Thursday, October 23, 2014

Ice Skating for the First Time

Well, it was the second time #1 went ice skating but the first time for children #2 and #3. They'd been asking to try it ever since #1 got to go ice skating at altar boy camp over the summer. Busy weeks mean a long wait, but today was the day. We met up with some friends who are big ice hockey players in order to show us the ropes.

The children had an absolute blast! Two hours of wholesome hard exercise will result in tuckered-out children tonight. We went during public skate hours which started at two o'clock . . . well before the schools let out and the rink gets busy. The music was quiet in the background. The rink was nearly empty.

I noted that this is a sport that can be pursued as a family, accommodate all ages simultaneously, and can be performed with modest dress (as an amateur pastime, of course, not as a competitor--too bad times have changed). The rink is 2.5 miles from our home, used skates are cheap, and the monthly family membership costs less per month than one restaurant meal (for our family). These factors have this Mama's brain turning and whirling!

When we came home and warmed up with Mama's homemade hot cocoa, I asked the children, "Who would like to go ice skating again?"

A chorus of "Me, me, me!" rang out.

John said, "I'm going to say 'me' for every mile from here to China! That's how much I want to go back!"

Wednesday, October 22, 2014


Recently I discovered that I can see all my previously-lost-in-a-list-of-thousands Draft Posts in Blogger. I can see only my Draft Posts. So, I read through the thirty of them, deleted most, and will be publishing a few that I think are worthwhile keeping out of the dustbin. ~KTL

The below was written almost three years ago, when our firstborn was five years old.

This morning while folding laundry, I was struck that God trying to get us to tithe our treasure (money), time, and talent is like trying to get a little kid to fold the socks.

But, let me back up a little to explain. Lately I have been making an effort to involve the children (and particularly John, who is almost five and quite capable) in the household chores I do. For example, after I have spent time meal planning, grocery shopping, half an hour cooking, and the kids wolf down the food in ten minutes, everyone scatters, leaving me to clean the kitchen for twenty to thirty minutes. I am coming to realize that this is bad for the formation of their characters and souls, so I am trying to keep the children with me, giving them little tasks to do, while I do the bulk of the work. Then we work as a family, they learn the joy of wholesome work, I have them supervised (so they're not doing mischief), and the job is done much faster. Still, the whole time I am doing the bulk of the kitchen cleaning, John might successfully clear his plate, put away some food ingredients, and wipe the table of crumbs--that's it. He's doing a small percentage of the job. Most of this effort remains an exercise for good in principle, and I don't expect to have super useful children for some years to come.

Getting back to this morning, I was folding a large load of laundry and I asked the children to please separate out the socks, then match them. John complained, resisted, claimed he couldn't do it, and was slow, and, meanwhile I folded all the other laundry and separated it into stacks by person.

I felt exasperated and thought to myself, 'Dear child! You are expending so much energy complaining about doing the socks which are, what?, 10% of the work here? Less than that?'

The idea of ten percent really jumped out at me and I thought of tithing.

How much do we, as children of God, complain and resist about giving ten percent to Him, from whom all blessings flow? How much are we grown adults like my preschool boy with his sometimes cheerful compliance but, all too commonly, his foot-dragging, excuses, or outright complaining? Looking at myself, I see a bit too much resemblance for comfort!


What does it mean to give time to God?

Off the top of my head, he asks us to keep holy the Sabbath day. If we count just our waking hours on Sunday--and we keep the entire day holy--that's about 9% of our waking hours in a week. Do I fail to keep the day holy, and instead make it profane (unconsecrated, secular, common, vulgar) by grocery shopping, housekeeping, servile labor, or watching television or movies that are particularly not godly?

What about simply going to Mass? That's an hour on Sunday: a whole one half of one percent of all the hours in a week. Do I go every Sunday and holy day of obligation? Or skip out sometimes? Do I go with the intent of giving to God through worship? Or do I go hoping mainly to "be fed" and then complain when I "wasn't fed" (whether from poor liturgy, lack of cool entertainment, or from distractions of our own children)? Really? God sent his only Son for our salvation and re-presents His sacrifice in an unbloody manner, giving us Jesus' very Real Presence in the Eucharist for us to consume and I was not fed? I am literally fed with Jesus' very self!

And that reality doesn't take away that it can be hard to get up and go after a night awake with the baby, dressing all the children, knowing they will cause distractions, and not having a free hand to hold a missal to actually read the words in order to know what the lector is saying, whom I can't hear because I'm hushing my preschooler.

What about daily prayer at home? Do I come even close to praying to God (read: conversing with him, worshiping him, listening to him) 10% of our waking hours? I've never heard that we're asked to pray 10% of the time, but it's an interesting number to contemplate. (Actually, St. Paul in the Bible told us to "pray without ceasing"! 1 Thessalonians 5:17.)

I know that in our home, I have a prayer routine I would be doing ideally with the children. It seems so simple, yet I find it so difficult and I doubt I achieve one "perfect prayer day" per week. I've tried to keep it small:
  • my own morning prayers and reading a short meditation (5 minutes),
  • having the children make a Morning Offering (1 minute),
  • praying the Angelus at noon (5 minutes),
  • praying grace before all meals (30 seconds per meal = 1-1/2 minutes),
  • praying the Rosary as a family (at a fast, adult pace, it takes about 15 minutes to pray five decades, but we get through only two decades in 15 minutes right now), and
  • bedtime prayers (3 minutes).
A parent (even me!) might look at that and think, 'What are you doing to those poor children! You've got them praying all day! Do you even have time to have any fun in between all those prayers? You're not monks, you know!' And yet, that is about 30 minutes of prayer all day, which is 3% of the waking time in a day. Three measly percents. Giving 10% of waking time to prayer would be a radical hour and a half per day! Hey, that's time for daily Mass plus all the prayers we aim for now . . .


If one has a talent or skill, even if one worked hard to cooperate with grace to develop it, the talent came from God. Who is one to hoard it?

As St. Paul said, "Who confers distinction upon you? What do you possess that you have not received? But if you have received it, why are you boasting as if you did not receive it? (1 Corinthians 4:7)

If I have a skill, what is its purpose? What am I doing with it? Am I doing for others? Maybe for someone in my season of life, doing for others is mainly going to mean doing for the people within my family. It's no good for me to absent myself from my family for lengthy periods in order to go serve food to the homeless at a soup kitchen: that would be shirking the duties God did give me in order to pick up duties he did not give me.

Each person has different circumstances, so each person can give talent in different ways. I know my perspective best these days: Thinking as a homeschooling mom of little ones who are always around, one ministry mothers in my position can do is cook. Most churches have a ministry of providing meals to women who have just had babies, the sick and bedbound, and for funerals and the grieving family left behind. We homemakers are cooking anyway with children at our feet, so just make a double batch of the meal. We can drive it over to the family and leave the kids in the car, just dropping the meal at the door. Or ask our husbands to drive over the meal. This is a useful gift of talent that takes very little away from one's duties.

We can all search our own hearts for how to share the talents God has given us.


There is a long tradition of tithing ten percent of our money to God. Also there is debate about whether it is a strict ten percent. Gross income? Net income? Respond to a radical Gospel call like certain saints and give most of our income away? Join a mendicant order in order to have no income at all?

Amidst all the debate is a one certain thing and that is resistance to donate away our income. Surely God didn't mean my actual money. Aren't I "donating to charity" when I give away my old stuff I don't want anymore to the Goodwill thrift store? I know: when I die, I'll give away some of my leftover, not-used-up assets to a nice charity, and that will be good.

God had a lot to say about Bible, which he gave to us in Holy Scriptures. A lot. And it's pretty uncomfortable to read with modern eyes.

This is an interesting list of Scripture (from a Protestant Bible, so double-check against Catholic sources) divided by monetary sub-topic. Chris and I really like Dave Ramsey's financial program and he says that there are more than 800 Scripture quotes about money.

I can recommend a book I recently read: "Happy Are You Poor: The Simple Life and Spiritual Freedom" by Fr. Thomas Dubay. Personally, I found it to be one of those "scary books." I began reading it probably a year ago and, when I could not come up with any arguments to counter the unceasing barage of Gospel teaching about money (paired with a long tradition of Church teaching and interpretation), I set down the book. I didn't want any more guilt in my heart and, apparently, I didn't want to make radical changes either. Recently I was able to pick up the book again and finish it.

But then I put it back on the shelf just to sit for a while. Away from me. I am a work in progress.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

The Orange Rhino

A nationally published article, "16 Real Ways to Stop Yelling at Your Kids" has recently drawn more attention to Sheila McCraith, who launched her blog with the pseudonym the Orange Rhino and whose book is about to be published.

The Orange Rhino website is a wealth of information and inspiration to stop yelling at our children.

I am just one little mama, but I can attest that many more loving mothers shout, scream, and even call names to their children than admit doing so publicly. Plenty of deeply religious mothers have confessed to me privately, and me to them, our real failures. The Orange Rhino was one of those mothers until she got caught throwing her adult-sized tantrum by a workman in her home. Her shame of realizing she always behaved nicely toward her children in the presence of strangers but yelled at her kids daily in private inspired her to challenge herself to stop yelling . . . for good!

Yelling is not discipline, and our family is all about raising children with parental discipline until they mature enough to have self-discipline. No efforts to stop yelling are about being namby pamby, a weakling, or a permissive parent. In my humble opinion, with what I now see as only eight years of parenting experience, yelling is about exhibiting pride and egotism, a failure to die to self, viewing the child as more of a peer than a subordinate, and throwing an adult-sized tantrum.

See the Orange Rhino's revelations about yelling here: short and sweet and, in my opinion, true. See the basics of her challenge here. Read her alternatives to yelling here.

Then go delve through her blog (late at night or at the crack of dawn when the kids are asleep) and perhaps have a box of Kleenex nearby for those painful introspective moments. Perhaps go buy the book.

As always, please pray for me in this regard.

And let's stop yelling and start behaving like (1) Christian (2) adults!

Bonus Reading on a somewhat related topic: "Does Complaining Rob Us of Joy?"

Monday, October 20, 2014

Skillet Pumpkin Cornbread

I'm no professional food photographer.

Skillet Pumpkin Cornbread served hot with Cinnamon Maple Syrup Butter for breakfast is fall deliciousness! It also would be delicious as an accompaniment to lunch or dinner, for afternoon tea time, or as a dessert, so, basically, any time!

Margaret Learns Piano

Margaret (3-1/2) has been begging for piano lessons. But lessons are expensive, a privilege, and require discipline to practice, so we've been holding her off.

But then she taught herself by ear how to play one- and two-line melodies of "Ode to Joy," "Hot Cross Buns," and a third which I can't recall in this fuzzy-brained moment.

So I talked to the older children's piano teacher about what to do!

A great little series using a Russian method: and look at the fun title!
Our kids think it is just for them.

I suggested that maybe I could pick my way through a piano book and teach her the most foundational basics. Instead of replying with a laugh and a reminder that I know nothing about how to play the piano, our quiet and always-polite teacher immediately said, "No, have Mary teacher her. She can do it."

Daddy and I proposed the idea to Mary (counting the weeks till she turns six) and she agreed immediately. She is being paid a quarter a week because we want her to take this seriously, which so far she does.

the strip of keys
First, she wrote out a strip of the keys because she remembered her teaching using that when Mary was first in lessons. Then she took Margaret to our master calendar and they discussed at length which day of the week they should have their lesson. (To which Mama interjected that a student as young as three would do better with five minutes of instruction daily rather than a long session once per week.)

It has been two weeks and mostly I find the girls sitting down first thing in the morning. I have to guide the Teacher in patience, as well as in staying at the basics instead of launching out to teach her Student something like "Amazing Grace."

It is a beautiful thing and I love it. I felt like I was waiting so long for music to enter our home and now it feels all in a flurry (really, the last year and a half or so) that we have Mama and three children making music, as well as a toddler who plays on the "ding ding" (piano) whenever he can scramble up there.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

He Is the Magnet Still in my Hand

One of the reasons I love homeschooling (and, as an added bonus, that Chris works from home) is that our children have access to us all day long. (This is also one of the challenges of homeschooling, but that is the subject of another post!)

It can be so fatiguing to be in the company and charge of children 14 hours per day, day in and day out . . . but last week God sent me a few glimmers of awareness of how blessed I am.

I get to be here to answer the children's questions and have deep discussions with them when the moment arises. I get to answer on behalf of my and my husband's worldview. Nobody else will be there to answer these questions during the children's tender years until they are older, and then only gradually over their childhoods.

Twice this week, Margaret (3-1/2) asked wonderful questions, probably because we've been doing more formal little girl catechism lately. One day she came to me somberly and asked, "Mama, who made God?" On two other occasions, she had great questions for me, one about hell, and these led to sweet, catechetical conversations just appropriate to her age.

A little three-year-old (or even a child several years older) is not going to remember her passing, but very important, question all the way till the end of the day when she gets to see Mama or Daddy again. How blessed I am to be there!

Best of all was a conversation with John (almost 8). He told me that he had a new idea for his future career . . . to be a Christian movie-maker. There was a recent film he wanted to watch but Daddy and I explained that it had a strongly pagan message to it, so our family wasn't going to watch it. John hatched the idea that there must be other kids who desire to see such films as he does, so he would grow up to be a Christian filmmaker in order to make movies with a Christian theme.

I chatted about those careers. I said that some movies are not outright inappropriate or evil for all ages, so can be watched when one is older and very strong and educated in one's faith, but that parents must guard children especially carefully because children believe basically everything they see and hear.

John: "I am like a magnet and the refrigerator is my faith."

Mama: "What?"

John: "The refrigerator is faith and you are a magnet sticking on it strongly. But I am a magnet still in your hand and you're placing me on the refrigerator. That's why I have to be more careful about movies."

I could have missed that ten-minute conversation! Amidst all the fatigue, the wish for more breaks, the desire to have coffee with a girlfriend more than twice per year, the yearning for accolades, recognition, and raises--amidst all of that--I get to be here for all these moments. Thank God! And thanks to my husband who supports me!

Bonus Reading on a related topic: Staying Home with Your Kids When You Can Barely Afford It

Gluten vs. Glutton

You know your five-year-old is a Catholic but not a foodie when . . . 

This week on Taco Night, Mary's eyes fell on the bag of tortilla chips (which just so happen to be naturally gluten-free, not that we eat gluten-free).

The chip bag advertised GLUTEN-FREE.

Her eyes widened and she asked us, alarmed, "The chip company is giving away free sin?!"

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Paper Management

Paper Management for the Homeschooling Mother Who Wants to Save Everything

About once per month, I organize the children's prodigious production of paper. I notice a time when Chris has the children somewhere else--like at a hot air balloon festival!--and I grab it.

I have a paper receptacle in the kitchen and in the school room: the two places of highest paper production. As the kids draw, scribble, and write all day long, I grab the papers and toss them into my baskets. My personality type wants to obsess over each piece of paper, which on a daily basis would paralyze me.

With the children gone (that's important), I grab each child's binder for the current school year, a trash bag, and a three-whole punch.

I sort the papers into four sections: each child ends with a stack of papers worth keeping (at least for now) and most of the papers go in the trash. It's so hard for me to throw away papers that I've found it goes much easier if I just "get into the zone," throwing away masses all at once instead of going through papers daily (and who has time for that?).

Then I store the children's papers in their binders. The last step is to take the trash out of the house before the children come home (this is important too).

At the end of the whole school year, at some point I flip through the binders and throw away even more. I'm sure I still have too much and I don't know what I'll do with all these binders when the children are grown and gone, but I'll cross that bridge when I come to it.

This method has worked for me since our firstborn began scribbling at age two. I know how to organize the paper of three kids, but I don't know what I'd do with five, seven, ten kids, nor do I pretend to.

Carolina BalloonFest 2014

On Saturday morning, Daddy and "the bigs" headed out to the Carolina BalloonFest, always held in the third weekend of October. This would be our first visit to the event. 

We earned some great school-time behavior from the kids in anticipation of this outing! Mary drew us a picture to keep us inspired to stick to our schoolwork all week.
This gorgeous vision reminds me of the little town in which I grew up, which was home to much ballooning.

Chris and the kids were out the door by 6:30 a.m. in order to be there for the launch because, if one is going to go, being there for the launch is really cool.

No fear of heights: 
Mary in the foreground, John in the background

Funnel cake! Mama's favorite!

Two exhausted kids on the way home

Friday, October 17, 2014

The Kids Bring Home a Friend

I was working in the kitchen while the children played outside when I heard the ding dong of the doorbell at the side porch.

Dangling a lizard

You see? One never knows what surprises await when one opens a door!

I said they had to let their new friend go back to his freedom. I enjoy quirky little lizards quite a lot.

Bonus Reading: 
And so many more posts at that blog . . .