Sunday, October 31, 2010

Book Review: Why He Is A Saint

I just had the pleasure of reading Slawomir Oder and Saverio Gaeta's Why He Is A Saint: The Life and Faith of Pope John Paul II and the Case for Canonization.  Prior to picking up this book I thought it looked like an interesting read, but I didn't think it would be something that I'd have a hard time putting down.  It turned out that the book was so captivating that I had a difficult time taking the occasional break while reading it.

The one hundred and eighty nine page book consists of just three chapters.  They are: The Man, The Pope and They Mystic.  Each chapter has many sub-headings so you can easily (if you're not like me and can part with a good book) read a bit of the chapter at a time and not feel like you are stopping in mid-thought.  The Man covers the life of Pope John Paul II up until he is elected Pope.  Overall this chapter filled with biographical and anecdotal stories from those who knew him flowed very nicely.  There were a few moments where I felt like the time line was a bit jumbled.  There were also a few areas of this chapter where I felt that something must have been lost in translation, which is quite possible since the book was translated from Italian.  The chapter entitled The Pope is pretty self explanatory.  It covers his  pontificate.  The final chapter, The Mystic, had to be my favorite chapter of the entire book.  It was in this chapter that the reasons why he is a saint resonate best.

I found this book to be rather enlightening.  I've read many things about the life of John Paul II in addition so having watched several documentaries on him.  There was plenty in the book that I already knew about him, but there was quite a lot of information that was completely new.  Reading this book, you can't help but feel inspired by his example.

This review was written as part of the Catholic book reviewer program from The Catholic Company.  Visit The Catholic Company to find more information on Why He Is A Saint: The Life and Faith of Pope John Paul II and the Case for Canonization and check out their great selection of baptism gifts while you are there.

I was provided with a free copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Small Successes-October 28th

Celebrating the little things in life that add up.

1. I was rudely awakened at 6:01AM this morning by Bryan to ask why Madeline was up and showered already.  Someone got the numbers 5 and 6 confused, and another someone thought it was perfectly fine to loudly ask a slumbering me why the other someone was already awake.  I did my best to not flip out on anyone for waking me.  I wasn't totally successful, but I was charitable considering the circumstances.  On the flip side, I'm awake, so we shouldn't be running late at all this morning.  The downside, of course, is that I will likely be very tired when 5PM rolls around and I have to teach my third grade religious ed class. Anyone know who the patron saint of sleep deprived mothers is?

2. The laundry is under control.  It's not all folded, and it's not all washed at the moment, but there are no major pile-ups anywhere.

3. I washed and brushed Mr. Furkins this week.  I'm trying to get into a regular routine of brushing him so I'm not finding his fur all over the place.  If I had my way, I'd shave it all off, but Bryan is adamant that the dog must keep his fur.  Sigh.

4. On Sunday, I made a pumpkin cheese cake using a recipe Bryan found online and it was very yummy.  The center wound up being a little gooey, but the rest of it was perfect.  It was my first time making a cheesecake, and despite the center not being perfect, I'm counting it as a success.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Arma Dei

About two weeks ago a package filled with lots of awesome goodies arrived on my doorstep from Arma Dei.  Arma Dei is a Catholic publishing apostolate that has wonderful crafts, games and books geared toward helping your child learn and explore the faith.

I'm hoping to start blogging a series of Arma Dei product reviews beginning next month.

Monday, October 25, 2010


I think the stress of keeping up with the balancing act I've created for myself must be affecting my dreams or something.  I can't remember what went on this past Friday but it yielded a very interesting dream.

I seldom, if ever, dream about blogging.  It's just not that important to my subconscious, or so I thought.  I woke up around 4AM Saturday morning because of a dream I had about my blog.  Not this one, and not the one I created for my religious education classes, but my shark blog.  Yes, that's right, the blog of my dreams is a shark blog.
The girls and I in a shark at Epcot three years ago.

I haven't actually done a Google search to see if anyone blogs about sharks.  I'm sure that someone must have a shark blog.  I can't imagine why I even dreamt about a shark blog, let alone one that I created.

I told Bryan about it and he had quite the laugh.  He wants to know when I'll be starting up the shark blog. I told him I doubt it will be anytime soon, if ever, but he thinks I should just run with the idea.

Without giving the blog away (I know many of you are on the edge of your seats wanting to know more about the shark blog) everything about my dream blog, I'll give you some of the details.  The blog features a daily post about something relating to sharks.  Maybe it's a picture, or maybe it's a fact or interesting article.  The blog had a header and background that was created by me using photographs I took. (Imagine that!  In my dream world I'm a shark photographer, too!)

I'm still surprised that the blog of my dreams is a shark blog of all things.

Book Review: Praying Constantly

I recently had the pleasure of reading Fr. Groeschel's latest book, Praying Constantly: Bringing Your Faith to Life.  In Praying Constantly Fr. Groeschel sets out to explain what St. Paul meant when he said "Pray without ceasing."  He covers the many ways in which we can make our prayer more meaningful and why these practices should be a part of our lives.

Maybe it's writer's block that I'm experiencing, or maybe it's that so much information is packed into the one hundred and fifty odd some pages of this book, but more profound words seem to elude me at present time.  The book is incredibly readable and very deep all at the same time.  Bear with me as I highlight some of what's in this book that resonated with me.

Fr. Groschel's explanation of the Blessed Trinity and how one should/might approach praying to the three person's of God is something that will stick with me.  I don't know how to explain it other than to say it's like looking at a painting and knowing that you like it before you know anything about it besides the fact that you like it, and then once you get the back story on that painting everything falls into place and you understand it on a completely different level.

There are chapters in this book that deal with praying at Mass and Eucharistic Adoration, as well as praying with scripture.  I found the chapters that covered these topics to be particularly interesting.

Page after page this book is filled with many pearls of wisdom to help lead you into a more meaningful prayer life.  I heartily recommend this book to anyone who is looking to deepen their faith and understanding of the many ways in which we can pray.

This review was written as part of the Catholic book reviewer program from The Catholic Company.  Visit The Catholic Company for more information on Praying Constantly: Bringing Your Faith to Life and be sure to check out their great selection of baptism gifts while you are there.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Defining Insanity

Yesterday I noticed that we were running out of a lot of essential grocery items.  Sure there was plenty of candy in the pantry, but important things like juice, cereal, romano cheese and other staple items were glaringly missing.  So I did what any normal mom would do.  I went grocery shopping.

Grocery shopping for me means visiting three stores: BJs Warehouse, Target and Acme (Yes, there really is  such a thing as an Acme.).  It drives me crazy that I can't get everything I need in one place.  I could probably get most of what I need at Acme, but the prices at BJs and Target make the extra trips well worth my time.

I had Bryan unload the tell tale soccer mom items from my van (You can't deny your soccer mom identity with two folding chairs and a six seater folding team bench in the cargo area of your van unless you are a phenomenal liar.  I am not a gifted liar.) and put the rolling cooler in there.  Anytime I break out the cooler it means I'm dead serious about getting the pesky grocery shopping banged out in one trip.

Just before leaving on my grocery expedition I compiled a list of the needed items and asked Bryan for his input.  I generally don't see further ahead in time than the next day's worth of food.  That usually translates into lots of last minute take out orders or me making several dinners to mask the fact that I once again didn't make sure we had everything we needed for a particular meal.  In creating the list, Bryan asked me to pick up rice.  That's when I got the "brilliant" idea to buy rice at BJs.

As I chugged along with my shopping cart at BJs, I happily ticked off as many items on the list as I possibly could.  1 gallon of Hershey Syrup (I hope that is an exaggeration, but I'm afraid to see how much is in the twin pack of super sized chocolate syrup in case it really is a gallon.), small flock of dead pre-cooked chickens (Two to be exact.), many gallons of cranberry and apple juice, enough peanut butter to sustain Ellie for about a month and I was just about set.  Then I remembered the rice.  One twenty-five pound bag of rice and I was all set to check out.

Buying this bag of rice seemed like a good idea at the time.  It was only a little more than what I'd pay for a 5lb bag at the grocery store and it was five times the size.  Lately the kids and Bryan have been eating rice so I figured I could save myself unnecessary trips to the store in the colder winter months.  What I hadn't thought about was where I might be storing twenty five pounds of rice.  As I looked at the enormous bag of rice sitting on my kitchen floor I realized that I had a moment of total insanity.  What was I thinking?  I have a family of four, not fourteen!  Then curiosity made me flip the bag over to see how many servings of rice you'd get with a twenty five pound bag.  252.  It looks like we're going to be eating a lot of rice over the next few months.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Simply Amazing!

Two weeks ago I was at my wits end with my third grade religious education class.  Despite having posted classroom rules and going over them at the beginning of each class most of the kids acted like it was playtime at the zoo during my class.  I seriously began to question if I had made a mistake in stepping down from my seventh grade class and teaching this younger grade.  I liked teaching seventh grade, but it was wrought with challenges.  Those challenges were what led me to the decision that I should give third grade a try.

One night while brainstorming about the ways I could get the third graders to behave like third graders I got the brilliant idea to make a stop light for the class.  The first week we met for class a student asked me if the stop light that is for the Catholic school classroom was for our class.  When I told him it wasn't he was very relived and began to act up.  I thought back on the moment and decided that I needed to create my own stop light.  I was skeptical that it would make any difference but I figured it was worth a try.  It turns out that it works with amazing results.

Last week I implemented the stop light in the class.  Students who break the posted rules will have their clip moved from green to yellow and if they persist in breaking rules they will move to red.  Kids who move to red will have a note sent home to their parents detailing why they were on red.  When I told the class how it was going to be they instantly grew quiet.  None of them wanted their mom and dad to know that they were goofing off in CCD.

I think you could have knocked me over with a feather last Thursday night.  The kids went from rowdy to perfectly quiet and eager to participate in the lesson.  It was nothing short of a total surprise.  I was thrilled with how the class behaved but I figured it wouldn't last.  I braced myself for chaos when I set up my classroom tonight.  Before the lesson began I went over the class rules and asked a student to remind the class how the stop light worked.  I reminded them of what happens if you wind up on the red light.  And then, it happened again.  They behaved like a class filled with little saints.

I can't believe that three paper plates strung together with nylon cording can have such a remarkable effect on a class of sixteen children.  I think it's nothing short of amazing that my class has changed so drastically for the better.  And even more amazing is the fact that my trouble makers are now some of my most eager students.   God is so good!

Small Successes-October 21st

Celebrating the little things in life that add up.

1. I managed to piece together two nice looking school picture outfits for the girls on Monday.  I thought I had the outfit situation all figured out and hadn't realized that the clothes I wanted the girls to wear were a tad too big on them.  So I had to drag them to Old Navy and Children's Place after school one day only to find that the stores don't have anything decent this year, or that they simply don't have what I like in their sizes.

2. Thanks to the wonders of email and very generous parents, I was able to coordinate the Halloween party for Madeline's classroom in four days.  I love being room mom for a class where the parents actually want to pitch in and help.  It makes the task of coordinating these events a breeze.

3. When the gallon of milk sprung a leak in the fridge last night I didn't freak out.  I simply dealt with the reality that I had a puddle of milk in the fridge and 80% of a gallon of milk that needed to find a new home ASAP.  This probably seems like an odd success, but I should mention that I seriously dislike touching or smelling milk especially if it's white. I managed to take care of the milk issue without gagging or freaking out and that's a success!

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Gaining clarity from delusion

I'm sure this probably seems incredibly odd, especially since I have actually blogged in the past two days, but I miss the time I used to carve out to blog more regularly.  I'm really not sure what has been happening to my days lately, but they feel like they pass by in the blink of an eye.  Perhaps it's all the little things I've been doing to fill my time that make it seem that way.

My delusional thoughts from the summer that I'd have more time than I'd know what to do with while both kids are in school for a full day have proven to be dead wrong.  My mornings are rushed as I scurry to get the girls and myself fed, showered, dressed and out the door.  Thanks to inconveniently staggered start times I get to fret about how late Ellie will be for school on a daily basis.  Madeline cannot be dropped off until 8:40AM per unreasonable public school rules.  Inevitably I get stuck behind the over protective concerned parent in the drop off line at least three days a week.  These parents are the kind who cannot drive away from the loop until their darling little child has entered the school building and are totally out of the parent's line of sight.  They drive me insane as I watch the minutes tick by on the clock as Ellie's prospects of getting to school close to starting time quickly fade.  While I'm not the biggest fan of sending Madeline to the public school I am confident that when I drop her off and speed away drive to my next stop that she is safe and under the competent supervision of the four educators who are stationed at the drop off line.

Once I get Ellie to her school I scurry her off to her classroom door.  Now that she's a big kindergartener she has decided that she's really too big and cool to hug and kiss me goodbye when her classmates are around.  So on an almost daily basis my baby is trying to thwart my attempts to say goodbye.  Clearly it's time for a new model who needs me and isn't embarrassed to admit it.

Most days I go home and do what I can to get the house cleaned and in order.  Some days I wonder why I bother when I know the house will start to revert to it's current state as soon as Ellie followed by Madeline and Bryan return home.  I realize now that my hopes for an immaculate home are nothing short of a pipe dream.   After nine years of fighting a losing battle to have a spotless home I am starting to come to terms with the fact that having a perfectly kept home will likely have to wait for a different season of my life.  And as shocking as this revelation has been for me, I think I can accept it.  I'm still going to try to attain an more orderly house, but I'm not going to fret when the house doesn't look perfect.  Once when I lamented to Bryan that I wanted the house to be perfectly clean all the time he laughed and told me that it's not going to be clean all of the time because we live here.  He wasn't telling me that we're just a bunch of slobs who can't or won't pick up after ourselves, which is how I interpreted his statement at the time, but rather he was telling me to stop running myself into the ground trying to attain the impossible.  Yes, the house can be clean, but as long as we're living life to the fullest we're not going to have a house that looks like it belongs in a magazine.

And the mystery of the vanishing time?  Well, I've come to realize that maintaining the house, volunteering for school and church related things, and taking the girls to and from school take up a lot of time.  I have the odd hour or two here and there during the week, but I simply don't have hours of my day that are devoid of activity.  I thought I'd have time to sit and watch a documentary here and there or read a book but so far I haven't had that kind of time in almost two months.  As crazy as it may seem, I think I have more time and more flexibility when the girls are at home.

CSN Stores Product Review Coming Soon!

I've been contacted by the folks at CSN Stores and asked to do a product review.  At their more than 200 online stores, they have just about everything you can think of from bar stools, to cookie cutters and toys.

I have my work cut out for me in trying to decide what I should review.  Should I pick some cookie cutters for Christmas cookies or some other kitchen tool?  Or should I thrill the girls with a new set of pink Legos?  Legos have been a big hit in our house as of late, so that may work.

Stay tuned for an upcoming product review!

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Book Review: The Catholic Homeschool Companion

Currently I'm in the process of deciding whether or not homeschooling is the path I'm going to take for educating my children.  Currently one child is in a private school and the other is enrolled in the local public school.  For years now, I have felt a strong pull to homeschool so I figured it might be beneficial for me to learn more about homeschooling.  The Catholic Homeschool Companion has been a wonderful book for answering questions I have about homeschooling.

The book is a collection of essays written by forty-three authors on a wide range of homeschool topics.  The book is divided into eleven chapters each of which covers a specific topic.  Perhaps you're new to homeschooling or are like me and are trying to decide if it's right for your family.  You can page through the contents and find the chapters that hone in on your most pressing questions or concerns.  Prior to reading this,  I felt pretty confident that I can, in fact, homeschool my children, but I was not sure that I could do so into the high school years.  After reading this book and many of it's edifying essays, I no longer feel that homeschooling for  high school would be totally out of the question.  Maybe you struggle with homeschooling your children and maintaing your home.  There's a chapter that can offer you insight and support in this book.

Overall, I found this book to be an incredibly helpful reference.  You can read this book cover to cover, like I did, or you can jump around to the chapters or essays that specifically target a particular aspect of homeschooling.  This book is filled with valuable insight and wisdom from veteran homeschooling parents.  Should I decide to make the decision to jump into the world of homeschooling next year, I feel confident that I can do it.  And if I hit a snag? I'm certain that I can turn to this book and find some support.  I highly recommend this book to those who are interested in learning more about homeschooling or those who already homeschool.

I was provided with a complimentary copy of The Catholic Homeschool Companion by the publisher, Sophia Institute Press in exchange for my honest review.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Are you going to join the fun?

This past May the girls and I participated in the Marian ATC (Artist Trading Card) swap hosted by Kimberlee of Pondered in My Heart.  The girls and I had a lot of fun creating these cards and we loved the lovely cards we received in exchange.

Now that All Saints' Day is around the corner Kimberlee is hosting an All Saints' ATC swap.  Will you be joining in on the fun?

Click on the button below to get the details.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Small Successes- October 14th


Celebrating the little things in life that add up.

1. The laundry is washed and mostly put away.  It should be finished sometime early this morning. And, I cleaned the toilets despite the fact that they looked clean.  Now they look super clean, but I'm probably the only one who notices.

2. I came up with a new game plan for my third grade religious education class.  I stepped down from teaching 7th grade to teach this grade because I wanted to be able to play games and do crafts with an older class like I do with the kindergarten kids and so far we haven't been able to do it.  When I tried to play trivia games with the 7th graders last year they wouldn't participate.  The only game we successfully played last year was bingo and that only worked because candy was on the line.

3. I think I may have my Christmas card photo.  We went to the beach on Monday and of the 80 pictures snapped,  I think I like this one the best:

 Bryan and I are taking the girls to a different beach this Saturday to see if we can get a few more pictures of the girls.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

What a week!

I can't believe almost an entire week has past by since I last posted anything here.  I've been so busy with so many things.

On Friday our pool was closed.  I haven't been in it since the last week in August, but I felt sad to see the pool closed for the winter.  I am however happy that I no longer have to worry about Bryan setting off the pool alarm that we have on our sliding glass door.  I won't be listening to the ear piercing alarm again until May.  I guess that's something to celebrate.

This past weekend was Madeline's soccer tournament.  Her team wound up being the only recreational team in the tourney and the girls who are all U-9 with the exception of one player were put in the U-10 bracket against travel teams.  We were a bit concerned that the girls would be totally outclassed but they actually did pretty well holding their own against the travel teams.  Out of three games we only won one of them, but they managed to score goals in each game.  Madeline scored a goal against a travel team from our soccer club, and she was goalie for a nice chunk of time during the game that our team won.  During that game she made a lot of awesome saves.  It amazes me that such a small kid can protect such a huge net.

On Monday the girls and I went to Stone Harbor for some dental fun.  We were all scheduled to have our teeth cleaned.  I was partly dreading the visit because Ellie hasn't reacted well to going to the dentist ever since she had her frenulum snipped at the pediatrician's office to eliminate her tongue tie issue.  Much to my shock she happily hopped in the chair and allowed them to clean her teeth.  Everyone in the office was amazed at the total change of heart on her part.  The best part of the whole visit was finding out there are no cavities.  Yay!  I hope I can continue on my streak of not developing any new cavities.

I even took the girls to the beach on Monday to take pictures for our Christmas card.  The outing didn't go well.  The girls weren't too happy to be wearing sweaters and jeans on an 80 degree day.  The picture outing went bad when Ellie sat on a sticker bush with big stickers that went though her jeans and stuck her.  She was not a happy camper and for a little while we were under the impression that she had part of the sticker stuck in her tush.  Poor kid is never going to sit on the beach again without looking first.

Tuesday was my crazy day of trying to get the house in order after having a busy extended weekend.  I got the laundry under control and cleaned a lot of the house.  I managed to do most of that before my parents came to visit for the afternoon.  I don't know where that awesome burst of energy came from but it was great while it lasted.

Today my parents came to visit again and we went up to my Uncle's house to go through his belongings.  Before you think I'm odd and rummaging through other people's things, I should clarify that this is the uncle who passed away in July.  My dad is handling his estate and asked me if I could help him move some things out of his house.  Going to his house was kind of like going on a scavenger hunt.  I got to rummage through a lot of debris (and I'm being kind with my description) and find some tools and books that could be of use to us.  I'm now the happy owner of a hatchet (which I don't intend to bury--I'm so punny today), a rake, a mini fridge, four hammers and a bunch of other stuff.

I'm continually amazed at how quickly time passes these days.  It's so hard to believe that October is nearly at the midway point.

Thursday, October 7, 2010


I think on some level teaching religious education is a form of Purgatory here on earth.  I suspect on some level that the Catholic Church concurs.  Months ago when I got a copy of the New St. Joseph Baltimore Catechism for Madeline I noticed on the inside cover a little section that notes a plenary indulgence that is gained by teaching Christian doctrine.

Let me just say that I'm feeling a little frustrated with  Thursday night  baby sitting stint religious education class.  Am I wrong to expect third grade children to behave better than five year olds?  My kindergarten students know to raise their hand to speak.  They know to sit in their chairs and they know how to be respectful.  Why are the eight year olds incapable of behaving properly?

Since I spend two hours and fifteen minutes a week from September to May teaching religious education classes, not counting the time I spend imparting the faith to my own children, I suspect that I'm taking some serious time off of my stint in Purgatory.  And I thought teaching 7th grade CCD was rough!  I miss the 7th graders.

Thank your Holy Mother Church for recognizing that teaching religious education warrants an indulgence!

Small Successes-October 7th

Celebrating the little things in life that add up.

1. As much as I hate doing it,  I cleaned all of the fixtures in all three bathrooms.  I can once again say that the sinks, tubs and toilets are clean.  How sad is it that I've come to a point where I'd rather clean a toilet than scrub toothpaste off the girls' sink?

2. It's not really my success, but Madeline made the school chorus.  I sang all through elementary and high school so I'm very proud that she's inherited my ability to sing.  Success: I produced a child who can sing.

3. I cleaned my stove top this past weekend.  I couldn't stand looking at all the stuff that had bubbled over onto the burners.  I realized that I was the only one who was going to clean up the mess [that I didn't make] so I did it [without complaining to the one who made the mess].

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Lets call it a day.

It's not even 3PM and I realize there are still nine hours left in the day, but can we just call it a day now?  Because I'm a pain in the butt sometimes and I like to overanalyze things I led myself to be upset with my husband late last night over something that shouldn't have been an issue in the first place.  My pointlessly feeling offended kept me, and him, up until 1:30 in the morning.  So much for getting to be early.  Four and a half hours later I was up and getting myself and the girls ready for 7:30 Mass.

The girls and I got to Mass early so their obsessive compulsive mother could sit in her usual spot. (Man, I need help!)  Once the Mass began Ellie started in on her let's see what I can do to irritate Mommy routine.  I can't recall the last time she behaved so poorly.

When Mass was over it was time to head over to the parish school to set up for my CCD class.  Ellie continued her irritate Mommy routine for another 15 minutes.  Bryan mercifully picked up Madeline before my class began. (He planned to sleep in while the girls and I were at Mass, but the dog had other plans and woke him up as soon as we left.  I think this proves that God has a sense of humor.)  Bryan was also able to get Ellie to stop misbehaving.

My class went well today, but it was not without some challenges.  The other kindergarten CCD class was merged with mine because of the small class sizes and the need for a teacher for another grade.  So my class is now a little larger.  Today's class was a bit rocky, but overall it went well.

I had a spell of total forgetfulness and discovered when I got home that I let my iTouch and speakers in the class room.  I wound up needing to run back and grab them.  I've left small stuff behind in the past but never something like that.  I think I need to create a checklist so I can make sure I have everything going forward.

The girls soccer games went well.  Madeline played a good game today and had a lot of fun playing.  I sat on the sidelines and cheered for and against her team.  I know several of the girls who are on the opposing team so I spent the entire game cheering for kids on both teams.  I bet some of the parents who don't know me think I was crazy or confused.  Ellie's game went well, too.  Bryan coached her today and told me that she had several good moments during the game where she had the ball.  I'm happy anytime she even kicks the ball so I love hearing that she's getting in there with the other kids and trying to be part of the game.  I only got to see her play for a couple of minutes since her game was at the same time as Madeline's.

Now that all our obligations for the day are out of the way I'm ready to call it a day.  I'm tired and feel like I have so much work ahead of me.  I need to rework things for my CCD class, blog about today's class on my religious education blog, and get things ready for  school tomorrow.  I suppose what I really need is a nap.  I just don't know if one is in my future or if it's practical given how much I need to do.

Monday, I'm ready for you.  Bring it!
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