7 Quick Takes — Various and Sundry Weekend Edition

— 1 —

Happy feast day to me and to all those named after St. Anne or St. Joachim. I wrote a post at Catholic Culture about how I have grown up with my patron. I’m bummed that the site was down a large part of today, but it’s back up and you can take a peek. It’s probably one of my most personal posts on the site, but a patron saint should be personal and be part of the family, right?

— 2 —

Here in Virginia we have a rather mild and rainy summer, and I’m really enjoying it. Unfortunately, my garden isn’t quite as happy. My tomatoes are taking longer to ripen and I have leaf spot on the plants. I’m applying copper to help. I lost one plant. I’m not sure if it was the fungus, but I have there were no other signs of invasion. Hopefully I’ve caught the leaf spot in time to reverse the problem for the rest of the tomatoes.

Last year in my front garden my chocolate mint shriveled and died. I was sure someone had sprayed weed killer it was so dead. But no, it was also a fungus…the mint came back this year with all sorts of rust. I didn’t think it was possible to kill mint, but meet the person who did…at least for one season. I’m following the instructions to keep pulling it up if I see signs of the rust returning.

— 3 —

We had our allergist trip this week for my older son and me. This time we only did food allergy testing. Things haven’t changed for my son, as we suspected. He’s still allergic to eggs, wheat, and dairy.

My husband and I watch cheesy movies Hallmark movies together when we want to unwind. One movie recently had a scene where the male star ate strawberries and had an allergic reaction. The reaction was anaphylactic with hives and swelling and breathing difficulty. All they did was give Benadryl and a creme and he was good to go. That scene made me so upset, because there is such a misunderstanding to what a true allergic reaction is compared to an intolerance. There needed to be an epinephrine injection when someone has that intense reaction. Benadryl isn’t going to cut it.

Speaking of injections, I now have the smaller convenient Auvi-Q, which will be so much easier to carry. I never want to use it, but I’m glad I can carry it around more easily.

— 4 —

I’ve been going to the swimming pool during the week with the boys. This is a huge change for me as I usually hate swimming. But we are all enjoying it. I’m soaking up more Vitamin D which has given me more energy. I wasn’t working on getting a tan, but I seem to have gotten a little color…I’m usually so pale, but it’s kind of nice to not look like a beached white whale.

— 5 —

The tan is a help for the wedding we will be attending next week. I found the dress on Thursday, less than half price, too. The fabric is perfect — cotton linen with embroidery, not the slinky man-made fabrics I don’t like to wear. I’ve got a shrug or shawl to wear, but I might even go bare-armed.  I’m not sure what shoes to wear, that’s the final touch.

I didn’t get in shape or lose weight as I had hoped this summer. All these medications wreaked havoc on my plans, and they seem to not help in losing weight. I’m off the sugar, dairy, alcohol and doing low carb and adding extra exercise, but I don’t think this scale is going to budge much. Sigh. I’m learning humility.

— 6 —

My husband and sons are working on painting the front porch. The front boards had some issues, so my husband was debating whether or not to replace or just paint over them.

I slept late yesterday morning and awoke to this:
photoNo turning back from this! There were further hiccups — the boards are a size they don’t make anymore. It was complicated, but he worked it out. They painted the first coat today…and I didn’t get any pictures. I was too busy getting paint out of clothes and carpets. But my husband was thrilled to see how our 11 year old is becoming such a reliable assistant. Our youngest is helping, also, but it’s still about the process, not getting the job done.

— 7 —

 On the medical front, first I’m asking for prayers for my cousin, who has stomach cancer. Her tumor was removed this week, and she’s in a lot of pain. Also, please pray for my mother, who has both shingles and probably West Nile virus. She’s on the mend, but needs lots of recovery time.

My last medicine was giving me daily migraines so I had to switch medications again. This is my third one. I’m having difficulty adjusting to the effects. The last three days I didn’t have a need to set my alarm, thinking I would wake up early naturally, but ending up waking up near 9:00. It’s like I’m a teenager again! That’s not the only issue, but I’m hoping it will get better than the last time. It’s like I’ve lost the month of July just to trying my medications.

For more Quick Takes, visit Svellerella, who is hosting this week.

Our Family Ties with Saints Anne and Joachim

Many years ago as a small baby I became a member of the Catholic Church, baptized as “Jennifer Ann” in St. Anne Catholic Church in Houston, Texas. Being named after the mother of the Blessed Virgin Mary and the grandmother of Jesus always felt as a special privilege. As time has passed, my relationship has grown from simply understanding St. Anne as a patron saint, to understanding her role as special family member of Christ and how she interceded for my vocation as a single woman, now wife and mother. There is also a special closeness when I think of the role of grandparents in our lives, and it will deepen even further when (or if) I become a grandmother.

The Directory on Popular Piety and the Liturgy explains that

it is always useful to teach the faithful to realize the importance and significance of the feasts of those Saints who have had a particular mission in the history of Salvation, or a singular relationship with Christ such as St. John the Baptist (24 June), St. Joseph (19 March), Sts. Peter and Paul (29 June), the Apostles and Evangelists, St. Mary Magdalen (22 July), St. Martha (29 July) and St. Stephen (26 December).

Now Saints Anne and Joachim do not appear on this list because they are not mentioned in the Bible, but they played a large role in our salvation history. It is a fact of life that a human being must have parents, and usually those parents become grandparents at some point. The Church understands and values the importance of family and family relationships. We have already experienced a few feasts (like the Visitation and Birth of St. John the Baptist) that illustrated the closeness of family ties. The family relationship is key with our relationship with God, as Abba/Father, and Jesus as our adopted brother. The family relationship is used as imagery throughout the Scriptures, but the emphasis of Jesus with his physical family on earth is also beautifully reflected in our liturgy.

It is looking at these family ties that help us understand and pray for intercession from this saintly couple. (Read the rest at Catholic Culture….)

Mary and Martha and our Place in Bethany

I had not planned a vacation, but the past couple of weeks became a vacation by default with health concerns and funerals and family events. I hope to be back more in the swing of writing, especially as the Church celebrates some of my favorite saints at the end of July.

Within a week we celebrate the memorials of St. Mary Magdalene (July 22) and St. Martha (July 29). The true identification of St. Mary Magdalene is not quite clear. The Greek Fathers gave her a separate identity than Mary of Bethany, sister of Martha and Lazarus, but most Latin Fathers say she is one and the same. Father Saunders explains the confusion, but ends by agreeing with the Latin Fathers. I am in his camp – I have always thought Mary Magdalene was the sister of Martha. The Church places the two saints’ feast days so close to each other, treating them as they are sisters. After all, if Mary chose the better part, where is her separate feast if she is not Magdalen?…. Read the rest at Catholic Culture

Weekend Links

I’ve been sharing some of internet reading on my Twitter account, but I have a boatload to share here:

Food:

Oh, all these recipes look delicious. I probably won’t make have time to make them, and I’m so conflicted because I generally try to avoid wheat, sugar, dairy. But I can drool…

Thinking about Diet:

Age, medicine, hormones, and my heart condition is not making it easy to keep my weight down. I found Cindy’s musings interesting. I’ve got at least 20 pounds to lose, but I’d be happy to just lose 5-10 pounds and keep it off. I try to keep my goals in small increments.

The second post (following the links) raises some interesting points. I’m not eating many of these foods, but maybe I should try to remove some of them to see if it helps me.

One thing that has helped me with inflammation is taking this Alfalfa. Even if I’m straying with an occasional bit of wheat, my feet and hands do not swell or hurt.

Coffee

I’ve eliminated so many things from my diet, the latest being coffee. I was down to only drinking decaf, but after reading about what’s in decaf and how it is so acidic, I had to give it up. ‘m sensitive to caffeine, so I now only drink an occasional cup of decaf. I miss the morning ritual and the social aspect, though.

Sunburn

I’ve been struggling with finding the right sunscreen. Except for my surgery scar, I’ve really done better not wearing sunscreen at all (like Wellness Mama. I did buy some mineral sunscreens for the family, as reviewed by Safe Mama and Kitchen Stewardship and EWG, but they really didn’t stay on in water, and I found we got pink even wearing it. And we really don’t like the white hue it changed our skin. We are white enough without any help.

In case of sunburn, I’ve found these suggestions helpful:

Chewing Gum Outrage

We recently had a package of Big League Chew and I read the the ingredients label. I was disappointed to read it contains aspartame! The gum is off our treat list.

Food for Thought

“Fortuitously, neuroscientists discovered that this tedium was associated with a distinctive pattern of brain activity. It turns out that when we do nothing, many parts of the brain that underpin complex kinds of thinking light up.”

I don’t expect for us to sit in an empty room to think things over, but this reminded me of Charlotte Mason’s Masterly Inactivity. We give time for our children to make the connections and make the information their own. Science is showing that the brain IS really working.

This also makes me think of my meditation time. I try to have mental prayer for 10-15 minutes a day. And so often I am afraid of just sitting there without any prop or doing anything. But how nice to see that even in prayer I have science behind me. ;-)

Both my husband and I come from families that believe in family eating together. Dinner is the peg for much of our prayers, too. Both sides of the family we do well with the art of conversation. We relish that time…and just like the article mentions, the lingering to talk is the most cherished part. Now that our boys are growing older our meals and conversations are much more engaging and interesting. At home we never have electronics at the dinner table. We do bring our cell phones out occasionally while at dinner, but mainly to look up something up. It’s important to have the face-to-face conversation.

What point isn’t made here is that children also need to be unplugged at the table. We make an effort to bring some reading or coloring or other activities to keep the children occupied while we wait for dinner. And sometimes the conversations are more for adults, so that’s another reason to bring something to do. The times we are “lingering” in conversation after dinner the children can get antsy.

Last link, but a very interesting article on Harry Truman. What a contrast to these career politicians we have today.

7 Quick Takes Mid-July Family, Funerals, Travel, Basketball edition

It’s been a busy July, and comparing notes with others, I’m not alone. I haven’t done a Quick Takes at all this month. So here I am on Saturday night just playing a little catch-up. Let’s see, after the fourth of July weekend with lots of family get-togethers, we’ve had two funerals, two road trips, basketball camp, and doctors’ visits filling up our days.
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St. Benedict’s Far-Reaching Impact

After a June full of multiple solemnities, July takes a bit of a respite from multiple high feasts. The Sundays and the two feasts of apostles (Thomas and James) are the highest feast days. The rest of the month sets the rhythm of Tempus per Annum or Season of the Year or Ordinary Time (discussed previously here and here). The Sundays of Ordinary Time set the theme for the week. The weekday Masses echo the Mass Propers from the Sunday (antiphons and prayers). This is only different for saints’ days, whether they be feasts, memorials or optional memorials.

Of particular note is St. Benedict of Nursia (or Norcia) whose memorial is July 11. Formerly his feast was March 21, but this date always falls during Lent or Holy Week, overshadowing this universal saint. The 1969 Calendar reform moved it to July 11, allowing full celebration of this special Father of the Church. For those who belong to the Benedictine family, March 21 is a feast, “The Passing of Our Holy Father Benedict” and July 11 is a solemnity.

Although the Church has one day to celebrate St. Benedict, his memory and impact extends  into our everyday life. The saint gives us much food for thought and provides us with many tools and reminders for our spiritual lives, especially as we lay the groundwork in Ordinary Time….Read the rest at Catholic Culture

“Come to me, All you who labor and are burdened, and I will give rest.”

That is an excerpt from Sunday’s Gospel. Every time I hear that passage I am so touched. It is such a personal and loving invitation, isn’t it? All my cares and burdens are forgotten and I just feel so loved and consoled.

And I do have some heavy concerns. A dear family from our parish and Seton School is hurting. The father, mother and a daughter (of 9 children) were in a car accident. The father was killed, and the mother and daughter are in serious condition. All the children are grown with their own families, so it’s a large family who will miss their patriarch.

My husband’s close friend is asking prayers for his father who has Alzheimer’s and in the hospital with pneumonia. It’s been very hard for him to watch his father deteriorate so quickly.

I had my stress echocardiogram on Wednesday. The results are disappointing, as I now have a gradient again when I do any physical exertion. The numbers aren’t as high as pre-surgery, but they aren’t small. Usual line of treatment is medicine, so the doctor upped my beta-blocker. I’m really having a difficult time with the side effects, especially the brain fog and absolute exhaustion. I am like a zombie. The pharmacist says it could take 2-3 weeks for my body to adjust–and that just seems forever! I’m having difficulties concentrating and staying awake, which doesn’t help for me to write, which I need to be doing for Catholic Culture. I need to be more clearheaded!

The overall news is hard to bear, knowing that while the surgery was needed, these are new developments and I will be dealing with further problems the rest of my life.

And my vanity note, I had started boot camp with TTapp last week, but just couldn’t get past Thursday with this new medicine. Starting over…. But I know this medicine isn’t going to make it any easier to lose weight.

But entrusting these concerns to Jesus certainly lifts the weight off my shoulders. Confidence and trust in Jesus!

Confidence In Homeschooling

There have been quite a few discussions in the blog community (and probably Facebook, but I’m not there right now) about homeschooling and offering advice.

I’ve always been surprised at such detailed advice-seeking questions from online people. I understand more of posting in a general forum, to get a survey of different answers, or turn to books for inspiration, but to look to someone online without much previous interaction for highly personalized advice is out of my comfort zone.

That is not to say that I don’t have interaction with many online friends. I have met many in real life, but geography requires electronic communication to keep in touch. There are friends like Erin that I probably will never get to meet because she is in Australia, but we have been good online friends for many years.

But I shouldn’t be too surprised by this influx of seeking advice. I mentioned this in my review of The Little Oratory:

The family is the root of society, and a miniature reflection of the Mystical Body, the family of God. We can all agree there is a crumbling of the traditional family. Oftentimes the family is isolated, no longer having the support system of grandparents, aunts and uncles and cousins or even ethnic or Catholic communities. Many in the 60s and 70s eschewed tradition, including of all the parental advice and experience of raising a family, leaving so many of those in the next generation trying to figure things on our own. We have lost our roots, our connections, our culture and our heritage. (No wonder there is a proliferation of self-help books; we have become quite an insecure lot.) Alongside this absence of parental advice is the lack of direction in growing in the Faith within the family, the domestic church….

We are insecure as we try to navigate the waters of family life because we feel so alone. So many of us are entering what feels like uncharted waters. Add in homeschooling, and it feels like drowning. So few of us have any experience in this department. And whether we realize it or not, many of us have assimilated current cultural thinking. Some of that thinking can be simply summarized as

  1. experts have all the answers
  2. parents need to ask experts
  3. parents aren’t capable of teaching their own children.

And who are the experts? That’s where the lines get a bit fuzzy. We do have to follow some educational guidelines to be “legal” but that doesn’t mean the government or those with Masters or Doctorates in Education are the ones who know best for education of our children.

Nor are those who seem to have their act together in homeschooling necessarily the experts. My husband and I are the experts in knowing ourselves and our children. We just need to be confident in our knowledge and act upon it.

Confidence, that’s what we are lacking, isn’t it? We need to be confident that we are our family’s experts. We can gather information from others, but be confident in our path we choose.

I think Melanie’s post Homeschooling is Like Cooking captures more of what we should be doing. Instead of looking for set answers, we are actually gathering different versions of recipes, getting inspired by ingredients, certain ways of cooking, looking at the same dish but with different approaches.

It is then when I turn to my own home I’ve got to make it work for us. We keep things simple. We don’t like curry, my husband doesn’t like hot sauces, we have food allergies. These are just some of specific processes into how we analyze our recipes…and make them our own.

The same applies for homeschooling. I could even have the exact same curriculum (like Seton) as my sister, but it isn’t going to look the same in my home.

I mentioned I just completed Level III Training for the Catechesis of the Good Shepherd. What was emphasized over and over is know the child, follow the child. Knowing my own strengths and weaknesses helps me to work with the child.

The same applies in home education. I need to know my children, their strengths and weaknesses and educate them as a person. I am not checking boxes and fitting the child into the curriculum, but my child IS the curriculum.

And then there is the little matter of knowing me. The first and foremost factor in being a wife, mother, home educator is that I need to work on myself. Most of the rough spots come from my weaknesses. But God also knows this, so He makes up with multiple graces. But so often it comes down to examining my conscience on my failures (laziness, lack of discipline, impatience) that I could tweak our homeschool. Usually it is not the particular books or curriculum to blame.

I’ve been reading Amy’s blog, The Highly Sensitive Homeschooler, which has given me all sorts of food for thought. She points out how we really need to know ourselves and our children.

I know I’m Highly Sensitive Person. I also am aware of the temperaments of my children and myself and my husband. I know a bit of my Myers Briggs personality, and know I’m a introvert. I also recognize that we have a smaller family like mine (I have two active boys, four years apart) compared to the moms that have larger families. Regardless of how I label it, they all provide factors that help me know myself and my children.

Pondering these aspects, here are a few “me” factors that I have to take into consideration for our home education:

  • I know that I take time to research something before jumping into it. I don’t like to follow fads. I usually wait to see if it survives the test of time.
  • I am slow to make the big decisions, but once I do, I like to stick to the decision.
  • I dislike change. I want to stay the course.
  • I also am very low energy. Amy linked to a great post on Low Energy Homeschooling. This is me all over. I need my quiet time, and still need a nap almost daily. I don’t like to agree to outside commitments because I’m just afraid I won’t have the energy.
  • I have to deal with my heart issues.Whether you call it medical or crisis or survival or recovery mode, we have been experiencing that here for a few years.
  • Literature-rich is a perfect fit for our us. I have a houseful of books, my husband and I read all the time, so do my children. When we want answers, we turn to our books. Workbooks don’t work as well for us.
  • Visual electronic media is too stimulating for us. We don’t use computers or electronic readers for our homeschooling (yet…I know there’s always room for change). TV is used, but minimally unless we are in crisis mode and need an electronic babysitter.
  • I look for a bit of self-sufficiency for work time. Some scripted programs work best for us — Memoria Press Latin, Right Start Math, Sound Beginnings, Primary Language Lessons, for examples. But then it’s reading and narration and writing.
  • We don’t do lapbooks or notebooking pages. We do keep various journals, but these are child-led.
  • We don’t do unit studies or big projects. Science experiments and art projects are interest driven. If the child suggests, we try to accommodate. Right now my house is awash with origami and folded papers, and small dioramas everywhere.
  • Strict schedules intimidate me. I’m afraid of committing because I know I will fail. I like to plan a more flexible timeline, knowing that appointments, tiredness, and just life interrupts. I need very wide margins, and at times my margins are larger than the actual plans.
  • I like to avoid crowds. If it’s a “homeschooling day” or a large social function, I usually try to avoid them. It’s over-stimulation for my children and me. I would prefer to pay more and go on an “off” day.
  • I like to commit to only a few outside activities. Our local group has clubs and activities but I only pick a few. I cannot be out of the home. Last year we had one marathon day — I tried running all my errands and our outside classes on Tuesday. This year will be different, and I’m not looking forward to that.
  • We do consider visits to the library important. We visit once a week or more. But we get grumpy in the summer because the library becomes a noisy, crowded place, not our usual quiet refuge.
  • We like field trips, but I don’t like those spoon-fed or over-stimulating kinds. We dislike the museums with all the hands-on for kids and computer modules everywhere.
  • I have two spirited children. I need to factor that in for all our activities.

So even if I were to read or ask homeschooling advice, no one is going to understand or know all our intricacies. We have to make it our own and fit into our family’s needs. Everything we do will be unique to our family’s character.

The bottom line: “To thine own self be true.” Know myself and my children. My children are the curriculum. My husband and I are the experts in knowing our family’s needs. We need to work on personal improvement and daily work for sanctity. And finally, we need to be confident that whatever or however we do our home education, if we partner with God in our endeavors, He will never let us down.

Feasts of the Hearts of Jesus and Mary

The final weeks of June are full of multiple feasts, including several solemnities. If you are one for adding dessert to celebrate special feast days, this time can be hard on the waistline! We end this week with the Solemnity of the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus which falls the third Friday after Pentecost and the following Saturday is the Memorial of the Immaculate Heart of Mary.

Having just celebrated my six month anniversary of my open heart surgery, these feasts that focus on the hearts of Jesus and Mary have taken on new dimensions for me, and I couldn’t let the days go by without giving a little mention of these feasts….Continuing reading the entire post at Catholic Culture

7 Quick Takes — CGS and So Glad I Don’t Commute Edition

7 Quick Takes with Jen at Conversion Diary.

~1~

I finished a very long week fishing my formation in the Catechesis of the Good Shepherd (CGS). This was Level III, so I have now finished all 3 levels. It was such a wonderful experience, and I am so blessed to have met these trainers and participants.
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