Saturday, September 30, 2017

Things Not to do the Morning of your First Day of Co-op - a 7QT

We here at Wild Goose Academy are still finding our groove on this whole "home education" adventure... the rhythm is starting to fall into place - though we still have trouble with the concept that we can't go outside to start our "Play Block" until we've put on clothes, and we've already made some curriculum "adjustments" (tossing aside a curriculum is counted as just an adjustment, right?). But generally overall, things are working out just nicely. We do homeschool on Monday and Tuesday, the wee girl goes to preschool on Wednesday and Thursday, and Friday was "field trip" day.

That is until yesterday, when we started homeschool co-op!

Now, logistically, I was thinking this would be a piece of cake to do - since on Wednesdays and Thursdays we have to get out the door by 8:15 to get the wee girl to preschool, but on Fridays co-op doesn't start until 9:30 and it's literally a few blocks down the road. To my (inexperienced? ever-optimistic?) mind this was a whole extra hour of time in the morning to get ready!

However, as I learned yesterday, this really doesn't mean much. So here are a few things NOT to do in the morning before going to co-op.

- 1 -
If it is a feast day - as yesterday was (Happy belated Michaelmas, y'all!) - do not think you can read all the bible stories from your children's story bible that have to do with angels. There are more in there than you think! And chances are your child will want to know why certain angels have swords (easy. Because they fight the devil) and others have blonde hair (ummmm....) and you just don't have time to tackle all that.

While we're at it... why do Gabriel's wings look like they could use a lint roller?

- 2 -
Regarding said feast day, don't think you can start preparing dinner for it at 8:30am, even though you are thinking to yourself "Well, all the squash is doing is just roasting in the oven..." It *might* have been possible at 7:30 when you're brain was in a slightly better frame of mind and you could have pulled out the recipe to make sure you were following it *correctly* - but, news flash, it's now 8:30 and the kids still aren't dressed (nor are you), breakfast hasn't been cleaned up (or entirely eaten - little dude, get back to the table), oh! And you haven't fixed everyone's lunches yet! Or taken a shower. And the kids are now fighting over that cute little Archangel Michael you bought. You're bound to mess something up or burn the squash.

Or in my case... both.

- 3 -
St Kateri could have been a bit more helpful...

Which brings me to my third point - don't give out "surprises" the morning of co-op. I loved that little angel sitting on our table before the kids came out to the kitchen. Yay for liturgically-themed table decor! But I neglected to remember that there was only 1 of them... and I have 2 kids.  Normally, this kind of math doesn't bother me in the slightest. There will always be instances where one kid gets something that another kid doesn't, and better to learn that lesson early. However, again, teaching that lesson before co-op is *not* the best use of your time. Getting the kids dressed, and their hair/teeth brushed is much more on point.

- 4 -
Don't think you can pack 3 lunches the morning of co-op without at least a little bit of prep. Especially if there are students in the co-op with a food allergy. As they say, a stitch in time saves nine. Plan ahead by at least washing the grapes the night before. Or figure out how you're going to carry 3 lunches and snacks. Or both! This will not only save you time, but also precious counter space as you will not be tearing out all your lunch bag options at the same time as you are searching for a place to let your grapes dry.

- 5 -
For the sake of the other members in your co-op, try not to let personal hygiene be the first thing that gets bumped when you look at the clock and realize it's 9:25am. Cleanliness is next to godliness after all, and if you're not going to be punctual, at least you can have clean teeth. (Sorry co-op members)

- 6 -
OK, now it's 9:30, you're dressed but your hair/kitchen/teeth are just a mess. Try not to take this out on your wee girl by yelling "SHOES!!" at her repeatedly. It isn't exactly her fault that you're all running behind, and now your yelling is only making her flustered. She will only respond with how all 4 year-olds respond: with more foot dragging and (probably) doing something to make her little brother mad... like, say, taking his hot chocolate while he's not looking and drinking it all. Cue the 2 year old brother meltdown when he realizes his cup is empty.

(If I were on the receiving end of this, I might be flustered too)

- 7 -
One thing, nay 3 things, you *can* do once you've realized you've gone astray: Repent - rejoice - repeat. Truly, things did not start to get better until I prayed (out loud!) "Jesus, this morning has been a mess. I'm sorry. Please redeem this day." And He did! Our first day of co-op was great. It was so exciting to see the wee girl make connections between what we had been working on all week and the lessons we did in co-op on Friday. She made a great sand painting to boot. And the little dude did just great in the nursery (despite his still sensitive mood from his sister's hot chocolate-pilfering) - even making me look (dare I say it?) good by impressing the nursery teachers with his alphabet-singing-while-hand-washing and staying in his seat for *all* of lunch. (Now if he would just do that at home!)

So there you have it - feel free to learn from my mistakes! We're all about real-life education over here. *wink* There seem to be some other homeschool related links over at Kelly's, so pop on over and continue to get educated!

Monday, August 28, 2017

Wild Goose Academy - our adventure in home education

I had a friend tell me once that you should never reveal the name of your baby until he/she actually arrives, as this will save you from hearing all those stories about your baby's soon-to-be-name.

"Oh, I knew a ________ back in grade school. He would beat little kids up for their lunch money."

"Oh, that's my cousin's name too! Well, at least it was before she joined a commune and became Butterfly Sparkle Princess."

Et cetera.

The idea was that no one tells you these stories once your little bundle of joy is staring them right in the face. Makes sense to me.  And I guess you could say we took the same tack here...

Welcome to Wild Goose Academy!

The "classroom"

The lesson plans

New books, new binder, new pencils

We are here!
Today was our first day of school - and I couldn't be more pleased with how things turned out. That might be due in part to low expectations (I just didn't think the wee girl would be cooperative) and it was definitely due to reading this blog post last night (so well timed, one could only say it was from God... especially when this morning I found out we had (not enough) eggs and the little dude was running a slight temperature. How in the world did she know?!?)

But whatever it was, no one could be more surprised than me at how willing the wee girl was to just jump right in: Morning Time - pray, sing, read. Check! Get ready to go play - then play. Check! Run an errand, come home, have lunch, put the little dude down for a nap. Check! Make lemonade - measure, count and add. Check! Read our first chapter of Farmer Boy, do an oral narration... ok the narration was a little like pulling teeth, but it's our first time, so check! Extra credit: make a bookmark for our book. Check!

Ok, that makes it sound like I'm happy because we checked things off a list and that's not entirely accurate. I'm really happy because the wee girl was so happy. All. Day. Long. When I shared this with him, my husband pointed out, "Well, she got a whole day with Mommy," which stopped me in my tracks. Doesn't she always get a whole day with me? (And then some?) But no. She doesn't always get days focused on her. Today was special because I was focused on doing things with her (and if I didn't know it already, then I learned it today - quality time is totally her love language).

What my husband also reminded me of was one of the reasons why we wanted to home educate in the first place: family relationships are important and we want to cultivate those relationships through the time we spend together. When I first articulated that value, I had thought about it purely in terms of sibling relationships - I want them to love and take care of each other - but I had totally forgotten the parent/child relationship benefits from this as well. *smh*

I know not every day will be like today. (In fact, I'm fully prepared for tomorrow to be everything that I feared today would be - minus the lack of eggs part. I fixed that during my errand run today.)

But I will celebrate today. I will be (already am) thankful for this beautiful start to what I hope will be a year full of discovery. And I will ask for the wisdom and guidance to make more days like this one happen.

I think we're going to have a good year.

Sunday, August 20, 2017

The Lord Will Provide - My Sunday Best - 08

I'm sitting here on my bed typing this up, listening to my little dude pound the wall with his... feet? Head? Hands? I'm not sure, but whatever he's using he's doing so with great force and gusto. Much like in this picture below:
So please forgive me if, at the moment, my only thought is "Lord, please provide at least an hour's nap so we may all have an enjoyable evening."


Skirt: it was a maxi skirt that I picked up at Costco... seems to get shorter every week
Shirt: Old Navy Maternity
Shoes: just some flats from Target
Bump: 29 weeks

We had a guest priest from India today, here to do an appeal for the missions work that he's a part of back in Calcutta. We also brought our lovely niece with us to Mass too, and at one point she looked at me and asked (in hushed tones) "Auntie, what language is he speaking?" (Me: LOL!) His accent was a little thick, but I think the novelty of it helped keep the kiddos quiet (well, it was that or the extra coloring materials their cousin brought with her) because I was actually able to listen to most of the homily today!

The Gospel was the story of the Caannanite woman, who's persistance and iconic line about even dogs getting the scraps from their master's table, made Jesus exclaim "O woman, great is your faith!" Father used this line as the jumping off point for talking about other people with great faith - notably St Theresa of Calcutta and also Abraham. The story that stuck with me was Abraham's. In Father's retelling of Abraham obeying God's command and offering Isaac as a sacrifice, he said that Abraham's only prayer through the whole ordeal was what he also told Isaac, "The Lord will provide." Abraham didn't tell Isaac, "God has asked me to kill you and I'm just not going to do it." Nor did he say, "Sometimes God asks us to do hard things. And right now, even though I love you greatly, I'm going to offer you as a sacrifice because I love and fear God more." He only said, "The Lord will provide," and continued forward with the plan.

Who can say what was really going through Abraham's head? The writer of Hebrews posits that Abraham must have believed that even if he killed Isaac, God would raise him from the dead (Heb 11:17-19). But I wonder. If it's true, what Father said, that the only prayer on Abraham's lips for the 3 days he journeyed to Moriah was "The Lord will provide," well then, that sounds far more like a desprate cry of the heart to me. And in those moments of desparation - where all I can do is say the same prayer over and over again - you can be sure I'm not using my spiritual imagination to think up ways that God can answer my prayer. I'm just hoping beyond hope that He *will* answer my prayer before it's too late.

The closest I've ever come to that kind of desparation was when I was in labor with the little drummer above. It was a natural, unmedicated labor that was becoming far more intense (for me) than the labor that I experienced with his sister. Close to the end, I had what I can only describe as an epiphany, "We're not both going to make it through this. One of us is going to die."

(I will pause here to mention that midwives are very familiar with this kind of talk from laboring women - and in fact, they take it as a very good sign that labor will actually be over very soon. So everyone present was prepared and ready to go for that last important push.)

But back to me. In that moment, I knew I had to choose: either I give up and my baby would die, or I push through and I die. To me, there was no third way. And I remember (wildly, desparately) thinking "God I hope your offer of eternal life is true... because I so want to see this baby grow up."

Father's encouragement was that when we make that sacrifice, God will meet us there and say to us what he said to the Caannanite woman: "O woman, great is your faith! Let it be done for you as you wish." (Matt 15:28)

I don't think Father meant for this to be some version of a prosperity gospel - where you can "sacrifice" something in order to gain something better from God - as his examples of Abraham and St Theresa were profound enough to (hopefully) discourage that kind of thinking. Rather I think he was acknowledging the spiritual reality that God meets us in our moments of desparation and confirms what we madly hope in faith to be true: that God does actually love each one of us and desires life - real life - for us all. We may not know what that's going to look like, but if we can trust Him, we know it will be good.

Join Rosie over at her place - she's canning and freezing and basically making hay while the sun shines - oh, and she's the one who hosts My Sunday Best too. It'd be good to say hi. :)

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

A New Library (to) Love

I feel like a bit of a cheat to say this, but...

...I think I found my new favorite library. The outside is nothing spectacular, but of course, like all the good things, it's on the inside. When you walk in the "New Arrivals" are well presented, front and center. The kids' area has a wee... dome? rotunda? with a fresco painted in it of literary characters and a little stage for putting on puppet shows. I love that. There's even a book "store" (a room of used books for sale).

It's just too bad it's in the next town over. (And yes, I *can* hear the snickers of all you folks around me who think that driving to Rohnert Park is an issue. Let's just say, "Different strokes..." mmm, kay?)

In any case, we loved taking the little field trip this past weekend to a different library - and as a result, I picked up a few books worth sharing:

The Kraken's Rules for Making Friends
So, around here, we are not above the occasional bribe to get behavior we want - i.e. would you just stand still and let me brush your hair, please?! On one such occasion I found a video combining two of the wee girl's favorite things - Lego and ocean-stuff - and it was just the right length for getting her hair brushed and in a pony tail. (If you've got 7 minutes, it's fun and worth a watch.) This was how she learned about The Kraken - so when I saw this book in the library, I knew we had to check it out.

It's definitely quirky, and some of the Shark's rules (yeah, it's actually the Great White who makes the rules) rub me the wrong way - but the overall message "Be the friend that you want to have" and the illustrations, and of course The Kraken, have made this a winner here.

Pancakes, Pancakes!
It was the wee girl who had a very valid insight about this one: "Why is it called PancakeS? There's only one!" Which is true. But it's a great story about how one *really* makes pancakes (you gotta thresh wheat to get the grain, and feed chickens to get eggs and milk cows to get milk, etc...) AND it's illustrated by the beloved Eric Carle (substitute "iconic" if he's not beloved at your house). Even though I find this to be a bit on the long-side for a 2.5 year old, it's actually been the 2.5 year old who has requested this book every day since we brought it home. He likes it a lot (and I do too)!

Today Is Monday
Another Eric Carle one. There's only a few words - but one of them is "ZOOOOUP!" so it's a hit at our house. Apparently, the text is from a song, and the sheet music is included at the back. I have yet to fire up the keyboard and plunk out the tune, but it looks catchy. :)

Songs and Story: Cars
A friend introduced this Disney/Pixar CD series to me. Each CD has a few songs from the movie and then a dramatized (and much abbreviated) narration of the story afterwards. This is the only other audiobook that I've been able to get both kids (but mainly the wee girl) to listen to - and I can't tell if that's because she's familiar with the story, or if the character's voices are included, or what. In any case, when she turns it on I have at least 20 minutes of "quiet time" to myself, so I'm not complaining! It's well done too, so I'll be looking into the others in the series.

That's the best of the best here! What have you been picking up at your library (or the next town over's library)?

Sunday, July 2, 2017

A Little Bit of Community - My Sunday Best - 07

Just barefoot and pregnant - though my husband
insisted that I not (also) be standing in the kitchen
for this picture ;)
Hey look! I found something new to wear to Mass! Thanks, Mom! :)
Top: H&M  Skirt: Old Navy  Bump: 22 weeks

We made it back home! It really was so nice to be back in our home parish - seeing familiar faces, singing songs also so familiar I don't need to hold the book for them (a definite plus when those hands are needed to pull wandering boys back into the pew *ahem*). I think the kiddos also appreciated being back on home territory - if nothing else, they were back where they get their own special bread after communion! And they were pretty well behaved (knock on wood?) so I even got to hear some of the readings and homily.

Today's first reading gave me a lot to think about today - most all of it pretty superficial, I have to admit. (Sorry.) First of all, the Shunammite woman: she decides she wants to build Elisha a room, and one sentence later, BOOM. It's built and Elisha's moved in.  Clearly, this is a "woman of influence"! We started our own building project last year, and have yet to even break ground on the project, much less furnish it with a "bed, table, chair and lamp."  Though it's not for a lack of trying! (What do we gotta do to find a contractor around here??)

But really, it was her hospitality that struck me. Hospitality is truly a gift from God - when done right, people open right up and community is forged. I'm always awed by it when I'm on the receiving end, or even when I just witness it for someone else.  That's why I was so grateful to meet a few ladies after church today for a little park picnic. We had "met" through Blessed Is She's regional group on Facebook and decided to get together IRL this afternoon. Our kids ranged in age from 2 to 14, but they all seemed to get along great and us moms got a chance to introduce ourselves and learn a little bit about each other. It really was a lovely afternoon and we ended with plans to get together again next month - so I think, "Success!" But as always, glory to God - because it had very little to do with me and a lot more to do with Him (and the mom who brought the package of cookies to share)! What's been your best experience of hospitality (giving or receiving)?

Rosie, her sister and I are (apparently) barefoot buddies this week... head over there for more MSB community!

Sunday, June 25, 2017

Do Not Be Afraid - My Sunday Best - 06

I should be packing things up right now, but the lure of blogging is stronger than my desire to be responsible. This is always the hardest part of any trip for me. Well, to be honest, packing *for* the trip is harder than just packing back up to go home, but either way the act of packing reminds my body that change is on the way. And *that* is the hard part: forcing my body to change its environment and routine. (And again, let's be honest, forcing my body to get on a plane. I haven't quite reached the point where drugs are necessary to get me through a plane trip - and I hope I never reach that point! - but we've considered it more times than I care to admit.)

Just me in my pregnancy-standard Mass outfit, Saint Margaret
 of Scotland and a wee little photo-bomber.
Which is why, upon reflection, today's Gospel and homily were more timely than I first considered. " not be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows." (Matt 10:31) God cares for us more than we let ourselves believe sometimes - and Jesus reminds me of this often.  Because of God's love my fear is truly unfounded. But what I find odd though, is that in this gospel reading he basically says, "Look. If you *are* going to be scared, at least be scared of the right thing. Let's get our priorities straight here. Don't fear people who can just kill your body. Fear the one who can kill your body AND soul." I need this no holds barred kind of talk sometimes (especially when I'm about to get on a plane.) And just in case I missed it in the gospel and the homily, the priest also said it as his parting remark as I was shaking his hand and leaving. "Do not be afraid!" All I could say in response, was "Yes, Father!" But Father was African, and I think the way they say it around here is more entertaining/endearing:

The Scottish equivalent of "Keep Calm and Carry On"?
So yes, we're getting ready to go home... I'm sure you won't mind then letting me take this opportunity to dump some photos of our trip on you (and should you want to skip this part and head back to Rosie's for her My Sunday Best, then go ahead and click away. I won't hold it against you ;) )

See you back State-side!

Thursday, June 22, 2017

(not exactly) Library (but still a whole lotta) Love - UK Edition!

Do you have a particular topic of conversation that, no matter how many times it comes up, you always seem to bumble through it? I always feel like a bit of a dope when I talk to people about my husband because usually at some point in the conversation, I have to share that he's Scottish (cause otherwise the next part of the story won't make sense or something like that). And 90% of the time, that piece of news is met with "Oh yeah! I've got some Scottish in me too." To which I then need to clarify, "No I mean he's really Scottish. Like from the UK." It seems such a simple clarification to make, and I don't know why, but after nearly 9 years of marriage I still flub it by saying weird/awkward things like "Yeah, fresh off the boat!" as if he were a catch of Atlantic salmon or something. (When will I be able to figure this out?)

But speaking of flubbing things - how's that for an intro? Uh... yeah! We are currently in Scotland visiting my in-laws, and for the first time we planned it so that we would be in one spot for the whole of our visit (rather than hopping on to a new place every 4-5 days). I was really hoping this would pan out into a trip to ye olde local library, but so far that hasn't happened and probably won't. Fortunately, my in-laws are library loving folks just like us, so we haven't been at a loss for books to read! These have been our favorites this time around:

Hairy Maclary from Donaldson's Dairy
This one is the little dude's favorite (and it really is more appropriate for the birth to 3 years crowd). Simple rhymes, cute dogs and one "terrible tom" who's caterwaul requires some theatrics from mom to pull off all make for a sweet little read before bed.

There's a Bear on My Chair
Another one for the 0-3 year olds, though saying that, the wee girl enjoyed this one too. Maybe because the mouse's tantrum throwing at the end was very "pigeon-esque"? Or maybe it's because she's really understanding the concept of rhyming words now... or maybe it's the bear? (Or maybe it's just a well written, well-illustrated children's book Sara. Hence the award stickers on the front cover.)

Mr Tickle and the Dragon
You can't come to the UK and not see the Mr. Men and Little Miss books by Roger Hargreaves. They're ubiquitous, and for a while I wondered why - after all, one of my favorite books (on cassette tape!) was Mr Tickle - but then of course, it dawned on me: he's British (Hargreaves that is. Not Mr. Tickle.) Normally I'm not a fan of series that have become so commercialized that even after the author has died, new books keep coming out - but this story is decent and it fits in with the bit of a dragon kick that the wee girl has been on lately. Sooo... keeper.

Sugarlump and the Unicorn, and Fox's Socks
What's a trip to the UK without finding a new book by Julia Donaldson? Her rhymes and stories are just the best. Sugarlump is a story about a rocking horse who wishes he were somewhere else, and eventually learns the old "be careful what you wish for" lesson - but don't worry, it's still a happy ending for him. Fox's Socks is a simple rhyming book, either good for beginning readers or good for the 0-3 crowd (my brother-in-law has an adorable 11 month old, hence all the books for that age range).

I feel slightly bummed that I haven't come across a knock-out hit this time around, but nonetheless these have proved a strong showing. So, like the weather as of late, I really can't complain. ;)

What have you been reading lately?

Monday, June 19, 2017

What's That Bright Thing In The Sky? - My Sunday Best - 05

Three years ago, when we took my sister and brother-in-law to Scotland for their very first trip to the UK ever, we had the most gorgeous weather... beautiful blue skies with white fluffy clouds, and hardly a drop of water to be seen (unless of course, you were looking at a river or loch). It made for dramatic landscapes and was truly stunning. So much so that my husband and I commented on it nearly every day, "You guys are getting the *best* weather here! Truly!"  After we got home, we continued to talk about it. It was that remarkable.

Fast forward three years... and last week, we arrived here with my parents for *their* first ever trip to the UK and... alas. The weather has not been as "show-offy."

In a much more typical Scottish fashion, it has rained nearly every day we have been here - sometimes all day, sometimes just on and off - but regardless, gray and cloudy 24/7. Really, the kind of weather one is much more likely to expect in Scotland. So I'm not complaining, I'm just sharing all this as a preface for my MSB picture:

Same-o same-o skirt and top. Bump: 20 weeks

Pardon the grimace, but it's bright out! Sun! Yay!! (Ouch!!)

A Blessed Corpus Christi to you! In a funny coincidence, we celebrated Mass at a church with the same name as our home parish: Holy Spirit. Half-way around the world and same name. What are the odds of that?

On our way to church, I told the wee girl that while the name of the church would be the same as our church there were probably going to be some things that were different too. So she suggested that we play a game: she would look for all the things that were the same, and I would look for all the things that were different. Honestly, I would have been more interested to hear about all the things that she noticed that were different - especially since the only thing that she said was the same were the "colors". (The colors where, honey? The ones the priest wore? The flowers? She wouldn't elaborate, so I guess we'll never know...).

So, would she have noticed the priest was African? That the music was accompanied by organ?  That we spent time in Adoration before the Blessed Sacrament and chanted in Latin? Or that the walls were decorated with mosaics? There were so many things that struck me as different, especially when I tried to imagine the view from her perspective and experience.

It was a good game to play I think. It got me thinking about the things I still need (and want) to learn (the Latin prayers being first and foremost), and about the things that I want to teach the kiddos. The amount of "material" (for lack of a better word) that is part of our faith really is overwhelming. I hope the kids and I always find that to be a source of inspiration rather than a cause for despair.  At the very least, I know that when things get to be "too much" I can always fall back on the Eucharist - the real and true presence of our Lord - always present to us and helping us to get home. Corpus Christi is a good day to celebrate indeed.

My MSB is a day late and a dollar short, but that just means you all can see everyone else's posts over at Rosie's! Do stop by and share the love. :)

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Little Gems - Library Love

I almost didn't think it would be worth it to do a Library Love today, except that as I was collecting books to return to said library I realized that - quite by accident or luck - we had a few real gems worth mentioning.

They All Saw a Cat by Brendan Wenzel
I can't remember if I've shared this one before (and clearly I'm too lazy to go check the archives) but what I love about this is the artwork that shows what the cat looks like to each observer: to the young boy the cat looks like, well, a sweet fluffy cat; but to the dog, the cat looks skinny and rat-like with an overly large bell around its scrawny neck. And of course, to the flea the cat looks mostly like a forest of fur with the cat's head as a mountain waayy in the distance. This book was voted as a "Mock Caldecott" finalist by our local library. So how's that for a recommendation?

Hot Air: The (Mostly) True Story of the First Hot-Air Balloon Ride by Marjorie Priceman
This book is a Caldecott finalist. And for good reason! I won't give the story away, but will share that it's about the first "manned" hot air balloon flight that took place in Versailles, France on September 19, 1783. Again the illustrations win out (along with the story). I had to pick this one up when I saw it because the wee girl just loves seeing hot air balloons (and we've been seeing quite a few these past couple weeks on our way to preschool - it must be ballooning weather here!)

Little Mouse and the Big Cupcake by Thomas Taylor
This falls under the "Last but not Least" category. I had asked the little dude what kind of book he wanted at the library and all he said was, "Chocolate chips!!" So I figured, what the heck? I'll ask the librarian for a picture book about chocolate chips. And this was the result. I have to say I wasn't particularly impressed with the cover, but I felt like I had to take it home because it was pretty much the only book the librarian could find.
But I ended up being pleasantly surprised by how much both children loved this book! It includes a nice lesson on sharing, and the picture of the mouse eating the cupcake at the end genuinely makes the little dude laugh. So thumbs up to our librarian for suggesting it!

What little (or big) gems have you found lately?

Sunday, May 28, 2017

Living in Bodies and a My Sunday Best

I guess when you think about it - our bodies are really important.

Get used to that outfit folks. I'm currently 17 weeks preggo
and it's just about the only Mass-worthy outfit I gots, so
you're going to be seeing a lot of it

Earlier this week, I picked up my copy of The Catholic Catalogue (my first actual, physical, non-internet reference for how to live like a Catholic), with the intention of reading up on the Ascension which we celebrated today.

Instead, I found myself in the beginning of the book reading about the sign of the cross. You know, that quintessential hand movement that makes Catholics stick out like sore thumbs at any ecumenical prayer meeting or that football players sometimes make after a touchdown? It seems so basic to Catholicism. So fundamental. And yet...

Can I share this in my most quiet, private voice?

I've always had such trouble with it. Not inside the church, of course. It's quite easy to make the sign of the cross when you're standing with a hundred or so others who are making it with you. But outside. With others. Certainly with non-Catholics, but oftentimes with Catholics as well. Heck, we don't even make it at dinner before we say grace. (Which, as you can guess, will now change as a result of this post.)

"But why?" you may ask. "Aren't you, sort of, a cradle Catholic?" Well, yeah. Sort of. I've spent more time in a Catholic church than any other. But you know what the real deal is?

(Lean in close please... cause I'm not really wanting to say this out loud.)

It makes me feel like a fake.

It's a pious action, and I fear it makes me look more pious than I am. It feels like a "holier-than-thou" motion when in the company of Catholics and non-Catholics alike.

So this was my frame of mind when I ran across this passage in The Catholic Catalogue:

"I remember as a teenager sometimes wishing for a disincarnate, less bodily Christianity. I wanted to belong to a church that was less ancient, more modern, less strange. I worried when my parents made the sign of the cross in mixed company that people would think they were superstitious, or uneducated fools. I wanted God to be a private matter. I wanted him to live in my heart, not on my head. Being Catholic was embarrassingly bodily, and I knew that public expressions of religion, like the sign of the cross, were considered poor taste." (emphasis mine)

This woman got me! She might be coming at it from a slightly different place, but she nailed it for me: being Catholic is embarrassingly bodily. From making the sign of the cross, to fasting from meat on Fridays; from using rosary beads while praying, all the way to practicing Natural Family Planning (NFP) instead of using contraception - the Catholic church insists that we are not to ignore how our bodies play into our spirituality (and more than that, it provides guidance on what a holy use of our bodies looks like).

To be honest, this was one of the aspects of Catholicism that drew me back to the Church - it forced me to get out of my head. When I have to physically go somewhere and talk to someone to confess and repent, then forgiveness no longer feels like a mind game. (And, on a related note - it then also happens! Prior to returning to the Catholic church I hardly ever thought about confessing my sins - because, honestly, who ever wants to think about that? - and so, I didn't.)

But this is also the aspect of Catholicism that is the most uncomfortable - because when I use my body to, say, make the sign of the cross, I am immediately communicating to others that I'm playing by different rules. My whole self shrinks back from sticking out like this. I'd like to call it "being sensitive to others" or even "showing by example how to not let ritual get in the way of authentic prayer" - but we all know it's fear. So maybe, maybe, if I remember that the sign of the cross *is* a prayer in of itself; maybe if I remember that "to make the sign of the cross is to say yes to God, yes to the Blessed Trinity, yes to the passion of Christ and the forgiveness of sin" then maybe I can put this fear aside, and step into this reality of new life and being clothed with Christ. Because that is what I really want - from the top of my head, to the tips of my toes.

Brownie points to you for reading to the end - if for no other reason than to find out why in the world I considered this a "My Sunday Best" post... well, isn't it obvious? Bodies, clothes, Catholicism... it's all related, right? Right? Well, should you disagree, head over to Rosie's to see what a real MSB looks like. And thanks for letting me ramble.

Sunday, May 7, 2017

The Books Making Me Cry These Days - Library Love

First, thank you to all who left messages and sent notes of congrats about our new little one! It means so much to Paul and I to read your good wishes and encouragement. The first trimester was definitely a struggle, and I often told people during that time that I relied on their excitement about the pregnancy because I was feeling so yucky myself that I found it hard to muster up any feelings other than self-pity.

But of course, now I'm pregnant and feeling ALL the feels. This was made especially clear to me while at the library picking out stories and Maisy books to leave at the library bring home. The little dude brought me a book to read and the last page brought me to tears - and of course, brought him much confusion. So we've had the conversation, more than twice now, that "sometimes Mommy cries tears of joy." The wee girl is quite entertained by it all and tries to make the waterworks come on by demand: "Mommy, read this book now!" But you know, that's the lovely thing about hormones - you hardly get to control when/how they will effect you. So she doesn't often get her wish. (Ha ha, little one.) OK, on to the books!

Is Mommy?

This is the one that got me crying in the library. It's a simple book, asking children questions about their mommies: "Is Mommy tall or short?" And of course the children, being children, answer with all the least flattering choices. "Short!" "Boring!" "Old!"  But do you love your mommy? Resounding YES!! (Cue the tears.) The little dude loves this one for the audience participation.

The Baby Sister

So, you know who's on the shelf below Maisy? Tomie dePaola! I credit Read Aloud Revival to turning me onto him - or maybe reintroducing me to him, as I definitely remember reading some of his books when I was a kid. In any case, while the wee girl is perusing her selection of Maisy books, I glance through the TdP ones, and of course, this one caught my eye. It's an autobiographical story of Tomie welcoming his baby sister Maureen home, and the ending line could not be sweeter: "And Tommie was the happiest boy in the world." I love this one because it presents the arrival of a new sibling with joy and anticipation, rather than with trepidation of how things will change. Not that I don't think those stories have their place, but this one is just so comforting and feel good that both kids love it and will ask me to read it over and over.

Hello In There!

I picked this book up when I was pregnant with the little dude, so of course, as I read it to him I get all misty-eyed remembering how I used to read it to his sister when she was just about the same age. The illustrations show a little girl waiting and wondering about her new baby sibling, while her mother's tummy gets bigger and bigger with every turn of the page. But what makes it especially fun are the little flaps on the mommy's tummy that open to reveal the baby inside. It works great for the 2-4 year old range for that reason.


OK, when I cried at the end of this one we were all baffled. It's a story about a pig! And has nothing to with expecting a baby sibling! Clearly, this was all hormones. But the energetic piglet just captured my heart, and her "I love you anyway too," hit me in just the same spot as all the kids loving their mommy in "Is Mommy?" (I guess that part of my heart must be especially tender from the repeated readings of that book.) Worth a checkout, especially if you have an energetic little who can "really wear people out."

It's been rather therapeutic to read so many books that let the "tears of joy" flow... so what books make you cry? Or what books might you recommend reading to little ones expecting a new sibling?