Archive for September 2011

7 Quick Takes (v. 56)

September 29, 2011

— 1 —

I borrowed the audiobook of Anne of Green Gables from the library a few weeks ago thinking I could con my oldest into listening to it during the 20-minute drive to and from her guitar lessons.  She immediately saw through my attempt at “education” and rebelled.  I continued to listen in spite of her, and I’ve found that I’ve really enjoyed listening as I run around doing my various weekly errands.  I think it helps that this is a book that I’ve read a few times before; I don’t think I could stand the slow pace of read aloud with something I had never read (unless it was something in which a slow pace might be more conducive to meditation on the content).

— 2 —

On a related note, this week Bailey listened to her iPod on the way to guitar class.

— 3 —

I officially declare that I do not potty-train my kids.  I submit that potty-training refers to when parents train themselves to take their small children to the potty at regular intervals throughout the day in order to avoid buying diapers.  I am now going to refer to what I do with my preschoolers as “Potty Initiation”.  I make my preschooler aware around age 2 that the potty is there for her use if she so desires.  I put her in panties for the day with a few reminders to use the potty.  If she goes through a packet of panties in the course of a few hours, I deduce she is not ready and put the panties away for three to six months.  If we have a panty day and she stays mostly dry and uses the potty multiple times without being prompted by me every 15 minutes, then I put her in panties every day after.

— 4 —

On a related note, Katie (3 years, 4 months) has reached Stage 1 of the potty initiation (staying dry all day in panties, using the potty regularly without constant prompting).  And it looks like she will breeze through the other stages quickly.

— 5 —

On Thursday my DD#2, Piper, turns six.  This year she gets a big birthday party with friends at Chuck E. Cheese.  I always hate planning these things because I never know how to handle the guest list.  We can only afford so many kids, and in Piper’s case she wanted a girls-only party.  I don’t want any hurt feelings because someone wasn’t invited.  On the flip side, I always have this nagging fear that of the handful of kids invited none of them are going to show up.  Thankfully I won’t have to go through this again for 2 1/2 years, when Katie turns six.

— 6 —

My parents are coming up to visit this week for Piper’s big birthday.  I can’t wait for them to see how all of the girls have grown and developed since their last visit in May.  I especially can’t wait for them to see Sabrina (15 months).  Now she walks really well, is saying a few words, and is so much more interactive.

— 7 —

The day after Piper’s party my husband and I will be picking up the U-Haul and officially moving my mother-in-law into our house.  My parents are going to watch the girls while we go to her apartment and load up what’s left of her furniture and boxes.  I dread the work, but I’m excited about her finally being here full-time.  I really feel like we are starting an exciting new chapter in our lives.

For more Quick Takes, visit Conversion Diary!


Choosing a Catholic College, Part II: Conclusions

September 24, 2011

I was originally going to write three posts about The Newman Guide to Choosing a Catholic College, but I think anything important can really be said in just two.  And I’m just to lazy to write a third.

My biggest concern about many of these colleges would be the possible lack of diversity.  From personal experience, when I went to college was the first time I was ever really challenged in my faith and forced to think about what the Catholic Church teaches and why.  This is because after 12 years in Catholic schools and a life that revolved heavily around my parish community I was now interacting on a regular basis with non-Catholics who had been taught a lot of incorrect information about the Catholic Church (as opposed to many luke-warm Catholics who had not been taught a lot of correct information about the Catholic Church).  I think if you spend your whole life all of the way through college in a Catholic bubble of like-minded people then hitting the real world after college with co-workers who are not like-minded could be a real shock to the system.  Then again there is not a lot of diversity of thought allowed in many college classrooms today unless you count the various degrees of liberalism as diverse.

On the flip side, no one could accuse my kids of living in a Catholic bubble.  Most of the families they interact with are not Catholic or not practicing Catholic.  I am not saying this is a bad thing, and in early childhood it’s probably not a big deal.  But as they enter adolescence they will probably be tempted more by friends who may not share the values my kids are being raised with.  I could see where attending a Catholic college could make kids raised like mine feel less spiritually isolated and offer the opportunity to be immersed in a like-minded culture that would bolster them in their faith as they enter adulthood.

I still don’t think I would push my kids to go to a Catholic college too much, but it might be worth having them look through The Newman Guide to Choosing a Catholic College.  Even though none of the recommended colleges are within a one-state radius of Illinois, a requirement for any college to which my children apply, I think reading through the book could offer lots of food for thought in their college selection process.  For instance, I could see us discussing the merits of small and large colleges, what kind of housing situation would be in their best moral interest, carrying their faith into college, and their involvement with the Newman Center on campus wherever they go.  And since we have two or three Catholic universities in our general vicinity I think the book does offer some useful tools for measuring each school’s Catholic identity that would help our over-all evaluation process.  I really don’t know that I would have thought to discuss these things if I hadn’t read this book.  After all, no one discussed them with me before I went to college.


Choosing A Catholic College, Part I: First Impressions

September 20, 2011

I think I was reading an article at the National Catholic Register when I was made aware of the book The Newman Guide to Choosing a Catholic College published by the Cardinal Newman Society.  For some reason I felt an urge to check it out even though I never attended a Catholic college, my kids are still at least six years from starting the college selection process, and I never considered pushing them to choose a Catholic College when the time comes.

When the book was published in 2007, there were 224 colleges and universities in the United States that claimed Catholic affiliation.  Rather than profiling each and every one, the Cardinal Newman Society chose their top 21.  They also felt compelled to do a review of Notre Dame since it is the most famous Catholic university in this country, although it falls way short of the standards held by the Cardinal Newman Society for deciding Catholic authenticity.  The main two standards for the Cardinal Newman Society were each school’s acceptance and application of Ex corde Ecclesiae, written by Pope John Paul II in 1990 and their compliance with the Catholic Church requirement that theology professors at Catholic institutions receive a mandatum acknowledging that they are practicing Catholics in good standing.

Several things struck me as I read through the descriptions of the top 8 out of 21.  First of all they are very small.  The largest had an undergraduate enrollment of 1982 as of 2007.  Three of the colleges had undergraduate enrollment in double digits (55, 72, and 92).  I just could not imagine attending a college that was smaller than my high school, and my high school was fairly small with a little less than 200 students.  I’m sure that it makes for an amazingly close-knit community…as long as you get along well with everyone.

Secondly, there was a large emphasis on the Traditional Latin Mass and even the Novus Ordo in Latin at these schools.  This was combined with strict dress codes that required women to wear skirts or dresses at all times.  These two concepts, prominence of Latin Mass and what is sometimes referred to as sola skirtura for women, are hallmarks of very conservative Catholicism and seen as signs of elitism by the less conservative.  I couldn’t help wondering if the Cardinal Newman Press was biased towards these concepts and gave extra points to these schools or if it was just coincidence that the best rated schools embraced the most conservative ideals.

Now I will say that several of these schools put a large emphasis on Latin in general as part of the academic process, and the Mass in Latin would be an opportunity for more practice with Latin in a practical setting.  I can also appreciate the desire for a strict dress code in order to avoid several modesty issues and lend an air of professionalism to one’s studies, but I don’t think this automatically excludes the use of dress slacks for women.  But the whole point of the book is to give people information about orthodox Catholic colleges so that they can make an informed decision about the options.

Most of the colleges seemed really expensive, but I think I was kind of out-of-touch with just how much college costs.  For one thing it has been (gulp) 12 years since I graduated from college, and I attended on a full scholarship.  The average cost (tuition + room + board) for the top 8 was about $23,000.  This is about $7000 more than the estimated in-state cost at my public alma mater (Western Kentucky University) and $5000 less than the out-of-state tuition.

Probably one of the most interesting sections in each review was the one about housing.  The Catholic colleges that had the best reviews had only single-sex dormitories with little or absolutely no opposite sex visitation.  Part of me rebelled at this idea at the mere thought of such a thing.  After all, I lived in a co-ed dorm with 24-hour visitation all four years that I attended college.  I don’t think my behavior in the dorm was that terrible; most of my bad behavior (excessive drinking and somewhat unchaste behavior) happened off campus.

I can see, though, where these schools are trying to “lead their students not into temptation”.  But I can’t help wondering if the very students who would choose these schools in the first place are really facing as much temptation as your average college student or if the housing policy would be over-kill for those who are probably used to strict dating rules at home.  Then again it does prevent students from seeing college as their chance to throw off parental wisdom in addition to parental authority.

More shocking were those that ban televisions, internet, and/or cell phones in the dorms.  One college in the book said that it didn’t have many extra-curricular activities because the academics were too rigorous to allow time for it.  So, I could kind of see banning television to prevent people wasting time.  I could also kind of see the same thing about banning the internet as well as to help keep pornography at bay.  Since many of the colleges take a Great Books approach, I suppose that the internet wouldn’t be absolutely necessary from a research standpoint.  And I certainly got by without my own personal computer with the internet in my dorm room.

At the same time, though, it seems a little over the top.  I can’t help wondering how much of it is to assist with time management, and how much of it is to disassociate  from the rest of the world and keep these young adults in a Catholic bubble.  First of all these are young adults, and I think these policies kind of treat them like little children.  Secondly, the internet and cell phones are primary methods of communication in this day and age.  By banning both in the dorms, the schools are effectively cutting their students off from their family and friends since cell phone plans are usually much more affordable for long distance than land-lines, and e-mail and Skype are free.

The most shocking thing to me about the book was that Catholic University of America was included in it.  In 1997 and 1998 I visited a friend who was attending Catholic University of America.  My first trip coincided with National Coming Out Day.  My friend was part of a group that handed out stickers and balloons on campus and such in celebration.  I don’t know if they were an officially sanctioned campus group, but I don’t recall anyone trying to stop them.  On my second visit I spent the night in a single-sex mens’ dormitory; the oversight was way less than in the single-sex dorms at my state university.  CUA didn’t really strike me as that much different in culture than my state university other than the number of rich, snobby people.  The one theology class I sat in on didn’t impress me much.  But I admit that I had a small and informal sampling of the university and my own biases coming in.

As the title of this post clearly says, this was kind of my first impressions of the book.  It definitely gave me lots of food for thought, and I have hopeful plans for two more posts about it if I get a chance.

7 Quick Takes (v. 55)

September 9, 2011

1.  These are all of the things I should be doing instead of writing this post:  switching out laundry, loading/running the dishwasher, balancing the checkbook, paying bills, making a grocery list.

2.  Katie (3) had her first organized class this morning.  The class involves reading books by Eric Carle and then doing an art project or two.  I could tell that she had a lot of fun, because she didn’t want to leave when the class was over.  I’m not sure how much of it was the class itself and how much was having the opportunity to play with the toys in the preschool room.

3.  Things kind of went downhill from there.  Katie got mad that the class was over and was pretty unbearable for about an hour afterwards.  I don’t know how much of that was disappointment and how much of it was having to get up early and rush out the door before her morning chocolate milk.  Piper (5 1/2) was thrown off, too, because she normally plays on the computer first thing in the morning while drinking her warm chocolate milk, but instead she had opted to go with me.  When we got home, Bailey (8 1/2) got mad because I made her get off the computer so that we could go over the schoolwork she did while we were gone and do her daily spelling test.

4.  Tonight Bailey has her first ceramics class.  Since my husband is going to be out all evening, this time I have to take all four kids with me.  It’s going to be really interesting trying to keep the younger three entertained for an hour and half at the community center.

5.  The room is all ready for my mother-in-law to move in next month.  Now I just need to finish clearing out the garage, so that her car will fit in it.  She’s going to come over tomorrow, so that we can take items to our storage room and Goodwill.  Then she’s going to stay the night as a taste of what is to come.  Sunday morning we’ll all go to Church together.

6.  On Labor Day I went shopping at Kohl’s for some much needed clothes.  I was down to four long-sleeved shirts that somewhat fit me, and they were getting kind of worn out.  I bought a mix of sweaters, knit tops, athletic tops and pants, and knit dresses..   I was going for comfortable but not frumpy.  I also got a fleece jacket.  Probably the most important purchase was a variety of socks, leggings, and thick tights so that I am not stuck in tennis shoes all of the time.

7.  Yesterday, we went to the zoo.  It was a really nice, cool day.  The place was almost empty, and I’m pretty sure that Bailey was the only school-aged child in the entire zoo.  Even though we have been to that zoo at least ten times, we went into the Australia house for the first time and fell in love with the sleeping wombats.  We happened onto a great spot to watch the giraffes, and we got to see the hippo swimming around.  One of the Grizzly bears was napping up against the glass and decided to sit up when we came along.  DH got to do his favorite zoo activity, petting the stingrays.  There was a really playful sea lion pup that kept coming up to the underwater window where the girls were watching and barking at them.  And we got to the lions just as some zookeepers were throwing them meaty bones as a demonstration for a shuttle bus full of “suits”.  It was overall one of our best trips to the zoo.


Reading List August 2011

September 4, 2011

1.  Vanity Fair by William Makepeace Thackeray:  At over 700 pages of thick prose, this one obviously took me a while to get through, but I found it a really interesting read.  I had kind of watched the movie version with Reese Witherspoon a few years ago, but there were things in the book that I wasn’t sure if they were omitted or changed in the movie version.  I love, though, how Thackeray is mocking everything from the time period, to the idea of heroes and heroines, and the whole idea of writing a book at all.  From what I remember of it, I don’t think that came through in the movie version.

2.  License to Pawn by Rick Harrison:  A few months ago we started watching some episodes of Pawn Stars; it’s been a fun and educational show to watch.  This is the autobiography of the owner of the Gold and Silver Pawn Shop.  If you are familiar with the show and its “characters”, this book is a great read.  It’s also a great lesson about how hard work and a love of learning can be more important than how many years you spend in a school or what your grades were.

3.  Boy Meets Girl by Josh Harris:  This is the follow-up to his book I Kissed Dating Goodbye.  In this book he offers guidance for those who feel that they are now ready to pursue marriage.  He makes it clear that it doesn’t matter if you want to call it dating or courtship, and he explains that each couples unique circumstances may keep them from following an “ideal” model.  But he offers guiding principles for this period that keeps God at the center of it all, and he makes it very clear that a courtship period isn’t successful only if it leads to marriage but also if a couples realizes that they are not meant to marry each other but have not damaged each other in the process.