? Well, she wanted to maximize her discount. As a bargain hunter, I can understand that. So what was the problem? Well, one coupon was 15% off your total order that expires this month. The other coupon was 15% off your total order that expires next month. Same discount, different expiration. The manager explained to her that it was the same discount and she politely asked why she wanted two transactions. Well, the customer wanted a gift receipt for one item. The manager told her she could do that in one transaction and she could keep the other 15% off coupon for later. (Makes sense to me!) Well, the woman proceeded to tell her that she had to do the two transactions because that's how she could maximize her savings. (Picture me standing there in total disbelief at the idiocy of this logic.) Just so we're clear, if you have two coupons that have the same discount off your total order, you WILL NOT save any more money if you make the sales clerk do two separate orders. Save the coupon with the later expiration and don't make yourself look foolish. Now, if you have 25% off one item and 15% off your total purchase, go ahead with your bad self and do two separate orders. Just make sure you take the highest priced item to get the 25% off.

Let's move on to shopping cart etiquette. If you bring a cart into a store and use it your entire trip, DO NOT leave your cart at the register when you are done checking out. For one, it's a very odd thing to do. It's also rude, and it will likely make the people standing behind you angry. This happened at the craft store yesterday. I thought the woman ahead of me was acting odd. (She's also my next coupon story.) She confirmed my suspicions when she and her son took their bags and abandoned their cart right in front of the register. I've never seen anything like it. The cashier tried to get her attention and the two older women behind me were seething. (The woman behind me told she would have punched the woman if I were her. Not sure assaulting someone over an abandoned shopping cart would have been a smart move yesterday. I like to keep Mondays low key.) I simply made light of the situation, remarking to the ladies that I'd take care of the cart, but I would be leaving my children behind after checking out. They were pretty vocal about not wanting to take my kids home, but never worry, I would never just leave my kids in the store. They know my name, address, and phone number. Those kids would dime me out in the blink of an eye. Anyway, the bottom line is this: If you have a cart please be respectful of those around you and be responsible for putting your cart back when you are done. They have cart returns for a reason.

And finally, if you have a coupon for 50% off one item, don't harass the poor clerk about the price of every item you are buying trying to figure out which item will get the 50% discount. The computer on the register will take the discount off the highest priced eligible item. I didn't pester the clerk at the craft store to make sure she took the 50% off my $1.99 glue. I knew it would come off the glue because it was $.99 more than the popsicle sticks that were also in my order. And yes, I realize it was ridiculous of me to use a 50% off coupon on a $1.99 item, but when you are using a gift card that was generously given to you by the parent of two of your CCD students to buy crafts for the class, you do what you can to get the best possible price for everything. I'm still shocked that I have over $10 left on the $50 gift card the mother gave me back in October. I have purchased a lot of supplies with that gift card and 40-50% off coupons.

Karen's shopping etiquette class is now finished. I hope you all took notes.

Candy, I shall miss thee!

Is it really Shrove Tuesday already? Am I really going to kiss my beloved candy goodbye for all of Lent? The harsh reality is that I am. I really am. I have a feeling this decision will hang heavily over me throughout Lent. It will require self control when the kids ask for candy as a snack. It will require me to not be mean to my husband if he prances around in front of me eating a Reese cup. It will require me to not be stingy in tossing Jolly Ranchers out to my 7th grade CCD class [for correct answers] because I can't have them. I am going to live as though Nerds, Jolly Ranchers, Sweet Tarts and the occasional chocolate (I'm not a fan of chocolate--it hurts my teeth and burns my esophagus.) do not delight me in the least. I will simply put them in the same category as chips and other foods which I don't eat and couldn't tell you where there are found in the store. But, I'm sure I'll have days where I miss my candy. Those will be the days where I'll need to dig deep and offer it up. I haven't done that enough in the past, so I'm sure this will be good for me.

Giving up candy isn't all that I'm doing for Lent. I'll be doing the 40 bags in 40 days challenge, too. I spent much of this weekend scouting out things that I can rummage through during Lent. Three years ago I began packing up our belongings in our old house in anticipation of our move. Some of those boxes, which were packed 4 months before we moved, are still sitting in our garage. I've picked through them and removed the items we needed, but there are lots of things that I haven't thought about in three years. Those items will likely find themselves at Goodwill in the near future. Over at Faith and Family, I said I'd rid my home of 40 Target sized bags of stuff. I think it's quite possible that I will be able to exceed that. When we doubled our living space, it was my hope that we'd have more space than we knew what to do with and that some rooms would echo. That is not our reality. I am going to do my best to eliminate as much stuff from our house as I can without causing a revolt.

Spiritually speaking, I'll be doing some Lenten reading. Fr. Longenecker's The Gargoyle Code will be daily reading for me starting today. I read the book back in November and I loved it. I'll spend a few minutes each day reading this book. I highly recommend this book. I'll also be delving into The Magnificat Lenten Companion. I'm hoping to get to adoration once a week during Lent. And since I'll be reading The Gargoyle Code, you can bet I'll go to confession at least once or twice this Lent.

I'll be doing the Lenten Adventure with the girls. I tried to convince Madeline that she should say the rosary with me every day this Lent, but she found the prospect of saying the entire thing every day to be a little overwhelming. So I told her we will focus on one decade of the sorrowful mysteries each day. That works for her, and it's something I know Ellie will be able to handle, as well.

I'm hoping that all the family activities I'll be doing with the girls will pull Bryan in, too. He happily complied with the hand tracing for our Lenten Sacrifice Garland. I see that as a step in the right direction. Perhaps he'll add a few flowers to our Merciful Cross, too.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Crafty Lent Preparations

I posted yesterday that I was gearing up for Lent. On Saturday, I hung our Merciful Cross on the door to our basement steps. If all goes well, the cross will be covered in colorful flowers labeled with good deeds by Easter. A flower is earned each time a spiritual or corporal work of mercy is performed. I think this will be a great way for the girls (mainly Madeline) to learn the spiritual and corporal acts of mercy. (I suspect it's possible that Bryan might even learn them, too. Do I get bonus points for catechizing my cradle Catholic husband?) Madeline is already chomping at the bit to get started. She's been reading the lists on the door and trying to figure out what she could do to earn flowers. By the time Lent is over, I think she will not only know the spiritual and corporal works of mercy, but she'll also have a pretty good idea of how they translate into everyday life. Part of me is wondering if I made the cross big enough. If I didn't, I'll know to make a bigger one for next year.
This is our Merciful Cross with the Spiritual and Corporal Works of Mercy on either side.

These are the flowers which I hope will fill our Merciful Cross. They were cut out with a massive hole punch which I found at the craft store.

Last year we had a little issue with Madeline conveniently switching her Lenten sacrifice when it suited her. Want your favorite candy? Simply say that X is your new favorite and see if you can sneak what you really gave up. I needed to find some way to hold Madeline accountable. So I went searching for a craft. The Big Book of Catholic Customs and Traditions for Children's Faith Formation had the perfect idea which I adapted slightly. It's a garland that has cut outs of our hands. In the palm of the hand we glued a red heart with our Lenten sacrifice written in the middle. Since purple is the liturgical color for Lent, I strung the hands up with a purple ribbon and tied it around the basement door above our Merciful Cross. When Bryan gets home tonight I'll be adding his hand to the garland. I like that we'll have a reminder of our sacrifice on the door. It's a nice way to ensure accountability.

This is a close up of the hands on our Lenten Sacrifice Garland.

Making the Lenten Sacrifice Garland was really simple. You trace the child's hand onto construction paper (I chose brown to match our Merciful Cross). Then, cut a red heart to fit in the palm. To attach to the ribbon, I simply cut two slits in each hand so I could thread the ribbon through. You could easily glue or staple the hands to the ribbon, but then you lose the ability to adjust their position once the garland is hung.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Getting ready for Lent

I can't remember ever having such a difficult time trying to decide what to give up for Lent. This year I feel totally stumped for ideas, and conflicted over the ones that I have. Generally speaking, I typically do something that rates as being rather weak. (Nice, huh?) Last year, I gave up a particular Girl Scout cookie (carmel delights, or Samoas depending on your region) and I forced myself to wear my retainer every night. The result was I wound losing all desire to eat the cookies that were 70 calories a piece and I my teeth were perfectly straight again. (That made my parents happy. They get upset when the see my teeth shifting since they spent a nice chunk of money on orthodontics.) To be honest, last years effort was sad. I should have been wearing the retainer all along, even though I usually don't. And the cookies were easily replaced with other cookies. Not much of a sacrifice.

Chances are I would have settled for something equally weak again for this Lent if it weren't for Bryan declaring that he will be giving up all meat for Lent. That is a huge shock to me. This is the guy who generally balks at having for forgo meat on Fridays during Lent. Last year we had one Friday where it was 12:00PM and I caught him eating cold cuts. So I promptly pointed out that it was officially Friday and he needed to toss the meat. Instead, he stuffed it all in his mouth and ate it which totally irritated me. I can't think of a single Lent since I started dating him where he hasn't forgotten about not eating meat on Friday.

With Bryan going meat free for Lent, it has forced me to look at what I'm sacrificing and see if it's really even a sacrifice. Sure I could give up a particular candy, but wouldn't it mean more if I went without all candy? Then, I thought maybe I could just make it to one daily Mass a week. While that wouldn't be bad, it would really only require me to lose one hour of sleep a week so I could make it to the 6:45AM Mass. Or, I could not lose the sleep and just take the girls to the 6PM Wednesday Mass. Either way, both of those options feel like they would be taking the easy way out. Then I thought, maybe I can just hide behind reading something for spiritual growth during Lent. Nah, that doesn't work since I do that almost daily, but I will be reading two books daily during Lent (The Gargoyle Code and The Magnificat Lenten Companion).

As much as I hate the idea of a candy free Lent, I feel compelled to go in that direction. Bryan thinks it's destined for failure. In some ways I think that he's right, but I'm hopeful that I can muster the will power necessary to persevere. I do have to wonder how compelled I'd feel to do this if I didn't feel like I needed to compete with Bryan on some level. If he was just giving up coffee or soda for Lent, I probably wouldn't have even considered giving up candy. I have a massive sweet tooth and this will certainly be a challenge of epic proportion. Is it wrong to try to match your spouse's Lenten sacrifice so you don't feel outdone? Hmm.....I wonder if that's the sin of pride.

I'm still trying to figure out just how much I'm going to have the girls do for Lent. I signed up for Holy Heroes Lenten Adventure. I also got Madeline a Lenten workbook that looks like it will be a lot of fun. Last night, I taped our Merciful Cross on the basement door. I got the idea from Pondered in My Heart. The spiritual and corporal works of mercy are listed on the door. When anyone in the house performs one of the works of mercy, they can write it down on one of the little flower cut outs that I made and paste it on the cross. By Easter, the cross will hopefully be covered in flowers. (I'll blog about this with pictures later this week).

I still have to write up lesson plans for each of my CCD classes for the coming week. I had other lessons planned for the days that got snowed out, but I want to cover Lent this week. I need to find crafts and activities that are relevant.

I'm in for a busy week ahead. I can feel it!

Friday, February 12, 2010

Is nothing sacred?

I've had a rather full day today which I intend to blog about later. After a lot of running around I finally found myself at home and able to sit down and watch some Olympic coverage. Bryan recorded the coverage of the opening ceremonies which began here at 7:30PM since I was out running an errand with Madeline. I wasn't all that interested in watching the coverage, but Madeline was so Bryan decided to wait until we got home to watch it. Sadly, that was a bad move.

I would imagine that most people have heard that Nodar Kumaritashvili, a 21 year old luger from Georgia (the country, not the state), crashed to his death while doing a training run on the track. I can't remember if Bryan told me about it when I got home this afternoon, or if I heard about it while we were at dinner. Anyway, I knew it happened before I sat down to watch NBC's Olympic coverage, and I fully expected to hear a lot about it. What I did not expect was to see the video coverage of this young man crashing to his death, and pictures of an EMT trying to tend to this poor athlete who's face was totally bloodied.

Personally, I feel that NBC had no business showing this crash footage twice without any warning that what they were about to show may be traumatic to some viewers. I, for one, do not like to see others meet their demise. I am livid that this footage was aired when millions of families were tuning in to watch this program. Madeline sat on the couch with wide eyes drinking in the images, but I don't think she was affected like I was. Instantly after the first run of the footage I began screaming for the girls to get out of the family room immediately. Bryan was totally unaware that they showed the actual impact. A minute or so later when they showed it again he saw why I was so upset. I'm a bit more detail oriented than he is, so things like the luger's shoe that flew off as a result of the impact stuck with me.

When I came on here to blog about this I did a quick search to find the name of the athlete who lost his life. I was saddened to see that the video of his death is up on YouTube. If one of my children were to die tragically and it was captured on film, I would not want it aired, nor would I want to view it. I can't imagine the pain this young man's parents, family and friends are experiencing right now, and up on the internet is a video of his death.

When I have had more time to collect my thoughts and decompress from my day, I will be taking the time to let NBC know how I feel about their deplorable lack of discretion. If they were going to air it, they should have waited until the late night news when young eyes wouldn't be drinking in the images, or they should have posted a disclaimer giving their viewers fair warning. Honestly, out of respect for the man who lost his life, they shouldn't have shown the coverage at all. Just because you have footage that will garner lots of viewers because of it's shock value doesn't mean you should use it. I suppose I'm expecting too much from a major media outlet to practice decency.

Awesome Customer Service

I'm a bargain hunter, and I have to admit it upsets me when I buy something and a few days later my purchases drop in price. In many cases I'll do what I call a rebuy/return where I'll go and buy the item again and return the same higher priced item. Bryan calls this "The Game." He thinks I'm crazy to go back and get price adjustments (if the store offers them, not all do) or to repurchase the items at the lower price. I look at it as a great way to save money. And knowing myself very well, I know that I will sit up at night stewing over the amount of money that I over spent.

Some stores like Kohls have great price adjustment policies, but they are constantly running different sales. I can buy a shirt on Monday and the price of the shirt (depending on the week) could fluctuate three times in the span of 7 days. That type of practice drives me insane.

A few days ago I ordered new swimsuits for my girls from Lands End. I was going to hold off a little while, but then the Kids' catalog came out. When the kids' catalog comes out that means one thing to me: Buy the cute stuff you want now or risk not getting it at all. I've had many occasions where I assumed I could hold off another week or two on ordering something only to have it sell out (presumably because all the other moms thought it was adorable, too). So I ordered the swim suits [with my free shipping code that saved me $10.95] two days ago and consoled myself about paying full price by remembering that Lands End swimsuits are much better quality than the Target swimsuits that are half the price. It's also comforting to know that despite daily use, Madeline's swimsuit will still be in great shape when Ellie receives it as a hand me down.

This morning my bargain hunting heart sank when I opened my email. At the top of my new mail was an email from Lands End. "Sale: 20% off everything online and in-store + FREE SHIPPING," read the taunting little email. I looked at it and stared in disbelief. Didn't I just tell Bryan two days ago that Lands End would probably do this and I'd have to rebuy and return? I dislike having to go to the mall, and I really despise having to make Lands End returns at Sears. Every time I go I get stuck behind a little old lady who has no clue what she wants to do. I got out my calculator. I crunched the numbers. 20% off was a $13 savings. That was practically another swimsuit for Madeline. Two months ago I ordered a bag from them and it went on sale the next day. I called and managed to get a price adjustment, which spared me from having to brave a trip to the mall before Christmas and saved me $1.27. (Don't laugh, I'm cheap.) I decided to give Lands End a call and see if they'd be nice and give me the 20% discount. I had to be transferred to another representative who politely informed me that they would make an exception for me and I could have either the free shipping or the 20% off which confused me. Sorry, I want both. I managed to produce the code from my email and instantly the bargain hunting skies opened and I was given both. I'm delighted right now, and the $13 I rescued will put a little spring in my step today. I also explained to the customer service rep that this "one time exception" should probably not just be a one time thing because if they had refused to do the adjustment I would have reordered the swimsuits again at the lower price and they would have paid shipping twice only to have me return the higher priced items. She agreed that it worked out better for them considering I would have gone that route.

Lesson of the day: Don't be afraid to ask for price adjustments.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

The diabolical Mr. Furkins

Mr. Furkins and I have an odd relationship. He likes to be near me, but generally speaking, I don't like being near him. He prides himself on being smelly, and I'm not a fan of sitting next to smelly things. I think most of the time, he hangs out by me because he knows it irritates me. The rest of the time, he hangs out next to me hoping to incite me to play. Sometimes I give in and play, and other times I'll playfully pick up the toy he wants me to throw and I put it in his toy basket that is just out of his reach. He gets very annoyed with me when I do that.

I'm hard on Mr. Furkins, who happens to be my scapegoat. I call him a free loader (technically he is). I startle him awake just to see his reaction (it varies between shock and annoyance). I chase him around the house. I sneak up on him and make him jump. I hover over him and demand pony rides and then berate him when he lays down and looks at me like I'm insane for even thinking he [a sixteen pound dog] could give me a ride. It's all in good fun, but I'm sure some days Oscar probably wishes he spent his days with a normal person.

Most of the time I think I'm in control of Mr. Furkins, but sometimes an exchange will occur where I realize that the four footed creature has assumed the upper hand. Today I decided to be nice and play ball with Oscar. Typically I like to throw the ball so that he has to either race down the basement steps to get it (during which time I turn off the basement lights and close the door at the top of the steps) or I toss it down the hall at the front door. When I throw it at the front door, I usually try to get the ball before he has a chance. Oscar is not always a fan of this style of play. Every few throws I let him get the ball so he can feel good about himself. Today I was being nice and tossing the ball so he could get it every time, and then it happened. I realized that he was walking away from the ball and essentially making me get it. He happily pony trotted away after I caught on to the ruse. I feel a little stupid now that I realize the dog was watching me scamper around the kitchen picking up the ball only to throw it back to him. I'm so happy Bryan and the kids didn't witness me playing fetch.

A sound that makes my heart sing

I sat in the family room reading a book and my ears perked up as I heard a heavy vehicle driving down my street. At first thought, I suspected that UPS had finally made it to my show covered porch. I dashed to the living room to peek outside to find that the sound came from a much sweeter vehicle. The snow plow.

The deliveries I'm expecting still are not here, but that's fine by me. Sundresses, dressy Easter shoes and bathing suits can wait. For now, I'm perfectly content to marvel at how sweet it is to be able to see the blacktop. I'm getting a little tired of seeing white. God bless you snow plow driver! Perhaps school will be in session tomorrow because of heroic city employees like the fine man who liberated our development.

Small Successes-February 11th

Celebrating the little things in life that add up.

1. It snowed here on Friday night into Saturday. Despite my resolve to believe that we weren't going to get anymore than a dusting, we got about two feet of the white stuff. Thanks to Bryan's efforts with the snowblower and the township actually plowing the roads this time, when Sunday morning arrived, I was able to successfully get out of the house. First place I went? Mass. I was so grateful that our roads were clear enough that driving wasn't hazardous. Before Mass was over, I was also incredibly grateful that Ellie had behaved herself the entire time we were there. Maybe it's because the church was practically empty, maybe it's because her favorite deacon was there, or maybe it's because it was very early in the morning, but whatever the reason, I was very proud of her for behaving.

2. Both of my girls outgrew their shoes. How exactly does that happen? I only discovered this lovely fact when Ellie complained that the dress shoes I brought her for Easter hurt her heel. It wasn't until I took her to Payless on Friday and had her foot measured that I became aware that her foot had grown. To be perfectly honest, I didn't believe the man who measured her when he told me she was almost a size 10. I did see that her toe was past the 9 1/2 mark, but I wasn't accepting that reality. That night I mentioned to Bryan that Ellie's feet "may" have grown. He checked out her current shoes and confirmed that her toes were all the way at the top of the shoe. I dug out all of Madeline's old size 10 shoes and found a few pairs that had hardly been worn that I could pass on to Ellie. On Saturday night, when I was getting the girls clothes laid out for Mass I discovered that Madeline had also outgrown just about all of her shoes. She had been complaining for a week or two that her heel hurt on her one foot and that reminded me of Ellie's complaint when she tried on the too small dress shoe. I sent her to Bryan to check out shoe sizing. She had a few pairs of shoes with a little wiggle room. The rest were way too small. Why she never mentioned that the shoes were tight is beyond me. The story ended well. Sunday morning we went shoe shopping. Both girls now have new sneakers and casual dress shoes that I'm hoping will see them through until the Spring.

3. I have managed to not lose my mind despite the fact that everyone has been home due to the snow. Ellie has not had school this week and will not have school again until Ash Wednesday. Bryan has been working from home since Tuesday. Madeline had a snow day yesterday, and another one today. I have no idea if she will have school tomorrow. I'm seriously considering giving up snow for Lent. Think that will work?

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Book Review: Magnificat Lenten Companion

I recently ordered myself a copy of Magnificat’s Lenten Companion. We subscribe to their children’s publication Magnifikid!, and it’s such a great hit with my daughter, that I decided that I’d give their Lenten Companion a try. Most years, I fall short in doing something to grow spiritually during Lent, and I figured that this pocket-size Lenten Companion would be useful in helping me gain focus during the season of Lent.
I haven’t read all of this Lenten Companion yet since I’m intending to use it daily during Lent. For the purpose of this review, I have flipped through the booklet and read a few of the daily readings to get a feel for the overall format.
In the beginning of this booklet, there is a brief overview, entitled Lent in France of the origins of some Lenten traditions in France and their significance. I found this article to be a rather interesting read. This article is followed by a brief (two paragraph) explanation of Church regulations on fasting and abstinence during Lent.
The booklet contains a short reading reflection for every day of Lent. Each daily reflection is based on scripture, and that scripture reference is listed. One could easily read the reflection, and then go and look up the scripture reference for further reflection. The reflection is followed by a short devotional. There is also a suggested penance for each day. One could very easily utilize this book to deepen their spiritual life during Lent. Daily suggested penance aside, reading this book, the referenced scripture and daily devotional shouldn’t take you more than a few minutes a day. The suggested penances vary and some could take more time and effort than others.
Besides the daily reflections, this book also contains the Stations of the Cross and a variety of other prayers.
I'm confident that this booklet will make for a more meaningful Lent. You can purchase this item here.
I wrote this review of Magnificat Lenten Companion for the Tiber River Blogger Review program, created by Aquinas and More Catholic Goods. For more information and to purchase, please visit Aquinas and More Catholic Goods.

Tiber River is the first Catholic book review site, started in 2000, to help you make informed decisions about Catholic book purchases.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Book Review: Wisdom for Everyday Life From the Book of Revelation

My latest adventure into reading has beenFr. Richard Veras' Wisdom for Everyday Life From the Book of Revelation. This book essentially explains the Book of Revelation in terms that can be easily understood. Fr. Veras does an excellent job of tying everyday life and real world experiences into his explanation of this daunting and seemingly cryptic book of the Bible. I found the book to be well written and engaging.

Fr. Veras walks the reader through the Book of Revelation chapter by chapter. He navigates the reader through the symbolism contained in this apocalyptic literature that can befuddle many who attempt to understand it. As one who generally dislikes reading apocalyptic literature, I found Fr. Veras' insight to be incredibly helpful. On many occasions, I stopped to think about how wonderfully he decoded the Book of Revelation. I'd say he clearly has a gift for explaining this book of the New Testament with amazing insight and clarity. Reading this book is like having an incredibly well informed tour guide at your side.

For more information on Wisdom for Everyday Life From the Book of Revelation, visit The Catholic Company. This book review was written for the Catholic Company Book Reviewer program. I was provided with a free copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.

Friday, February 5, 2010

And these little piggies....

I got a disturbing phone call from my mom this morning. First, she wanted to tell me that she got a flyer in the mail from someone who will plow her driveway for $25. That's great considering my mom and dad both have back problems and they're in their 60's and 70's. I don't want them out there shoveling snow, so I'm happy that someone is willing to do the job for what I believe is a fair price. Then, she got into the latest family news. My uncle "closed his eyes" for a second and drove into a telephone pole. The end result is $14,000 worth of damage to his car. From what I recall, he's not seriously injured. I believe the accident happened either yesterday or the day before. Those details are fuzzy because of the news that followed. My Aunt Florence has to have the remaining two toes on her one foot removed. Ugh! She's a diabetic and nearly nine years ago she got a blister that wouldn't go away after wearing my dead grandmother's shoes. One thing lead to another with my aunt, and the blister turned into a very serious bone infection. She has had many surgeries and three toe amputations over the course of Madeline's life. My aunt is now procrastinating on having this surgery done. (The doctor wanted her in the hospital ASAP several days ago, but she told him she wants to think about it for two weeks.) If you have a few prayers you can spare for my aunt, I'd appreciate it. The toes have to go, but the longer she waits the more she risks losing more, if not all of her foot.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Candy and Catechesis

Have I even mentioned that I have a massive sweet tooth? I have a mouth full of fillings to prove it. Aside from my winning personality (snort), I use candy and stickers to keep my kindergarten religious ed class under control. If you've never been placed in a room of 5 and 6 year olds who have just consumed copious quantities of sugary cereal and coffee (I'm pretty sure one of my students is hyped up on coffee when he comes to my class. He has to be, NOBODY has that much energy naturally.) then you might now be aware of the necessity of using a lollipop and sticker as a behavior incentive. Bryan calls it a bribe, I call it insurance.

When I stepped into the scary world of teaching 7th grade religious ed nearly two months ago, I realized that my kindergarten model of catechesis was not exactly going to work. For one, I couldn't give these kids crayons and a coloring page related to the day's lesson. Flat Father Stanley wasn't going to fly with these kids either, unless I was hoping to have the Sacrilegious Adventures of Flat Father Stanley. And, certainly these kids weren't going to get the instruction they needed to help prepare them for confirmation next year if they were doing cutesy faith based crafts. I had entered an entirely different world.

Over the past two months I've been tweaking my lesson plans. I exchanged conversation starting questions for chapter reviews from the previous week. I nixed the Build the Church (hang man without the killing) game and have replaced it with race to the scripture (look up the verse referenced in the text).

Getting the 7th graders involved is the most challenging part. Out of 17 students, I have one student who is genuinely interested in the subject matter. Two other students are on top of making sure they seek out the right answers to the little quizzes I give them. They have parents who are catechists, and I interact with the mother of the one girl every Sunday since she's Ellie's catechist. Three other students are really into standing at the teacher's podium so they can read the text to the class. (You can tell they LOVE the attention.) Sitting at their desks to read isn't nearly as appealing to them as standing at the podium. Once that discovery was made, the class seemed to come alive.

But still, the class was lacking something. The students don't ask any questions. (I lug my catechism to every class hoping to be asked something thought provoking that may require me to look up the answer, and I get asked questions like "Did Mary waddle when she was pregnant?" GAAA!) When it comes to discussions, I get the sounds of crickets chirping. It's the exact opposite of my kindergarten class, where I actually get asked thought provoking questions from time to time. So my biggest challenge has been getting these kids involved.

Three weeks ago I asked the 7th graders if they liked Jolly Ranchers. The answer was a resounding yes. (Who doesn't like them?) So I experimented last week with giving everyone candy, but I didn't get much participation out of them, so I worried that the candy scheme was going to be a bust. After some thought, I decided I needed to come up with a new approach. Jolly Ranchers for correct answers! Scripture reference in the text? If you can find it first, I'll contribute to your next cavity. Correctly answer a question and you'll score your favorite flavor Jolly Rancher. I had one student who hardly ever says a word earn at least 10 candies. Another student who NEVER wants to participate earned at least 7 candies. To say that I'm pleased with the results of the candy for participation scheme would be a gross understatement.

Teaching 7th grade is still a work in process, but I think I'm making strides. I had nearly 4 months to prepare how I was going to teach my kindergarten class. For the 7th graders, I had about 7 hours to prepare before I took the helm. Clearly, I didn't walk into this class with the same level of preparedness.

I have to admit that I was a little disappointed when I heard another catechist mention tonight that we only have 12 more classes left. I'm almost positive we have 14, but maybe he wasn't counting the weeks when the kids go to confession and the stations of the cross.

Small Successes-February 4th

Celebrating the little things in life that add up.

1. I survived the stomach bug I had on Friday night (it was REALLY bad), and no one else in the house was affected.

2. I got the girls their Easter dresses earlier this week. Children's Place came out with their Easter dresses this week and I couldn't resist going to the store to check them out. Ellie and I had a difference of opinion about which dresses we should buy, but in the end she won because her second choice dress looked stunning on her. The dresses were 25% off and I was able to use my 15% off coupon, too. How sweet is that? The best thing about having their dresses already is that I won't have to spend hours fretting about how I should dress them. (And yes, I really do fritter away loads of time picking out clothes for my real live dolls. I used to be MUCH worse a few years ago.) Oh, and Madeline gets to wear these fabulous shoes with the dress. (Heck, while I'm at it, I might as well show you the adorable hair clip and sweater I got to complete the outfits.)

3. I'm caught up on the laundry! YAY!

4. Elisabeth can now spell her name using her Leap Frog magnets, and she's taking a strong interest in spelling short words. Who knows, maybe I'll be helping her to read sometime in the near future.
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