Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Keep Calm- You're a Good Mom, but you're homeschooling for all the wrong reasons

"Good moms breastfeed. Good moms formula feed.
Good moms vaccinate their kids. Good moms don't vaccinate their kids.
Good moms co-sleep. Good moms use cribs.
Good moms have hospital births. Good moms have home births.
Good moms adopt. Good moms have natural births. Good moms have epidurals. Good moms have c-sections.
Good moms have 10 kids. Good moms have 1 kid .
Good moms use cloth diapers. Good moms use disposable diapers.
I always see moms putting each other down over these things all the time. I've even participated in it. But I've realized that an intelligent, loving mother can consider the same facts as you and still come to a different conclusion. I know we're all only human, but let's learn to respect each other." found on facebook through a friend through 'prego & mommy chat'
Is this true? Can one be a good parent and basically do whatever? I know that it isn't a competition, but don't our choices make some difference in our children's lives? Are there no standards that every good parent abides by? Perhaps using a carseat and encouraging vegetable consumption...
This is my very roundabout way of responding to a homeschooling quandary at red cardigan's blog. The list of homeschooling parents' characteristics and motivations is, shall we say, very comprehensive. I don't see how anyone, homeschooling or not, doesn't match one or two of these. So I have a problem with this list because it makes it virtually impossible to homeschool for just reasons. I suppose this list is the opposite of the 'can't we all just get along ' list above (which as an INFP I tend to overdo anyway).

I believe the thesis of the homeschoolers' motivations list is this: parents homeschool to repair damage from their childhood experiences. So, parents homeschool because they were outcasts and they want to protect their children. Or parents got into lots of trouble in school, so they homeschool to control their children. Or parents were too smart to abide the lowliness of their classmates and they assume their children are just as special. Or religious parents want their children to be protected from Vatican II-style teachings. As children, these parents had to sit through 'Gather Us In' and 'Lord of the Dance' and had to fight their way back to the Church. They want to spare their children the pain.

But don't all parents try to spare their children the pain (from whatever source) that they themselves had suffered in the past? For example:
--- My mother hated her wedding dress with the blinding passion of 100 white-hot suns. She just did (she's still married- 5 kids- 24 and counting grandkids...she just hated her dress). She even let us use it for dress-up.  So, our wedding dresses were her top priority when we got married. Some were expensive, and some were not- all five were pretty. Will wedding dress purchases be as important to me when my girls get married? Perhaps, but not like with my mother. She had 'issues' and that's okay.
--- When I was ten, I spent the night twice at my best friend's house. The first time, we watched Alien. This was pre-my-family's-conversion and was with the approval of her parents. I didn't tell my parents. The second time, we watched The Shining. Even though my eyes were closed most of the time, I saw enough to make me wake up my parents and confess the following night. So, I now have 'issues' with sleep-overs. My kids sleep over with cousins.
--- My father-in-law, retired army colonel now commanding 100 or so beehives, cannot swim. Not a lot of children got to learn to swim well at the height of communism. So, he had swimming become the sport of choice for my husband. Even today, my husband is usually the best swimmer in the pool.
--- Communism is a gift that keeps on giving. My husband remembers well when he stood in line for the honor of purchasing a few bananas. So, he cannot abide a wasted banana. Me, as a spoiled and picky American, I cannot eat a banana unless it is perfectly ripe, yet unbruised. issues, issues...and it all affects our children, most likely causing the pendulum to swing the other way when the next generation comes of age.

We are making judgements when we choose something over another thing. When I pumped through the five weeks in the NICU for our preemie, I judged that that action was best for baby and me at the time. When I stopped breastfeeding her at six months (it was a triumph to get that far!), I judged that formula was acceptable at that age as it was healthful for her body and my sanity. Parents judge every day even when they are not judgmental of others' choices.

I suppose the answer for both the 'You're a Good Mom" list and the 'Crazy Homeschoolers' Motivation' list is found above- if we are making "intelligent and loving decisions," that is all we can do. The only thing we should be checking and second-guessing with regards to decisions made for our children is our love. Are we loving them through our decisions? Then, let's give ourselves a break and try to let go of our pasts.  And tomorrow, let's check our love again. 

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Those were the days, my friend

 I've been pouting because we won't be able to make our every-other-summer trip to the old country. First, tires and stuff on my van. Then, a $1,000 repair on the old van. It's too bad we didn't use horses (no, bad idea, those are more expensive than vans).
Can you imagine, getting through childhood with only a handful of photographs to prove it? Even in 1993 when I lived in Slovakia, it was an all-day activity to get film developed. Those were the days. Now every smile and sneeze are documented. So, when my battery is dead or if I have forgotten to put the memory card back in, I think of my husband's handful of photos. Then I don't feel so bad that I missed a bit of documenting my kids' lives.
circa 1974- I'm sure he is pretending to be Michael the Brave and not Vlad the Impaler....the villages still have that kind of fence

Friday, February 22, 2013

Future Priest's Wife Advice, You Sing Alleluia in Lent?..and other random quick takes

1. Lent is funny for Byzantine Catholics. Our fasting can be very strict, but you'll still hear us singing alleluia at the Divine Liturgy on Sundays. I suppose it isn't just a 'Vatican II' concept for every Sunday being a little Easter Sunday because we have been celebrating like this for centuries. The Resurrection is always on our minds. Of course, during the Easter season it is at the forefront. 
2. We make up for our Sunday alleluias at the Presanctified Liturgy during the week. There is no consecration, so it is a long communion service with plenty of prostrations. It can feel like a workout, but we lay people aren't wearing full vestments like the clergy. Here is a parish website with detailed information on the Presanctified Liturgy. And don't forget for some great forums on the Eastern traditions. 

3. This past week, there was a 'disgruntled' Roman-rite Catholic complaining about irreverence in Mass on my Twitter feed. A few people encouraged her to find her nearest Byzantine-rite Catholic church. As a rule, I don't agree with these sorts of semi-permanent visitors because they really should remain with their baptismal rite. And it is my experience that when the situation changes, they will go back to where they are more comfortable. Certainly, they will really miss First Communion when their child is of age. How about a compromise? She could visit her nearest Byzantine Catholic parish once a month for a little reverence-boaster (although we are not perfect by any means) and continue with her rite most of the time...I do the math when I am having day dreams. The nearest Roman-rite parish to us has 10,000 registered families. Statistically, 25% of Catholics attend Sunday Mass. That makes 2,500 families that are at Mass on the weekends. What if 10% of that number decided to supplement their spiritual life with a 'bonus' Sunday vigil once a month at our mission? That would be about 60 visiting families per week. A girl can dream....
4. and back a bit to #1...when I was Roman-rite Catholic (between 12 and 26 years old), I loved it when we stopped saying the Alleluia during Lent. It was so meaningful and it really made the Alleluias that much brighter during the Easter season. And I loved participating in the Ash Wednesday service and wearing my ashes all day. Now that I am Byzantine Catholic, I follow the fast a bit differently in some ways and these differences have become vital to my celebration of the season. I suppose one can get used to anything and come to love it.

5.The United States doesn't have a lot of traditions that everyone subscribes to because we are a melting pot. So I roast my Thanksgiving turkey happily and watch The Nutcracker during Christmas like everyone else, enjoying the wee bit of tradition just about everyone adheres to. In the same way, I always smile when McDonald's offers their Friday fish sandwich during Lent (now up to $1.49 plus tax!). And I love seeing the smudges of ash on my students' foreheads when they come to class Ash Wednesday evening. My tradition has altered slightly (I don't eat fish on Fridays in Lent!), but it is a tradition in the same spirit. It always feels good to see a bit of Christianity in our post-Christian world. Perhaps the Syrian Orthodox refugees in town don't travel the hour to get to their nearest church more than once a year and perhaps they wear crosses just as a way of screaming "I'm not Muslim!" , but it is still nice to see them wearing crosses

6. With the abdication Of Pope Benedict coming soon, I have been enjoying some of the media attention concerning the Catholic Church. According to the Liber Pontificalis, three popes- Pope St Victor I (ca186-198), Pope St Miltiades (311-14), and Pope St Gelasius (492-496)- were Africans (WHAT! I thought the Church was totally racist!). The last Pope to abdicate was Pope Celestine V in 1294 (WHAT! You mean...the Church is that old?). Pope Benedict will retire to a simple monastery on Vatican grounds (WHAT! I thought he would live on this yacht...oh wait, that is Steven Spielberg's...oops...but all the other Hollywood-types give all their money to the poor...).
But then a lot of the media coverage has been..shall we say...caustic. And don't even get me started on the activity in comment boxes. But I suppose I shouldn't say "Why do non-Christians even care about the election of a Pope?" when I am also happy that a secular company like McDonald's acknowledges my faith. “There are not one hundred people in the United States who hate The Catholic Church, but there are millions who hate what they wrongly perceive the Catholic Church to be.” I believe Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen was correct! 

7. I've been writing a post in my head- and failing- for over a week in response to this email:

"My husband was just blessed sub-deacon in November, will be a deacon next year (God willing), and is talking more and more about a call to the priesthood.  I know that he has the support and encouragement of both our parish priest and our bishop. 
I know my husband feels called to the priesthood, but I don't know if I feel called to be a priest's wife?!  Every time I talk to him I feel like I'm just discouraging my husband, and I certainly don't want that.   But, I'm just not sure I can or want to do it!  And, I feel a little bit like I don't have a choice.  If God is really calling him, who am I to say no?  And we really do have a wonderful marriage.  But this path sounds so hard.  We already make so many sacrifices with him just as a sub deacon, I can only imagine when he is a priest. 
I guess all this is to say that I have a lot of doubts!  Am I supposed to be called too?  Or am I just supposed to support?" 

First of all, read and reflect on these posts of mine:

And specifically about your question of "Does a priest's wife need the call?" Yes and no. You must be called to be married to a man who will be ordained deacon and priest, but after that, your vocation differs according to your state in life, talents and abilities. Every priest's wife is different. 
About feeling like you don't have a choice...this gets into sticky personal territory, but as a marriage team you need to be in agreement with these huge decisions and changes. It is similar to a spouse wanting to be a doctor. Just because it is the 'dream' of one spouse to pursue something that is time-consuming and expensive for a greater good does not mean that the other spouse has no say. The other spouse should have 'veto power' and the spouse with a dream should accept this with no bitterness. This is easier said than done. I know one married couple who were married for over fifty years. Although they were Roman-rite, he changed rites and became a deacon in the Byzantine-rite. The wife was very supportive, making him sets of vestments and being supportive of time spent away from the family. When he was ordained a priest, it was too much for her and they divorced. 
There will be times when you feel unimportant. The Sacrament of Holy orders is an eternal mark while marriage is not. You will need to humble yourself. You will need to find your own ministry within the Church and a hobby outside of it. You should cultivate friendships outside of your parish- this is a difficult one for me because I am painfully, increasingly INFP. I pray that you succeed.
It seems to me that you feel like you are on a roller coaster, powerless to get off. I hope you can shake this feeling and make the decision together. It will be a sacrificial journey of faith, but he, who feels called to the priesthood, is married to you. So his vocation is an incredibly specific one- marriage to you, then the priesthood. Although the priesthood is eternal, you come first. It's a paradox, and this is a reason why some people say that a married priesthood cannot work. You need to work on your family's identity. Your attitude and inventiveness, as the mother, helps determine the success of this endeavor. I hope this post helps a little and that every person who read this far will be praying for you! (I also emailed her some advice specific to her situation) 

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Meet Geraldine: mama to many, Catholic

How long have you been a practicing Catholic?
Since birth. I won't reveal the exact amount of years, since I am ancient and prefer to shroud my age in mystery.
Care to share your conversion, reversion story?
I went on a great pilgrimage to Medjugorje.
How does your faith inform your day-to-day life?
It is the standard by which I measure all my actions and decisions.
What is your greatest challenge in practicing your faith?
My human weakness
favorite Bible verse?
But seek first the kingdom (of God) and his righteousness, and all these things will be given you besides. Mt 6:33
favorite Spiritual writing (besides Bible) quotation?
"Be not afraid" - Crossing the Threshold of Hope, John Paul II
favorite saint and why?
St. Gerard Majella, my patron saint. He was humble, dedicated, patient, and loved God above all else. Once, when an important key was dropped into a deep well, St. Gerard tied a statue of baby Jesus to a rope and lowered it down into the well. When he pulled the statue back up, the key was in Jesus' hand.
What is your ministry in the church?
Lay person. Occasional catechism teacher.
education and job
Education - B.A. in English; M.A. in Theology; Job - Mom
Favorite movie - The Sound of Music
Favorite book - the Bible
Favorite music - Maroon 5, Taylor Swift, Journey, Lea Salonga, Luciano Pavarotti, and Bruno Mars
hobby - Playing piano, reading biographies
what is 'cool'/interesting about you? I have 8 kids.
Thanks for sharing, Geraldine!
Click on the "I'm a Catholic" label below for more posts in the series

Monday, February 11, 2013

Byzantine Catholic Fasting isn't Orthodox enough- or- Should I stir in the almond oil?

Today is the first day of the Great Fast for Byzantine Catholics and Orthodox using the Gregorian calendar. 
The Mandatory Fast for Ruthenian Byzantine Catholics during the Great Fast (Lent) (Your jurisdiction might be different, consult your priest or bishop): 
---Strict Fast (no meat, dairy) on Pure Monday (today, Monday before Roman-rite Ash Wednesday) and on Great and Holy Friday
---Simple Fast (no meat) on all Wednesdays and Fridays of the Great Fast and Holy Saturday before Easter Sunday
For Those Wishing to Follow the Ancient Fasting Regimen
---No Meat from Sunday of Meatfare (2 Sundays before Lent begins) till Easter Sunday
---No Dairy or Eggs from Sunday of Cheesefare (Sunday before Lent begins) until Easter Sunday
--- No fish, oil, wine with exceptions- click on the OCA website for exceptions
Of course, there are medical and age exceptions. Consult a faithful priest
In my last post 'Lent is all about food,' someone questioned why the Byzantine Catholic fast is so un-Orthodox- because even if our authority comes ultimately from Rome making us Catholic, the Byzantine spirituality is Eastern which makes us Orthodox. If you read above, the requirements for our Lent are not so strict. Why is it not more in line with traditional fasting? I have some ideas. 

1. The various Byzantine Catholic jurisdictions want to have more control over the fast. When the fast is a traditional 'black' fast, there are still many people who will need dispensations from parts of it for various reasons. Perhaps the bishops want to keep the fast more consistent with the believers and reduce the parish priests' 'power' to give dispensations. 

Can a priest give dispensation to eat meat on a day of fasting or abstinence? Not just any priest, but your own parish priest has the jurisdiction to dispense you. Dispensations should not be refused the faithful, except in grave necessity. The point of a dispensation is the self-denial of the will that a Christian must practice by approaching their spiritual father.

2. When the traditional fasting is performed, there might be nothing more that a typical lay person can do to commemorate the season. With the fasting restrictions along with dietary concerns and young people in the family, it would be quite difficult for the typical housewife to supplement her fast with a personal sacrifice not in the official fasting guidelines. The relatively easy fasting guidelines make it possible to add something personal to the fast.

Should we limit our self-denial to obligatory fast days? Although the Church has greatly relaxed the obligation to fast and abstain, Christians should do so of their own free will, when and if they are able. More important than food, we need to control our other desires through other types of self-denial. Abstaining from sin is the goal of physical self-denial. In addition, read Fr Kurt Burnett's take on some Lenten questions.

3. The fasting guidelines of the various Byzantine Catholic churches are, as usual, between the requirements of the Roman-rite and the Orthodox churches. Maybe we are called to be the thorn in the side of both...

4. My husband thinks I am really silly about this one....I think the relaxed official requirements help with possible problems of scrupulosity. It is probably just me, but if I were obligated to refrain from oil during the Great Fast, I would wonder- 'should I stir in all that oil in my almond butter or drain it? What's the difference between some olive oil on my vegan salad and the almond oil?' So, while I would be obedient to my church in terms of guidelines, I am glad that I am free to eat any vegetable product I want. And as for scrupulosity, we all need holy spiritual fathers and mothers to help us through that. 
Click on the 'Lent' and 'fasting' labels below for more posts on this subject
Go to In Union With Rome for lots of links

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Lent is all about food- 7 Quick Takes

1. My husband says that the fast is nothing about food. It is about developing virtue. It is about attempting to reflect Christ's sacrifice through our sacrifice. It is about more prayer, more almsgiving, and more fasting from our passions. 
And of course, this is very true. I do think that one reason why Lent can become all about food ("I'm doing a black fast every day until Easter Sunday and all the kids will join me!" or "where's the nearest McDonald's? Filet of Fish Fridays! This is sooo hard!" or  "Rice Milk is a 'Pharisee food' and olive oil is forbidden as well") is that we are people with bodies like Christ but we have that sin-problem going for us as well. In the West, food is something we are confronted with about three times a day, so it is no surprise that it is the stepping stone or stumbling block on  our Lenten journey. 
But in a more beautiful way, Lent is all about food because we are all about the perfect food- the Holy Eucharist. Jesus invited us to remember Him always at the last supper through the consumption of most Holy and Pure Body and Blood. By abstaining from certain earthly foods during certain seasons and developing virtue, perhaps we are better able to worthily, through God's grace, receive the heavenly food which is His Eucharist.
--- O Lord, I believe and profess that you are truly Christ, the Son of the living God, who came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the first. Accept me as a partaker of your mystical supper, O Son of God; for I will not reveal your mystery to your enemies, nor will I give you a kiss as did Judas, but like the thief I confess to you: Remember me, O Lord, when you shall come into your kingdom.  May the partaking of your Holy Mysteries, O Lord, be not for my judgment or condemnation, but for the healing of soul and body. O Lord, I also believe and profess that this, which I am about to receive, is truly your most precious Body and your life-giving Blood, which, I pray, make me worthy to receive for the remission of all my sins and for life everlasting. Amen.
2. The Mandatory Fast for Ruthenian Byzantine Catholics during the Great Fast (Lent): 
---Strict Fast (no meat, dairy) on Pure Monday (first day of Great Fast, Monday before Roman-rite Ash Wednesday) and on Great and Holy Friday
---Simple Fast (no meat) on all Wednesdays and Fridays of the Great Fast, including Holy Saturday before Easter Sunday

For Those Wishing to Follow the Ancient Fasting Regimen
---No Meat from Sunday of Meatfare (2 Sundays before Lent begins) till Easter Sunday
---No Dairy or Eggs from Sunday of Cheesefare (Sunday before Lent begins) until Easter Sunday
Of course, there are medical and age exceptions. Consult a faithful priest
3. Just like being Byzantine Catholic puts us 'between' Roman-rite Catholics and Orthodox, we as a family are 'in-between' with our fasting style. We fast from meat during Lent and are vegan on Wednesdays and Fridays. I keep doing the math of 40 days for Lent, making Sundays an oasis during the season. If every Friday is a 'little' Good Friday, every Sunday is a 'little' Easter Sunday. So I cook a chicken for Sundays.
4. I am looking forward to using my bag of Bob's Red Mill Xanthan Gum. I'm hoping it will make a good vegan binder (instead of egg) for black bean burgers and the potato-vegetable-curry patty made by Trader Joe's (freezer section!) that I am tempted to replicate. 
5. Give me some vegan ideas please! We know humus, beans and rice- it is time to get creative. I'm going to try this recipe; Thai curried chick peas with coconut rice-it looks yummy and if I go easy on the spice, the kids will like it.
6. Click on my label 'Lent' at the bottom of this post to read what else I have written on this subject. There's some recipes and other reflections from the past two years. 
One of my personal favorites is 'Meatless Meals for Manly Men'- comment here or there to give me and the readers more ideas!
7. But what if all this fasting helps one lose a little weight? Isn't that self-serving? Don't worry about it. God probably wants us to be healthy and live a longer life to serve Him anyways. Of course, Simcha said it better than I could with her recent post For God or Your Bod at the National Catholic Register. As I usually do (sometimes I don't), I agree with her.

edit: this post was inspired by the answers I got when I tweeted and facebooked the question- "Lent is coming! What are you doing?!" ALL of the answers were about food- abstaining, fasting, eating better foods, etc. This is fine, of course. We are living in a material world, and I am a material momma. Fasting can help us take hold of the 'material' and sanctify it. 

Doggie Dress-up... {phfr}

how homeschoolers use their break time
Duke was a willing participant in a photo-shoot today (for dog lovers, you can see that, although he is a pure-bred standard poodle, he doesn't not have consistent coloring. He's a 'phantom' poodle) and yes, he is reading The Far Side.