Archive for October 2011

Bedtime Buddies

October 30, 2011

Each of my kids has at least one (maximum of two) bedtime buddies that they sleep with almost every night.  For my oldest, Bailey (8 1/2), it is Elmo and Chorizo.  She received Elmo when she was three, because like a lot of little ones that character caught her attention.  In 2006 when the Brewers add Chorizo to their line-up of Racing Sausages, she insisted on getting a little doll of him during our annual trip to Miller Park.  She has slept with them both every night since.

It was about six weeks after Katie was born when my husband and mother-in-law took Bailey and Piper (age 2 1/2 at the time) off to Miller Park without me.  My last injunction before they left was “Do not buy any stuffed animals!”  Therefore, my MIL had quite the guilty look when Piper arrived home clutching a dark brown teddy bear wearing a Brewers t-shirt.  She explained that Piper had seen him at the souvenir stand and started begging for him.  It was love at first sight.

His t-shirt disintegrated years ago, but “Cutie Pie Bear”, as she christened him, has been her best bedtime buddy since the day she brought him home.

I was pregnant with #4, and the husband and I were at Babies ‘R’ Us picking up a car seat and stroller when we came across a Cookie Monster doll.  Cookie Monster had been my favorite Sesame Street character as a kid (even though I though SS was way lame compared to The Muppet Show), and we wanted to avoid getting another Elmo doll (we already had two at home).  So, when we went to pick up the kids after our shopping was done, we presented Katie (then about 21 months) with Cookie Monster.  She immediately started hugging on him, and he’s inspired a few impromptu bedtime stories as he ransacked our house looking for cookies.

Recently it became apparent that Sabrina (16 months) was going to need her own bedtime buddy after repeatedly trying to steal Cookie Monster.  Since two out of the three girls had Sesame Street characters, my husband and I started brainstorming one for her.  We knew we wanted a classic character, no Elmo or Zoe, and my husband came up with the idea for Grover.  I did a little on-line search and within a week Sabrina had her very own bedtime buddy.  It’s only been a few days, but Sabrina appears to be taken with lovable, furry old Grover.


7 Quick Takes (v. 57)

October 28, 2011

— 1 —

Tonight my husband and I are going to an adults-only Halloween party.  It will be my first time dressing up in a costume for a party since college, but it will be my husband’s first time ever.  Thankfully the party starts at six, so that we can be home by ten or eleven (our babysitter, Granny, has to work tomorrow morning).  But the best part is that even though most of my husband’s colleagues live all over the Chicago area, the one who is throwing the party lives only ten minutes away in our own town.  I’m not going to tell you what we’re dressing up as, though.  That would just ruin the surprise once we get some pictures.


So, I’m thinking about trying National Novel Writing Month that starts on November 1.  This gives me four days to finish reading Story Engineering (recommended in Jen’s Quick Takes for this week); if I don’t by then I’ll have a major dilemma.  Do I hold off writing for a few days in order to finish the book, or do I start writing while still reading the book?  I don’t have any grand dreams of being published, but this book inspires me to think that I might actually finish writing my story instead of walking away after a few days.


We are on our third virus running through the house since September 11th.  The first one involved fever and red splotches on the skin.  The second one included fever, sore throat, runny nose, hacking cough, conjunctivitis, and hives.  Now this third one revolves around a runny nose and stuffy sinuses.  Each of the kids  has been to the doctor at least once.  Fun, fun, fun!


Its been three weeks since my MIL moved in with us.  So, far I think things have been going pretty well for all of us.  Since she’s gone to work most days, it really hasn’t effected us during the day.  In the evenings, she is often tired so she spends an hour or so after dinner relaxing in her room before going to bed early.  During the time when she’s out, it’s nice to have an extra pair of hands to get drinks and deal with issues.  And it’s been nice to have a live-in babysitter with a car to share with all these trips to the pediatrician.


For Bailey and Piper it’s a little bittersweet that there will be no more trips to “Granny’s house”, but Granny’s room has become a popular spot.  They are really good about not bothering her when she wants her resting time, but she welcomes them to snuggle with her in the morning on her days off.  And sometimes she invites them all in to watch SpongeBob on her television.  I know that Katie enjoys having Granny here all the time.  Now Sabrina hadn’t spent as much time at Granny’s house due to her age and the fact that she was just recently weaned, but she has become Granny’s little shadow around the house.  She goes crazy with excitement every day when Granny gets homes from work; I think this has made it all worth it to my MIL in and of itself.


Facebook has been especially politically charged in recent weeks.  I’ve really been trying to restrain myself in light of all the stereotyping and extreme rhetoric flying around.    The one that particularly gets me is the one that says “If you don’t like abortion, then don’t get one” with a call not to take other people’s rights away.  I just want to say “If you don’t like murder, then don’t murder someone”, “If you don’t like theft, then don’t steal”, “If you don’t like rape, then don’t rape”.  I suspect that the people passing the first one around wouldn’t agree that people should have the right to murder the born, steal, or rape.


We’re over halfway through our fall homeschooling semester.  Bailey (third grade) is chugging along with her studies, even though I lost her catechism this week (hopefully I can find it before Monday), and we’ve had to tweak some of her independent reading.  Piper (kindergarten) is in the second workbook of Explode the Code online.  I must admit that in all of the brouhaha of moving my mother-in-law in I haven’t been spending as much time with Katie, but hopefully I can rectify that this coming week.

Eucharistic Adoration

October 16, 2011

As Catholics, we believe that during the consecration of the Mass the bread and wine become the body, blood, human soul, and divinity of Christ.  While it continues to look like bread and wine, it is in fact now our Lord, Jesus Christ.  He is physically present to us in the Eucharist, and he remains physically present in the Eucharist.  (Some denominations hold that he is only present as long as the worship service lasts.)

During Eucharistic Adoration, a consecrated host is placed inside a vessel called a monstrance.  The monstrance is then displayed on an altar in order for the faithful to physically spend time with Jesus.  We know that Jesus is always with us, just as we know that when our child is in the other room that she still exists even though we can’t see her.  But Eucharistic Adoration allows us to experience Jesus in a physical form that we can see.


It’s probably been close to two years since my priest suggested that I try going to Eucharistic Adoration.  My church has a small chapel devoted to Eucharistic Adoration, and every Friday night there is a Holy Hour in the Church with Eucharistic Adoration in the church and the sacrament of Reconciliation.  There were many weeks when I intended to go, but something would inevitably come up that kept it from happening.  I’ll be honest I was beginning to suspect I was under spiritual attack to keep me from going.  It starts at eight, but at 8:15 this past Friday night I told my husband that I had to go to adoration.

I got to the church at about 8:30.  I really didn’t know what to expect other than the monstrance because I had never, ever been to Eucharistic Adoration before.  There were about 25 people spread out in the pews of the church.  Some were sitting, and some were kneeling.  And then there was a long line for confession with about another 15 people.  Deacon Dave was sitting in the first pew wearing some special vestments, and he also had a thurible burning incense.

thurible on its stand

From what I had read, it is recommended that you sometimes bring something to adoration like a Bible, prayer book, or other suitable reading to meditate on at first.  It’s suggested that you take some time to pray.  But most importantly you should take some time, try to clear your mind, and open yourself to what God has to say to you.  After all, how often do we keep up a running commentary to God without letting Him get a word in edgewise?

In my haste I had run out the door without anything to read.  I noticed that several people had little pamphlet books, and I wondered if it was something they brought or if there had been something available in the narthex that I had completely missed when I entered the building.  So I just alternated between sitting and kneeling in my pew, as I alternated between praying and trying to remain silent and clear my mind.

Probably at about quarter ’til nine, the deacon stood up and did a series of ritual actions that included adding more incense to the thurible, using the thurible to bless the altar, and lifting the monstrance with his hands wrapped in a special shawl.  Then he led everyone through the Chaplet of Divine Mercy.

While I had heard the story behind this more recent Catholic devotion, I had never experienced it before.  I was really clueless about how it worked.  While I didn’t know some of the unique prayers and I certainly didn’t have my Rosary beads with me, I was able to join in on the prayers I did know and pick up on the prayer you say for each decade of beads.  In the past, I’ve always kind of had mixed feelings about saying the traditional Rosary, but I really felt at peace with the Divine Mercy Chaplet.  Maybe this was because it seemed less laborious than the traditional Rosary, which has longer prayers and so many more things to remember for meditation.

After the Divine Mercy Chaplet, the deacon finished up with some more prayers, including one that ended with repeating “Jesus, I trust in you.”  That mantra really caught my attention as a simple prayer to repeat throughout the day, especially to counter-act the negative mantras that sometimes go through my head.  Then he picked up the monstrance and led everyone in singing “Holy God, We Praise Thy Name” as he processed out of the church to return the monstrance to the adoration chapel.

Then everyone, except the people still in line for confession, began to leave.  I liked the idea that the priests might stay there for as long as it took to offer Reconciliation for everyone in line, because the other confession time is an hour before Mass on Saturday evenings and I know from experience that they don’t always have time for everyone in line to have a chance.

While I didn’t experience some super-great revelation from God at Eucharistic Adoration, like I’ve read about from the personal accounts of others, I found small revelations, like my new admiration for the Divine Mercy Chaplet.  I’ve got a new God-centered mantra to fight back against some of the demons that plague me.  And later when I got home, had to start immediately getting everyone ready for bed, and began to lament that I had been running all day without any “time for myself”, I realized that the time I spent at the Holy Hour was time for myself.  It was just a way more productive time for myself than I would have had screwing around on Facebook.  It was liking eating a filling dinner at a quiet restaurant instead of gorging myself on a box of Swiss cake rolls on front of the television.  I definitely plan on attending Holy Hour as often as possible from now on.

September 2011 Reading List

October 9, 2011

1.  Born to Run by Christopher McDougall:  This book takes an interesting look at community, at running, at evolution, and at life.  Deep, huh?  I really recommend this for my marathon/runner friends.  It was so good it made me actually consider training for a marathon, until my common sense kicked in.  I’m not sure I really have calories to gamble with at this point.  But it was a really good read even though not exactly what I expected when I picked it up.

2.  Unplanned by Abby Johnson:  The power of this book lies in its simplicity.  This is just Ms. Johnson’s journey from being a college student to becoming a Planned Parenthood director and “Employee of the Year” and then to becoming a vocal advocate against abortion.  Even though she herself experienced three unplanned pregnancies while using birth control, she doesn’t take the time to connect all of the dots between the way Planned Parenthood pushes contraception and the rise in the number of abortions.  At first this annoyed me, but I see now that this could have made the book more preachy and less powerful as an account of personal revelation.

3.  Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince by J.K. Rowling:  I decided to pick this up off my shelf for a nice reread.  I seem to remember having some great new observation about it, but at this point (several weeks since I’ve read it) it totally escapes me.

4.  The Newman Guide to Choosing a Catholic College by Cardinal Newman Society:  Please refer to this post and this post.

5.  Dug Down Deep by Joshua Harris:  In this books Harris explores the importance for all Christians to have a basic understanding of Christian doctrine instead of just letting “feelings” guide their understanding of scripture.  While Harris, an evangelical, obviously holds to sola scriptura his explanation of basic doctrine holds pretty true for all denominations.  In fact, I think he would probably be surprised to learn how close he is in his understanding to Catholic doctrine.  One of his main points is that knowledge of doctrine is pointless if you don’t apply it to your life, and this is something I think that I struggle with.

6.  The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson:  I saw the movie trailer for this when my husband and I saw the movie adaptation for Moneyball.  Besides being happy to see Christopher Plummer still working, I was intrigued by the storyline.  While there are some sexually explicit scenes in the book, I was not really surprised that the trailer alone added two sexual references that aren’t in the book.  It’s a great mystery, though, and I’ll be interested to read the sequels.


October 6, 2011

When my husband and I learned that we were going to be having our second daughter, we decided that we wanted to give her a name with spunk.  She was going to need it to keep from being over-whelmed by her spirited big sister.  Well, we needn’t have worried because Piper has more spunk than we could have ever imagined.

Let me tell you a little bit out my Piper.  Piper has always been very self-aware.  When she was just 18 months old she would tell me when she was ready for bed.  She knows what she likes and what she doesn’t, and other opinions are not necessary.   She has never suffered from indecision or regret.  And she never tries to impress others; she just is who she is.

Piper can be very stubborn and out-right defiant, which can make parenting her infuriating.  And in the past she has had a tendency to lash out hitting and kicking, but she is getting better.  She is the queen of sarcasm and insult, though.  Woe to those who get on her bad side.

Despite her harshness at times, she also has a tender and vulnerable side.  When something does scare her, her eyes will well up and her lips will tremble.  While she has not given us kisses since she turned two, she lavishes kisses on her baby sisters…at least until they aren’t babies anymore.  She loves to snuggle as her favorite form of physical affection.  She is obsessed with stuffed animals and robotic animals; she just can’t get enough.

Piper loves to draw, especially things in nature like birds and butterflies.  At this point she is a year ahead of grade level in math.  She is a natural-born comedienne with perfect wit, timing, and facial expressions.  When she is “on”, she keeps us all in stitches.

I would say that she is just in the middle on the introvert/extrovert scale.  She really enjoys playing with her friends, but she is also very content playing by herself.  There are times when she wants to participate in group activities, and at other times she “just wants to be free”.

When she was born, we wondered what kind of person she would turn out to be.  She is greater than we could have ever imagined.

So, today I want to wish her a very Happy Birthday as she celebrates six years of excellence!


The Fifth Class-A Glimpse of Late 19th Century Education

October 3, 2011

For the past few weeks, I’ve been listening to Anne of Green Gables on audiobook as I do my weekly errands in the van.  I’ve read the book a few times, but if I had to list my Anne books in order of preference the first one would probably be near the bottom.  So, I probably haven’t read the actual book in ages.  I was listening to Chapter 17, and I was struck by something that probably wouldn’t have meant much to me before.

The Avonlea school was a traditional one-room schoolhouse with kids ranging from about age six to sixteen with one teacher teaching them all.  When Anne first starts at school her formal education has been sparse, even though she is an avid reader.  Therefore, while all of the other eleven-year-old kids are in the fifth class, Anne is put in the fourth class.  She was basically being held back a school year from her peers.  When Gilbert Blythe returns to Avonlea, he is also a year behind his peers due to when his family moved away for a year and a half to an area without a school.  A competition develops between Anne and Gilbert for the top marks in the fourth class.

Mr. Phillips might not be a very good teacher; but a pupil so inflexibly determined on learning as Anne was could hardly escape making progress under any kind of teacher. By the end of the term Anne and Gilbert were both promoted into the fifth class and allowed to begin studying the elements of “the branches”–by which Latin, geometry, French, and algebra were meant.

First of all, note that at the end of the term not the end of the year Anne and Gilbert both did so well as to move up a grade level.  This indicates that movement between levels was based completely on mastery of the material.  If one or the other had not done well on their end-of-term test he or shee would have had to retake the material until he/she did.  This also assumes that if a student really worked hard then they could accel past the level of their same age peers and graduate early.  No one would worry about their maturity to fit in socially with older kids, because they were already mixed in with older kids.

Secondly, once students reached fifth year they began studying Latin, geometry, French, and algebra.  Let’s start with the foreign languages.  French would have been a logical foreign language for them to study living in Canada.  And even, though, Anne lived in an area that predominantly spoke English there were many French-speaking people who worked as servants and farmhands.

But in addition to French, they were required to learn Latin.  The area was predominantly Protestant, so they wouldn’t exactly have been using Latin regularly in a church setting.  Yet it was deemed important that all of the kids have a basic grounding in Latin, and I believe it was also part of the high school entrance exam.  As many proponents of Latin point out, it is deemed a useful, if dead, language to know because its organization is good for learning the elements of grammar and logic.  In addition, many English words are rooted in Latin, and many scientific and legal terms are still in Latin. Yet, Latin is largely not taught in most schools, even Catholic ones, anymore.

And then there is the math.  At first I thought that when it came to geometry and algebra it was just things like calculating areas or finding the missing number, just very basic introduction.  But Anne goes on to complain about her teacher switching out the letters to make it more confusing.  This indicates that they were doing more complex equations and theorems.  Today, that level of math isn’t normally introduced to kids until 7th or 8th grade or later.

I’ve often thought that the best thing that could happen to most schools, public or private, is if they went back to the one-room-schoolhouse model.  First of all you had multiple age groups learning with and from each other.  (My mother-in-law actually attended a one-room-schoolhouse, and she remembers a lesson on centrifugal force that was taught to the entire class at one time.)  Each child moved at his own pace depending on his ability and level of motivation.  And you didn’t have tons of administration making inane policies that they expected teachers to enforce.  Of course, there is no turning back for mainstream schooling.  It would be too radical for most parents to accept, and it would be seen as a regress when there should only be “progress”.  But this is exactly what a lot of alternative schools and homeschooling attempts to recreate.

One other noteworthy thing in the book regarding education is that in a previous chapter, a bad interaction with the teacher leads Anne to drop out of school for awhile.  Her guardian, Marilla, reluctantly agrees with this fearing that things would only get worse if Anne were to be forced to return against her will.  However, Anne continues to study her schoolbooks on her own and does not seem to be any worse off when she does decide to return to the school.  The book was originally published in 1908 before school attendance became compulsory.  These days Anne would probably be reported as a truant and Marilla would be harassed by the government for letting her stay home for six weeks.  And then Anne would automatically be failed for missing too many days from school.