Monday, November 30, 2009

"Let's Not Tailgate Our Way to Christmas"

Happy first week of Advent, dear readers!

I was blessed to hear a wonderful homily at the Vigil Mass on Saturday evening, and wanted to share some of the priest's reflections on Advent with all of you. In all honesty, this was a homily that I wish I could have recorded - the priest did an amazing job of capturing the true meaning of Advent and of conveying to all of us the weight and importance of this liturgical season. One of the most helpful reminders to me was that Advent is not only a period of devout and joyful expectation as we prepare for Christmas which celebrates Christ's first coming, but that it is also a season which reminds us that we await Christ's second coming. The Church in her wisdom has devoted the Gospel passages for the first two Sundays of Advent to reminding us that Christ will come again in glory at the time of the Last Judgment, and that "upon the earth [there will be] distress of nations in perplexity" and "men fainting with fear and with foreboding of what is coming on the world" (Luke 21: 25-26). Why will there be great distress and people fainting with fear? Because many will be surprised by and unprepared for Christ's coming.

And so we must ask ourselves, "Am I prepared to meet Christ when He comes again? Are the activities of my daily life preparing me for eternal life with my Creator, or are they merely self-serving and aimed at earthly success? Am I looking forward to heaven, or am I unduly attached to the things of this world?" As the Gospel of Luke reminds us, "...take heed to yourselves lest your hearts be weighed down with dissipation and drunkenness and cares of this life, and that day come upon you suddenly like a snare" (Luke 21: 34).

During this season of Advent, we must soberly and seriously take the time to prepare our hearts for the joyful coming of Jesus at Christmas, and also for His coming at the end of time. In a culture that encourages spending the next few weeks rushing from store to store for the perfect gifts and from one holiday gathering to the next, we must make sure that our focus remains on preparing ourselves and our families for Christ our King. Many of us will invite guests into our homes for Christmas, and we will go to great lengths to tidy and decorate our homes so that they will be festive and welcoming. What are we doing to make sure that our hearts will be a welcoming place for Jesus when he comes?

The title of this post references tailgating, a fun activity that many people engage in during football season. While the football game may not begin until 1 p.m., football fans gather in the parking lot at 10 a.m. to eat, drink, and enjoy each other's company. Tailgates are great fun, but our priest commented that in his experience, many people overindulge in the pre-game festivities so that by the time half-time comes around, they are completely out of it. He warned us that we must not tailgate our way to Christmas. We must not overindulge in the pre-Christmas festivities so that by the time Christmas arrives, we're glad that it's all over! Again, Christmas parties, baking, and decorating are great in moderation, but if they become our focus rather than preparing ourselves for the great mystery that we are about to celebrate, we will have missed a great opportunity.

Next Sunday's Gospel reminds us of the words of the prophet Isaiah: "...Prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight. Every valley shall be filled, and every mountain and hill shall be brought low, and the crooked shall be made straight, and the rough ways shall be made smooth; and all flesh shall see the salvation of God" (Luke 3: 4-6). Let us truly prepare our hearts and our homes for the coming of our Lord, that we may fully celebrate his Incarnation at Christmas and look with joyful anticipation towards the time that He will come again.

A few tools that we will be using in our home during Advent are a very simple Jesse Tree, a special family prayer, and an interactive and child-friendly Nativity Scene. We will learn Christmas carols but (much as I love them!) we will try not to overdo it so that we will still want to listen to them during the Christmas season. As we bake Christmas cookies and trim our tree, we will remind our children that the reason that we do all of these things is so that we can prepare our hearts and our home to to welcome Jesus. First and foremost, my husband and I will be praying for our own purity of heart and mind, that we may be truly leading our family towards eternal life in heaven.

St. Andrew Christmas Novena

Hail and blessed be the hour and moment in which the Son of God was born of the most pure Virgin Mary, at midnight, in Bethlehem, in piercing cold. In that hour, vouchsafe, O my God! to hear my prayer and grant my desires, through the merits of Our Saviour Jesus Christ, and of His Blessed Mother. Amen.

It is piously believed that whoever recites the above prayer fifteen times a day from the feast of St. Andrew (30th November) until Christmas will obtain what is asked.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Thought this was interesting

If you have a moment, read this lead story in Time Magazine. Are you a helicopter parent? I definitely have some helicopter tendencies.

Also, I found this general societal comment interesting:
Some of the hovering is driven by memory and demography. This generation of parents, born after 1964, waited longer to marry and had fewer children. Families are among the smallest in history, which means our genetic eggs are in fewer baskets and we guard them all the more zealously.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Lost in Translation

A friend of mine stopped me today after helping to run the Thanksgiving party in my oldest son's (4.5yo) preschool class. She just couldn't stop laughing after talking with our M...

Mrs. J: So M, are you excited for Thanksgiving?

M: Yeah, I'm excited for the turkey. But we have to kill it first.

Mrs. J: (confused) Does your daddy go out and hunt for the turkey?

M: No, he doesn't shoot it. We catch it with a butterfly net.

LOL! Where do kids come up with this stuff?!
Cheers to a 4-year-old's perception of reality!

Monday, November 23, 2009

Cranberries. So saucy.

Cranberry sauce is a highlight of the Thanksgiving meal.

Making it couldn't be simpler: with a basic recipe of 1 cup sugar, 1 cup water and a 12 oz bag of cranberries, it basically makes itself.

The taste couldn't be better: tart and sweet, it moistens and enlivens every other Thanksgiving dish on the table. Great texture. Great deep ruby color. My toddler eats it by the spoonful. I do too, in private.

This year, my brave sister-in-law ("Queen Hospitality"), who just had her first baby, is hosting all 17 of my husband's immediately family members. Among other things, I'm bringing cranberry sauce. I will be making 3 batches. One standard recipe. Two with a little extra sparkle.

Do you have an excellent cranberry sauce recipe you'd be willing to share? Exotic, homey, or otherwise special.

I will make two of the suggested recipes, and my in-laws (including five sisters-in-law who are all lovely ladies, talented chefs, and connoiseurs of fine foods) will vote on a favorite. The winner and runner-up will receive by mail an Advent treat. I'll get your addresses when the results are in.

Thank you for helping to add extra zest to our Thanksgiving table! Happy Thanksgiving to all!!

talkin turkey

We are taking the week off to enjoy Thanksgiving. While we have done our traditional Handprint Turkeys, we are also reinforcing several weeks of reading from our Thanksgiving book basket by doing Narration work. This is a Charlotte Mason technique where the children tell back what they have read or learned. Try it with your children, the results can be cute or surprising, they remember such interesting details. I used a few prompts and had the children dictate to me while I typed their words. I asked them to tell me about the first Thanksgiving, Our Thanksgiving Traditions and what they were thankful for this year.

We are headed to New York to celebrate Thanksgiving with my brother. I look forward to cooking and having a relaxed family meal. He is a vegetarian so we are getting to experiment with some new side dishes, but I have also ordered a turkey from our local farm. I am looking forward to stuffing and sweet potatoes, but we are adding brussel sprouts and cauliflower this year in an attempt to use local, seasonal foods.

We are hoping to fit in some runs and perhaps watch the parade. I am especially thankful for my brother this year, who is a writer, a cancer survivor, a great uncle and friend. We don't agree on everything, but we choose to get along and respond to each other with love. He is incredibly supportive of me, and I try to be so of him, too.
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Sunday, November 22, 2009

Perhaps a better Montessori Idea...

We have been chatting about how to help our children build routines, including getting ready to go in the morning and handwashing. B-Mama told us that her boys are reminded to wash hands well because she posted the instructions that they made in school near the sink.

Handwashing is a great example of a Montessori practical life activity. Appropriate, child size tools are provided and the child is taught to do some real work (wash hands) that does matter to himself and the community. In addition to the skill at hand, he also learns to focus and to follow a sequence of instructions. By repeating this task over and over again, he has the experience of mastering something. He also has a sensory experience as he feels the warm water and soap.

I was looking for Christmas gifts on Etsy -- the perfect compromise for those who wish they could shop local/independent but also wish to avoid stores. I came across these charts which look like a great help to habit building. Once you are over there, look around, it is great fun and so inspiring to see what people are making!

Friday, November 20, 2009

Keeping it real...

You Montessori homeschooling supermoms (and everyone else too) will enjoy this coverage of a wonderful new Montessori innovation for dental students.

Montessori School of Dentistry Lets Students Discover Their Own Root Canal Procedures

Thursday, November 19, 2009

The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

The Good: The Waitress at the diner where I had breakfast with my two younger children this morning. She brought the children extra crayons and coloring sheets and hot chocolate with cream as soon as we walked in. I was on the phone getting a car maintenance quote when she delivered our breakfast order. Without being asked, she sat down, buttered bagels and cut them into bite-sized pieces, moved all the hot drinks and knives, started the kids on their breakfast, and stayed with them until I finished my phone call. God bless you helping hands and kind souls of the world.

The Bad: The Stranger who cloned my credit card and charged $487 at a Walmart in California this afternoon. My bank is USAA, the military bank. My M.O. is fiercely watching every penny as we budget through graduate school. Stranger, you've messed with the wrong people.

The Ugly: My First 2009 Christmas-shopping trip this morning at TJMaxx. The heat is on, as I have one week to buy (on a budget) for many dear family members who we will see next week at Thanksgiving. Gift giving is oh-so-not my love language. It is 1 hour past naptime for my 3-year-old Bean and 18-month-old Angelina. Bean in the stroller handles porcelain trinkets as he uses his feet to push off the shelves and roll himself to the top of the staircase. I catch him just as he begins to head down. Angelina is back in the Ergo pulling my hair and tantruming, having just finished eating chocolate out of a display which I must now purchase. I am drenched in sweat, frying alive in a turtleneck sweater which I cannot remove because of said Ergo. It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas. Maybe, just maybe, we can get this all taken care of before Advent.

For better or worse, there's rarely a dull day as a homemaker, wife, and mother of three preschoolers!

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Facebook Pros and Cons

Lately, I am getting the sense that everyone is on facebook. You can stop laughing now, yes I am internet savvy, I have a blog, after all! However, until the last six months, I thought that facebook was just for people about 5 years younger than me, or for those who were really into online networking.

Then I found out that my mom is on facebook. Frankly, it struck me as a little bit lame, I mean, really, who is she friending on facebook, is she sixteen? Well, I guess her facebook page must be pretty interesting, because my friends started asking me about it -- as in, is your brother really in the Opera, I read that on your mom's facebook page. So, who is she friending out there in internet land? My friends, my friends parents, my in-laws, extended family on both sides, the list goes on, but it seems my mother has an awful lot of friends!

After sitting quietly at the last two parties I attended while friends who had not seen each other in a while picked up quickly because of facebook updates, I started to wonder whether I should be on facebook. Then, someone (well, my mom, actually), sent me a link to a picture that I couldn't see, because I am not on facebook.

So, I started asking around, and friends tell me that I am the only person they know who is not on facebook. They tell me that I have missed the invitations to several parties and get togethers because I am not on facebook. They also tell me that they have found old friends on facebook, and it has been lots of fun. Then they tell me that facebook is annoying and a huge time suck. Then they tell me very honestly that I do not have time for facebook. Then, I started hearing about how people get hurt by facebook. Elizabeth is not alone in being 'unfriended' and I know one woman who was unfriended by family. I also know that I have a tendency to over share and wish I could take things back, which is part of why blogging only once a week is a good fit for me. Also, I know people get contacted by people from their past with whom, perhaps, they would prefer to remain out of touch. Now, instead of letting a friendship drop, you have to actually reject someone? Or do you just say "yes" to everyone but then block their messages so they don't annoy you? I already get easily annoyed by people on group yahoo lists, when they start getting political or just post too often, or ask obvious, google-able questions.

I can see lots of value in online social networking, but fear it is a distraction from real life social networking, after all, I have an extensive social network right here in my home! What do you think, am I missing out by holding out on facebook?

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

What I have learned since October 4th

1. They make a size newborn diaper, which my sweet baby just outgrew. Yes, Claire is my 4th newborn.   And yes, I just learned that they made a size newborn diaper. I have never before had a child small enough to fit into a newborn diaper. That cut-out thing for the umbilical cord is really cool--and beats the heck out of folding the top of the diaper down!

2. Just because my first three children are blond, doesn't mean I will always have blond babies. Claire appears to be our first brunette...time will tell if she is going to keep her brown hair.

3. A newborn baby is just about the greatest thing that can happen in the life of an almost six year old girl. It is also very exciting for my two boys, who make every effort to pay attention to baby Claire all day. I am loving it!

4. Hibernating for a couple of months after the baby is born is actually fun. I'm loving all the time with my kids, and for the first time in my life as a mother, I've actually enjoyed staying at our house for days at a time (and I'm a big time extrovert!).

5. If your six week old baby is only waking up once a night to nurse, you should thank God for this special blessing. EVERY. SINGLE. DAY.

6. Transitions are tough, and it is ok to go easy on yourself, relax your standards, and know that in time life will go back to normal. Take-out rocks.

7. There are an amazing number of wonderful people in my life who have truly celebrated the birth of our sweet baby. Your generosity has been amazing! The meals and gifts are all truly appreciated, and have been given with such love.

8. You will get more baby gifts when you have a baby girl. There is something about a baby girl that makes Aunts and distant relatives, who have otherwise ignored the birth of baby boys, fly to the store and buy baby clothes.

9. When you are overtired and desperate and you ask your 5 year old to get your 3 year old and 22 month old something to eat for breakfast, do not be surprised when you walk into the kitchen and see them all working hard with a pair of child-friendly scissors to cut open one cereal bar after another. Wrappers lie everywhere and the box itself was actually cut to shreads. The cheerios, your intended breakfast food, lie untouched in the pantry. Also, do not be surprised when all three children choose not to eat lunch because they have consumed about $10 worth of cereal bars.

10. Whoever said that once you have three children, and are officially outnumbered as parents, adding an additional child isn't that much more work was lying! My greatest challenge as the mother of 4 children is to make sure I am giving each child individual attention and love. An additional kid makes a big difference in this goal. It is going to be quite a transition.

12. When you do leave the house with all four children in tow, grown adults will often lose their ability to count to four, and ask you, "How many children do you have, lady?"

13. God is good. Claire is beautiful and perfect. Every time I look at her, I am reminded that miracles happen. She arrived naturally almost two weeks earlier than any of my other babies, born on the feast of St. Francis, as predicted by her big sister, Gianna. Since St. Claire was the "sister" saint to Francis, our little Claire will always know that God himself named her. I am reminded of this small miracle almost every time I say her name. Consolations like this are not normally part of my spiritual life, and so I am still thanking God for such a wonderful gift.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Thanksgiving Holiday Helper

Living Books Curriculum, a great Charlotte Mason resource, has free "Holiday Helper" packets for several holidays throughout the year. I like them because they include beautiful poems, stories and art for a picture study. Beautiful and enticing first-person accounts for a young child. By all means, go ahead and make a hand print turkey, but try reading a beautiful Thanksgiving poem, too! You can download the Thanksgiving Helper at CurrClick for free.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Halloween Candy Graphing

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The Paper Trail

If you're anything like me, the activities and demands of a busy household pull you in such a way as to leave a hurricane in its wake.

Especially on the kitchen counters.

It is during this pre-holiday season when the problem is at its worst. Holiday magazines arrive by the dozen, cramming our mailbox full and hampering my efforts to sift through the mail and make peace of the nightmare. Soon Christmas cards will be joining the mix, making the mail even more time-consuming to tackle. Heaven forbid the mail lands on the counter and stays there until the next day when the new pile arrives and lands on top.
Add to this the endless supply of coupons and savings that I aspire to keep and use (but hardly ever end up using because I lose them within the chaos and don't discover them again until they are expired!) And don't forget the countless receipts that clutter my purse and also end up on the counter in the hopes that I will add them to our budget roster. Also, now that my kids are getting to be school-aged, add to the insanity school papers, permission slips, projects, etc. that are eventually creating the perfect storm of paper. Help! I'm drowning in paper clutter!

I've been trying to address the situation like a good homemaker would. I've succeeded in places and in others, have obviously failed. I set up a filing system for bills, where one slot is for bills-to-be-paid, the other is for statements-to-be-filed, and the third is for items to save and not throw away. This system has been somewhat successful, but I will say, in order for the bills to be paid, you have to take the time to look in the bill slot! I wish this system had a priority element to it, where bills needing immediate payment are in a special category to draw my attention sooner.

Another organization technique I've been trying is keeping the kids' school papers in individual folders, one per child. The problem with this technique, however, is that the folders end up on the counter after all! Perhaps a hanging folder system is the way to go? Perhaps devoting a small corner of the house to overall paper organization is the secret?

As for the myriad of receipts, well, here's the outcome. This was a Halloween basket I picked up for storing candy. Scratch that. It is the current end all be all for every receipt that comes in the door. Now its just sitting there, gathering dust, hoping someday to be sorted into what matters and what can be trashed. Is it even worth hanging onto receipts when most of our purchases are logged through the credit card? I'm at a complete loss.

One last godsend I've instituted is our kitchen recycling bin. It is stored in the closet and is the immediate spot for sending all mail rejects. If I can take the time to attack the mail pile, I can sort and immediately dispose of what is not needed. But what about where to put the important items??

What are your secrets? How do you handle the paper trail? What products help you with organization? Do you have any suggestions to help this disorganized mother achieve more streamlined organization? Especially before the holidays hit????
THANK YOU. You're helping more than you know!

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Wardrobe Malfunction?

Good Morning! I am hoping that some of you will be able to help me out. For the past several weeks, with the advice and consent of my husband, I have been getting up early to go for a walk/jog/run. Most days, I am home in time to shower and dress for the day, and this is a great luxury. Some days, however, it makes more sense for me to stay in my workout clothes for part, or even all, of the day. For example, on Fridays we have an outside gym class with the kids in the afternoon, so changing into real clothes is just a waste of time.

Here's the problem: my current workout gear is black yoga pants and a t shirt. I feel like they are a bit obscene to go out in public, especially if I am trying to fit in daily mass. I have solved this by tying a large sweatshirt around my waste to cover my bottom, but I think that might actually make it worse? Are there better choices available which would still be comfortable for running and could scoot right into my day? Something that would pass for "that cute mom in a ponytail went for a run this morning" rather than "hey, do you think that woman ever showers?" or "is she auditioning for a def leopard video?"

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Vaccination Frustration

Since most of the playground talk lately seems to be about the H1N1 vaccine, I was interested to read this piece in the New York Times giving a pediatrician's perspective on the current climate of debate. I am not sure that I agree with him, but it is worth reading. Mostly, I wish that the doctors right now would honestly confront the fact that some people get sick from flu vaccines and try to give legitimate reasons that we should vaccinate anyway.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

In search of the perfect one-liner...

In the handful of classic motherhood moments, here's one you'll appreciate:

Mom and three young children are out enjoying a public place, like a plaza, duck pond, park or campus green. Behavior is good, even if highly energetic. Morale is high. All is right with the world.

Romeo and Juliet (two heated-up teenagers or young adults) lie together in the grass, or lap-sit and make out, or sway in place front-to-front as they look in each others eyes. The children's noises draw them out of their passionate trance, distract them from their public displays of affection. They eye the children with disdain, disgust even, and snicker as the family walks by. The presence of children has spoiled the heat of the moment.

What a paradox. I thought the design was Man + Woman + Passion = Children.

I'd never say anything out loud (well probably not), but I wonder if there's a perfect one-liner to sum it all up. Nothing ugly or snarky. If you can think of one, I'll store it in the memory bank for some solace, and a little internal chuckle and wink, when these situations arise.

Stroller Recall

A Quick Note: Our readers should be aware of the latest recall of Maclaren Strollers. They are recalling them due to a faulty hinge mechanism that can cause child finger amputations and lacerations. Yikes!

Total Eclipse of the Heart

I love our new family. I do not love natural childbirth. One is, however, worth the other. Thank you all for prayers and words of encouragement. Tex, you cursed me. Just wait until it is our turn to guess for you!

Monday, November 9, 2009

A Delicious Beginning to the Week

In honor of the beginning of the second week of November - where has the time gone, and are we really already in November?! - and of course to celebrate the birth of AWOL's little guy :), I thought I would post a delicious and simple recipe. It is perfectly suited for a crowd, but I guarantee that it will also be gobbled up by your nearest and dearest if you leave it sitting around the house for a couple of days :)

Cheesecake Sopapilla Bars

2 8 oz. packages of cream cheese, softened
2 packages of crescent rolls
1 cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Grease a 13 x 9" pan and unroll both packages of crescent rolls into the bottom of the pan - press the seams together if needed.

Whip cream cheese, sugar, and vanilla and spread over the rolls.

1 cup of sugar
2 tsp. cinnamon
1 stick of butter, melted

Mix butter and sugar and pour over the base. Sprinkle with cinnamon.

Bake at 350 degrees for 35 minutes. Enjoy!!

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Welcome Baby!

It is with great joy that we welcome baby C, the newest "Builder Baby," born in Germany earlier today! In a report from AWOL's mother, we learned that baby C weighed 8 lbs, 14 oz and was born at 8:25 pm (Germany time) after "4 hours of serious labor and NO epidural," just as AWOL was hoping for :) More details, and hopefully a couple of pictures, to come!
Congratulations, AWOL family, and welcome little one!

Friday, November 6, 2009


Retreat season is approaching. I loved silent retreats in college but let them pass by for the first four years of motherhood. It's so hard to slip away for a weekend or long weekend alone with Our Lord. If mothers could leave behind the household and the kids that easily, we'd all be a lot more refreshed, accomplished in our hobbies, and well-traveled. It takes enormous preparation, sacrifice by the whole family, and a giant leap of faith to commit to a retreat.

I finally went last spring. Quite simply, it rekindled the flame of my love for Christ, like a honeymoon. It wasn't a "mountaintop" emotional experience; it wasn't even particularly emotional. It was short few days to focus soberly and gratefully and joyfully on our Love and His plan for my life. Lavish (even for an extrovert), to devote three days to complete silence, solitude with myself and God, punctuated by guided meditations, spiritual reading, reception of the Sacraments, prayer, walking and thinking and listening in God's creation. My retreat was conducted by Opus Dei at Murray Hill Conference Center in Manhattan. Non-city retreats are at least as great.

And AH YES, it was so physically refreshing to have three days off from taking care of children and the household, to eat great meals that I didn't cook, and to sleep through the night.

So, this is a quick plug and encouragement to begin looking at the December-May calendar and focusing in on some retreat dates. Brainstorm ways that family members and friends could be called upon to help your loving family survive the weekend without you. Lent can be a great time to go. Or is there a time to go after weaning the current baby before the next one arrives? Or bring baby along? Set aside some money, tithe or otherwise. Pray through the details. Again, I say this humbly, after missing retreats for several years and then finally returning to rediscover what a gift they are.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Some Perspective....

I met a stay-at-home dad today at the park. He's staying home while his wife helps her brother start his dental practice. As we chatted he revealed that he was formerly a prison guard and that his prison job was WAAAAY easier than staying at home with a 1 and 4 year old1!

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

A Clove a Day...

It's that time of year for sniffles and bugs and other not so fun things. We are blessed with good immune systems and seem to miss many of the bugs going around, but I like to sneak in as much extra help as possible.

Sometime in October I start quadrupling the amount of garlic in everything from soup to mashed potatoes to just roasting heads and spreading it on fresh bread. We all like garlic and no one seems to notice, but then again, we are all eating the garlic.

Do you all have any immune boosting tips for us other than healthy eating, lots of water and good sleep?

Also, any natural cold/flu remedies you'd like to share?

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Fun Activity with Marshmallows!

We've had our Kindergarten kid home from school for the past couple of days, dealing with fever and cold-like symptoms, so I've been trying to come up with fun activities for him to do while our little one is napping. This activity with marshmallows and toothpicks is simple, educational, fun, and EDIBLE (well, at least the marshmallow part).

Supplies: About 20 marshmallows and a handful of toothpicks

Procedure: Have your child build a square base with 4 toothpicks and 4 marshmallows, and then let them build upwards and/or outwards from there

Objective: To learn about 3-D structures, be creative, and use trial and error to see which structures hold firm and which bend and break easily.



Like many of you, my husband and I debated as to whether or not to get the kids vaccinated this season against H1N1. With our children in preschool, we were more inclined to arm ourselves against the hyped virus, but unsure whether or not it was necessary due to other procedures we could take to stay healthy.

When the schools and local pediatricians became inundated with hundreds of new cases, we became concerned (along with every other parent in the town) and sought the quickest, easiest solution to prevent experiencing this illness.

Our pediatrician initially received the H1N1 nasal mist and you'd better believe I was first in line with my boys. We had enjoyed a relatively healthy fall and I wasn't about to jeopardize it (heavy irony here).

Day 1: Boys are willing patients. Docs immunize older two with H1N1 nasal vaccine and seasonal flu shot. The baby gets the seasonal flu shot. Later that evening M (oldest, 4.5) complains of being tired and has spiked a fever of 102.5. We assuage with Ibuprofen and send him to bed.

Day 2: M continues with fever of 103+. Other boys remain cheery and happy.

Day 3: Continuation of high fever with signs of Ibuprofen having a longer effect.

Day 4: M's fever abates, respiratory symptoms begin. Later that evening, T complains of fatigue and begins running a fever, lower-grade. Middle of the night, baby awakens with fever of 101.

Day 5: Younger boys run lower-grade fevers and begin respiratory symptoms. M continues with respiratory symptoms--cough and congestion. Baby is tested for swine flu--Negative. (Apparently 20% of cases are false negatives. I believe ours was.)

Day 6: Mom begins to run low-grade fever, feels tired. T (3) begins to feel better as fever abates. Baby maintains 101 fever. M hampered by cough.

Day 7: Mom runs very slight fever (99.3) and begins to see respiratory symptoms. Older boys are better but with coughs. Baby still with low-grade fever and chest congestion.

Day 8: Everyone's fevers are gone!!! We make a trip to the HomeGoods store and come back, completely wiped out. We are all coughing and congested, but ok.

Day 9: Mom visits the doc to check on a recurring ear infection, randomly decides to be tested for swine flu. POSITIVE for swine flu; contagious until Friday. The doc thinks I picked it up from the kids' vaccination response. Praise God it is subsequently a very, very mild form of the virus.

All of our attempts to stay healthy, get vaccinated, etc., etc. has cost us this. If I had it to do all over again, I can't tell you I would do this again. One thing is for sure, I will never vaccinate my children with a live flu mist again. We had a bad reaction last year to the seasonal flu mist and now we're once again dealing with the aftermath of the H1N1 live mist. I do not claim to be a knowledgeable medical source on the subject, but thought our readers would benefit from knowing our situation. God bless!

Monday, November 2, 2009

November Book Baskets -- Thanksgiving and Saints, and my brainstorming for the months ahead

I just went to the basement to switch out the September (Apple) and October (Pumpkin) books and bring up our November (Thanksgiving) books to fill our fireside book basket. As I was going through the books, I also uploaded our Thanksgiving choices to the Amazon page. I hope you will find some new favorites for your family this month, and please let us know if you have any to recommend.

One favorite is this woodcut illustration of Over the River and Through the Woods. My children love to hear this poem and look through this book over and over, and I love the reunion with grandma at the end. We have a board book version.

I failed to mention in our seasonal baskets that we were also following the liturgical season by studying the Rosary in October. We ended the month with a visit to a beautiful grotto to our Lady on October 31 for a family rosary. John face lit up when he saw the statue of a girl kneeling below the Blessed Mother. "Mom" he said "it's Bernadette!" Don't think he's too much of a saint, he did spend most of the Rosary time playing with an umbrella, but I was still touched to know that he has taken in this story. This is an example of how good media can really help a parent, my kids learn about the saints through the CCC cartoon videos and Glory Story recordings, both of which are available from Catholic Company. In the car this month, we have tried to mix praying the rosary into our usual lineup of Laurie Berkner and Sandra Boynton, though I don't have a recording that I really love. For more Rosary resources, you can visit the terrific new website, ROSARY.COM. I did not do a Rosary craft this year, and I wish that I had, perhaps I will wait until May, or perhaps I will sneak it in this month. We will continue to pray the Rosary together on Wednesdays as part of our school day.

For November, we will be focusing on stories of the Saints, and I will read from the Saint book basket on Wednesdays at lunch, after our Rosary. We will also feature the Glory Stories in the car. It will take me some time to pull together my saints book basket; these books are spread around the house because they are used at other times of the year for spiritual reading, feast day celebrations, etc, so they can't just stay in the November file in the basement for 11 months. I will start a list on amazon, but it will probably be under construction over the course of this week.

The kids really respond well to theme, reinforced in various areas of the curriculum. This is especially important for the earliest learners. I think we will keep this as part of our art lessons. They loved the pumpkin paper mosaics, and now that they are learning the technique, they can practice it on the next monthly theme -- stained glass saints, or mosaic turkeys? We also wound up doing a lot of Jack O Lantern coloring pages while they were all whining taking turns while carving our pumpkin. From now on, I am going to prepare a file of busy work dittos like word searches and coloring, writing prompts, drawing prompts, etc, tied to the monthly them. This will also help me to reduce interruptions when I am working with another student, they will have something simple to grab and do in a few minutes until I can come and check the spelling page, etc.

Lastly, on the seasonal school work front, we had some cute fall Montessori works -- three part cards on the life cycle of a pumpkin and apple as well as a leaf matching memory game. I liked the way these works, our craft projects, our books and our frequent visits to the orchard fit together. I would like to do the same with the catechesis part of our seasonal work. In the Atrium in New York, we had a card work for the mysteries of the Rosary which was appropriate for children who could read, and we also had scenes (like nativity figures) for all of the joyful mysteries, where the child set the scene and the catechist read the bible verses. Working with the nativity is so popular in our house, I am sure that these works would also be wonderful additions, though they are more involved than adding paper works! Perhaps I will think of adding one each May, the same way that I have built the secular seasonal baskets.

How about a "work" for the Saints -- I could easily make memory cards, and I am going to keep working on some other ideas, stay tuned...

Looking forward, in December we will feature Nativity books and works as well as some traditional Christmas tales. In January and February, we usually read lots of folk and fairy tales (so cozy), and the catechism basket and works will feature the Sacrament of Reconciliation. From there, we will move on to study the Mass as Holly prepares for First Holy Communion.

Wow, I think I just re-planned the rest of my semester, if you have made it this far into my rambling, thanks for listening, you have spared my husband, because I do most of my thinking out loud!

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Happy Feast of All Saints

Praying that someday this may be our Feast Day!