Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Enough Sleep?

Our summer schedule officially starts today. We're a little behind in forming the actual new routine, but one thing I do know is that my children are not going to regularly sleep in late or spend all day on computer games. I told my oldest three that they had to get up on their own when their 7:30 alarm goes off or there are extra chores to do. Surprisingly, they came up with the extra chores part and were very willing to continue getting up at a decent time. With this in mind, I decided to do a little research into sleep recommendations and come up with some reasonable bed times as well. Not that we haven't had bed times and rising times in the past, but I find transitions to be an opportunity to reassess things and re-institute good habits. So, find below the general sleep recommendations for people of all ages from the National Sleep Foundation.

(0 to 2 months): ................10-1/2 to 18 hours*
(2-12 months): ...........................14 to 15 hours*
(12-18 months): ........................13 to 15 hours*
(18 months-3 years): ...............12 to 14 hours*
(3-5 years): ..................................11 to 13 hours*
(5-12 years): ....................................9 to 11 hours
8-1/2 to 9-1/2 hours
7 to 9 hours
Peace, Hope

Monday, May 28, 2007

New Perspective on Laundry

When I start feeling down about various household tasks before me, I imagine having to do the same task in a developing country. What would my laundry situation be like if I lived in a hut in Asia? I imagine I would be the laughing stock of the neighborhood carting our 2-3 daily loads of laundry down to the river. I guess with the ease of merely pushing buttons to do the laundry, we gain LOTS of laundry.

I don't have to schlep the laundry of ten down to a river, just from the hamper to the washing machine, about three feet. I still complain. I have even been known to cry about it. We do have a lot of laundry, but crying about it is a bit dramatic, I know. I can just see God looking down at my spoiled little self and just shaking his head. At the same time, somewhere there is a courageous Laotian woman kneeling on the muddy shore rinsing out the family clothes. I will not complain. Thank you, God, for nice clothes to put on the healthy bodies of my beautiful children, and the simple means of keeping everyone looking clean and neat. Now, back to the laundry room.

Peace, Hope

Thursday, May 24, 2007

First Aid Kit

Each spring I put some thought and planning toward preparing for all of our busy summer outdoor activities. During the warm weather months you will often find our family on the soccer fields on Saturdays, and when soccer is over we spend many weekend days at the river, park, beach, hiking, summer concerts, or wherever we can enjoy the great outdoors. I learned long ago that it makes life much simpler to be prepared for these outings in advance. I pack the car with water and snacks, like granola bars and nuts. I make sure we have some changes of clothes, wet wipes and diapers, maybe a backpack or stroller. Most importantly I restock our first aid kit each spring. I'd encourage all families to keep a well stocked and portable first aid kit. It makes life a lot easier to have everything in one easily accessible place for those times your child presents himself with gushing blood (happened here today) or an unexpected serious allergic reaction while out at a farm (happened to us last week).

I keep all of our first aid supplies in a medium sized plastic tackle box with a handle on top which I found at Walmart in the fishing isle. It works great. I keep it on top of the refrigerator in the kitchen and then throw it in the car for outings. Just thought I'd share one of the things on my own spring "to do" list. So, let's get those first aid kits ready to go, you never know when you'll need it.

Peace, Hope

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Easy Homemade Pasta Sauce

I have mentioned before that I am an imprecise cook. Even so, I will try to share some of my favorite things to make that feed a crowd of kids. One thing is homemade tomato sauce. If you buy jarred sauce because you think it would be too hard to make it yourself, you're in for a surprise. It is so easy, and when you make it yourself you know exactly what is in it -- just healthy ingredients! It is also tastes a’ lot better and is cheaper.

Homemade Pasta Sauce

In a large stockpot, sauté 1-2 diced large onions and lots of minced garlic in a few Tablespoons olive oil on medium heat, stirring frequently, until onion is clear (the jarred, minced garlic makes it simple). As an optional step, you can add more vegetables your family likes -- chopped green pepper, grated carrots, zucchini, eggplant, sliced black olives -- use your imagination, just add harder veggies first and softer veggies last.

Add a #10 can of crushed tomatoes to the onion, garlic, veggie mix, stir and heat gently.

Brown and drain the grease from 1-2 lbs of ground beef (meat is optional, depending on what type of sauce you are going for), stir into tomato sauce.

Add salt and pepper and seasonings to taste. I sprinkle in Italian Seasoning mix from a bulk jar; it contains marjoram, thyme, rosemary, savory, sage, oregano, and basil. Let sauce simmer gently for a few minutes, then turn to LOW. It can be on the stove for a short while, or allowed to cook longer, becoming more flavorful, just stir occasionally.

Use this sauce in any of your favorite pasta creations, and freeze the rest.

Peace, Hope

Good-night List

Continuing with yesterday's post about creating good habits which help to organize the family, here is our good-night list. Both lists, the good-night and the good morning, are hung in the bathrooms. One in the girls' and one in the boys'. All I have to say is, "do your list!"

Examine your conscience, ask God for peace and rest
Plan for tomorrow
Pick up bedroom
Wash yourself
Brush teeth
Get dressed for bed
Put clothes away
Go Potty (reminder to the littles)

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Good Morning List

Teaching children to develop good habits is one way to create an atmosphere of positive discipline in the family. A child with good habits and a sense of what is expected will display good behavior. One way I do this is to have strategically hung lists throughout the home. One such list is our "Good Morning" list. It tells the children exactly what they need to do before coming to the kitchen for breakfast before we start our school day. It goes like this:
Good Morning

Thank God for a new day and offer all your thoughts, words, and actions to Him

Make your bed

Put your pajamas away

Brush teeth

Wash face and brush hair

Monday, May 21, 2007

A Not-So-Heroic Moment

"Conquer yourself each day from the very first moment, getting up on the dot, at a set time, without granting a single minute to laziness. If with the help of God, you conquer yourself in the moment, you have accomplished a great deal for the rest of the day. It's so discouraging to find yourself beaten in the first skirmish." (Saint Escriva, The Way, 191)

I awoke this morning with dreaded thoughts of the day to come. So, what is sometimes referred to as the "heroic moment," the first opportunity we have as we awaken to turn our thoughts to God, offering our day to Him, and heroically, immediately, joyfully rising without hesitation, was completely fumbled by me. I put the pillow over my head, made some excuses as to why I could stay in bed a little longer, and fed my discouragement. The truth is, I don't like Mondays, and this Monday was going to be a challenge. I went away this weekend with my three youngest and my older son, leaving my husband with the four others. Besides the normal things we have on Mondays...CCD, soccer practice, music lessons and some school work to finish for the year; I also have to add tons of laundry, a messy checkbook, dinner to make, an important meeting for my husband tonight, preparation for my educational consultant meeting tomorrow morning, and organizing my older boys into some neighborhood yard work. ARGH, can't I just sleep a little longer? The house is quiet and I am T-I-R-E-D!

So, all this is to say is that I failed my first test of the day. I was grumpy too. I write this not to encourage you to do likewise, but to remind you that we who write blogs to share all of the things we do right also get a'lot wrong. The next time I feel like shutting the world down and going back to bed, I need to remember to offer it up, get up, and be a hero!

Peace, Hope

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Serious NFP Use and the Seriously Big Family

I must admit that something in the wording of this post by Greg Popcak bothered me. I think it is the last line about the "Catholic proof-texters" who think they are "popier than the pope." This is in reference to those who have taken seriously the apparently faulty Humanae Vitae translation that states that NFP (Natural Family Planning) can only by used be couples for "grave" reasons. The translation is faulty, according the author of the link Dr. Popcak presented. In case this is new to you, Humanae Vitae is the Catholic Church document that articulated to the modern world the long time Catholic Church's teaching on life issues, in particular NFP, contraception and abortion.

In the link, the author, Angela Bonilla, basically argues, after extensive research and study, that the term "grave" should be downgraded to "serious," and she gives more emphasis to the idea of "responsible parenting." The basic teaching in Humanae Vitae is that couples can legitimately use NFP, and only NFP, to space births for "grave" or "serious" reasons, depending on your translation/interpretation.

Ms. Bonilla begins her paper in the Homiletic and Pastoral Review with the following: "A friend recently called with questions about childbirth, timidly confessing that she was pregnant with her fourth baby in six years while her youngest was eight months old. “It was unexpected,” she said quietly, “But I can’t tell my best friend that we were trying to avoid having another baby. She says the Church teaches that NFP can only be used when having another child would cause some kind of disaster in the family.”

My first comment is to Dr. Popcak. I have never met parents of a large Catholic family, and I know a few, that feel their call to parenting a large family is solely in response to a theological argument, or makes them "popier than the pope." My experience is that families are just prayerfully living out their married vocations while embracing their fertility and attempting to be good stewards. Sure, many larger families refer to the Humanae Vitae passage about only using NFP for "grave" or "serious" reasons, but the real motivation may be that couples just prayerfully feel led to remain open to life for much of their fertile years. And what's wrong with that? Raising a large family can bring an abundance of grace to a marriage, to the parents as individuals, to the children, and to the family as a whole. The challenges of large family living are not necessarily to be avoided simply because there are challenges. If a couple feels called to be open to life and God blesses them with children, then the challenges are to be embraced. I call it holiness boot camp.

Second, practically speaking, it doesn't seem to make much of a difference whether we refer to reasons for using NFP as grave or serious. Referring to the correct term is not the starting point. Prayer is the starting point. If a couple is prayerfully considering using NFP and feels led to, the Holy Spirit, through their conscience, will help determine for them what is legitimate, be the reason "grave" or "serious." I imagine the very people who are concerned about the licit use of NFP are the faithful people who do use prayer as their starting point, whether they have two or twelve children.

Third, I am troubled by some who suggest that NFP use is the de facto status quo of married life. Even the more liberal interpretation by Ms. Bonilla suggests that the use of NFP for serious reasons is legitimate, suggesting that openness to life is the status quo and that couples may use NFP. Further, NFP is not always so simple to use when spacing births while breastfeeding, and couples cannot be considered irresponsible when found expecting another one of God's little "surprises." It is a fact that some couples find themselves struggling to become pregnant at all, while others seem to conceive extremely easily. Fecundity does not equal irresponsibility or imprudence.

Fourth, I think couples, and those who counsel them, must be very careful when discerning what it means to be responsible and prudent and generous regarding the rearing of children. Materially, socially, spiritually, and intellectually, what does it mean to be responsible? Again, this will be something only a couple can decide prayerfully together. It may be that a couple, because of their apostolate, are called to use NFP for much of their marriage and will have only a small family or widely spaced children. However, we cannot look at the benchmark of the average American family and decide that we're just "not ready" for another baby yet. The truth is, the American culture encourages people to be selfish, materialistic, and way too attached to comforts. If anything, these "attachments" are where the laser beam should be focused, not on faithful families who happen to have many children and are learning to live a less comfortable existence.

Last, the illustration of what is assumed to be the outcome of poor judgement and a lack of NFP use that begins Ms. Bonilla's argument is false. Most couples are timid about announcing an addition to their larger than average family as they are often faced with some degree of ridicule or prejudice, so no wonder the woman who came to her was "timid." Also, the lady in the illustration stated that her pregnancy was "unexpected" and they were "trying to avoid having another baby." This demonstrates the fact that NFP does not always work easily or the same while breastfeeding, as noted above (she has an 8 month old, so I'm assuming she was breastfeeding). Then, the fact that the lady did not want to tell her judgemental friend that she was using NFP, obviously did not get in the way of the couple actually using it, so this negates the idea of there being some kind of peer pressure to have a big family as an actual influence. Most importantly, though, it doesn't make sense to argue against another's incorrect interpretation of Humanae Vitae by forming an argument against the original translation. Nowhere does the "flawed" Pauline translation suggest that NFP is only legitimately used "when having another child would cause some kind of disaster in the family." If this is the argument Ms. Bonilla is contesting, then show the flaws in the argument, but please don't illustrate with a family that God may be calling to add to their numbers, challenges and burdens and all.

Peace, Hope

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Crock Pot French Toast

Here's another great breakfast recipe that fulfills my morning meal requirements: easy, and the children can serve themselves. It's also filling and can be made with good-for-you whole grain bread. I have a recipe for crock pot oatmeal that I posted before here.

Grease, butter or use cooking spray on the inside of your standard sized crock pot.
Break up a loaf of bread and put into the crock pot.
Beat a dozen eggs with four cups of milk, 2 tsp vanilla, dash of salt, 2 tsp cinnamon and 1/4 cup of brown sugar.
Pour mixture over the bread so that it covers completely, add more egg and milk if necessary.
Cook on LOW 8 to 10 hours and serve topped with butter and maple syrup.

Peace, Hope

Monday, May 14, 2007

Summer Conferences

Catholic Family Expo Conference

If you are looking for some Catholic family inspiration and encouragement in your homeschooling efforts, check out the conferences above. The IHM conference is specifically for homeschoolers, but certainly other interested folks would be welcome, and it is FREE! The Catholic Family Expo has conferences in different regions and it is for Catholic families of all schooling persuasions. I have attended both conferences in the past and highly recommend them.

Peace, Hope

Friday, May 11, 2007

The Daily Chalkboard

A crucial part of organizing this busy family is my chalkboard, hung prominently in the kitchen. Each day calls family members to varying activities; we have choir, book club, dance, soccer (5 teams), piano, guitar, alter serving, Boy Scouts, volunteer work, babysitting, lawn mowing jobs, CCD and more! Each evening I write the next days activities on the board with their times. At the top of the chalkboard I write the date. I also may include any other special things about the day: a birthday or anniversary, or the Feast Day or Saint's Day. It is also fun to add some cute relevant pictures and write with colored chalk. After having done this for years, the children have internalized what happens when, and have learned to check the board for what to be prepared for the next day. Another bonus is that having the commitments of the day posted so obviously eliminates my having to nag and remind ( somewhat ; ) .

Peace, Hope

Tuesday, May 8, 2007

To Be A Saint

I have a little daughter who is presenting herself as quite a challenge lately. I suspect she will continue to be a challenge as her basic mode of being is to challenge me! A friend who has taught pre-school for thirty years described my daughter as the most independent child she has ever met! Needless to say, sometimes said child and I have "moments." I have developed a mantra that helps get through these trying times with her, and with any of my challenge presenting children. It goes, "I want her to be a saint, I want her to be a saint, I want her to be a saint," said as many times in succession as necessary. First of all, this mantra is a good replacement for other, sometimes anger generated thoughts and words that are decidedly less "holy." It also allows me to see beyond the present moment. Repeating the phrase, I want her to be a saint, allows me to clearly see my outstanding goal in all of the muck in front of me.

The Gospel of Matthew states, "For what will it profit a man, if he gains the whole world and forfeits his life?" What will it profit my daughter for me to stubbornly insist on winning our present battle, to angrily discipline, or to act impatiently? I may "win" the battle, but loose her heart. My goal is her heart, her soul, lead to Jesus, brought to sainthood, for eternal joy in heaven. I want her to be a saint; I want my every word and every touch to help lead my children to sainthood, not to be a hindrance. I want to be a saint, I want to be as Christ to my children. God, help me!

Peace, Hope