Archive for September 2008

The Catholic Mass Revealed

September 29, 2008

I preempt the regularly scheduled blog post to refer you to a wonderful post over at Postscripts from the Catholic Spitfire Grill.  The Lord works in mysterious ways.  Just yesterday I was talking with someone who wanted a blow-by-blow understanding of just what is happening in the Catholic Mass, and this morning I was directed to this illuminating post.  The author goes step by step through the Mass with all of the scriptural references to show that not only is the Mass biblical but is the ultimate communion with Jesus.

I will warn you that it’s a very long post.  At first the author sets up her reasons for writing the post followed by a kind of preface describing the ritual sacrifice in the Old Covenant in relationship to the New Covenant.  This is very important to keep in mind since Jesus was an observant Jew and Christianity began as a Jewish sect.  Therefore, the Mass incorporates elements of first century Judaic worship.  Just past the third block quote is where the author starts the break down of the Mass starting with the phrase, “When we first walk through the door and into the church…”

So, without further ado:

What You Really Need Is an Intimate Relationship with Jesus

Potty Training and Learning to Read

September 26, 2008

What do these two things have in common? Well, the potty is somewhere that people often sit and read, although that is the one place I usually have no desire to do so. The thing that these things have in common to me is that they are both are societal measuring sticks that put way too much pressure on parent and child and can cause issues later if bungled. This is because they are both based on standards that are sometimes unrealistic and unhealthy.

When our oldest daughter hit the ripe old age of two, we knew it was “time” to get her potty trained. We read all of the books. Read the books to her. Bought her a special potty-seat, pull-ups, and training pants. We tried making it fun by reading to her and singing songs. We tried to anticipate her needs to get her on the potty. And when she fussed and cried and screamed to get off the potty we tried to lovingly force her to stay seated. Finally, we kind of gave up. I had enough stress with a new baby on the way. We still kept the potty out and suggested she use it from time to time, but it really wasn’t until she was 3 1/2 that she took any initiative. By age 4 1/2 she was completely out of diapers, even though she was literally anal-retentive until age 5 but that’s a whole other story. I remember being so frustrated with her, though. I remember one time at age two she said, “I need my diaper adjusted.” My husband said, “What two-year-old says she needs her diaper adjusted?” I disapprovingly replied, “One who shouldn’t be wearing diapers anymore.”

Now here we are with DD#2. While I have pretty much kept potty training on the back burner, with another new baby and all, the pressure has started creeping up again. As her age-mates have started becoming potty-trained, and as she leaves toddler-hood for preschool-age, I decided to really give potty training a try. So for three days last week she lived on the potty. She did pee three times, and we praised her, sang a celebratory song, and even offered her a chocolate treat. By the third evening, though, she was complaining about her booty hurting. I realized that she was trying to hold everything in because she didn’t like using the potty. So, I gave up on potty training for now because I didn’t want her giving herself a urinary tract infection or other anal-retentive problems. While she might be physically ready, I don’t think she’s emotionally or intellectually ready. It’s been almost a week and she is still freaking out every time she feels the sensation to pee, but then she is really relieved when I finally talk her into going in her diaper.

So, she probably won’t be potty trained until the age of three. But then I thought, “So what?” By the time she is five or six, no one will be able to tell at what age she was potty-trained. Everyone, unless they have a physical disability, becomes potty-trained, and no one knows whether it happened at 18 months or 3 1/2 years. There is just so much pressure to prove your child is “normal” by having them potty trained at age two. Not every child is ready at age two, though. It seems like my children are too busy building their vocabularies to worry about the potty at that age, while another child might be great on the potty from an early age but may be slower to the draw in a different developmental area.

Reading is the same type of pseudo-measuring stick for homeschoolers. If a child has a problem learning to read by age 6 in schools, it’s because the child is deficient. If a homeschooled child doesn’t start reading at age 6 or earlier, then it’s because the parent is deficient as a teacher. The reality is that the only thing deficient is the expectation. Many homeschoolers and most non-homeschoolers panic at the thought of having to teach their children to read without the expertise of the school system. Again, pretty much anyone can learn to read at least at a most basic level if regularly exposed to books, but not everyone will be taught a love of reading especially if it starts out as a shameful ordeal.

Studies show that children may be ready to learn to read anywhere between age four and age eight, depending on the individual child. The majority of kids are ready around age 6 with others being ready earlier or later. They have also found that whether a child naturally learns at age 4 or age 8 their skills level out around age 10. (That’s provided that a late reader hasn’t been shamed and pigeon-holed as a sub-standard learner.) It’s often the difference between the efficiency of a chef who doesn’t start cooking until they have all of their ingredients ready (like a late reader) and the chef who is putting their ingredients together while they cook (like an early reader).

Now, I have never doubted that I could teach my child how to read. After all I was doing basic reading before I started kindergarten despite having never gone to preschool. I think the fact that I was always an “advanced” reader did set up the expectation that my child would also be an early and advanced reader. So, I was delighted when my oldest daughter at the age of 3 1/2 told me that she wanted to learn how to read. I started phonics games at the recommendation of the local librarian. At age 4 we started working through Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons. I think we made it through about 15 lessons before she started getting really bored and frustrated.

Over the next year we continued to do a variety of phonics related exercises in addition to read-a-louds at bedtime. When she was expected to read a word herself, though, we would both end up extremely frustrated. I finally gave up. I realized that she just wasn’t developmentally ready to learn to read, and by this point her desire to read or be read to had gone down the drain. We are just now starting to ease into formal reading lessons as she approaches the age of six. I’ve been trying to keep it really low-key, just two reading worksheets a week unless she asks to do more; I don’t allow her to do more than three in one sitting, though. She also likes playing Spelling Bee, where I give her simple words to spell out loud.  She learns a lot from shows like “Word World” and “Super Why” on PBS, playing on the computer, and asking how words are spelled when she is creating various posters, fashion magazines, and other things.

Even, though, I know that learning to read at age 8 is not unnatural, I still succumbed to the idea that early reading signified higher intelligence. Now I realize that early reading is sometimes just early reading. Lest you think this is just rationalizing to make myself feel better about having a late reader, I really don’t have a late reader. My oldest is right on “schedule”. She’s almost six and she is doing really well with three-letter words. I just have to discipline myself to not try to rush her to the next level of reading before she is ready.

Even though I only read one of their books a few years ago, I am starting to subscribe more and more to the philosophy of Raymond and Dorothy Moore: “Better Late than Early.” I am really starting to think it might be better to wait on the far end of any spectrum to make sure that all of the developmental issues have had time to resolve themselves. I thought I could just follow my child’s lead on when she was ready, but like in the instance of reading, I learned that kids are not always physically ready for where they want to go. I think this will definitely influence how I parent and teach my two younger daughters.

I will still try to encourage deeper study of the things that interest them. But when it comes to potty training and reading, I will probably take the pressure off of me and them and not try to approach them with it until a later age on the spectrum (maybe 3 1/2 for potty training and 6 or 7 for reading). If they start insisting on going to the potty before that age or reading on their own (yes, children can learn to read without formal instruction), then I will try to go with the flow. I know the temptation will always be there to push them too far too fast, but I will try to resist the best I can. As I sometimes remind my older daughter, you need to keep your eye on the prize. In this case, the prize will be happy and healthy children rather than silly bragging rights for me.

Shop ‘Til You Drop!

September 25, 2008

This past Saturday was our big fall shopping day for the girls. I anticipate it and dread it at the same time. In the weeks before I have to go through all of their clothes from last year and see what might last another season and start making lists of what all we need. Then me, the girls, and my mother-in-law load up for six or so hours of shopping.

I used to just pick out things for my oldest daughter when she was a baby, but as she got older I noticed that there were certain outfits she would refuse to wear. It wasn’t the normal toddler pickiness, either. At first I thought it was because she had a burgeoning fashion sense, which she did. Later, I realized that as part of her temperament she is very sensitive to texture sometimes; socks have been a nightmare to get on her at times. She absolutely hates pants that button like jeans; they’re too uncomfortable when she sits down. So, I started taking her with me to let her help pick items out.

My mother-in-law pays for the majority of the girls’ wardrobe in addition to helping manage the kids in the various stores. I try to not to abuse her generosity by making prudent shopping decisions. Normally, we start out with a big lunch somewhere like Panda Express, a Chinese buffet, or Steak ‘n’ Shake. Then we go to Old Navy, JC Penney, Target, and Payless. I’ve found that baby and toddler clothes from Old Navy seem to be slightly more expensive than Target, but unless there is a really good sale, they are often cheaper than JC Penney’s. The quality of their clothes is usually better than either store. Their sizes are usually cut slightly bigger, too, so they allow for some growth, and they don’t shrink up as badly.

My oldest daughter pretty much needs an entirely new wardrobe every season. I try to buy her tops a size or two larger, because she often has a growth spurt mid-winter and her belly starts hanging out of her shirts. For her pants, I only move up one size. We had to try on a lot of stuff this time to determine whether to move her to 5-regular or size 6, as she moves out of 5T. I try to get the larger size shirt if it won’t drown her or be immodest (darn v-necks), so we can maybe get two years out of it. She also needed new tennis shoes and a pair of casual dress shoes. Her feet grew two sizes this summer.

DD#2 wears a lot of her big sister’s hand-me-downs. At this point she seems to like her older sister’s choices. The only things she needed were a few play dresses, some casual dress shoes, tights/socks, and some panties (being optimistic). Thankfully her coat should last her through another winter even though it is size 24 months and she is moving into 3T. We bought it in the boys’ section last year, and learned just how much more roomy boys’ clothes are made. In the past I’ve also bought things like khakis and jeans from the boys’ section because they tend to be made of thicker material than the girls’ clothes.

DD#3 is my first baby born in the spring, so she is kind of off season from the other two girls. Chicago is cool enough most of the year that I have some cool weather clothing for almost every baby size range, but I don’t have enough to get her through this winter. In addition the little stinker has already outgrown most of her 3-6 month clothing, even though she is only four and half months. So her shopping list included more sleepers and outfits in 6-9 months. She also needed a “snow suit” for those really cold Chicago days. I still need to dig out my box of 9-12 month clothing to see what she has for cold weather, but anything she needs in that size will go on a shopping list for Christmas.

When we go shopping, I usually have my list of what we need, what sizes, and the best place to look for it; unfortunately, I went off without it this time by accident. I was able to reconstruct it pretty well form memory. DD#1 was bringing the drama as we looked at clothes; she was totally channeling her inner valley girl.  “Oohh, that’s like totally gross.  Oh, I totally love that.”  Sometimes she’d see something she liked and I’d appraise it for quality, modesty, price, ease of getting it on and off, and matchability. I try to find several items that will mix and match, so that a spill on a shirt doesn’t require a complete outfit change. I also try to expand the color selection beyond pink, pink, and more pink. This time she kept wanting to buy fifty million shirts and no pants.

By the time we get home from shopping we are all tired, hungry, and cranky. But the fun doesn’t end there, because now it is time for the fashion show. It’s not enough to just pull the clothes out of the bag to show to Daddy. My oldest goes through organizing them into special outfits. Then Granny and I cut off the tags before she runs off to put them on for the first time and walk down the living room run way. So far my middle daughter has been content with limited participation in the show, but probably at some point I’ll have to pull out her “new” clothes so that she can join in.

I know there are people out there wondering why we don’t hit yard sales or used clothing stores to get better deals. For one thing, getting up early in the morning (which is when everyone has their yard sales) and driving around looking for yard sales with three children seems like a form of torture to me. Not to mention that you have to do it repeatedly. I would rather get it all over with in one day after a nice big lunch. I’ve also tried shopping at Once Upon a Child, but I rarely find anything my daughter or I like and it’s usually not that much cheaper than buying it new at Old Navy. I’ve probably been a bit spoiled by my mother-in-laws generosity with her money.

There are a few items we will still need to get, like dresses for Christmas. I wasn’t about to pay $40 per dress at JCPenney’s for something they’ll only where once or twice. We will hit Target or Once Upon a Child for those. We may need to get some socks and pajamas, but Target will do for those things as well. I am just thankful that it’s over until the spring. Now I just have to keep oldest DD out of her new winter clothes until the weather actually gets cold.

Diamonds and Pearls

September 24, 2008

As I was trudging through the grocery store Sunday, “Diamonds and Pearls” by Prince came on over the store speakers. I couldn’t help but chuckle to myself as I recalled a cold January evening many years ago. I was fourteen-years-old, and I was wandering around awkwardly at the first mixer of the new high school semester. A boy I had never met before came up and asked me to dance. He led me the two feet to the dance floor/mosh pit and we began to zombie dance to “Diamonds and Pearls”, a big hit at the time. It was my first time dancing with a boy out of choice, not requirement.

I think we danced together a few more times that night before Chad and I exchanged phone numbers. We went out on a few dates over the next few weeks before he broke up with me. At the time he gave me some lame excuse, but many years later I learned that many of his friends who I knew from grade school had been harassing him about me. Of all of the girls in the mixer, he had chosen the biggest nerd that they knew. I also found out that I at least had won him a bet, because I had agreed to dance with him before the rest of that same group of friends had found partners.

I can’t quite ever think of Chad without a little bit of pity and annoyance with him and real bitterness about why we broke up. He didn’t break my heart or anything; we had never even kissed in our brief courtship. But when I think about that night in the mixer and hear that song, I can’t help but crack up a little bit, too. It was just one of those lame “big teenage moments”.

Choose Your Seat and Sit Down!

September 22, 2008

Yesterday evening a friend from back home called to inform me that our former drama director from high school, Tim Keogh, passed away yesterday morning from cancer.  While searching for his obituary this morning, I came across this article about him from February.  It tells you a lot about Tim and how he was handling his cancer, with faith in God and hope.  The article touches on his role as a principal and how committed he was to educating children and gives a few of examples about how he cared about each student outside of the classroom as well.  The article barely scratches the surface of the man that I knew, though, and I didn’t know him as well as some.  Here are some things that I knew about Tim Keogh in the short time that I knew him.

Tim was a talented singer, actor, and director.  His voice could inspire anyone whether on-stage or leading a congregation in song at Mass.  He performed with almost every professional theater group in Louisville.  At the time I knew him, he was mainly involved with Music Theater Louisville.  He starred in their productions of 1776 and The Secret Garden.  Once I sat in front of him when he was the assistant director for a production of Brigadoon and cracked up listening to him critique a performance; I realized that he had always held our meager high school theater group to the same level as the professional groups he worked with.  He taught us so much about acting and technical aspects of theater in his very no-nonsense way.

I joined the drama program my junior year of high school.  This was the year that Tim decided that he finally had the right members to do a production of Godspell.  It was one of the most special experiences of my life.  We had such intense rehearsals, and when we weren’t rehearsing, the cast often hung out together.  When it was over, the whole cast was in tears.  We just didn’t know what to do with ourselves.  No other production we did came close to that level of intensity.  I know that it was because of Tim and his unique interpretation of the show.

Tim was a good and compassionate man.  He was a surrogate father to a boy who became my best friend in high school.  It was Tim who had helped him get financial aid to attend DeSales High School.  My friend’s mother had some severe mental problems, so Tim was his parental anchor.  When his mother was finally deemed unfit to care for herself or others, Tim took him in so that my friend could finish out his senior year, and Tim assisted him in getting the finances to attend the selective and expensive college of his choice.

Tim had a great, flamboyant , and sometimes biting sense of humor.  To the actor who did  an incorrect turn on stage, Tim would holler out, “No one is paying to see your ass!”  And he had just as much fun as the rest of us when the annual drama banquet always ended with a water gun fight.  Once to demonstrate a stage kiss for a couple that was being robotic, he grabbed a female teacher who was one of his best friends and planted the biggest kiss on her.  It was hilarious.

For me personally, Tim was a great mentor.  Besides everything he taught me about theater, he also allowed me to shadow him one day when I was considering becoming a certified teacher.  He gave me the courage to audition in my senior year rather than just work on technical aspects.  On my 18th birthday I dyed my hair auburn; I wanted to be someone new and different.  Later that day, I saw Tim and he said, “It looks fine, but I don’t know why you did that.  You looked so beautiful just the way you were.”  It was the first time I remember anyone outside my family telling me that I was beautiful, and it was one of the most sincere compliments I ever got in my life.

There’s one other thing about Tim that anyone who knew him would tell you, although it probably won’t make it into any obituary.  Tim gave the absolute best hugs.  Whenever Tim hugged you, it made you feel so loved, protected, and special.  It isn’t just me; I’ve talked to other people, male and female, and they all concur.  For his hugs alone, Tim deserves to be remembered.

The last time I remember seeing Tim was March of 1997.  That is when I shadowed him and came back to do an alumni production of Do Black Patent Leather Shoes Really Reflect Up? at my high school.  Even though my friend was still living with him that next summer, Tim was so busy between work, church, and theater that I never saw him when I was over at his apartment.  Occasionally I would stop by DeSales in hopes of seeing him, but he wouldn’t be there.  I was so excited for the school when he was made principal.  Then life took me in other directions, and I never saw him again.

Since he moved to Nashville last year, there have been many times when I considered e-mailing him at his new school.  I even checked out the website once or twice.  I would write letters to him in my head from time to time, but somehow they never made it into hard copy.  Even though I had heard that his cancer had returned, I thought he would just beat it again.  I was wrong.

This past Sunday in Mass the choir sang a song that went “Plenty good room in my Father’s Kingdom, Plenty good room, Plenty good room.  Choose your seat and sit down.”  I can just imagine Tim choosing his seat, singing with the saints and angels, and possibly saying to them, “No one is praying to see your ass!!”

Blow-out Epiphany

September 18, 2008

I had always assumed that the big blow-outs that my babies started having around age 4 months were due to the introduction of solid foods. But as my Sociology professor in college kept saying, “Coincidence does not equal cause.” My lovely baby girl has hit the four-month mark, but I have not yet started her on solid foods but the blow-outs began about two weeks ago.

For the un-initiated, diaper leaks usually refer to urine that has flooded out. This is what all those diaper commercials go on about. “We stop leaks better than the other brand.” Sometimes diaper leaks just happen if the diaper gets positioned a little off or too loosely. Repeated leaks are usually a sign that your baby needs to move up to the next size, despite what the weight limits on the package say or what brand you use. In fact my babies have always needed to move up at least two to three pounds before the upper weight limit. Blow-outs refer to the process where breastfed babies seem to expel all of the feces in their system in one sitting. As a result it not only leaks out around the legs, but it usually creeps up their backside to make a nice puddle of poop on the back of their outfit.

Blow-outs are not only disgusting but they are pretty annoying, too. They mean more work, and I hate more work. You have to make sure that you have one or two spare outfits with you at all times. If it leaks through their clothes onto bouncers, beds, car seats, or anything else you have to clean them up, too. When I knew the kids were due for a blow-out I used to avoid leaving the house when possible. I often kept a thin cloth in the car seat to catch any back splash. We were traveling a lot for job interviews when my oldest was in this stage; I can’t tell you how many times I had to wash things in the hotel sink and hang them over the curtain rod to dry.

I had heard that blow-outs weren’t quite as bad when you used cloth diapers. And really this is mostly true. Something about the elastic keeps the mess to a minimum. I’ve even read some people advocate putting a diaper cover for cloth over a disposable diaper when you expect it to happen. So score one for cloth diapering!!

I made an amazing discovery the other day, though. My baby had a huge blow-out. I felt it, heard it, and smelled it. This was a definite candidate for a big mess. As I went to change the soiled disposable diaper, I wondered how it had stayed so contained. Then I realized that I had accidentally put a Size 6 diaper (belonging to DD#2) on her instead of her usual Size 3. The bigger diaper had been more absorbent as well as having more room to hold in the poop.

Now as easy as it would be to have both of my diaper-wearing children in one size of diaper, I was kind of concerned how well Size 6 would absorb a lot of urine overnight for a Size 3 child. I feared that the huge size would allow for easier leakage. But I decided to try moving her on up to Size 4, even though she’s technically 7 pounds beneath the recommended weight range. So far it has worked really well. Our only leaks have been when I try to use up our remaining Size 3s and she has an unexpected blow-out.

This epiphany has revolutionized my life, so I thought I would pass it on. And while I was making this discovery, I made another one as well. Aldi diapers work just as well as the more expensive ones. I have usually used Pampers or Luvs (which are cheaper). I have had a lot of bad luck with the tape on Huggies coming apart. I decided to try the Aldi brand because they are about 17 cents per diaper as opposed to 26 cents per diaper. At first it was hard to tell if they were working because their purchase coincided with the start of the blow-outs, but then I realized that we had blow-out leaks no matter which brand we used. I just wish that they sold the Aldi diapers in bulk and in size 6. But for now I will be content to rake in the savings, and I am still using my cloth diapers at least three days a week.

What’s Old Is New Again

September 16, 2008

I’ve blogged a lot about my oldest and youngest daughters, and I realized that DD#2 is already feeling the effects of “middle child syndrome”. She’ll be turning three in just another month. And while she is very verbal, coordinated, and full of personality for her age, she is still stuck at the in-between age. She’s not a baby but not yet a little girl.

Anywho, because she is not yet three she has been barred from taking any kind of activity classes. Everything for under the age of three requires a parent to be involved, and that just hasn’t been feasible for me. So she has had to sit around and watch while her sister went into gymnastics class or played tee ball. When she was old enough to walk a little, I used to strap her in her stroller and would not let her out for anything. (You know that once you let them get out you’ll have a harder time getting them back in.) Sometimes she would play with other kids who had siblings in class. And other times I would try herding her in the general area of the classroom door or practice area. She still has about seven weeks until her own first session of preschool gymnastics starts, so we have time to kill while big sister finishes her last preschool gymnastics session.

As I was cleaning out closets the other day, I came across our My First Leap Pad. Oldest DD had received it around age 3, but it had never held her attention for very long, and she could never do any of it on her own. I considered putting it in the charity bag, but I decided to try it out with DD#2 before making my decision. I grabbed it as we headed out to gymnastics Saturday morning, and she and I spent the class time going through the Wiggles book. It was really nice because it kept her sitting in one place up in the observation deck, and I could still keep track of my older daughter’s progress through the glass.

I’ve always said that DD#2 is “focus” while DD#1 is “passion”, so the Leap Pad seems like it will be better suited to my middle child. To avoid burn out, though, I am going to save the Leap Pad just for those times when her older sister is in classes. That should make things easier for awhile…at least until DD#3 becomes more mobile. It’s nice to know that they we may finally be getting our money’s worth out of that toy.