Monday, June 29, 2009

Coming to Theatres... October 2009:

The 13th Day, a film about the miracle of Fatima. Watch the trailer here. This one looks like a must-see!

A Yummy Potato Salad

I like to cook, and pretty-much avoid the dinner-in-a-box food aisle. But recently I needed a quick summer side-dish, and I found a ready-made potato salad that is delicious. Bought at Sam's Club, it is Resers Country Style Red Potato Salad. It comes in a 4# container, so is enough to serve a small crowd, or for your family to eat on all week.

Just thought I'd pass on the tip-o'-the-day for your summer cookout. I'm pretty sure I'll never make a homemade 'tater salad again!

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Music to My Ears

My eldest son can often be heard humming a tune as he plays and goes about his day. Usually it's the Star Wars theme, or something like it. This afternoon he was at the kitchen sink getting a drink, and my husband and I heard him humming a tune that was very clearly the Kyrie, as sung this morning by our beautiful Oratory choir.

Kyrie eleison...
...Christe eleison...
...Kyrie eleison
Sure made us smile.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Scrubbing Bubbles and My Mother-in-Law

I am all about any cleaning product that does the hard work for me. There is one such product I've been using for almost 10 years, one my dear mother-in-law (RIP) introduced me to shortly after I married her son: Scrubbing Bubbles. You may remember the old commercials of those zealous little bubble-guys cleaning the tub, declaring as they go down the drain, "We work hard so you don't have toooooooo......!"

Well, their claim is true! Just spray the foaming cleanser onto your grimiest after-the-boys-have-been-in-the-dirt-tub, and your sink and chrome fixtures, leave it a few minutes, then wipe it clean with a damp cloth. Not only is it clean, it's shiny too! And truly, there is NO scrubbing.

I knew my mother-in-law only a few short years. Our eldest son barely remembers his 'Moon-scoon-Gramma' (a term of endearment only a 2yo could come up with), and our youngest has no memory of her at all. But my husband lovingly quotes her often, recounting nuggets of wisdom she imparted and which he has carried with him since his youth, and is now passing on to our boys. One such nugget is that when someone pops into your mind, say a prayer for them; it may be God is nudging you because they are in need of your prayers.

Funny as it may sound, Scrubbing Bubbles is one thing that always brings her to my mind. And so as I put those bubble-guys to work this morning, I also took her advice to pray for those who are brought to mind. Thanks for the great tips, Mom.

Eternal rest grant unto her, O Lord.
And let perpetual light shine upon her.
May her soul, and the souls of all the faithful departed,
through the mercy of God, rest in peace.


Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Test Time!

'Tis the season for Standard Achievement Tests in our house. At the end of each year I give the boys the CAT-5 (California Achievement Test, Complete Battery) for the grade they just completed. I do it for a couple of reasons, the first being that I want them to be accustomed to this style of testing as they progress through the grades, such that when they are at the age to take college admissions tests, it will not be foreign to them. Secondly, I want to know how they compare academically to the level which is determined to be the 'standard' in the US for their age/grade level.

And so, this is the week. We have completed all of the Language Arts sections, as well as Mathematics. We have only Science and Social Studies to go. Phew!

I say 'phew' because these tests, I think, are harder on me than them! Consider. All school year long, I am theirs for the asking when they need help. If they don't understand a concept, I am there. If it's a math fact that has them stumped (e.g., 8x9), I remind them to find the nearest fact that they do know (8x10) and figure it from there. If it's a grammar issue, sometimes a nonsensical, funny sentence will help him realize that what he thought to be the verb in the sentence is, in fact, the noun. If it's a matter of "Mom, my hand is soooo hot!!!" from too much writing (he thinks!), then I am there to be a cheerleader encouraging him to keep on keepin' on.

But, with the exception of the cheerleader role, Achievement Testing is a different ballgame. I make sure the boys understand each section, I set the timer, and but for a question of clarification here and there, I am to remain mute while they fill in with their #2 pencils, dozens of little circles which will ultimately indicate they're level of comprehension in Languages Arts, Mathematics, Science and Social Studies.

One thing that has become very apparent this year: our two boys, who just completed 3rd and 2nd grades, are as different as night and day (as if I didn't already know that.) One boy excels at reading, writing and drawing, while the other at mathematics. This morning while the more math-o-phobic of my sons was completing his section on 'Language Expression', he flipped ahead a few pages in his book only to see pages upon pages upon pages (in his mind) of math problems. Oh horrors! Oh dread! Oh Mom!!!!!

Contrast this with my numbers kid who, upon flipping a few pages ahead in his test book and seeing his math section, looked up at me, pumped his fist, and with the eye of the tiger, gave a confident 'Yeah!!!!!!!' In a few minutes he'd be finished with the pesky Language Arts section, and he could cozy in to doing what he does best. Egging him on a bit, and simply for my own amusement, I asked him if he were up to the challenge, and he enthusiastically answered 'YES!!' with another fist pump. When I told him he could and should use scratch paper to work his problems, he insisted he could do them in his head. He did just fine, and in a fraction of the time allowed.

For my other son, however, the math section requires a bit more effort. And here's where it gets hard for Mom. I sit there, watching him do math, or his brother doing grammar, unable to offer the assistance that I usually spend all year offering them in the classroom. I far prefer that role of teacher/helper, exercising patience in reiterating a given concept for the dozenth time if need be.

Overall I think both boys are doing well. But I will be pleased indeed after tomorrow's final test session, when these test booklets are signed, sealed, and sent off for scoring. Then we will absolutely and truly be able to relax into our summer break from daily academics.

Aye, summer. 'Tis the season to be a bit (just a bit!) lazy. Phew! Please pass the lemonade!

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Lightning Bugs

As a transplant to the Midwest I was in my mid-30s before I saw my first lightning bug. (For all the Northwest has to offer, it is not a home to lightning bugs!) I've been here 10 years now, and I still thrill to see these slow-fliers for a few weeks each May and June.

On a warm evening as the boys chase them, catch them, and marvel at their little twinkling lights, I can't help but think that perhaps that is precisely why God made lightning bugs: simply for the wonderment and delight of every child...... and every child within the adult who still marvels too.

Monday, June 1, 2009

The Funnies... Not for Kids

Peanuts, Garfield, The Family Circus, Hi and Lois, The Far Side, and Calvin and Hobbes; Winnie Winkle and Judge Parker. The 'Jumble' puzzle at the bottom of the daily comics page. These are all part of what made reading the comics with my breakfast before work each morning, more anticipated than the front page of the newspaper.

Having been a full-time homemaker for 10 years now, it's been a very long time since I had a morning get-up-and-go-out-to-work routine. We do not subscribe to the local paper and thus, I've lost touch with my old favs, and many of them had been discontinued, even when I was still reading the funnies.

Fast-forward to present. My boys, over the years, have gotten a taste for the comics, from the occasional Sunday paper we'd pick up after Mass. And for a few weeks now they've asked us to pick one up each Sunday. OK, fine. Pretty harmless entertainment, right?

WRONG. Yesterday as one son read the comics aloud with his brother looking on and Mom and Dad sipping coffee at the dining room table, the words "sex change" came out of our son's mouth. My husband and I immediately and in unison, cried out, "WHAT?!?", while we both grabbed the "funny" papers from our unwitting boys' hands.

So much for allowing the boys to look forward to the comics section each Sunday. While the time will certainly come for our boys to be made aware of the myriad ways in which this world is messed up, the Sunday full-color funny papers is not the jump-off point we need for imparting this sort of knowledge to them.

Of course the kids wondered what they said that caused such a reaction in their parents. "But what is a sex change??" they both wanted to know. After giving them sufficient and age-appropriate information, we let them know that we would not be picking up a Sunday paper any longer. Of course they were disappointed, but having grown up with limitations on secular communications coming into our home, from the DVDs they watch, to the TV commercials that must be turned off as we watch a Cardinals game, they took it pretty much in stride.

I think it was more disappointing for me because those days of anticipating the next installment in the Winnie Winkle serial, or being touched by the oft-poignant The Family Circle, or laughing out loud at Calvin's latest adventures are looked back on with fond reminiscence, and I had hoped to give them some of that same enjoyment. Alas, even the funnies have gone the way of the world.

But all is not lost. The Sunday funnies? Well, the boys won't be reading them, as I don't need yet another thing to screen first. But, we will replace it with a book or two of those same strips I enjoyed. I think they will find a real kinship with Calvin. And certainly it will provide our boys with more reason for a genuine and innocent chuckle than what is found in today's Sunday funnies.