I’m a big girl now.

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Homeschooling Holy Week

Holy Week with little kids (or medium kids) (or, hell, probably big kids too) can be…trying. It’s beautiful and wonderful but so much to do and so many naps missed.

(Full disclosure, it is I who weep for the loss of naps, not my three-year-old.) 

I think it’s so important to mark this week with them though- these are the most holy days of our year, and hopefully just having them be there (even if they’re asleep in my arms in pajamas, like Buddy usually is during the vigil) will be a good memory and lesson for them. I have nothing but happy memories of attending the Triduum liturgy as a kid (enough to know that it’s one liturgy,) and while I’ll write more about how special it is to our family next time, it’s such a beautiful time.

So obviously we attend the Mass of the Lord’s Supper on Holy Thursday, Good Friday services (not Mass- one of my religious pet peeves, right up there with the Immaculate Conception being about Jesus) and the Easter Vigil.  That forms the basis of our week and is what I’ve tried to build the curriculum around this year. 

Squeaks is in first grade, so she’s getting more in depth this year. We’re reading the Passion narratives in her Magnifikid. This serves two purposes- she gets to read them out loud and learn things and talk about them with me, and she is familiar with them (including physically on the page) on Thursday and Friday when we go to church. 

This year we’re starting a new game too- a Holy Week trivia game! 


I know! Get excited! 

There’s a board (kind of) and everything but this year she’s pretty little so I just go through the (easy) questions with her and she gets a certain number of points, which get translated into sacrifice noodles.

Kid loves her some sacrifice noodles.


We’re also bringing back the Resurrection Egg set from last year. I bought it, because I’m lazy, but I know you can make them too. It’s super cute, each egg has a symbol of the Passion in it, and you read a little story about each one.

(Okay I have to edit the stories because mine were written by a Protestant company and are just a TEENSY bit heretical.)

(Again. LAZY.)

Squeaks looooves these. She literally asks for them all year. 

We also make an effort to do the stations of the cross this week. Our parish does a living stations with the school kids tomorrow night, and we absolutely love it. We’ve taken the kids the last few years and it brings it to life in a way they have never seen before.

So that’s our cobbled together Holy Week curriculum/tradition. Stay tuned for next year when I get my shit together and buy purple fabric to drape all of our statues. 

Latin for Dummies. (And 7-year-olds.)

I had a lot of reasons for deciding to homeschool my kids, like I don’t like being told what to do and other people annoy me.

(Also intelligence blah blah blah.)

(Basically other people though. They really bug me.)

But a big part was that I wanted to give my children a classical education that prepared them to be civilized, cultured adults who knew things about a lot of the world and could learn more and discuss things like reasonable people.  I didn’t see a lot of this happening at the schools I had access to, and while there are great options like Aquinas Academy in our area, I was certainly not in a financial position to do those.

And I knew from the beginning that Latin was going to play a huge role in my curriculum. My husband and I have something like eight years of Latin between us, and we both think the fact that the other studied it is adorable.

(Nothing gets me hotter than a properly declined noun.)

I just think there are so many benefits- spiritually as Catholics, culturally as, well, cultured people, and neurologically since it’s totally a foreign language even if it’s dead.

Our daughter is in first grade this year, and the curriculum company we use for most things offers a great early elementary level Latin program. I added it to my cart, broke it up into weekly lesson plans, and got psyched to impart my wisdom on my kid. Ahhh.

And then…it imploded. This program? Is awesome. Really. It is. Check out the Prima Latina program from Seton.

But it is NOT how my seven-year-old currently learns.

It was frustrating to me, since I really wanted this to be a part of our homeschooling. But I didn’t want to squash her love of learning by forcing her to do things she didn’t like when it was clearly not working. But then I’m her teacher so I have to force her to do some things she doesn’t want, so maybe this should be it?

Anyway, by Christmas break, Latin was increasingly getting ignored because I didn’t feel like fighting her to sit down and use a workbook.

I figured we’d have to wait a few years to tackle Latin. I get it, I mean, I was in seventh grade when I started, and my husband was in high school. It wasn’t the end of the world. But I really loved the idea of it being such a part of her life from the beginning. And I knew that other schools (like Aquinas) did it with great success.

So I prayed to the Blessed Mother about it for like two months, and continued ignoring it.

A tiny little idea came to me.

Just teach her the Ave Maria.

I can do that. I’ve taught her literally every other prayer I know. I’ll just teach her the Ave Maria and even if she doesn’t sit down and use the workbook, at least she’ll learn some of the words.

And then I realized- SHE’LL LEARN THE WORDS. Literally, this is how to teach children anything.

(Sometimes I wonder if Mary is sick of my stupidity.)

So I taught her the sign of the cross, and the Ave Maria. And once we did that- amazing things happened.


I realized I could weave Latin through the rest of our school. We recite the prayers together all the time. I sing her the Ave Maria (Gregorian chant version- I do not have a great voice, and it’s the only one that doesn’t make ears bleed when I attempt it.) We practice cursive and handwriting by copying the Latin words.

We even used it as an art class- I write the Latin words and English words on a sheet and the kids cut them out and glue them on to construction paper. I laminate them and put them on a ring and they have a special prayer book to bring with them in the car or to Mass.


There’s no fighting, my kids are learning new things and praying a ton, and even the stuff I was worried about don’t seem to be an issue. I was concerned that they’d just memorize words and never really think about what they mean. But last week my daughter was reading her card and said, “Mulieribus- that means something about women right?”

Heart= warmed.

So that’s the wisdom I’ve picked up from this second year of homeschooling. You can teach your kids things. Hard things. Just make it small and fun and not terrifying. Don’t flip out about it.

And pray. Because Mary will listen to you. Even if you should have been able to figure this out before.

The Best Laid (Lent) Plans- For Kids

Lent is almost here guys, and I’m super excited to PLAN ALL THE THINGS. Because we all know I love PLANNING. But actually EXECUTING IT AND DOING SHIT  is…not what I love. So we’ll see.

(Like I’m planning on giving up swearing. We’ll see. But that’s a post for another day.)

But anyway.

So I’m trying to balance between keeping things simple enough to succeed (success is really important for my kids sticking with…well, anything.) and actually making them understand that something is different.

That’s a big thing this year- my daughter is seven, which is the age of reason and so she’s required to abstain from meat for the first time this year. And so that’s pretty cool and I really wanted her to understand what is happening. She picked something to give up all on her own, and we’re trying hard to make her understand that abstaining is not just a mean way to make her give up her happy meal from Grandma on Fridays.

The other major things we’re doing  are following a daily reflection book, weekly stations of the cross, attempting to get to daily Mass at least once a week (to be fair, I attempt this every week. And a lot of times it fails.) and doing sacrifice noodles. (Stay with me.)


The book is pretty typical. We have a copy that is the same except with teachings from Mother Teresa, but I wanted to focus on the Little Flower with the kids, since we have a family devotion to her. It’s nicely set up with a scripture verse, adult devotion, and a reading for children.

(And crafts. Of course.)

We’re also going to be doing the Children’s Stations of the Cross (just at home, so just praying them and not walking around or anything.) I’m aiming to do it every week, but we’ll see how far the kids’ attention spans go. More than anything, I don’t want to make them feel like Lent is a burden.


The sacrifice noodles are new, and I found it something on the internet. They’re technically sacrifice beans but I’m allergic to beans and I figured anything else my kids would put in their mouths. So uncooked elbow macaroni noodles are our new sacrifice symbol!

You designate a jar or a vase (we’re having a vase, because it pleases me aesthetically) and every time the children do something nice for one another, listen perfectly, or give something up for Jesus, they get to put a noodle in the vase. On Easter Sunday, the Easter Bunny (or mom and dad if you don’t do that) switch out all the noodles for jelly beans. The kids get to eat the jelly beans as they continue to offer things up or behave nicely. I think it’s a really nice way of concretely showing them that we need to offer things up for others as well as having a way to continue it through the Easter season and beyond.

What are you doing for Lent in your home or homeschool?

 

Seven

Dear Eva,

Today you turn seven years old, baby girl. I can’t believe it. Seven is not a toddler. It’s not a preschooler. It’s not even a small kid. It’s a verifiable big kid who can go places and do things all on their own. 

This is insane to me. In my head, you’re still the little girl I saw for the first time on Holy Thursday. You’re still the baby that handed me her doll when I came over for the first time. You’re still the sweet little one I would hug that summer and to whom I would whisper how much I would always love you because even if I wasn’t around forever I wanted you to maybe have a flash of a memory of how much I loved you.

But things worked out and you’re my seven-year-old now. And I have never been given a more precious gift than when God and Daddy gave me the chance to be your mommy.

I have had six birthdays with you, made six cakes, blown up six million balloons, thrown six parties. I have gotten you up and sung happy birthday to you six times. I have cuddled you a little bit longer for six years because on today of all days the years seem to be going faster. 

I wrote last week about how I try to be thankful for my life, just being here, and your birthday makes me renew that pledge. Your mama only got to spend one birthday with you, the one where she gave you life and welcomed you into the world. I am forever  cogniscent of each and every precious birthday I get to celebrate with you, my beautiful daughter. 

Being your (and your brother’s, but this is your day) mommy is the best thing I’ve ever gotten to do. Watching you grow into a beautiful daughter of God is the greatest thing I will ever do. Your soul is my greatest jewel and honor, and I am so thankful that I get to be here to help get you to heaven. 

I can’t wait to see what you do this year, precious one. 

Love, 

Mommy

Romantic weekend!

With the in-laws and a bunch of kids!

(My husband is so nice to me. For reals. Every year I give him a list of death anniversaries for which he’s required to host a dinner, and then tell him where we’re going on vacation with my parents.)

We did our traditional weekend in Galena last weekend, and it was every bit as magical as it always is. We’ve been going since before I was born (I say we because I did the math and it was alarmingly close to 40 weeks before I was born. Eww.) and it is so special to share with my kids now.

The couple in the room above us also had a magical weekend. A very loud magical weekend, multiple times a night. A magical weekend I was really worried I would have to explain to my six-year-old. A magical weekend I was awake for not because of similar sextytime reasons but because my three-year-old got scared and was only comforted by sleeping on my husband’s face with his feet in my neck.

And they say marriage isn’t sexy. Lies, I tell you.

Anyway.

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We caravanned with my parents and sister, so it took us roughly eighteen hours to make the 175 mile drive. But that was okay because we had coffee and I stopped and bought cinnamon rolls at a Kwik Trip and yeah I know that sounds super janky, but you know what? BEST DAMN CINNAMON ROLLS I’VE EVER HAD. So there.

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Seriously. Cannot explain how amazing it is to see these two little people, people whom I wasn’t sure I would be lucky enough to have, in my most favorite place on earth.

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And now that we have Poppyseed???? SERIOUSLY GUYS it’s amazing.

No there’s no hotel sex. But look at those little heads!!!

I tried to take a nice picture with my kids. One complied. I’ll let you guess which one.

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Cooper even flew to meet us!

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J Kids Christmas album cover.

Buddy has some thoughts on how amazing hot chocolate is.

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She wanted to play fancy ladies so I let her play with makeup and gave her contact dermatitis. Oops. Oh well, we had fun.

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On Sunday it snowed, which was magical because we were leaving and didn’t have to walka round in it.

(Or at least it was magical until I turned into my mother and flipped out about the dangerous roads.)

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And of course, the sign of a good trip, both kids passed out in the car after about ten minutes.

Already can’t wait for next year.

Advent for Kids (and Yourself)

Guys, I think Advent is my favorite liturgical season. I love the solemn nature of it- we’re not celebrating, not yet. But it’s not the same kind of solemn as Lent, which is mostly just a bummer.

(I’M KIDDING. Lent is lovely as well. Just more…intense.)

I also love that there are so many things that we can do as a family to mark the season. Again, Lent is so intense. Other than the stations of the Cross, it’s hard to come up with cute craft ideas for hey-let-me-explain-all-of-salvation-history-to-you. I know they’re out there, I do. But it’s just harder to ram home without being depressing..

And let’s be honest, I’m not doing any crafts anyway. I hate crafts. HATE THEM. Creativity and making a mess. Literally my two least favorite things.

ANYWAY. Homeschooling, we obviously have a lot of freedom to mark Advent and prepare for the Birth of the Lord. I have a six year old and a three year old, and frankly, the three year old is just phoning it in. He’s present for everything that we do, and we sing Advent songs with him and stuff like that. But he doesn’t really get it.

(Things he also doesn’t get: going to the bathroom IN THE BATHROOM. Fingers crossed by next Advent.)

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But Squeaks is almost seven, and she totally gets it this year. We have an Advent wreath (with flameless candles, natch) and so she “lights” it and we all read a devotion every night that we have dinner together. (Which okay hasn’t been much this week but hopefully that will get better.) We’re using the Catholic Family Advent Prayers and Activities book by Susan Hines-Brigger. I’m really loving it so far. It has a prayer, scripture passage, and discussion for every day of advent.

Also lots of craft ideas. (Blech.)

We also have an Advent book we got through Seton, the company we use for homeschooling curriculum. It’s int he Living and Celebrating our Catholic Traditions series, and it’s lovely too. There s a great story for each week that we use for school, and again, tons of crafts.

The one I’m actually going to do with her is a paper chain that leads to an empty manger, and then we glue Jesus in on Christmas morning. That sounds cute. (And easy.)  Everything in that book is reproducible too, so you can use it for years with different kids or even pass it on to family.

We do have an Elf on the Shelf, which I know is anathema to many Catholic families. But for us, it’s totally fine. I don’t see any reason to abstain from the non-heretical parts of secular life, and we have been able to use the Elf (Cooper) to talk to us about how it’s not important that we’re good for Santa, but rather that we need to make ourselves ready for Jesus to come at Christmas and the end of the world by being good children.

He hangs out at the Nativity a lot.

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The biggest, and also smallest, thing we’ve started doing is keeping Squeaks up with us to say a rosary at night. Buzz and I would say rosaries separately during the weekdays, but together on the weekend. And that was such a nice thing for us that we decided to include Squeaks for Advent. She LOVES it. She (against all odds) is able to sit calmly and quietly and say the prayers with us. She’s also learning a lot of the mysteries, which she is very proud of and makes my heart as a mother burst literally every night. It’s also a great way to teach her prayers that we’ve forgotten to pass on, like the St. Michael the Archangel prayer, and the Memorare.

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But it’s not all about the kids, right? I mean, I’m a firm believer in the concept that if your own spiritual life is empty, you can give nothing to your children. And also that the easiest way to pass on the faith to your children is to let them see you doing it. And we all know I am ALL ABOUT THE EASE OF THINGS. So I’ve decided to make sure that I made this Advent count for myself, too.

I’ve begun some more physical devotions- veiling, making sure I go to confession regularly, attending Eucharistic Adoration, etc. Those have been a wonderful way to make my actual time reflect my sense of waiting and hope and the desire to make myself ready for God, whenever He comes again.

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I also downloaded the Magnificat Advent 2016 app. It’s available on all platforms for $1.99, or $2.99 for the ebook format if you want it on kindle. This  is amazing, guys. It has a really user-friendly interface, prayers for morning, evening, and night, the Mass for the day, and additional prayers, songs, and rubrics (like for a penance service, blessing of the Advent wreath, etc.)  I am really, really enjoying it. HIGHLY recommend, and I am not a normal Magnificat girl. I can’t get into it. But this is amazing for me.

(And if you do the app it sends you touch reminders. SCORE.)

Finally, I’m switching up my “good-for-me” reading that I do every  morning. I wrote about this a few weeks ago, but basically I take about half an hour before the kids get up to read a selection from the Bible, the Catechism, and a book about parenting or faith or whatever (anything except murders- I’ve been really into thrillers lately, guys.) I abandoned my Catholic Guide to Depression (ironically, AMAZING!) and am slogging my way through Benedict XVI’s Jesus of Nazareth: The Infancy Narratives. It’s a slim book, but if you’ve ever read anything Ratzinger has written, um, don’t expect a quick read. I’m absolutely loving being able to a.) focus on exegesis again, something I haven’t done since grad school, and b.) turning little parts of my day towards the anticipation of the Lord.

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So, what do you do for advent? I’d love more (non-craft) suggestions!