Wednesday, June 29, 2011

The Perils of Potty Training

"Mommy, I have poopy on my foot."

I met this announcement with a blank stare, hoping I seriously misheard the Monkey.

"I have poopy on my foot - see..."

Oh, Lord! He does have poopy on his foot. On the bottom of his foot, no less. Which means it is also probably smeared across my living room carpet. Great....

I cleaned off his foot, his little chair, and the one spot on the carpet I could find.

Blech! On the other hand....

Hallelujah, the Monkey is potty training!

Not that he is late by any means. In fact, he is the earliest of all our boys.

 Cookie Boy was notable for refusing to potty train until age 4. He would look at us with his big brown eyes whenever we broached the subject of "big boy underwear", and say in his solemn, Cookie Boy-way, "I will do it when I am four". So the day he turned four (and believe me, we thought seriously about moving his birthday forward that year), we told him. "Happy birthday!", and handed him a package of underwear. He has always been practical, so he just shrugged his shoulders, put the underwear on, and went to use toilet!

The Monkey has been telling us every time he pees in his diaper for months now. So, physically, he is ready. Reluctant, but ready. We bought a potty about six months ago. It has been a nice addition to the living room, but not much else.

I was waiting until summer, when life settled down a bit (ha ha haaaa haaaa).

I forgot a few things about potty training, like how much energy it actually takes. I mean, I am thrilled he has gone pee-pee in the potty ten times today, but that means that ten times today I have had to stop what I am doing (eating a meal, folding laundry, writing, doing dishes, etc...) to go look at the pee-pee and wash hands.

A minor inconvenience, to be sure, but one that had slipped my mind.

In order to motivate the Monkey, which really did not want to start this whole process, we offered two things:
1) a marshmallow every time he goes #1
2) a sticker for every #2, which can be redeemed for a prize every three stickers.

This system is working quite well. We had been offering these things for a couple of months, but the Monkey was not biting. He kept choosing the diaper over treats and toys. Removing the diapers from the premises kind of leaves him little option!

The Monkey is trading his three stickers in for cars from Pixar's Cars.

We started with one....

then two....

then three...

and here we are now....


Next stop - big boy underpants!

Monday, June 27, 2011

Waging War

Apparently, while we were whoopin' it up on the banks of the Comal and Guadeloupe Rivers this past weekend with 59 of our closest relatives (ArtGuy's side), a horde of gnats moved in to our house. Specifically, my bathroom.
Sure, there were a few the day we left. There usually are in summer. I suppose I brought them in with the fruit or they flew in when the door was opened ("C'mon, Larry! She's opening the door. Air conditioning! Fly quick! Whoo hooooo"!). No biggie, right?

ArtGuy and I gratefully got ready for bed last night, worn out from our trip, ready to sink into oblivion in our own bed before Monday slapped us in the face. As we were brushing our teeth, a few gnats flew around our heads. I told ArtGuy not to worry, as there always are a few in the summer, and I can smack gnats like nobody's business!

Then I really looked.

It was not a few gnats. It was a horde of gnats. Kind of like the Hitchcock movie, The Birds, only much smaller, and only slightly less scary.

I told ArtGuy to go on to bed. Arming myself with a flyswatter, paper towels, cleaning supplies, and a garbage bag, I shut and locked both the bathroom door and the closet door. Yeah, I am a warrior! I am Braveheart, and the gnats are the British army! "You are going down, suckas!"

I discovered their hiding place - in the cabinet under my sink. I opened the doors, and - I kid you not - a cloud of gnats flew out.

I almost barfed. I mean, I know they are not smart, and they are not going to pull me down under their collective weight. But still......eeeeuuuuuuuuwwwww!

I drew my shirt over my mouth so I could not breath them in. Then, I girded my loins (only figuratively), and went on the offensive.

Smack...SMACK....swat, swat, swat, SMACK! The mirror was soon a grisly scene of gnat stuff. They littered the counter and the double sinks. I tracked them down in the shower, on the doors, on the picture frames. I studied, and learned their hiding places and patterns of flight. I shooed them out of the cabinets and into the glare of 6 heat-throwing light bulbs.

No surrender, no mercy!

An hour later, I cleaned the bathroom (do you know how much of a mess they leave on the walls and mirrors? Have you ever really smacked these things. It was really gross,  I tell you! ) and took the remains out to the trash bin.

Today there are only a few left. I am hunting them down, one by one.

So now I can add another skill to my lengthy list of Mom Skillz - Gnat Killer.


Sunday, June 19, 2011

Lessons I Learned from My Father

Happy Father's Day on this feast of the Holy Trinity!

My father has been gone for most of my life, but his influence remains. I lost him right before I turned 11, so I my sum total memory of his is a child's memory. But a legacy can live even after death, so I can know my father a little better today. Happy Father's Day, Dad! We miss you. I hope you are partying up in heaven!

5. Love God  - Some of my most vivid memories of my father are of him praying. I remember him praying as he studied scripture. I remember him, arms raised, singing. I can remember times I was sick, laying in bed. Daddy would come before bedtime with a small bottle of holy oil, and anoint my head with oil, while praying, "May God heal you, from the top of your head to the tips of your toes."
My father's example of prayer, and his part of teaching me to pray, has helped me to know the Father in heaven.

4. Be Silly - My dad loved silly humor, He was the ultimate father for a small child. He was full of silly jokes, funny noises, and he absolutely loved watching cartoons. I remember watching my dad watch cartoons, just so I could laugh when he did. He was just so silly and fun. It was a wonderful legacy to leave his children.

3. Priorities - My dad was a simple man. He loved God and loved his family. He did everything he could to spend as much time as possible with his children. He did not need fancy things to make him happy. People were what mattered.

2. Never Wait - My father died at the age of 42. I have learned from this to never wait. Never wait to say, "I love you", never wait to reach for your dreams, never wait to forgive someone, never wait to create memories. Live with no regrets (or as little as possible!).

1. Treasure Each and Every Day - You never know what life will bring. That is no reason to be a pessimist. Rather, live each and every moment with love and kindness. Treasure every day with family and friends. No matter how bad a day is, always end with a reflection on your blessings, because you are surrounded by them.

Happy Father's Day!

Friday, June 17, 2011

The Right of Education - OSV Article, Part 2

This blog is the second in response to the Our Sunday Visitor's article on homeschooling vs Catholic School education.  The first of my blogs focused on the sorry response of the Bishop of Austin, Tx to a local homeschool group. This blog will take on the opinion (from the article) of Father Peter M.J. Stravinskas, who runs the Catholic Education Foundation.

Fr. Stravinskas thoughts are very typical of those who are, not clueless about homeschooling, but anti-homeschooling.  In a nutshell, Fr. Stravinskas claimed:
  1. Catechesis is mainly the job of the pastors, then the Church as a whole, with the parents coming in somewhere after all these others.  
  2. Families who homeschool at least implicitly teach their children that priests cannot be trusted to hand on the faith. 
  3. Homeschooling leads to a decline in religious vocations.
  4. It is unhealthy for mothers to spend 24 hours a day with their children.
  5. Parents cannot possibly teach their children all they need to know.
  6. Homeschoolers set themselves apart as an "elite" group within the Church, causing division.
Wow! Where to start! I am going to jump around a bit, so hang on!

You Might Be Crazy If....
Let's go with #4 first, because it made me laugh - it is psychologically unhealthy for parents and children to be with each other 24 hours a day.
Okay, so the days where I spend all morning arguing with the 13-yr-old who cannot believe he has to (gasp!) do something so cruel as write a paper or clean a room, simultaneously potty-train a toddler while teaching middle school Latin,  or on the days they all seem to have brain farts at the same time, then yes, I can see that it may be psychologically unhealthy for me to be with my children all day, every day. 
But, the thing is, I am not with them all day, every day.  For starters, they all have their own (sometimes shared) bedrooms. We go to bed separately, and we have free hours. The kids play, whatever it is I do, and we spend some healthy time on our own. They do have friends, hobbies, and toys. 
In fact, the label "homeschooler" can be mis-leading. With all the homeschool support today  (and the recognition that there is money to be made from homeschoolers), there are a plethora of classes and activities to do, and groups to belong to. We are actually not often at home all day! 
If what Fr. Stravinskas says is true, then mothers or fathers should put the kids in day care straight away, as there is nothing more psychologically demanding than caring for a newborn 24 hours a day. Vacations are a no-no, unless you plan on separate activities. 
It is not always easy being around each other so much, but the last thing it is is psychologically unhealthy. I like my kids. They (usually) like me! We learn a lot from each other, and together we create a really healthy, stable family. You see, by homeschooling together, we have to learn to get along, to work through our differences, and to listen with respect. How many families want these things? 
We are not joined at the hip, the kids can handle life apart from me, we are not sharing a family bed that sleeps six.  
And we are not crazy. Usually.....

My Teacher, Mrs. Mom
#5 - Parents cannot teach their children all they need to know. 
I couldn't agree with this more. Thank God we are not stuck in a log cabin in the middle of the winter, in 1820 on the prairie! 

The rallying cry of homeschoolers comes from the Vatican II document, Christian Education. It says, "Parents must be recognized as being primarily and principally responsible for the education of their children." ( No 3)
But the document also states,
"The task of imparting education belongs primarily to the family, but it requires the help of society as a whole." (No 3). 

Or, as it states in Familiaris Consortio,
"The family is the primary but not the only and exclusive educating community." FC (no 40)

I do not know of one homeschooling parent that is the sole teacher of their children. For starters, my children attend, or have attended, on-line classes, community classes, science workshops, homeschooling coops, seminars, discussions, and PE. Do I know Latin?  Nope. So, how do I teach it? Through the experts who do know Latin, and how to teach it. The boys use their DVD's every day, and would tell you that Ms. Leigh or Mr. Moore is their teacher - Mom just helps out!

Even without these resources, parents are never the sole teachers of their children. Charles Dickens, Shakespeare, Cicero, and a host of other authors have a lot to share. All I do is guide the reading a bit, provide some discussion, and listen to the results.

More specifically, Fr. Stravinskas was speaking about high school education. It is a valid question - how can the average homeschooling parent teach high school subjects with the needed depth?  The answer is - we don't!
I would be the first to tell you that I do not excel in math or science. If I tried to teach my children all about chemistry, for example, it would be a very, very short class!

But what I do know how to do well is to research and find great science classes, science curriculum, and experiments. 

Homeschooling parents are like shepherds. It is our job to guide our children to the green valleys and still waters where they can take refreshment and nourishment. Our job is to lead our children's education, not to be the sole voice in it. 

Name Your Source
#3 - Homeschooling leads to a decline in religious vocations.
Really? Where did that come from? I would like to know, because from what I have read, homeschooling often has the opposite effect. Catholic families who include faith in the homeschooling life usually are big supporters of religious vocations. Our children are the ones altar serving daily mass in the school year. 
Sorry, Fr. Stravinskas - I am just not buying this one!

 Thou Shalt Attend Catholic School
#2 - Families who homeschool instead of sending their children to Catholic school teach their children that priests cannot be trusted to hand on the faith. 

 First, Fr. Stravinskas' argument would have to mean that priests are the ones teaching in Catholic schools. That is not the case. Catholic schools are usually staffed by lay-people. Sometimes religious, but that seems to be the exception anymore, not the rule.  
Catholic families can choose not to send their children to Catholic schools for several reasons, which many other writers have explored. I will just sum up.
First, some families, it is true, do not like their particular Catholic schools. Sometimes it is because the school is more Catholic in name or location, rather than mission and curriculum. Sadly, this can happen. It is fair for Catholic families to expect a truly Catholic education from a Catholic school. Fr. Stravinskas wants us to leave the determination of that to priests.
Secondly - the cost. When it costs $15,000 a year to send one child to the nearest Catholic high school (and we have four children), then it becomes a financial burden to the family. Yes, a family should not expect a free education, but a Catholic education should not be available solely to the well-off. Even with scholarships, we could not afford this. Many families are in this situation. 
Some diocese do this well. The Diocese of Topeka, Kansas has made it much more affordable, and I have heard St. Louis, MO is similar. It can be done, but sadly, it usually is not.

Perhaps Fr. Stravinskas was thinking of the Vatican II document, Christian Education. It says:

"Catholic parents are reminded of their duty to send their children to Catholic schools  wherever this is possible, to give Catholic schools all the support in their power, and to cooperate with them in their work for the good of their children." Christian Education, Vat. II, No 8

But if so, he forgot this quote, from the same document:
"Parents, who have a primary and inalienable duty and right in regard to the education of their children, should enjoy the fullest liberty in their choice of school." Christian Education, No 6

We are Catholic, Yes it's True! We are Catholic, How About You?
#6 - Homeschoolers can set themselves apart as an "elite Catholic" group, causing division within the Church. 

This is a valid point. It can happen. There can arise, from some, the attitude that "we are more Catholic than you because we homeschool." It does not have to be said, it can be implied. 
Schooling is a choice that each parent has to make. Personally, I went to public schools my whole life. I made great friends, was supported and challenged in my faith, learned a great deal, and was influenced for the good. Because it was what was right for me. Public and Catholic schooling parents should not judge homeschoolers for being anti-establishment, and Catholic homeschooling parents need to be clear they do not feel superior to others because they strive to blend faith and life in a way not often found in traditional schools. 
This is true of any group of Catholics. It is a mistake to think that only your way of doing things is correct. Yes, we have to follow Church Law and remain faithful, but there is a wide world of variation in how that is lived out. St. Paul and St. Peter disagreed with each other many times. They had different styles and different missionary aims. Thus proving that while all are called to discipleship, not all are called to witness in the same manner. 
What is a Catholic homeschooling family? Do they have to use a particular curriculum? Do they have to say certain prayers? Not watch tv? Is it a sin to be familiar with modern culture?  Do they have to attend daily mass? If this is how you judge others, you are certainly setting up barriers. 
There is nothing more damaging to the faith than a sense of superiority. One can teach, gently correct, give example, but to start saying "you are a good Catholic" and "you are not"....well, that is a bit like playing God.

Let the Church be the guide, and we Her faithful followers. 

To Be Continued...
And the #1 reason Fr. Stravinskas claimed homeschooling is bad - catechesis is the province of the pastor, not the parent. And this, my friends,  - the problem of religious education and homeschooling - will be the subject of the third, and final, blog in this series of responses to the OSV article on homeschools vs. Catholic schools. 


Other helpful quotes:
all from Familiaris Consortio:

The  right of the parents to choose an education in conformity with their religious faith must be absolutely guaranteed. No 40

The State and the Church have the obligation to give families all possible aid to enable them to perform their educational role properly. FC no 40

However, those in society who are in charge of schools must never forget that the parents have been appointed by God as the first and principal educators of their children and their right in completely inalienable. No 40

In the Meantime

Whew - a bit of a blog break there!

Last week I was able to take the Young Adult and his friend, Cupcake, to a Highland dance competition in Kansas City, MO. About an 8 hour drive from our place. Not too bad. Most of the driving is through Oklahoma and Kansas, where there are lots of long stretches of road without a lot to see. Well, not totally true. We drove through the lovely Flint Hills of Kansas, where it looked like you might see a shepherd herding sheep at any moment. And of course, we drove through the Turner Falls region of Oklahoma, our family's favorite local vacation place.
Stretching our legs at a "scenic turnout" near Turner Falls, OK

I can almost feel the cold spring waters of Chickasaw National Park!

We were able to stay with friends in Topeka, so that made it like a vacation, and not just a trip. It was so fun to catch up to a family we could totally be related to. We miss them since they moved!

It was nice for the kids to meet new friends and dance in a different competition. For starters, while it had been 100 degrees in Arlington, Tx the weekend before, at the North Texas Highland games, we hit Kansas City at just the right time. It was gorgeous weather, highs in the 70's! We loved every second of it!
Saturday was beautiful! The venue was on the banks of the Missouri river.

The Young Adult has been struggling in his dancing lately. He had "hit a wall", and just could not seem to get past some stuff. He has put a lot of work into it. Even as he was dancing on Saturday, Cupcake told me - "I hope he does well and gets a medal. He has really lost a lot of confidence lately, and that would help." I couldn't say it any better than Cupcake!
Cupcake in the swords dance

Well, he did! The Young Adult managed a 2nd place in the Sean Truibhas (usually one of his more difficult dances), and a 3rd in the Swords! So, he got a stamp for his dance card, and was almost giddy with relief! The next day he even pulled out a 3rd in the Lilt!
Swords - catching some air!

Cupcake did pretty well, too, but she was in a very large group. She is one level ahead of the Young Adult, and the dancing can get very tough in the Novice group!

I was really proud of them, because I almost totally screwed things up! It was over an hour drive from Topeka, where we were staying, to Kansas City, MO. On Saturday morning, we left plenty early. It should have worked. Only we didn't plan on:
  1. an evil GPS, which refused to find the address or park until we had been lost a long time, and were in the general area
  2. the fact I only realized I forgot my phone when the GPS would not find our destination
  3. we got lost on the wrong side of town. The really wrong side of town....
Short story - I finally delivered the kids at the festival 20 minutes late! Not 20 minutes after registration, but 20 minutes after the dancing was supposed to begin! I had them do some light warming up in the car (a Volkswagen Beetle - so, yeah, not much room in the back there!), and directed them to finish getting dressed (shoes, socks, accessories!). You could hear the panic in their voices ("Are we going to miss it?", to which I did not have a positive answer), but they held themselves together, which helped to hold me together!!!

As we (at long last!) pulled up to the gates of the park, I yelled, "run! run!", and they took off! My guardian angel helped me to find a parking place nearby (a miracle), and I got in to the park to find that the little kids were going first, so they had not missed anything yet! I even had time to put Cupcake's hair into a bun (another miracle, since I am kind of out of practice on that kind of stuff!). They were able to settle down and dance.  Kudos to those two young people, for their fortitude and stamina!
After the Saturday competition, with their medals and ribbons

Ribbons and medals get you free cookies from the Welsh cookie guy! Jealous!!

By the end of the trip, I was more than exhausted. But, I really enjoyed it. Cupcake and the Young Adult are easy travelers together. They are fun to take around! And thanks to ArtGuy, who took a few days off so iIcould take this trip!

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Homeschooling, Catholic Schools, and a Whole Lot of Grief

Boy, did Our Sunday Visitor stir up a hornet's nest!

The website recently published an article by Michelle Martin titled "Homeschoolers sometimes at odds with diocese". The article tries to examine the sometimes tenuous relationship between Catholic homeschoolers and their local parishes or diocese. The article raised many questions, but provided inadequate answers. There are so many issues that crop up, it is hard to know where to begin addressing them.

Let me start off by saying, that I am a mother of four, a homeschooling mom of 8 years, a religious education instructor, a writer of religious ed lesson plans, a former Coordinator of Religious Education, and a writer on all of the above. In other words,  I have a lot to say. So much, that I think I will divide this into three separate blogs.

Let us proceed with part one, shall we?

When ____ Freezes Over. Love, The Diocese of Austin, Texas.

First - The article explained how Bishop Vasquez of Austin, TX recently responded to a homeschool group who requested the Bishop attend a mass, blessing the new school year for homeschooling families. The Bishop chose to reply through his Catholic school superintendent, Ned Vanders:

“Bishop Vásquez received your invitation to celebrate a Eucharistic liturgy for the fall home-schooling blessing Mass.Bishop Vásquez believes Catholic education, and in particular Catholic school education, is an essential part of the life of the Diocese of Austin. As you know, Catholic schools are at the heart of the mission of the Church.“Bishop’s presence at the home-schooling Mass would convey a contradictory message equating the importance of Catholic school education with Catholic home schooling; therefore, Bishop Vásquez must respectfully decline the invitation.Sincerely in Christ,Ned F. Vanders, Ed.D.” 

This reply was a tragedy, in many respects.

The Diocese of Austin could not have said it any more clearly. They do not like homeschoolers. A shame, really, because reports are that homeschool life is jumpin' down there!

The problem occurred when the Bishop:
 a) Let someone else make a statement for him. Regardless of the fact it is out of Vanders mouth, we must take it for the Bishop's position. Almost all shepherds in the Church, from the Pope on down to the local pastor, must rely on a group of trusted advisers to help fill in the blanks on issues they may not be well-versed in.
No biggie there.
Perhaps the superintendent of diocesan schools was not adviser in this matter. It is a shame that the Bishop could not have crafted a reply -simply declining the invitation - himself, or through his secretary.

b) Chose a side. For, through Vanders, Bishop Vasquez pretty much said that the Austin area homeschoolers are a lower Catholic lifeform, and wanted to make that statement in print....on file...for the record! My guess is that Bishop Vasquez really does not know anything about homeschooling, or homeschoolers. (Apparently, he is not even aware that homeschools in Texas are considered private schools. Therefore, Catholic homeschools are mini Catholic schools.)
He missed an opportunity to meet with this group - to get to know this part of his flock, and perhaps to come away with a better idea if homeschooling is a cult (his fear?), an enemy of the modern Church anxious to whisk us back to pre-Vatican II (a bigger fear), or if this is a legitimate form of education that will support and strengthen his diocese, the local parishes, vocations (surely not!) and (gasp!)the Catholic schools.

Bishop Vasquez's reply was very short-sighted and close-minded. And, folks, that is a huge insult for a city who prides itself on hipness and progress. Why make yourself an enemy of homeschoolers? Why draw lines in the sand?

Is the Bishop of Austin the first to chose to short-change Catholic homeschoolers? No. Will he be the last? No. I was told by one Catholic educator (who had the ear of a pastor), "Homeschoolers should stay home, where they belong - that's a part of their name, after all". Homeschoolers face this kind of opposition fairly often.

The best defense? Education (imagine that!)
Bishop Vasquez was ill-advised, and not discerning enough in how the situation was handled. The best way homeschoolers can handle this kind of response - whether from a diocese or a parish - is to remain open and honest, inviting pastors to come and see homeschooling groups, to drop in on coop classes, to say blessings. Perhaps local homeschool associations can form outreach boards, that offer to meet with parishes or the diocese to explain who they are and what they stand for.
And for heaven's sake - stay involved in the parishes! Many think "Catholic homeschoolers", and you load in your head an image of a nice, plain woman in a denim jumper (rosary in pocket), opening the door to her 15-seater van, while children of seemingly every age tumble out like clowns in a circus. The children all speak fluent Latin ("Would you like me to help you translate that, Fr. Smith?"), and they grow (almost) all their own food. The family is polite to a fault, the children have never held a Nintendo DS, and the tv cabinet is only opened for religious programming.

Please let me say that I know families like this! And I love them! All of that is great. But to many people, this is stereotypical homeschooler.  In reality, homeschoolers are all around us, from the chic woman whose children are avid sports jocks, to the gorgeous 40-something whose daughters are ballerinas, to the woman whose children can quote pretty much every episode of Spongebob Squarepants and spot swear words in a cross word puzzle and actively translate Latin into English, (guess which one is me?), these families are schooling at home and remaining active in the parish. The only way you know it is when you ask the kids, "where do you go to school." There is that moment of silence before their eyes twinkle as they reply - "Oh, we homeschool", before they run off to blend in to the crowd.

Homeschoolers, at least in Austin, look like they need to educate the educators!

Saturday, June 4, 2011

A Good Saturday

Hello, peeps!

Me, saying hello, while frying in the sun.

Today was the North Texas Scottish Festival and Highland Games, or in other words, The Hottest Scottish Festival on the Earth! We had a scare yesterday, when The Young Adult rolled an ankle during rehearsal. It was sore all night. In the past, he has severely sprained both ankles and broken one ankle, so this injury made him (and me) very nervous. It was hard to strike the right chord between encouraging ("It isn't swollen. I think it is okay.") and freaking out ("Oh my gosh, we are probably going back to the orthopedic doctor! Get out the boot and the crutches! AUGH!"). 

After a competition, I cannot get his songs out of my head!
 This morning The Young Adult could not dance. But he wanted to go watch. So we all piled in the car and headed out to Arlington, TX, about an hour away. We took his outfit. You know......just in case..... and stopped at Walgreen's for two ankle braces....

Checking in. Notice the sturdy brace ("with side supports"!) on the left ankle!

He worked on the ankle after we arrived, and decided he could try the Fling. And lo and behold! He was able to dance! It's a miracle! Well, we were happy, anyway!

The Swords dance make me NERVOUS!

He danced very well. We were super proud of him! He looks so strong up there. But, alas! He did not medal. He came in 4th of 5 in every dance. He was disappointed, but the 4th place was not due to poor dancing on his part. It was an indication of how well his group did, overall.

Cutie and Cupcake totally rocked today! 1st place finishes!

It was really, really hot. Maybe that is a dumb thing to say when we live in Texas, and it is June, but I said it anyway. It was HOT! However, it was about 10 degrees cooler than last year (95 this year; 105 last year). We were all roasted by the time he was done.
Romeo, squinting in the hot sun

Cookie Boy and Monkey, trying to stay cool

It is always fun to see all the people dressed up at these festivals. To hear the bagpipe bands. To see all the cool items for sell (swords, daggers, and haggis, oh my!).

Although the festival was full of delicious food, it was just way too hot to enjoy it. We got The Young Adult his haggis, and headed home. Well, home via Freddy's.
It was like a heavenly sign...

Too tired and hot to like anything, until he scarfed down a grilled cheese and a sundae!

And to crown it all off - the Monkey went poopy in the potty when we got home. Another miracle (not so minor)!

Now all we need to make the weekend complete is for the Mavs to win tomorrow night!

I don't think this is on the South Beach Diet "approved" list. Whoops!

Thursday, June 2, 2011

The Lost Generation

My posts on this blog vary, as I write it for my own amusement (and hope like crazy someone other than me perhaps reads it and enjoys it!). Sometimes I write as a mom of 4 boys, sometimes I write as mother-of-the-Monkey, sometimes I write as a homeschooler, and sometimes I write as Christian in general, and sometimes I write more specifically as a Catholic. Or all of the above!

Today is the "Catholic" variety! (Thanks to fr. Jason Cargo for his inspiration for this post!)

I consider myself as part of the "lost generation" of Catholics. We are the ones born and raised in the 1970's, 1980's, and probably the very beginning of the 1990's. We are are the post-Vatican II generation, but born and raised so soon after this major council, that the effects of it were confusing - to say the least, and although most of us were never aware of it (Vatican II being "ancient history" to us), our experience of faith was profoundly influenced by the confusion of the implementing of this Council.

Not that Vatican Council II was bad. So much of it was very, very good. But the changes were not always understood, or were implemented too quickly and without proper preparation. One cannot also discount the "mood of the times", as well. The 1960's and 1970's (and really, the 1980's) were a time of great change, especially in America. The "sexual revolution", the changing workforce, education reforms, economic boom - these all lended to a vast change in the very culture of America. And while one country's particular culture does not change what a Papal Council teaches, it does affect the way in which the teachings are received.

And to a culture where technology and information has been speeding up constantly over decades, the idea that a set of teachings will take decades to understand and plunder is almost... well, almost a medieval thought.

And yet, here we are, around 40 years post-Vatican, still unraveling the meaning of Vatican Council II, still trying to understand how to balance the modern and the dignified past, still trying to grasp how to be in the world and not of the world.

As a consequence of this, my peers and myself who grew up Catholic received a very different religious education than our parents and grandparents. Some of it was good - a lessening of fear and anxiety, and an deeper understanding of God's unfailing love. But sadly, much of it was - in reality - a watered-down version of faith.

I was never educated in Catholic schools until college. I know my major experience of faith formation was "God is love. Draw a picture of God as love". I remember that in almost every single religious ed book from Kindergarten through 7th grade, when I was finally able to quit my parish religious ed class.

I was a spiritually hungry child, who ate up Bible stories and facts (I totally rocked in Bible Baseball). I wanted to know, I ached to experience the fullness of faith. I had some very good religious ed teachers, but the materials given to work with were often....less than fulfilling.

As a result of similar experiences, my generation became lost, spiritually speaking. The Church, not in herself but in the way Vatican II was interpreted, seemed, in many ways, unknowable. A mystery, but not an alluring one. We were not taught enough to be introduced to the wealth of faith and meaning behind what we gathered to do every week. It was a faith experience softened to be compatible with the world.

College blew my mind. I went to Franciscan University of Steubenville. I had no intention of studying theology, but as the teachings of the Church were clearly explained and unfolded before my mind, I began to wake up. This Church that I had committed to, but never really knew, became more and more lovely to my eyes. The history, the rationality, the extreme mysteries of rite and ritual grounded in an earth-shattering logic, the profound love of the dignity of each and every person - these were the things I had hungered for and never knew existed (or perhaps I did know, but only received hints of, and thus I hungered).

Now, as an adult, one of my jobs is to educate parents in a Baptism preparation class. I also am involved in religious education, and am now trying to write for children in a faith setting. I have come to understand my calling as a mission to #1) educate children, but more importantly #2) educate parents.

By educating parents, I mean filling in those gaps of what we missed in our growing up. To give some kind of understanding that faith is all-encompassing. That even rites and rituals have a logical, beautiful flow. To know that there is substance to this faith of ours. Educating children is great, but educating the lost generation is really the goal.

Thanks to Blessed John Paul II, who knew we were lost and who called us by name back into the light. Thanks to the many teachers, educators, priests, and theologians who work tirelessly to find and seek the lost.

Because now the lost generation are parents, raising children in the church. Some of those children are quite young, some are teens and young adults. And they have been taught all their life by the lost generation (and those converts, who burst like fiery comets across the course of our sky). So, even though today's youth have the advantage of the new Catechism and the trickle-down religious ed from its publishing, they have been in the hands of the lost their whole lives.

What is the answer? That is the trillion dollar question. Whole-family catechesis, parish catechesis, cluster groups, faith formation, LifeTeen, and so on - these are but an example of how this question has tried to be addressed. Some work better than others. Some mean well, but fail in form. The Church continues to seek ways to reveal its beauty in a modern way, in a modern voice, but still connected to the past. And above all, not falling into the path of the world.

When Blessed John Paul II called us, we were young. We are no longer young people. I miss his voice. I still hear it -"My good young people, rejoice!". But I now know he was like John the Baptist, meant to show the way, not BE the way. As I am no longer young, it is time to rise up and claim my heritage. A weak spiritual diet may have led to standing on weak legs, but I can feed myself now. Or, I know where to go in order to be fed.

It is time for the lost generation to come forth. "Arise, shine, for your light has come, and the glory of the LORD rises upon you." (Isaiah 60:1). Come and taste the feast prepared for you.