How to teach kid to celebrate without spoiling them

Let me preface my comments with this... We believe Jesus loved a good party. His first miracle was at a wedding celebration after all. He was often seen at celebrations and dinners with friends. He has blessed us abundantly and we believe He wants us to have and enjoy his blessings. Money (things bouht with such) is not the root of all evil after all but rather the love of it.
It is a difficult balance, and one that requires serious consideration, prayer and preparation. I also believe that if the Fathers of the Church used pagan holidays & symbols and transformed them into a means by which to bring Christ into ordinary things, so to can we. I would go a step further and suggest that perhaps so to should we.
In our celebrations Christ is always the center and He radiates from all apects of the celebrations. I believe this is a positive witness to those who live outside the Light of Christ. I want them to see the joy and celebration that we enjoy as result of being a new creation in Him. If I were a non-believer, particularly a child, and I saw my neighbors not celebrating, or getting the most meager of blessings for their birthday and holidays, I doubt seriously that Christianity would seem very appealing, let alone Catholicism. I think it was Father Groeschel that said that piety for piety's sake is useless or something to that affect -that I am sure I just butchered. I do not spoil the kids, we don't believe in excess for excess' sake either and of course proper respect for their belongings, work with the poor and self sacrifice need to be included in the upbringing.
So...
Feast Days: the kids normally write a paragraph about the Saint and/or we discuss them after daily Mass. Most dinners around here pretty big and we have dessert every night already. We have at times decorated the front door or done coloring pages with the younger ones.
Valentine's Day: We celebrate the love in our relationships. I go out on a date with each of my sons and dh takes dd out as well. Everyone dresses up and girls get flowers. It's excellent training ground for courtship. We also love cards.
Lent: We have ton of things we do. Build a cross, hang purple cloth on the many crosses in the house, prayers, meditation, adoration, watch the Passion, and other activities to numerous to list from one year to the next. We work the food pantry and the homeless shelters all year round.
Easter: We love EASTER!!!! This should be the biggest celebration of all, IMO. He conquered death for us! During Holy week we make banners, a table cloth with our hand prints and we do freestyle art about our faith and Jesus. We also make a large paper mache tomb & stone. We have a piece of drop cloth we have painted and decorated and we make a large hill with the tomb. We have a plush Jesus doll that is probably 14" high. We place Him in the tomb on Friday and roll the stone in front. On Easter morning, He is Risen!! The kids must "seek Him" to find their blessings, "blessing baskets" we call them. They immediately go searching for Him and find abundant treats, and trinkets, spring toys, bubbles, Christian Cd's, books, religious medals & jewelry or VeggieTales movies, and LOTS of candy. We search for eggs too with Jelly beans, another seeking game, and we always discuss how important it is to seek Him, even when He seems well hidden in a situation.
We decorate the mantle with flowers and the kids banners. We also do a Lion and Lamb theme each year. We discuss the renewal of spring, new life in Christ, being a new creation etc. We have fostered chicks for the farm before, and a few ducks (not my hubby's favorite choice). We invite friends and family over and have a huge meal, and celebrate.
Christmas: we do gifts, even plastic ones, probably made in China, hopefully without lead paint though! I expect the children to treat their belongings with care and respect. So, when the next year comes around we clean out the rooms, clean and spruce up their toys and sell them in St. Nick's Workshop, a shop I run at Christmas with all the proceeds going to the homeless shelter for mom's and children. We made more than $300 this last year and donated all the extra toys as well as beautiful new ones and clothing to the shelter. We also attend lots of special services, go to the Shrine, etc.
St. Nick: we do the shoes, gold coins, prayer cards & books.
Birthdays: I do big, but inexpensive. We do parties that I do at home and create on my own - my 16 yr old's was a video scavenger hunt - video your team giving a policeman a group hug for example. It was awesome. My daughters 13th will be The Amazing Race -a take off the show. I'm very creative and come up with fabulous parties. I do the cakes. We also have a separate family party where I make the meal of their choice. We give the birthday boy/girl cards and write what we have seen God doing in their life this last year and what our prayers are for them in the next year.
Life is for living and God wants us to live joyfully. Even when we had nothing, 2 weeks after hurricane Katrina we had a fabulous birthday party for dd with what we did have, and we celebrated. My daughter got shoes and a futon to sleep on. "Count it all joy."

Laugh Out Loud, Family Fun

I love home entertainment. No I don't mean a flat panel, plasma, Blu-Ray, borrow from the kids college fund for a down payment and finance the rest using your youngest child as collateral, entertainment center.

In our home we laugh often, and loudly. I thought I'd share some of our favorite things to do for true Laugh Out Loud family fun. Before you try any of these in your home, a few guidelines.

First everyone must be involved. Dads, and teens must join in the fun, no party pooping! If your kids are not accustomed to doing so, you can let them hang loose a time or two, but practice often and then get them on board. Dads, no slack-you are in. There are few things that build memories as well as kids seeing their big, strong dad being goofy and having fun. Dads, you were an outrageous, daredevil once, maybe you were 8, maybe it was more like 18 but I'll guarantee your past is littered with moments when you were a riot. Channel them!!!

  1. Make Me Laugh - Do you remember this old game show? It's very complicated as you will need...a chair. Someone sits in the chair. The others take turns trying to make the person laugh. You can be as loose or elaborate about the rules as you like. We use a stop watch sometimes and compete for the best time. Our standard is if you crack a smile, you're done!
  2. Movie Night - Here's our twist on something families everywhere do every week. The children make movie posters of the movie and we hang them up. They decorate brown sacks for popcorn, they make cookies or other snacks and along with soda or kool-aid create a snack bar. They make name tags and tickets and they function as the "projectionist" deciding when the movie will start and starting it right on time. After the movie they sit by the fireplace and in the best Ebert & Ropert style give their review.
  3. Safari - To jazz up a visit to our local park, hike, long walk, or nature trail I will help the children create a jungle scavenger hunt. We will research a specific area like the rain forest and then write down animals, plants, and such to search for during our time. Of course they will not see a python (well I hope they don't) but they have to look for something that reminds them of it or resembles it - like a hanging vine, or a color? It could resemble the texture or the feeling the item inspires, it's up to them. It's the easiest kind of scavenger hunt since all you need is your imagination. Once during one of our safari's my daughter said look mom monkeys - dh and ds were in a tree.
  4. Scavenger Hunts - The safari is a take off this idea of course. But there are SO many kinds of scavenger hunts to do! The best one IMO is the video hunt. Team up and then compete by videotaping yourself completing tasks. Group hug a policeman, serenade outdoor diners, get a fireman to let you sit in the firetruck. The internet is filled with lists both for adults and kids of all ages just Google "video scavenger hunt". Household hunts are fun, make a list and have at it. Make a list and do a Channel Surfing Hunt. Time each other to see who can find the items first. Do a magazine or newspaper hunt, neighborhood hunt, or use your digital camera to do a photo hunt.
  5. American Idol - This one requires everyone to check any self consciousness at the door. Someone or a few someones serve as Randy, Paula and Simon. Everyone else takes turns doing a stereotypical (rejected) performance. If you have a karaoke machine this one is even more fun! Give your Hannah Montana a stage and cut her loose! *Costumes optional
  6. Dance Party - Like any good party it takes some warming up to get everyone loose and dancing. Start with the limbo (use your broom stick). Try the Electric Slide, The Macarena, and a few other wedding standards, then...Freestyle!! Look if you want the kids to get goofy, just dance, it's contagious.
  7. Twister - This is about $13 of pure fun. Just go buy it, oh and a jar of Ben-Gay for all the muscle pain you'll have from the contortions.
  8. Performances - If you have any budding magician's, musicians, news anchors, karate kids, actors, superheroes - name it. Set it up, and videotape them. Then play it back and watch.
  9. Mystery Science Theater - Cool show, and tons of fun to do at home. Basically it involves muting the tv or a movie and making up cheesy dialogue on your own. If you have a quick witted family member they will thrive on this one!
  10. Dress up or role playing - We have costumes and props that everyone can use. Whether we are ninjas, pirates, superheroes, or fair maidens this is lots of fun. An alternate to Dress -Up is Hide and Seek, best played in the evening when it's not too dark or scary.
Many of these can be lots more fun if you take the added step of uploading the videos to a family website, blog, or even YouTube or GodTube.

I know some of these, okay most of these require you to step out of yourself a bit. Just do it. Be silly, and goofy. Kids especially as they hit adolescence need to know that home is a safe zone. Be weird, be outrageous, this is home and it's the best place to be yourself. The kids will follow your lead.

Blessings,
Robin

From my dear husband's blog this morning

From my hubby's brilliant blog:


Conservative radio talk-show hosts have made some interesting observations about Barack Obama. Most interesting is that Obama is such a clean slate; you could, in your own imagination, believe him to support anything you want. How is this possible? I think it’s as much his scant years as a senator as his ability to sidestep important issues. As a senator, Obama voted “present,” neither yes or no, over 130 times. Many times he was the only senator to do so, almost as often he was one of six or fewer democrats.

This might seem strange for a freshman senator, one you would think eager to make “change,” but even more so for a new senator wanting to be president; who rarely has that option. While his aides claim this was in response to badly written legislation, Obama always had the stronger option of voting in opposition to these bills and then explain “why.” Far easier it seems was to evade totally and lessen his voting paper trail.

So for a man who seems to favor not taking sides, on issues ranging from partial birth abortions to protecting the identity of sex-abuse victims, it’s easy to assume he might be for the issues you find important.

You can read more of his blog at: http://greenarrowguide.blogspot.com/
What do we owe our homeschooled children?

As I approach the end of my oldest son's junior year and we begin to examine all that lays before him, what do I owe him (and all the children for that matter) is a central thought in my mind.

I know with my whole heart that he has been given many gifts throughout his childhood. I know I have done better by him than plenty of others have done by their children. But that matters very little to me. I have always wanted to give my children the very best. I don't mean the best clothes, or spoiling them. I mean the truly good things. Responsibility, trust, honesty, and above all else the very, very best of me. That is what I strive for daily, and fail too often.

But now, the needs of this young adult, or about to be young adult, are very different and I find myself examining every aspect of what I have offered him to this point.

Have I made enough opportunities for him? Have I enabled him to pursue his passions and interests? Have I helped him discover them? Have I limited him with my own small thinking? Have I been truly accountable for his education? Will he be prepared? If he isn't prepared, the lion's share of that belongs to me alone. Maybe he didn't take responsibility, or maybe he was lazy but ultimately I shaped his habits. It has been MY duty to recognize his shortcomings and find a way to reach him. A child cannot know what he doesn't know. But I do. It's not necessary that he see the need or the good in my efforts, or that he be self motivated. If I have done my job well he will be most of those things on a good day though.

Is he prepared? If he isn't who else could I possibly consider pointing the finger toward? The child? um, no.

Now having said that, the kids have a role in this too. When they are young the burden is fully ours. As they grow the percentage shifts a bit. I believe it continually shifts as more and more responsibility becomes theirs. I still feel the preponderance is ours.

So what we owe them is enormous.

Great.

Then what if we find ourselves coming up short? This is what I see most homeschooling moms truly struggle the most often. Many moms think they just aren't good enough. Is that true? I don't know, I guess by the law of averages some people might not cut the mustard. That's the easy question though, the harder one is why don't they cut the mustard? This is much more complex.

Some homeschooling moms are natural teachers, others...not so much. Some are crafty, creative, and love being with their kids every moment of the day, others...again, not so much. These aren't the factors that determine if we can pull of this gig and give our children what we owe them. The only factor is how hard will we try.

President's Day

The public school kids are out, so daycare is in.

Homeschool is also "in" though it would be safe to say we are on a two-hour delay.

We'll spend some time focused on a President Unit

Freedom and Education

Tim Tebow, a homeschooler and Heisman Trophy winner has me thinking.

Several states are considering adapting laws to make extra -curricular activities more available to homeschooled students, as a result of his tremendous success. I suppose high school coaches are scratching their heads and wondering what gem they might be missing out on. This is a good start but it begs for more consideration. It creates questions about freedom and choice in education. Homeschoolers' taxes fund these programs, why are they shut out? It seems to me this availability is really a no-brainer. Why shut out someone who funds the program?

Control. There is no other reason. They don't have control over the child's education, and therefore they have no ability to influence the child and so they shut that child out of the elements the family wants to utilize. The belief that the government must have complete and utter control over the shaping of young minds is a matter of fact and a scary reality if you asked me. I don't believe that is in anyway an American way of thinking. I think government education should be offered, not required. I think it should be offered to those who cannot or will not pay for private education, either in their own home or in a private institution. I think we should be able to pick and choose what it offers, ala carte.

As I think back over history, parents tutored their own children. Fathers mentored them in their trade and mothers taught their daughters. Families sought out apprenticeships and tutors to educate their children when they felt it necessary. These families did not seek out or desire a public education. Public education was meant to educate the very poor. The children of the poorest whose own parents lacked education and who could not on their own provide it and offer the gift of knowledge to their children. This is a noble endeavor and one I could support if it were based in freedom, choice and if parents were ultimately in control.

Public education was also established by wealthy industrialists to create and prepare the young for the factory jobs they hoped to move into and in which they were desperately needed during the industrial revolution. There are many remnants of this preparation still lingering in education today. The bell, move start, stop eat and take a break by the bell/whistle. The lines, stand in this line. Changing classes, in a conveyor belt approach to filling the bucket of the mind. You have your scoop of history file down the hall to get your scoop of math for the day. Keep moving, move quietly and swiftly...sends chills down my spine.

But what happened next was the real problem. Social engineers, activists, people with plans to reshape the culture realized they had enormous power. They had control over the future. Generations of children would sit in the classroom for hours, literally all day, and their minds were eager, open and fertile. They infiltrated the school system and set about their work.

Every idea they planted was not in itself a bad idea. The problem isn't whether or not the idea is good or bad, but whether or not the government should be in a position to plant it.

Over the years merely making an education available to the populous changed to compulsory attendance laws. We see this still in evolution. In my generation alone, Kindergarten went from not required, to required half days to required full days. Preschool, was not even a word when I was a child, now our government leaders cry for free preschool, called Head Start, (yeah right) for every child, as if this is a gift, and not a further encroaching on our freedom. We can see by simply observing history that what they first make as an offer will eventually become mandatory. Sound crazy to you? There was a time when the idea the government would force you to send your child to their school at all was inconceivable. Today you must send your child or you will be fined, possibly even incarcerated, and your children will be taken away from you if you do not comply. It doesn't matter if your school is failing your child. It doesn't matter if your child is not safe in that school, it doesn't matter if the ceiling is caving in, your child is being bullied, your child has personal issues, mental or physical...they want your child.

Keep in mind this is a gift (of course one you pay for with your tax dollars). Doesn't it sound like a gift to you?

Now while they have your child they will decide what your child should be exposed to and taught. You aren't choosing. They create the same education for every child. One size fits all. We know that every child learns differently, comes from different backgrounds, and homes. We know that kids have different religious & spiritual backgrounds and we certainly know that kids have different interests, passions, desires, strengths and weaknesses. Sorry folks check all that at the door, because they do not care.

Now, I realize I'm coming down harshly. I can actually understand why the current system looks the way it does to a small degree. For one, it's simpler. How do you educate every child when he or she is in a class of 30? I get that. It's a little like a buffet. In an effort to offer everything you lose quality. Buffet food is packed with preservatives, sodium, and fillers, and it's generally not very healthy but it's easy. If you have to feed a large group, it works. Of course it also encourages over indulgence, and provides few really good options but it will get people fed at least in the broadest sense.

So what is the solution? It will take some doing. Parents have become so accustomed to handing over the responsibility for the child's education to the government that many would work themselves into hysterics if they had to once again assume the lead in their child's life. This is indeed what has to happen.

I think we need small charter schools. Schools should be run at the state and local level and the federal government should cease to be involved. DC has no idea what the educational needs of kids in Laconia, Indiana, or Scotland, Texas are so how could they possibly meet them? They don't know what the socio-economic make up of the area is and so how can they tailor a program for these kids? They can't.

Ditch the desks lined neatly in rows. Offer families lots of options. Have programs where they can choose to work at home, and take some classes in a group settings or online programs, work- study and apprenticeship programs. Trim off all the waste that pervades education and teachers will earn higher salaries based on competition, and performance (trademarks of a free market economy, I might add).

Give parents the money, and let them spend it in the education market. Call it vouchers or rebates but give the parents the choice and the power. If they are willing and able to educate their children they should receive the same vouchers or rebates that those who choose to use the system receive and the government should keep their noses out of their homes. Restore choice, give parents the power to decide how their child should be educated. For those who do not want the responsibility let them give it to their superintendent.

Have an open door policy where the state returns to the mindset of offering and assisting parents in their child's education. The state has no right to withhold educational services that homeschoolers (like everyone else) funds with their tax dollars. Extra curricular activities, classes should be available a spirit of cooperation and respect should emerge. Then, homeschoolers will have open access to extra curricular activities and perhaps we will see more Tim Tebows, but more importantly perhaps instead of an educational money pit that fails most children, we will have an American educational system with freedom, choice, competition and innovation as it's hallmarks.

The sounds of silence

In a mad stroke of evil genius I declared silence in the house after lunch. The kids had been really boisterous and chaotic this morning. We'd gotten through Math and Science but I was working on a headache more than anything else.

The silence worked like a tonic not only on my headache, but after the initial resistance they all embraced it. They tore through their work in record time! I was able to get my work done too.
I told the kids we will be having silence everyday after lunch until 3:00 pm.

How long it lasts I don't know, but on the short run it is the order of the day.

The headache returned with the sounds...I was stressing out a bit. Before I let it get too far away from me I decided to go to the gym in the basement and work up a sweat. Did the trick. Gotta remember to burn the stress off that way more often!

Tomorrow is my big night! William and I get to go on our first Valentine's date.

DH takes Taylor, and Corey takes me out (during the week of Valentine's Day). This year William and I will go. Corey and I will go out as well. Oh and OF COURSE DH and I will have a date too :) We will have a special Valentine Dinner with the family as well- fancy schmancy, candles, music and all.

We love holidays, all holidays, occasions, favorite movie premieres, you name it. Lots of memories, that's what we like.

Have a great night!

Robin

my morning...

I'm pretty good at running my home, in fact, it's a high priority for
me to do my job well. But sometimes, sometimes it just gets the best
of you.

I headed downstairs about 6 am to scale the mountain of laundry I'd
been avoiding, I figured 6 loads maybe 8. It was bad, ladies, very,
very bad.

I took a deep breath started a load, sorted the rest and headed up
stairs for coffee part II.

Corey has been so sick, and he's been sick literally everywhere last
week and part of this past weekend. So I stripped all the beds, and
bedspreads, bathmats, towels, couch throws, quilts, pillows, you name it.

I went upstairs and started pulling laundry out of the kids rooms. It
got worse. I discovered the kids had not taken their dirty laundry to
the laundry room, and most was from our DC trip, two weeks ago! (not a
good smell)

Did I mention the wet soggy mess of clothing I nearly killed myself
tripping over as I ventured into the garage to bring up the trash cans
earlier? (sledding in the snow for two days -surprise mom!).

Feeling quite discouraged, and rather like a cracked vial of
plutonium, I started loading that mess into the van and headed to the
laundr-o-mat(sp?).

I was not popular there. I used...13 regular washers and two over
sized ones, and then fully half the dryers. I took my iPod so no one
would attempt conversation.

2 hrs, 45 minutes later, oh & $34.00 --BAM! it's ALL done, folded, and
put away. (whew!!)

There is a new laundry sheriff in town baby! Is it just me or can
anyone relate?

Blessings,
Robin

Our plan for observing Lent

Ash Wednesday is this week.

We'll attend morning Mass on Wednesday come home and make our crown of thorns. In the afternoon DH and the kids will work the fish fry, for my part I will go and partake of the fruit of the labor :)

The kids will be making banners and decorating all our crosses with purple ribbon. William is going to be making lions and lambs. Our Easter theme is always, Conquering Lion, Sacrificial Lamb.

William's spiritual focus will be on memorizing scripture and his prayers. My hope is to workup to at least a couple decades of the rosary for him. With the bigger kids we'll be reading the Screwtape Letters by CS Lewis aloud and learning about contemplative prayer.

We'll watch the Passion of Christ as always and focus on deepening their intimate personal relationship with Christ through time, prayer and the Word.

Personally my focus is on contemplative prayer, and listening to the still quiet voice of Christ. My life is so filled with blessings, activity and life that sometimes it's difficult to be still at His feet. So often I catch myself in prayer doing ALL the talking. Or worse rattling off my wish list. During this season of Lent I want to learn to refocus and redirect my prayer life.
DH and I will hopefully be able to complete the Crieghton classes for natural family planning, and continue to tithe as we are called. I plan for us to share more prayer time, and weekly time in general with Christ as a couple.

We'll make a Lenten sacrifice though many of us are as of yet undecided. This evening we will observe an hour quiet time before bed to discern God's desire for our sacrifice. We'll celebrate Fat Tuesday and Super Tuesday tomorrow!

We'll make some trips to the shrine, and of course daily Mass and weekly adoration.

We have a Lenten devotional we'll be sharing as a family during meal times.

As Easter approaches we will build the hill and tomb from paper mache and as we always do place Christ in the tomb on Good Friday. On Easter morning of course He will be gone and the kids will have to "seek Him" to find their Easter blessing baskets!

I am kicking around the idea of sharing blessing bags, that would be similar to Boo Bags at Halloween.

My bagel and coffee are finished, my yogurt too so I am off to scale Mt. Laundry. I could use a good sherpa...mom?? Where are you!!? She can tear through laundry like a champ.

Ah well, I'm on my own, if I'm not back in two days send the dogs.

Blessings,
Robin