Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Cool Catholic Cuisine

If you are like me, you would rather read an absorbing book than cook or bake (With twin 3-year-olds, that is a luxury!).

This doesn't mean I don't like to eat good food. With all my children, we do a fair amount of food preparation.

There are occasions, however, when you may feel so inspired to cook or bake something rather extraordinary, especially those feast days, holidays, birthdays or other special occasions. For those interested in sumptuous desserts and other incredible foods , check out the cool Catholic foods at Catholic Cuisine. You will want to try them all!

Photos provided by Catholic Cuisine. Two views of Pentecost Cake.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Favorite Picture Books

Summertime Angus and the CatPrayer for a ChildLeif the Lucky

Our family loves to read picture books. I am slowly posting a list of my favorite picture books on a new blog. You can find them at

Happy Reading!

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Discover the Netherlands Through Children's Books

A land of tulips, windmills, delftware, cheese, and wooden clogs, the Netherlands is a fascinating, unique western European country that borders the North Sea, Belgium, and Germany. Sometimes referred to as Holland, North and South Holland are actually 2 of the country's 12 provinces. The Netherlands literally means "low countries," or "low lands." The people and the language are referred to as Dutch.

To begin, you may want to locate the Netherlands on a map or globe. In the library are many books and videos which "tour" the country, creating a feel that you are there.

If you have your students make a report, you may want to include graphics and/or pictures of a windmill, tulips, a girl dressed in traditional clothing, wooden shoes, flag, map of the country or a map of Europe with the Netherlands highlighted. A graph illustrating major products exports (or other interesting facts) or a timeline of famous painters are other possibilities. Topics to cover include a brief history, famous people from the Netherlands, unusual facts related to this country and more.

Games and Activities
Plant a tulip bulb, go bowling, or paint a picture in the style of The Starry Night by Vincent van Gogh.

Foods from the Netherlands include Edam or Gouda cheese, herring, split pea soup, cruller, pancakes, and many more. Check out the library for Dutch cookbooks.

Questions to Consider While Reading
What makes the Netherlands unique? How have the people of the Netherlands made their country more livable? Can you name some famous Dutch or Flemish painters?

Websites to Visit
Heroes of the Holocaust: Holland.

Various artists/painters (Dutch, Flemish, Netherlands).
Art Cyclopedia
National Gallery of Art
Web Gallery of Art
Pieter Bruegel the Elder, Vincent van Gogh, Rembrandt van Rijn, Rubens, Jan van Eyck, Johannes Vermeer, and many others.

St. Lidwina, St. Nicholas Pieck, St. Willibrord (c. 658-739, Northumbrian missionary known as the "Apostle of the Frisians").

Books to Read: Fiction

Picture Books
Boxes for Katje by Candace Fleming
The Boy Who Held Back the Sea retold by Lenny Hort
The Cow who Fell in the Canal by Phyllis Krasilovsky
A Day on Skates by Hilda van Stockum
A Day to Remember by Bernard Stone (OP)
Father, May I Come? by Peter Spier (OP)
The First Tulips of Holland by Phyllis Krasilovsky

The Greatest Skating Race: A World War II Story from the Netherlands by Louise Borden
Hana in the Time of the Tulips by Deborah Noyes
The Hole in the Dike retold by Norma Green (OP)
 Katje the Windmill Cat by Gretchen Woelfe
Kinderdike by Leonard Everett Fisher
The Litly Cupboard by Shulamith Levey Oppenheim
Rembrandt and Titus: Artist and Son by Madeleine Comora
The Two Windmills by Maryke Reesink (OP)

Short Chapter Books (Gr. 3-6)
The Dutch Twins by Lucy Fitch Perkins
The Little Riders by Margaretha Shemin

Chapter Books (Gr. 4-Up).
The Borrowed House by Hilda van Stockum
The Winged Watchman by Hilda van Stockum (Also CD)
Adries by Hilda van Stockum
Hans Brinker or The Silver Skates by Mary Mapes Dodge
The Wheel on the School by Meindert DeJong
When the Dikes Broke by Alta Halverson Seymour (OP)

Books to Read: Nonfiction
The Netherlands (A New True Book) by Karen Jacobsen (OP)
Look What Came from the Netherlands by Kevin Davis
Rembrandt and Seventeenth-Century Holland (Masters of Art) by Claudio Pescio (OP)
Rembrandt (Getting to Know the World's Greatest Artists) by Mike Venezia
Welcome to the Netherlands (Welcome to my Country) by Simon Reynolds and Roseline Ngcheong-Lum

Parts of this unit study first appeared in mater et magistra, Vol 2, No. 1, Winter 2009. For purposes of space, I have omitted the short summaries of the books that were provided in the unit study. The unit study also included traditional Dutch recipes of Poffertjes and Split Pea Soup and a living history provided by Maria Rioux. Most of these books were found through the library inter-loan system.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Frazzled: The Secret of Homeschool Success

Are you feeling frazzled from shuttling kids to doctor's appointments, piano lessons, and soccer practices? How do homeschool moms do it all. . .and still homeschool?

I started out thinking I was Superwoman, wishing I had been born with special genes and equipped with a super suit. And yet, God has a way of humbling us all. After being knocked on my fanny on more than one occasion, there was only one way to go and that was up. . . Up, with a helping hand from God.

I came to recognize that if I wanted to survive homeschooling, I needed to place God front and center. I needed to keep the prayer line active, to keep that super stuff flowing, the super stuff that keeps on giving long after mom has collapsed. I needed God's grace.

It wasn't that God wasn't a part of my life. He always was, but I soon learned that when I become "too busy" to give him more than a quick "hello," I need to cut back on the activities. Relationships don't grow on "hellos."

Through prayer, I recognized God's "Big Picture," the wide-screen plan for our homeschool. Our ultimate goal was not to see who was left standing after all the activities were over. The goal for our homeschool was heaven.

My Heavenly Father has commissioned me to create a small piece of paradise on earth. That meant striving for a certain amount of joy and peace in our home. If everyone is stressed out from too many activities, then the home and school are doomed.

I needed to follow a realistic plan. I needed to simply, delegate, and delete the extra activities when possible.

Where could I make my life easier? Some activities were required, like the orthodontist. Others, however, were not. Instead of club soccer, we could do another league with less travel and the boys could ride their bikes to practice. I could simplify our meals, let go of perfectionism, and declutter the curriculum.

I could also delegate. If I tried to do it all alone, I would soon sink. So I delegated chores to the children, violin expertise to their teachers, and shared driving duties with my husband.

We could not do every activity that promised redeeming benefits. But in seeking a balance, we chose to do what best fit our family. We learned to say, "No."

I'd like to say that I am as flexible as Elastigirl, but I simply have to recognize my limitations. Whenever I start thinking that I am Superwoman, life begins to unravel, because "the center cannot hold."

While this plan did not materialize overnight and there were many bumps and bruises along the way, God in His infinite patience kept redirecting my wandering ways back on track.

I didn't come equipped with a super suit, but I strive to follow God's plan, basic training 101. He is front and center, open 24/7 for free consultations, and instructs me "My grace is sufficient" (2 Cor. 12:9). He is the one who says, "Is this activity best for your family? Does this lead you closer to me?"

While there is not a one-size fits all formula, there is a secret to homeschool success; it's all about love. We are all called to love. If the love barometer is dropping then it is time to reassess the situation. "Love is there fore the fundamental and innate vocation of every human being" (Familiaris Consortio Par. 11).

This article originally appeared in September/October 2008 Canticle

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Quote: William Butler Yeats

"Education is not the filling of a pail, but the lighting of a fire."

--William Butler Yeats

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Review: Do Hard Things

Do Hard Things: A Teenage Rebellion Against Low Expectations
Do Hard Things: A Teenage Rebellion Against Low Expectationsby Alex and Brett Harris, Multnomah, 2008, 242 pp.

Would you like to hand your teen a book that challenges him or her to break away from the cultural norms of low expectations and little responsibilities? Welcome Do Hard Things by Alex and Brett Harris. Not only does this book challenge teens to fulfill their potential, amazingly, it is written by teens for teens.

One point I especially appreciate is that is does not talk down to teens in teen lingo, "like you know what I mean."

It's message is clear. Teens need to break free from the myth of adolescence. At first I was skeptical. Are they only talking about achieving great things in terms of the world (working for an Alabama Supreme Court Justice) or do they accept the fact that some of the hardest things in life are doing the right things that go unnoticed? Yes, they do cover that aspect. In fact they discuss five kinds of hard: taking the first step (overcoming fear), going beyond what is expected (cultural expectations), collaborating with others (doing "big" hard things--projects that are bigger than yourself and require lots of other people), doing small hard things (doing the things nobody likes to do, but need to get done or accepted) and doing hard things that go against the crowd (peer pressure and the most difficult for almost everybody). The closing section shares stories of teens who have chosen to do hard things.

Throughout the book, they relate personal anecdotes, real life examples and stories of others' accomplishments and failures. It is not just big talk. Ultimately, they are here to challenge teens to be the person God wants them to be. Actually the premise of the book is quite Catholic in nature--to live out the mission God has intended you to be. Some Catholics might call it living out a motto or living out a personal ideal. Most Protestants and many Catholics would not know what I am talking about. For example, St. Ignatius strived to do "All for the Greater Glory of God." Ultimately, however, instead of rebelling against the good things in life, they hope to challenge teens to rebel against the bad influences and expectations of life.

Their message is one that applies to all Christians who want to live their lives for the greater glory of God. In the end, even adults would profit by asking themselves, "What are the hard things God is asking me to do?"

Do Hard Things: A Teenage Rebellion Against Low Expectations

Monday, June 7, 2010

The Anima Chrisi

The Anima Christi

Soul of Christ, sanctify me
Body of Christ, save me
Blood of Christ, inebriate me
Water from Christ's side, wash me
Passion of Christ, strengthen me
O good Jesus, hear me
Within Thy wounds hide me
Suffer me not to be separated from Thee
From the malicious enemy defend me
In the hour of my death call me
And bid me come unto Thee
That I may praise Thee with Thy saints

and with Thy angels
Forever and ever

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Lemon Meringue Pie: Reflections on My Dad

When I think of my dad, I think of Lemon Meringue pie. While most people like to eat it after dinner for dessert, my dad liked to eat it for breakfast. In fact, he liked any good pie for breakfast. Naturally, we kids didn't have this luxury when we were growing up. It was only later when we were visiting with our own kids that we experienced this treat.

When I think of my dad, I also think of a man who could not sit still for long. Unless, it was at the end of a very long day, when he'd sit in his chair and read the paper, he was out in the yard clearing brush, digging in the garden, or away from home playing softball, bowling, or golfing. In fact, our neighbor once took a snapshot of him leaning against the spade he often used to dig in his garden and little pond.

But these are not the only things that remind me of my dad. There are qualities that defined my dad that I don't see often enough in men today. While he was not perfect by any means, he was, first of all, a man of character because he never swore. This is not to say that he didn't have plenty of opportunities to get angry. Like many businessmen, he had to deal with unscrupulous, greedy businessmen and crabby clients. Yet he never said much about them. While driving, he too had plenty of chances to react to rude drivers cutting him off. Yet he never made obscene gestures or cursed them.

Always interested in politics and life issues, he was often frustrated with politicians for their lack of integrity, yet he never attacked their personal character. Today, it seems that people do not know how to debate. When they disagree, they simply call their opponent names, not just insulting names, but words that I could not even print. They are not aware that their poor choice of words reflects back on them, making them look bad and not the person they are insulting. Not my dad.

I was one of nine children, which translates into lots of life with plenty of exasperating moments, like the time my brother threw a shoe or slipper at my sister and it went flying through the window, smashing the glass everywhere. While my dad did get angry on occasion, he didn't call us names or put us down. Life is full of little annoyances and whopping problems that can so easily frustrate us, yet my cad chose not to address those situations with profanity. After all, what good would that do?

There is something else that made a deep impression on me at the time, which I didn't fully appreciate until later in life. He never made crude or lewd remarks about women. He didn't have any swimsuit issues of "men's" magazines or calendars or worse displayed in his workroom or office. He didn't ogle at women. In fact, he never made any insulting remarks about women being inferior. On occasion, he was known to turn off the TV when it was offensive or suggestive. I naively took for granted that this was how all men treated women until one day I found out otherwise. My dad's purity of soul, on the other hand, was reflected on how he treated all women.

What I did find in his office were pictures of his children. For some reason, that surprised me. We were important enough for him to think about us in the midst of his work. We were the very reason for his work. He wasn't working for a career or to make a name for himself or to make lots of money. He was working to support his family.

There is one quality about my dad that most people probably associate with him. He was unabashedly, staunchly pro-life. He was not intimidated to be openly pro-life. In fact, on his car license plate, he proudly proclaimed Rt2lif. He welcomed each child without saying we have to have this house first or I have to earn this much money first. He would never comment that "kids are cute but you don't want to have too many of them" because they infringe on your lifestyle, they are burden on you checkbook, they interfere with your vacation plans, or they are just plain inconvenient. I'm sure he had to listen to plenty of insulting jokes about sex and having too many kids. He could not comprehend why anyone would choose an abortion because babies were beautiful to him. He didn't just say this. He lived it. He supported many organizations that defended life. But more importantly, he tried to live it.

Since he only had one sister 10 years younger than himself, he thought the greatest gift you could give a child was not a new bike or a cute puppy, but a brother or sister to love. Together my parents desired a large family even before they were married and God blessed them with nine.

Thanks dad for desiring me as a child before I was even born and for loving me to the best of your ability after I was born.

I am sure there is a piece of Lemon Meringue pie for you in heaven.

This article first appeared in Canticle magazine, Issue No. 51, May/June 2010.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Prayer of St. Ignatius

Prayer of St. Ignatius

Teach me, O Lord to be generous. Teach me to serve Thee as Thou deservest; to give and not to count the cost; to fight and not to heed the wounds; to toil and not to seek for rest; to labor and not to ask for reward, save that of knowing I am doing Thy holy will.

--St. Ignatius of Loyola

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

The Most Effecitve Kind of Education

"The most effective kind of education is that a child should play amongst lovely things."