Planning To Prevent Burnout Now

The boxes of books are arriving! Lesson plans are being recorded in crisp new planners! A new school year is just around the corner! How exciting! This will be the year, thanks to a sparkly new curriculum, we master chemistry. In addition, we radically modified our schedule in ways guaranteed to maximize learning and prevent sass mouth.

The new school year is always full of hope and anticipation. Whatever happened the year before doesn’t matter because moving forward, anything is possible! Typically, the weather is still warm and bright and September usually approaches like an old familiar friend rather than a dreaded adversary.

But not February. By February, or even sooner, you start seeing a fresh round of posts pops up about ‘Homeschool Mom Burnout’. We don’t like to think about burnout in September; we like to pretend it’s not going to happen due to some change we’ve made. “Oh, we’re following Charlotte Mason this year so I’m pretty sure the laid back style and nature studies will prevent me from gouging my eyes out in January, even though I detest nature. It’s Charlotte Mason!”

However, now is the time to plan to prevent burnout. NOW, as we’re writing out English assignments for Day 95 and thinking how wonderful this program is,  is when we should take steps to prevent breakdowns in the not so distant future. And don’t tell me I’m raining on your parade. Nothing I’m suggesting is revolutionary, except in the fact that doing it now, rather than late January will hopefully prevent a breakdown rather than stress you out more when you’re already over-extended.

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1. Plan time for yourself every day and every month. Carve out time for yourself every day or at the very least, every week. Attend daily Mass alone occasionally, get up a bit earlier to exercise or pray and drink your coffee in peace. If you have young children, you can be at the mercy of their schedule so make sure Dad knows to allow you some time in the evenings or weekends. Set a date, like the third Wednesday of every month, as your night to go out. Hang with friends, go to a movie, visit the hair salon, something that will give you an opportunity to just have fun. Put it on the calendar now, and protect those dates viciously. If you don’t take care of yourself, no one else will.

2. Plan breaks in your year now, including mid-winter breaks and activities. Was last year’s Christmas break too short? Change your schedule now and allow a few more days. Did everyone want to kill each other by Thanksgiving? Try adding a break in late October. Are you always ready to ship them off to school March 1st? Take a week or more off in February. Make plans and reservations now for a winter vacation. Maybe you always take a trip in May. Depending on your spouse’s vacation time and your family’s budget, maybe try taking a trip in March to break up the year and give everyone something to look forward to during the long, cold days of winter. Start saving now, or tell extended family you’d like a membership to a local museum for Christmas so you can have somewhere to go when you’re tired of being stuck inside. Put those field trips in your plans now so you don’t worry about making up work later.

3. Resolve to immediately ditch curriculum that doesn’t work. “But Kelly, I just spend $150 on a complete writing course that all my friends rave about!” Sorry, but if it’s leading to tears every day, toss is aside, at least for the time being. You can always try picking it up again at a later time. Forcing your child, and yourself, to keep trudging along with a program that is not working is a sure-fire way to quickly bring on burn out. Kids don’t have to love everything you’re asking them to do, but if they won’t do something repeatedly, it very well might be because they can’t. There’s so many programs out there, I’ve never had a difficult time finding a program in each subject that works for each child.

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4. Resolve to start planning for Christmas sooner. I know, I just mentioned Christmas in August. But seriously, many families do not leave enough time around Christmas and jump into classes too soon after the holidays. Or they school right up to the last-minute and are scrambling to properly prepare for the season. I have found that our family enjoys Christmas much more when I start planning early and we give ourselves plenty of time to enjoy our family’s holiday traditions and visit with loved ones. If you’re coming out of Christmas feeling frazzled, that doesn’t bode well for a joyful school experience in January.

5. Don’t over commit your kids to activities. Getting out of the house is great, except when the craziness of extra curriculars leaves everyone eating fast food for a week and too spent to get up in the morning and tackle school work. Think back over the last year. What activities do the kids genuinely enjoy and have a talent for, and which are they taking just to be with friends or out of habit? Cut back. Just because we have the flexibility to join everything, doesn’t mean we should. Ask your kids which are their favorite activities. You might be surprised to learn they don’t like the rigorous fall soccer schedule either.

6. Arrange for help sooner , i.e. cleaning, baby sitting, online classes. Don’t wait until you’re stressed to the max and the house is a disaster to consider help. Make sure your older children are helping around the house too. Start designating chores now as opposed to say, yelling at them in February to “clean your damn room!” and then bursting into tears. Start bringing a housekeeper or mother’s helper in now so you have time to find someone who fits into your family dynamic. Don’t rule it out as too expensive until you actually look up the cost. Is there a subject you despise teaching? Find a tutor, co-op or online course now so you don’t toss Latin in December for the third year in a row. You can’t do it all. Let go of that idea, and bring in some help from the get go.

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7. Surround yourself with a positive support network. A local group is preferable, but an online community can work well too. When the going gets tough, there are plenty of other women right there with you. Lean on one another. Pray for one another and schedule some of those monthly outings together. Help each other remember why you homeschool. Plan to attend a homeschool conference or listen to a speaker online to give yourself a pep talk or boost occasionally. Who can listen to Laura Berquist and not come away feeling like they can tackle it all???

8. Remember the big picture. If you have a bad day, or week or even month, remember that doesn’t mean your children are ruined for life. Kids in school don’t learn everything; they have gaps in their education as much as the school system wants us to believe otherwise. Don’t hold your family to unrealistic standards. Start your year by remembering all the blessings homeschooling has given your family, write them down and keep it handy to read it on all those rough days. Add to it through out the year too so on the days when your child seems to have forgotten EVERYTHING you’ll be reminded that this was the year he or she actually mastered the nine times tables or discovered a love for the Little House books.

Homeschooling isn’t just about books or lesson plans. With a little extra planning, prayer,  and maybe some boxed wine, we will not only survive this year of school, but thrive! What are you doing to start your school year off on the right foot?

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{SQT} The First Non-Emotionally Charged Blog Post You’ll Read All Week

Who else didn’t write much this week because they knew it would all be a bunch of senseless, angry babble and they just needed to simmer down and not add to the glut of unhelpful and emotionally charged things filling up Facebook? Just me? It was a major case of “if you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all”, thus me venting a lot to my husband and not the world, probably for the best.

But today- today! is a new day, with new potential not to be overshadowed with misery and woe. I’m going to try to bring a bit of joy to my corner of the world. So feel the joy people- FEEL IT!

1. The lip synch entries are slowly coming in, and that’s fine. There are no hard and fast rules in this contest so I’ll continue to let people submit their first video through this week. I will submit a second video of myself at some random point because 1. I said I would and 2. it’s just another part of my joy bringing. Yes, the Middle East is in crisis and depression is a terrible thing, but can’t we all laugh at the mad skillz of Crazy Master K for three minutes? (That’s my new rapper nickname courtesy of Colleen. I’m gonna pick up  a customized grill later today so you don’t forget it!)

A little mouth bling for this momma, cause you know I’m all about the Benjamins!!!

2. Be sure to visit all our entries and give your favorites a thumbs up. There’s Kendra, Suzanne, Lauren, Blair, and our newest contestant Colleen doing Ice, Ice Baby. So. great. I’ve been trying to convince Jen to join the battle and plenty of other bloggers have expressed an interest: Heather, Mary, Mary, Dwija, Micaela, Bonnie, Christy, Molly – the time is now ladies! And what about the menfolk? Be sure to harass your favorite blogger or loved one to join the battle. Because the internet could use a little more silly right now.

3. And speaking of non-lip synching Micaela, she wrote this lovely piece which I just want to beat everyone over the head with… in the nicest way possible of course.

4. The start of the school year is rapidly approaching and I’ve got a couple of weeks of top-notch homeschooling posts in the works. Everything from curriculum, to hot mom style to in-genius ways to keep your toddlers entertained during school time that I guarantee no ones told you about. But just in case I miss something,  are there any questions regarding homeschooling you’d like me to answer? (And don’t ask “What’s the most rigorous curriculum I can enroll my preschooler in?” because I’ll smack you.) Don’t forget to visit my Bookstore page for some of my favorite items and my Free Downloads page to see how we do history. I recently spell-checked Year 3 History too, so that’s a whole lot less embarrassing for me.

5. And now, just a comment on how, having boys means having unidentified bleeding wounds coming at you. Be prepared! If I had a dollar for every time Byron walked inside and said his leg/arm/torso/face was bleeding (usually onto the floor) without knowing how or when it happened, his college fund would be set for the Ivy Leagues. Last night, after returning home from a Vigil Mass, Byron comes downstairs after changing into his pajamas and shows me his shin is smeared with blood. His biggest concern? That he’d been wearing dress pants all evening that been caked in blood. He next thought was how quickly he could get his origami ninja throwing star and dab in onto his wound to make the star more “cool”. So yes, we have bloody and possibly disease infested paper weaponry in our house. As a gal who only grew up with one sister this boy thing is just one. big. adventure.

6. Random car conversation this week revolved around breakfast cereal mascots and the absurdity of most ad campaigns based upon them. “Why can’t the rabbit have Trix? Why can’t the leprechaun share his Lucky Charms? And who thought it would be a good idea to eat horseshoes or red balloon?? And why does that bird go so crazy for a chocolate cereal? That’s not normal. He needs psychiatric help.” And how did Cinnamon Toast Crunch, once branded with a happy trio of baker become the cereal that eats itself? “It’s cannibalism!!” Mantoan kids 1 Madison Ave. 0

From this.

To pretty much this.

7. Lastly, if you ever want to spend a fun evening with your kiddos, start sharing ridiculous stories from when you were in high school. (My college stories tend to get a little more…um…PG-13 or so..cough…so we stick with high school or childhood tales.) Or even tales from when your oldest children where little. One of my kids favorite tales that I’ve told them was about the time I got splinters in my foot. Hang on its actually interesting!

I was heavily involved with theater in high school and one night after a practice I was sliding around on the stage in my socks. I ran to pick up speed, slid and then felt several hot daggers pierce into the bottom of my foot. I ripped off my sock and couldn’t even reach the splinters they were lodged so deep into my foot. A friend’s mom was dropping me at home and no sooner did I enter the house then I collapsed crying on the floor trying to explain what happened to my parents. My dad grabbed a needle and tweezers and I laid face down on a fold out sofa bed in the front living room while he cradled my foot on his lap and tried to dig the splinters out. I screamed and cried into a pillow for what felt like an eternity before my dad decided this required a trip to the ER. I hobbled into the empty ER at some late hour and had to explain what happened to a friendly and amused doctor who thankfully, numbed up my foot with a couple quick shots and used a scalpel to remove the chunks of wood. My foot was wrapped and I was given an Rx for an antibiotic. The next day my sister told me she was in bed, not quite asleep when she heard muffled screaming downstairs. She thought someone was being attacked and had NO IDEA what was going on. I learned she’d laid upstairs, hidden under the covers,  terrified an assailant was in the house and coming for her next. I think she was relieved it was just splinters in my foot. News quickly spread about my injury and at next weeks practice I had to give a presentation to all the theater kids about the dangers of wearing socks on the stage. I gave that same presentation every year, at the beginning of each production until I graduated. The moral of the story: beware old, wood floors!

They also enjoy the one about me skipping class and hiding in a costume closet from a teacher, filling my friend’s locker with popcorn and hiding from the police in a park after dark. What’s a funny story from your past your kids enjoy hearing?

Wow, for Quick Takes, that got long fast. Sorry! For takes on the quick side of life, swing back to Jen’s and be sure to comment on how watching her lip synch would be the highlight of your life.

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Filed under Humor, Seven Quick Takes

The Power of Asking the Internet Or THANK YOU!

On Monday, I did a post that detailed several different options for transporting a wheelchair dependent friend or family member onto the beach. I wanted to shine the light on the many products that are available for families like mine, and hopefully help those who were unaware such devices existed. One product I highlighted was the Mobi-Chair.

I mentioned how my husband and I were considering purchasing this chair for Fulton but had not done so yet due to price. It was simply a statement. I wasn’t going to ask for donations because, somewhere in the back of my mind I really hoped that we could swing this ourselves, that somehow we could pull the money together on our own. I’d just finished asking for money for #35K4SMA and I knew that within a year or so, I’d probably have to undertake a massive fundraising campaign to help us do major handicap modifications to our house. I didn’t want to ask for a beach chair.

But Bonnie did. And after securing the permission of my husband and I, she posted her fundraiser at midnight August 7th. Less than 24 hours later, she had raised all the money to cover the chair, plus hopefully all related fees and expenses.

Guys, I still am just BLOWN AWAY and unable to say anything other than THANK YOU! I could do another lip synch video or selfie but I’ll save that for when the chair arrives, cause you know I’ll be all up on that hot sand within hours of the UPS delivering it and filling all the empty space on my iPod. I can’t even imagine how excited Fulton will be.

And in case you didn’t know, August is Spinal Muscular Atrophy (SMA) awareness month. Two years ago I blogged the basics on the disease to help get the word out. Last year I started my #35K4SMA campaign to help other families. This year, Fulton’s trip to the beach story touched many people in a way I didn’t expect and resulted in not only a beach chair for us, but in getting the word out about SMA to even more people. How great is the internet?

You guys rock! Thank you again from the bottom of our hearts!

family beach photo

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Heatin’ Up the Summer With a Lip Synch Battle

Ah the lazy days of summer. Let’s spice things up a bit shall we? I herby declare the inaugural This Ain’t the Lyceum Lip Synch Battle underway!

Maybe you’re familiar with the viral clip of Jimmy Fallon and Emma Stone battling it out on The Tonight Show.

My rules will be the same. Each contestant sings a song of their choosing. Since this is an online battle, you are allowed props, costumes and the help of your family but no video or sound effects should be added. You are welcome to upload a clip or the entire song. If there are racy lyrics, please give a heads up in case any of us are watching with children. Winners will be decided by the number of YouTube thumbs up on their video. Thumbs down will not take anything away and Facebook likes or shares are not counted either. Contestants can enter up to two videos, and the total number of thumbs up will be tabulated at the end of next week…or whenever. I’m thinking one clip this week, and one next week in answer to everyone’s entries.

HAVE FUN! BE CREATIVE and shake the money-maker God gave you! My experience at Edel proved that women love a reason to cut loose and get a little crazy now and then. A lip synch battle is the perfect excuse to do just that.

When I did the rap at Edel, many women wondered how I managed to learn all the lyrics to Flo Rida’s Good Feelin’ and robot dance moves. “I practice in the kitchen while I make my dinner,” was my honest reply. I recorded my first entry while getting tonight’s dinner ingredients together. Just me, some meat and raw emotion. (Don’t worry, no keilbasa were harmed during the filming of this lip synch video.) While it’s a bit more over the top than my usual performances, let’s just say my kids were not surprised by any of my antics. Not. a. bit. (Although upon watching it, I’m surprised I don’t smile more while I’m cutting loose.) I’ve set the bar low with an easy song, simple dance moves, poor quality video and nothing but a slab of sausage. I expect stiff competition. Don’t let me down ladies.

Leave a link to your entry, either on YouTube or your blog, in the comments.

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Get Your Wheels On The Beach

I’m back from a fun week at the beach with the family. Nothing like a family vacation to break all the great habits you’ve worked so hard to instill in yourself and your children.

I’m sorry I don’t have another karaoke video to drop on you, or anything. I know I’ve gained some new readers recently, and you’re probably all waiting for some funny HA HA up in here, but instead, I’m going to subject you to an education on getting your physically disabled family member onto the beach and into the surf. However, rest assured, if you make it to the bottom, this is going to be the most kick ass piece of writing ever composed on the subject. Plus, you never know when you might need this info so I suggest you stick around.

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As 99 percent of my readers know, my two youngest sons, due to all over low muscle tone, require power wheelchairs for mobility. Powerchairs are great for many things, including damaging antique pianos and running over toes repeatedly, but they are not great in the sand. For a family like ours that loves the beach, trying to figure out how to get everyone out to the surf has been an ongoing challenge. In coming up with a solution, I’ve found lots of options. However, many people are still unaware of the choices available to them or their family members, thus the need for this post.

If your child is still young, a jogging stroller is the way to go. Teddy is still transported this way. I figure he’s good for another year or so before he is too tall. The large wheels make it relatively easy to roll across the beach. This model is similar to what we have: large metal and rubber wheels with a fixed front tire. We’ve made tons of trips to the beach with it since Fulton was one, and it’s held up well.

If you’re ordering a medical stroller for your young child and have the option to get jogging wheels, try to get them. I wish we would have done so with Fulton’s stroller. I don’t think insurance would’ve covered them, but it would’ve made things a whole lot easier once he outgrew the jogging stroller. Here’s a pic of his medical stroller getting sand and saltwater all up in the wheels; not recommended! Not only has the sand and salt made it difficult to use the stroller, period, (hello rust on expensive parts) but dragging this beast across the sand is like something out of a CrossFit workout and is likely to kill you.

Fulton, 5 on June 28, Kindergarten

Now here’s a picture of the jogging stroller type base we could’ve gotten. The downside to this base is I’m not sure how easy it would be to tie down in our van given the length.

 

Another option is a modified powerchair, and WOW are there some cool companies out there doing just that. This model by Action Trackchair will not only get you onto the beach like a BOSS but you can get a gun rack on it for hunting. A GUN RACK!


Hotshot Products makes a Beachcruzr powerchair with balloon wheels. (The company also offers modification kits to outfit wheelchairs with balloon wheels.)

The only downside to such products is insurance will probably not cover either model, and in the event of something breaking, you’ll have to tackle repairs on your own. But it’s almost worth it because how awesome would you look driving either one of these????

There are also beach wheelchairs (sometimes called surf chairs) which are basically over-priced PVC deck chairs.

Except this one which is not made from PVC but costs $1,600

Some beaches will have them for free to loan or if you search, you can find places that will rent them to you for the length of your stay. We tried using one while in Ocean City, however as the lifeguard station only had one, we were told we could use it to transport Fulton to the beach but then we had to bring it back.

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As you can see, the chair is adult sized and doesn’t offer much support for a child like Fulton who has little upper body control. Child sized beach chairs are available (cough*overpriced*cough) or there are some creative parents out there making them and sharing the plans online. Once again, insurance won’t cover these items.

While all of the above options will get you across the sand, you will not be able to get more than your toes wet. Even the beach chair Fulton is sitting in is not to be taken more than six inches into the ocean. (However, you can buy similarly styled chairs that work in swimming pools.) Experiencing the waves will require a transfer from the chair to the lap of a loved one.

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Step 1; remove from beach chair.

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Step 2; insert into the brisk Atlantic.

Step 3; repeat and step 4 is ice your back after a long day at the water’s edge. Tony and I know that all this lifting isn’t a long-term solution so we’ve got our eyes on another type of beach chair.

This is a beach chair that moves from sand and into the water! However, given the price tag and the fact that we can’t find one to try out, we’ve been hesitant to pull the trigger and buy, but I think the day is coming when we’ll just have to suck it up.

UPDATED: Thanks to Bonnie and her fundraiser, the Mantoans will be getting a Mobi-Chair! WAHOO!!!

Although there’s always a bit of sticker shock involved when shopping for specialty items like these, it’s reassuring to know there are companies making products to ensure my kids, and anyone with a disability, get to experience as much of the world as possible. If you or a loved one are feeling stuck inside, do some research and if necessary, hold a fundraiser to get the equipment you need. I know families whose children ride in a wagon with their battery-powered medical equipment to experience the salt air in their face (usually a garden cart or wagon with balloon wheels). It is hard work, but it’s a worthwhile sacrifice. And in the back of my mind I know that someday, maybe beach outings will be unsafe and impossible which makes me more determined to make them happen now.

If I missed a product, please share a link in the comments! And for the record, I’m not associated with any of these companies I just want to help other families find a product that can help them.

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Filed under SMA Posts, Things I Love

EDEL ’14 : Snapshots and Flo Rida

I’m going to the beach in two hours, so I can’t type out all the awesome that was Edel 2014. All I can do is drop a few pictures and captions in, as time and wifi permit, along with a blurry karaoke video that might be my ticket to viral online success. Safe to say, I’m already looking forward to next year’s event.

 

Other attendees reflections (To be updated as more are posted. ):

Sarah @ Fumbling Toward Grace 

Cari @ Clan Donaldson

Okay, just visit Conversion Diary where Jen already has all. the. reflections. Phew…thank goodness someone else did the hard work.

If you snapped a picture of me, or snagged a selfie with me please feel free to email it to me at kellymantoan(at)gmail(dot)com so I can add it to my gallery. I’d love to have everything collected in one spot. Thank you!

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flavors layout

To leave a message or become Kelly’s BFF, leave a comment in the boxes below. She’ll promptly ignore it, then forget about it entirely before remembering it and emailing you bereft with guilt in two weeks.

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Expectations vs Reality: You mean, all kids are different?!

Today I’m happy to be joining up with Amy from Go Forth and Mother for her year-long ‘Happy Wife Project’. This week I’m writing about my expectations of motherhood vs the reality of motherhood. When you’re done here, be sure to check out the other bloggers on the tour! I’ve listed them all at the bottom of the post. 

Despite not always liking children, and having spent very little time with young children growing up,  I somehow managed very early in my marriage to create the perfect, no-fail plan for raising mine into to well-behaved geniuses. For example:

  • Blatant disobedience? There would be a warning but also the threat of a swift smack on the butt. I was not going to be some softy or friend to my child. I couldn’t stand kids who refused to do as they were told and I was prepared to take unpopular steps to bring mine in line.
  • Reading by age five? Certainly! With my devoted attention, there’s no reason that all my children couldn’t be early readers. Moms who said “their kids weren’t ready” or “boys are different” were just lazy.
  • Favorites? No way! All my children would be loved in the same way and raised the exact. same. way. My youngest would do everything that was expected of the oldest; no spoiled baby syndrome in this house! Consistency in all things! I would be fair! Parents who let their younger children get away with more than their older kids were probably the same lazy parents not shoving phonics down their reluctant four-year old’s throats.

And so on. I didn’t read many parenting books, I just assumed I knew the best way to raise my kids from birth to age 18 and you could keep your advice to yourself thankyouverymuch. Admittedly, I really did dislike ill-behaved children and most of these strongly held beliefs covered my fear of producing children that were little terrors that no one wanted to be around.

My oldest was a very good child and tolerated my parenting style well; listened when she was told,  potty trained at 2, started reading by age 4 1/2, acted responsible beyond her years. But imagine my surprise when it didn’t work out exactly the same way with my oldest son. He would purposely pee on the floor in front of me to get my attention and laugh if I tried to smack his butt as if it tickled. I was floored! I had these methods and ideas that I had to follow! Why did they work with one child and not the other?? Cue lightbulb moment:

Because each child is different, parenting does not come in one size fits all.

I feel like it should have been more obvious, but sadly it took a long time for me to realize that I needed to change my parenting style and teaching methods to meet the needs of each child. What worked with one child might not work with another, and that’s not a failure in how one parents, but a sign that this child has a personality, a temperament and talents all his own. I learned that I could keep my goals of having well-behaved, well-educated children if I was willing to change the steps I took to get there.

Raising a toddler, or six-year-old or tween, is not a code you crack and then sit back and relax. How you parent is always subject to change. The constants are my love for each of my children and the clear expectations I lay out for each. We have rules that are followed, behaviors that are not allowed, and subjects we must study. It may sound rigid but under these conditions there is a flexibility that gives the physical child plenty of time to run, the snuggly child more time together on the couch and the trying child, less warnings and more immediate repercussions. By forcing them each into my parenting style mold, I tended to overlook, or stifle,  some of their natural tendencies rather than bring them to the forefront to shine.

Consequently, by the time siblings three, four and five came along I was much less strict (although Teddy demands quite the iron first some days) because I realized I didn’t have to be so rigid. I learned that even if I didn’t follow my prescribed formula, my kids were still turning out to be pleasant and enjoyable. It was such a relief. Plus, the kids hold one another accountable for their behavior which was a completely foreign idea to me when I started this parenthood business.

My oldest will be 12 this fall. I’m trying to not formulate a hard and fast plan for how we’ll tackle the rapidly approaching teenage years. I feel bad that she has to always be the guinea pig as I try to figure out how to not screw her up for life. But I’ve accepted that what works for her, may not work for the rest.  So, today, this minute, I feel like I’ve figured this parenting business out. The good news is, if tomorrow feels any different, I can always change.

 Now see who else is blogging along: 

 

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{AMT} In Which I Tell You Random Things About Myself and Offer a Prize for Making it to the Bottom

Linking up with Kendra and offering free books at the same time. Because why the heck not?

1.What’s something you’ve won and how did you win it?

Probably the only thing I’ve won in recent years was the Sheenazing Award for Most Under-Appreciated Blogger in 2013. Otherwise, I have to think back more than a decade. However if there was an award for ‘Most Likely to Blog Something Embarrassing About Herself That Will Later Come Back To Haunt Her’ I would have that prize cinched up.

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I still don’t regret that tattoo.

Try to make it through this entire post for your chance to win something worth blogging about… or updating your status about, or tweeting about or calling your mother about. It might be free books!!!! Okay, it’s definitely free books but I like building suspense. (I know another book giveaway but is there anything better!?)

2. Do you save old greeting cards or letters or throw them away? Why?

I display cards for a bit on our piano but then throw them all out. I did save all the cards Fulton received when he was in the hospital with pneumonia but otherwise I don’t save anything. I typically burn cards with religious images on them because even if they’re not blessed, I feel bad throwing Our Lord or Our Lady in the trash.

3. When you’re at home do you wear shoes, socks, slippers or go barefoot?

Barefoot when it’s warm, slippers when it’s cold. Upon entering the house, everyone takes off their shoes. I don’t demand it of guests, but none of the kids, or my husband, wear shoes in the house. I don’t know why or how I instituted this but since our first house in Syracuse, NY I’ve never worn shoes inside. Maybe I’m part Japanese or something? It does help prevent getting chicken poop from our free range hens in the house… unless one of the boys drives through it in their wheelchair in which case we get poop all over all. the. floors.

4. Who’s the most famous person you ever met?

In my brief span as a reporter, I managed to meet a few celebrities, sometimes in person, sometimes just over the phone. I met President Bill Clinton and his wife Hilary while he was in office. I met and interviewed Sen. Chuck Schumer. I interviewed the late Cardinal Avery Dulles twice, once on the phone, once in person. (Such a wonderful man!) I interviewed, by force, the Governor of N.Y., George Pataki. I interviewed Margaret Cho on the phone along with the bands Blessed Union of Souls and Sponge (when people actually cared who they were.) I photographed Walter Cronkite, President George H.W. Bush, and the band Violent Femmes in college. I can’t remember if I got to ask them any questions.

Since Bonnie listed me in her glittery photo montage I have to add that I’ve been privileged to meet her and her miraculous son James (the rest of her family is pretty great also) plus the illustrious Jen Fulwiler very recently. You’ll also remember I chatted with Brandon Vogt. I hope to meet many more of my online friends at Edel this weekend.

Fulwiler Mania

Even though Edel will be my second time meeting Jen in person, I’m going to freak out all over again.

5. What has been your best work of art?

I studied photography in college so I have many old photos I love. But I guess can I say my blog? TATL is my creative outlet now and I pour all my energy into it (I mean, all the energy I have left over after educating and raising my kids of course.) I like to tweak the web design myself, I love writing and some of the posts still make me snort loudly with laughter. And while the photos aren’t great, there’s a lot of good ones I’m happy to have all in one place.  I’m really proud of it, and I hope that doesn’t make me sound conceited or anything.

6. What is your strongest sense?

My gut. I try to always keep a clear head and reasonably consider all factors when faced with a major decision, but my gut has rarely let us down. And I’m not talking about healthy flora here people.

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How to Start a Family Prayer Time

Since Mandi is closing up shop, I have her permission to re-post something I wrote for her a little while back, lest it gets lost forever on the interweb. If you didn’t catch it the first time around at Messy Wife, Blessed Life, I hope you enjoy it now. 

family prayer image

 

After the table is cleared, at least partially, our family gathers in the living room for family prayer time. We can manage three decades of a rosary, a litany of Saints, and maybe even a reading on a feast day or season. On any given evening, between my five kids, there is still rosary throwing, arguing, tears or a contest to see who can lead a decade the loudest, but, without hesitation, I would recommend starting a family tradition of a dedicated daily prayer time.

Growing up, the only time my family prayed together was at meal times. I viewed suspiciously friends whose family’s did “church things” on any other day besides Sunday. However, as my husband and I started our own family and considered what kind of Catholics we wanted our children to become, we quickly realized that instituting a set time every day to pray together would help our children learn their prayers and instill the importance of living our faith on a daily basis. As our parish family prays together on Sundays, it only makes sense that our domestic church should keep the momentum going during the week. Now my children can’t remember a time before family prayers.

It was a gradual process that first included prayers at their bedside while they were still very young. Then about seven years ago, I discovered a children’s devotional book and immediately declared we were going to spend time every night before bed reading from it and praying.

It was a disaster.

My children were so little, and I was expecting them to reflect upon scripture and religious stories when all they wanted to do was go to sleep. My husband and I both look back and cringe at our overzealousness. We almost scrapped the idea of an evening prayer time all together when, after talking with another family, we shared in a light bulb moment; the rosary! Yes, why not the rosary? And we started with just one decade and haven’t stopped since.

Through the years we’ve added a couple decades (though I know many families say the entire rosary) along with our family’s litany of Saints, which is always the favorite part for whomever is the youngest. Even at two years old, a child will gladly call our their favorite Saint and “Pray for us!” Every night we ask for the intercession of at least two dozen Saints. The kids have come to understand their patrons, their parents’ patrons, the Saints who look after our home and school, the Saint whose feast day it is, the titles of Our Lady, plus develop their own devotions.

Although sometimes, they grow to like a Saint just because of his or her unusual name. Sometimes I wonder how devoted Edie really is to the early martyr St. Apollinaris. And even though he’s been invoking St. Ubaldus for months, I doubt Teddy understands anything about the great bishop and confessor.

During Advent we say our prayers around the Advent wreath, and during Fridays in Lent, we read the Stations of the Cross. It’s easy to substitute other prayers during other seasons because we always have the time set aside.

Recently, we moved our prayer time from just before bed to right after supper. We’re all more awake which equals less fussing from the younger ones and a more reverent attitude from the older ones. Maybe mornings, or mid-afternoon, would work for you. Find what works for your family, then stick with it. The kids will help remind you once you’re in the habit.

I remember when the older children started leading the decades; it’s wasn’t too long before the younger ones wanted to lead too. My fourth child was leading prayers at age four, something my oldest had no interest in doing at the same age. So even if it seems hard at first, persevere because before long, there’s less child wrangling and more actual prayer going on.

The only aid I would recommend would be a large chunky rosary and maybe a small booklet that illustrates the mysteries. Any time we gave the kids pictures to color during prayers or larger books, images, etc. we found it to be more of a distraction, or weapon, than an aid.

Trying to start with little children is hard because doing anything for more than ten minutes with little children is hard; just be realistic in your goals and try not to get frustrated. If you’re trying to start with older children, you might need to work around sports or other activities and a child’s natural tendency to hate anything new. Be firm but proceed gently. Let the child help choose the intention for the evening. Allow them time to ask questions about a Saint or liturgical season. Although I don’t always enjoy going off on tangents, our family has some of the best discussions at prayer time. Do they need to learn prayers for CCD or a sacramental year? Incorporate them. My youngest daughter will be making her First Holy Communion this year and we’ve started saying the Act of Contrition every night to help prepare her.
Although it may sometimes feel like a battle getting everyone to cooperate, a dedicated family prayer time is perfect weapon against our culture’s war on families. Pray for the graces to keep going, even through the tantrums, and you’ll see the benefits it brings.

“If families give Our Lady fifteen minutes a day by reciting the Rosary, I assure them that their homes will become, by God’s grace, peaceful places.” Father Patrick Peyton

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