Thursday, January 31, 2013

Happy Feast Day of Saint John Bosco!

Saint John Bosco is one of our favorite saints and today is his feast day!

John Bosco was an Italian priest in the 19th century. He cared for boys who lived on the streets. He entertained them with stories, magic, and even juggling and then encouraged them to pray and attend Mass. He ended up creating housing and schools for many boys and young men. He taught them the faith and also skilled trades so that they could support themselves and contribute to society.

One of our favorite quotes about St. John Bosco is, "Run, jump, play, but do not sin." He really understoon boys! He was holy and kind AND knew how to have fun.

Last year I did monthly posts here about our homeschool club called "Bosco Boys Club." We are continuing to have a blast meeting with our friends each month this year. We are focusing on different virtues, learning about saints, and having fun!

So far this year we've..... had a visit from Franciscan friars, played fun games and relay races, made candy bugs, painted Christmas ornaments, decorated cool wooden shields, played with catapults, and had balloon sword fights! Here are some pictures of the fun....


Saint John Bosco would be proud to be our patron, don't you think?

It's so great for the boys to be able to learn, grow in holiness, and have fun together!

Saint John Bosco, pray for us.

A Prayer to St. John Bosco

O glorious Saint John Bosco,
who in order to lead young people to the feet of the divine Master
and to mould them in the light of faith and Christian morality
didst heroically sacrifice thyself to the very end of thy life
and didst set up a proper religious Institute destined to endure
and to bring to the farthest boundaries of the earth thy glorious work,
obtain also for us from Our Lord a holy love for young people
who are exposed to so many seductions
in order that we may generously spend ourselves
in supporting them against the snares of the devil,
in keeping them safe from the dangers of the world,
and in guiding them, pure and holy,
in the path that leads to God.

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Book Club!

We've got a fun new learning adventure! We've joined up with two families to form two book clubs which meet two times each month. We take turns meeting at each other's homes. I lead the older group of five boys. My friend Jen leads the younger group of three girls. And my friend Becky watches the three toddlers during our meetings. We are all enjoying it a bunch!

We began a few weeks ago. Our first task was decorating book bags.

At our first book club meeting the boys learned about idioms and we read the book, The Last Straw by Frederick H. Thury.

We played a fun game.... trying to pile packages on a "camel's" back.

We illustrated and discussed the meaning of various idioms.

The best part of this meeting for me was at the end. I had brought several books of idioms from the library. Even after our meeting time was officially over, the boys sat together enjoying those books.

I just loved seeing them enjoy reading together.

 Here are the idioms that Ray and Adam illustrated:

 We had our second book club meeting this Tuesday.

At the beginning of each meeting, the boys need to share a book that they've read. (Mary -- You'll be happy to know that both of our boys brought your homemade books to share. They were a big hit!)

Before the meeting all of the boys had read Stone Fox by John Reynolds Gardiner. They had drawn their favorite scenes and written three sentences about them. We shared those assignments and discussed our opinions of the book. Then we made a story map.

Next, we played a Stone Fox Trivia Game (which I had purchased from Teachers Pay Teachers website). The boys LOVED this... and I can't believe how many details they remembered from the story.


Finally, we worked on a craft. In the book, a little boy competes in a dog sled race. So we drew dog sled courses (based on the one described in the book). We used magnets above and below the courses to control the dogsleds and run the race.

For our next meeting, we're reading The Chocolate Touch by Patrick Skene Catling. This should be a FUN meeting... on Fat Tuesday, two days before Valentine's Day! We'll definitely be eating chocolate!

While the boys were working on their craft project, I did manage to sneak into the other room and snap one quick shot of the girls. They read Snowflake Bentley by Jacqueline Briggs Martin. They were making snowflake crystals!

Our book club meets at 11:00.... so we can get basic school done beforehand and so we can pack our lunches and enjoy eating together. (The little girls keep talking about how they want to go to "real" school so they can pack a lunch and eat with their friends!) Then we have some play time. This week was awesome... the weather was so warm. The kids played soccer in the back yard.

I'm looking forward to our book club adventures through the spring. The main goal: to help our children love reading.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Phonics or Colonics?

I didn't quite know what to say when Ray approached me today and said:
"My vowels are really bothering me."

But I'm happy to report that he's resting comfortably... having completed today's Phonics lesson and taken care of the other issue as well.

Just another Totally Terrific Tuesday here.

Sunday, January 27, 2013


***Spoiler Alert****
If you have not yet watched the latest episode of Downton Abbey, do not read this post!

Ugghh! So sad! What is it about this show that just grabs me so deeply? Tonight's episode was so tragic that I don't think I'll be able to sleep.

I feel crazy even writing that. It's TV for goodness sake!

Still, I think I shall have to wear black all this weak in mourning for Lady Sybil. It would be awesome if I could get a hat like the Dowager Countess (Maggie Smith).

And if by some crazy chance the writers of Downton read this post... Booo! I hated it. What a nasty twist in the plot. Too many people are dying in that place. I just want them all to be happy in that idyllic place and time.

Oh well.... back to another week of reality. I'm still wondering where my "staff" could be. Butler? Valet? Cook? Ladies Maid? Housekeeper? Footman? However does this house run without them?

Friday, January 25, 2013

Friday Night Fun

Thanks Aunt Nancy for the super cool Hot Wheels track!
All three of my boys... and the cats have had a blast with it tonight.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Where do you stand?

The greatest teacher I ever had was also the most challenging. Dr. Greg Sobolewski taught Ecclesiology, the first course in my Master's program at Saint Mary's University in Winona, Minnesota. He changed my thinking... especially about the Church... forever.
To be honest, I think he changed my thinking just by making me think. How did I get through so many years of school -- with such good grades -- without having to think very hard? (Note to self --- Teach the boys to THINK! Challenge them!)
Dr. Sobolewski was fond of the saying, "You have to be somewhere. You can't be everywhere. You can't be nowhere. You have to be somewhere." (He had lots of such sayings, which we fondly termed "Gregorian Chant.") He made us read lots of books that spanned the liberal/conservative spectrum. We had to be able to articulate the authors' theses AND our own critical thoughts about the authors' arguments.
I'll never forget the day he gave us the (fairly recently released) apostolic letter Ordinatio Sacerdotalis by Pope John Paul II. He gave us 45 minutes to read the document and be prepared to summarize and defend or repudiate its points. He left the room.
Well, you see, we were a room full of liberal do-gooders. Mostly women. Church workers. I wish there was a video recording of all the sighs and grunts as we read. (The letter explains that the Church has no authority to ordain women and that all faithful Catholics need to adhere to this teaching without debate.) We all had pre-conceived opinions about this document.
The thing is.... I was forced to read and think critically rather than emotionally. For the first time, perhaps, I was challenged to look beyond my own perspective as a 20th century middle-class American liberal Catholic woman. I learned the very great, very important fact that the Church (and the Pope as her leader and voice) must transcend the constraints of time, culture, and politics. The teachings of the Church are Truth.... timeless, pure, truth for all people.
It didn't matter that I thought it wasn't "fair" that women couldn't be priests. The Tradition of the Church is sacred and is meant to help me see beyond the limitations of my political, social, cultural biases. The priesthood is not a popularity contest or a privileged office of power. It is a sacred ministry to which God calls men to serve in the role of Jesus in our midst.
That, truly, was a turning point in my Catholic life. That's when my eyes were opened to the amazing depth, beauty and power of Catholic Tradition.... including the Papacy and the teachings of the Pope.
So..... why this manifesto tonight?
Some of my friends packed up their large families and headed to Washington D.C. today. A group of youth and adults from my parish went as well. They are all taking part in the 40th Annual March for Life, a challenging and beautiful pilgrimage to our nation's capital where they will take a stand for LIFE. They will join with thousands of others from across the country to make their voices heard, to stand up against abortion. Don't bother looking for coverage of this in the paper or on television. You won't find it. But you can watch live coverage on .
I'm a little bit embarrassed to say here that I've been wishy-washy about my stance on the pro-life movement in the past. I've been turned off by some of their greusome and forward "tactics" and I've wondered if legislation is truly the best way to prevent the attack on human life. I've always been against abortion, but I've never really invested my heart and mind in the issue or taken a stand.
Praise God for His faithfulness and for all of the ways we continually grow in our faith journeys. I am humbled and inspired by the sacrifices so many people are making to take this pilgrimage. In my prayer and reflections this week I've heard God asking me where I stand.... and nudging me to think, study, pray, and reflect more deeply.... to open my eyes and my heart to the immensity of this social evil.... to listen to His call for me to do more to bring about His Holy Will. I've been reminded what a great gift it is to be Catholic... to have the Tradition to guide me and the huge universal family of brothers and sisters to support, encourage, and challenge me. I've been reminded of my time at Saint Mary's --- wonderful friendships and intense life-changing learning.
Once again I'm grappling with the challenge to take a stand.
And so I'll be watching and praying and joining the marchers in spirit.... planting my feet more firmly as a pro-life Catholic. Grieving for the unborn and hoping for conversion of hearts.  Will you stand with me?

  A Pro-Life Prayer For Our President And Public Officials
Lord God, Author of Life and Source of Eternal Life,

Move the hearts of all our public officials and especially our President, to fulfill their responsibilities worthily and well to all those entrusted to their care.

Help them in their special leadership roles, to extend the mantle of protection to the most vulnerable, especially the defenseless unborn, whose lives are threatened with extermination by an indifferent society.

Guide all public officials by your wisdom and grace to cease supporting any law that fails to protect the fundamental good that is human life itself, which is a gift from God and parents.

You are the Protector and Defender of the lives of the innocent unborn. Change the hearts of those who compromise the call to protect and defend life. Bring our nation to the values that have made us a great nation, a society that upholds the values of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness for all.

Mary, the Mother of the living, help us to bear witness to the Gospel of Life with our lives and our laws, through Christ, Our Lord.


January 22, 2009
Most Reverend Robert J. Baker
Bishop of Birmingham in Alabama

Wednesday, January 23, 2013


"So many people of good will complain about distractions during prayer. Many even give up on prayer because of them. They do not realize that those distractions come from God. They come from the Holy Spirit. They bring us back to everyday reality when we are trying to find holiness outside of daily life." Joseph G. Donders

It's so tempting to just scrap prayer altogether when we're busy (which is always). This quote is a great reminder that it is precisely in our everyday lives -- in the midst of our busyness and especially in times of illness or other trials -- that God wants to meet us. He wants to be part of it all. His grace is there, in the moments of frustration, boredom, relaxation, exhileration.... Our task is to be present to each moment and to God in that moment.

Once upon a time I was going to be a nun. I was going to have a disciplined life of prayer with lots of time in the chapel, daily Mass, and frequent retreats. Now I'm a wife and homeschooling mother. Ironically, I feel closer to God now than I did while I was in the convent. I don't have as much extended silent prayer time as I would like. But I pray a lot. And I notice and cherish God's presence in so many everyday tasks. I love sharing life with my family in our own little "monastery."

God continually points our eyes, mind, heart to where we are meant to be. Instead of stubbornly trying to block out what we assume are distractions, we need to lift up those very people/situations/tasks to God. I know that when I go into prayer with a rigid "agenda" God almost always leads me another direction.

And rather than adding prayer to the daily agenda of tasks, why not weave it into all the tasks of the day?

Just my thoughts on this quiet Wednesday afternoon. :) It's been a week of cancellations for us. Our book club was cancelled due to illnesses. Tonight we were planning on attending a holy hour for families at our parish, but it's been cancelled because of some flooding in our church. So God points our minds and hearts another direction... and we offer it all to Him.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Better Than Junk Mail!

 So this is a post that's been lost in the queue for a while.

Ray got some really fun mail!

The large envelope was hand addressed to him. And the return address was "1600 Pennsylvania Avenue!"

Several weeks ago Ray had sent President Obama a letter. It was actually a form letter he filled out as part of a Weekly Reader activity. He received a really nice packet in return, including a letter thanking him for his input, a signed picture of the President, an information booklet about the White House, and several activity booklets about the White House and Mrs. Obama's healthy eating campaign. We were all very impressed!

Especially in the wake of the campaign and election season, it's important for us to remember that no matter who is President, God is still God. Our political views don't usually match those of President Obama, but we strive to give our respect to the President and to instill patriotism in the hearts and minds of our children. We pray for our country and it's leaders... a lot.

God Bless America!

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Jumping Into January!

We always begin January with the celebration of my Dad's birthday. He's a New Year's baby... and this was a big one. 65! We had a fun gathering on New Year's Day to celebrate.

Dad and Mary came in the week after Christmas and we had some fun time visiting with them... and exchanging presents of course. Christmas just kept going and going around here!

Mary made some awesome new buildings for Ray's train layout!


Don't you just love Adam's fire-red ear?! It's a funny phenomenon... all three of my guys get bright red ears when they're excited. In this shot Adam and Pappy are reading about Pokemon characters.

We started easing back into school on the second and it was a rough transition. All of the new toys and video games are so much more fun than school. And "mean old Mommy" just expects too much.
Luckily, we got to gather with some homeschool friends for a post-Christmas bowling party. That counts as Phys Ed, right? Here's Ray under the score screen that shows his awesome  score of 103!

Last week we had fun at our monthly zoo class. This month we learned about some animals that are native to Ohio. We had three animal visitors: an opossum, a turtle, and a salamander. We went to a "habitat house" exhibit and completed a fun scavenger hunt.


Today I got some time off while Jon took the boys to COSI for a fitness fun day! They enjoyed some "boy time" before Daddy starts working monster hours and missing out on these fun things.

So, we're back into the swing of things. Karate classes and Cub Scout activities have resumed. We're learning about the Civil War and counting money in school. Both boys have taken great strides in reading skills. Ray has officially begun preparation for First Communion and Reconciliation. We're enjoying a bit of a January thaw now, but the boys are eager for more snow. Sledding is their big passion right now!
Time sure does fly when we're busy and having fun!