Sunday, July 31, 2011

The Gospel in a Nutshell - How can you show compassion?

Mt 14: 13-21
When Jesus heard of the death of John the Baptist,
he withdrew in a boat to a deserted place by himself.
The crowds heard of this and followed him on foot from their towns.
When he disembarked and saw the vast crowd,
his heart was moved with pity for them, and he cured their sick.
When it was evening, the disciples approached him and said,
“This is a deserted place and it is already late;
dismiss the crowds so that they can go to the villages
and buy food for themselves.”
Jesus said to them, “There is no need for them to go away;
give them some food yourselves.”
But they said to him,
“Five loaves and two fish are all we have here.”
Then he said, “Bring them here to me, ”
and he ordered the crowds to sit down on the grass.
Taking the five loaves and the two fish, and looking up to heaven,
he said the blessing, broke the loaves,
and gave them to the disciples,
who in turn gave them to the crowds.
They all ate and were satisfied,
and they picked up the fragments left over—
twelve wicker baskets full.
Those who ate were about five thousand men,
not counting women and children.

In today's gospel reading we find Jesus tired and mournful after hearing the news of the murder of John the Baptist.  The man who is constantly surrounded by crowds is seeking to be alone in his sorrow.  The crowds, however, with multiple needs and petitions follow Him.  Instead of directing His disciples to ask the crowd to please give Him some space to mourn, Jesus looks on the crowd with pity.  During the homily today, our deacon explained that the word "pity" used here was referring to more of a "compassion". 

Even during times of fatigue, of sadness or lonliness, Jesus is showing us His compassion and mercy to those in most need of help.  How many times have we said we are too tired, too short on money, too busy to help those in need?

We then get to the portion of the gospel where we hear the familiar story of the feeding of 5000 (the only one of Jesus' miracles that is told in all four gospels).  The disciples are asked to do something unbelievable, something above their own feed the large group with such a small amount of food.  We are called then, to offer our own resources, however limited they may be, so that God can turn these into miracles...miracles that can impact thousands.

Perhaps this story is told in all four gospels because it is a story we need to hear over and over again.  It is a lesson on the importance of giving when we have little, it looks forward to the Last Supper where we will see Jesus breaking and blessing bread again and it reminds us who provides for us to meet challenges we cannot meet on our own.

Friday, July 29, 2011

Cloth Diapering our Way

Before I ever had children I met a mother who was very into natural living.  I loved the way she cooked whole foods, used non toxic house cleaners and dressed her kids in organic cotton.  But, when I found out she cloth diapered, I thought she was nuts.  Really.  I could not imagine anything more vile then having to do more with a soiled diaper then roll it up and toss it away.

I really should be careful when I judge people because cloth diapering is one of those deviant things I swore I'd never do (like homeschooling, natural family planning etc etc)....and, well, here I am right now about to write about my love of cloth diapering!  Go figure.

I started cloth diapering with my eldest using a set of gently used motherease one sized cotton diapers and covers.  Someone described these diapers as workhorse diapers and that description is completely true!  I used these diapers with Blueberry covers for Sofia's entire diapering and half of Maya's.  They still look new to this day...but they are no longer soft (although this has nothing to do with the absorbancy).  Since then I have upgraded to the motherease one sized bamboo diapers and I am in love with them.  They have remained soft and like new for baby #3 now.
Motherease one sized diaper in smallest setting (left) and largest setting (right)

 In addition to the motherease diapers, I have a handful of pocket diapers including FuzziBunz and BumGenius that I use for travel or for outfits that need a trimmer diaper.

Oh, did I forget to mention...cloth diapering makes your babies bum look HUGE.  I'm used to it now (and I love the look of it actually) but that was one thing that got some getting used to for me.  The motherease diapers are baggier than the pocket diapers (fuzzibunz and bumgenius).  I prefer the motherease diapers over the pockets, however, because they can easily be used for multiple children without wearing out, they are easy to wash without stink issues that pocket diapers are famous for and they do not have synthetic material touching the baby which results in fewer rashes in my opinion.

We cloth diaper during the day, however, we DO use a disposable diaper at night.  During the day we change diapers every 2 hours or so and at night the girls sleep for longer periods of time, so the disposable works better.  But, on average, we only use one disposable diaper a day! 

Here is a list of what I consider "must haves" for cloth diapering our way:
(this is for one child in diapers full time during the day doing laundry every other day)
  1. 12-15 motherease  one size cloth diapers (choice of cotton, organic or bamboo)
  2. 4-5 covers (motherease airflow is also a nice cover that is virtually leakproof!)
  3. cloth wipes (we use those baby washcloths that every new mother receives a million of at their baby shower!)
  4. One large step garbage can.  We bought ours from Walmart and you can see it below tucked into our bathroom closet:

 5. Two pail liners to collect dirty diapers (we own two WAHMIES pail liners that have been used for five years now without leaking or wearing out!)

6. Diaper Sprayer - Not necessary but has made my cloth diapering experience worlds easier.

Our wash routine (keep in mind that we have NEVER had a stink issue, a buildup issue or leaking issues using this routine)
a) Rinse in COLD with no detergent
b) Whitest White Setting with Country Save detergent (3/4 scoop in our front loader)
c) Another Whitest White setting with NO soap
d) 60 mins in the dryer on Medium setting for diapers and pocket diaper inserts (I have to use a longer dry time because of the bamboo fiber in our diapers).
e) I hang all our diaper covers to dry (I have three blueberry diaper covers that are FIVE YEARS OLD and still working well)

Hope this helps! There are a multitude of cloth diapers styles, fabrics and methods of covering.  We have saved so much money cloth diapering and it feels good at the end of the day not to be throwing away so many disposable diapers into landfills.  Like anything, there is a learning curve to it but before long it becomes second nature.  Hey, if my husband is on board with it...anyone can do it!

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Music our homeschool way!

We are very lucky that we belong to a small homeschool group in our area.   Almost all the members have children who are either starting Kindergarten or first grade so it is wonderful to be able to share experiences and resources with these families.  What is even more special is the bond that our children are beginning to form!

For almost a year now (correct me if I'm wrong ladies!  Time is a blur to me sometimes) our children in the 4-7 age group have been participating in a small music class hosted at one of the mothers' house.  So far, the class has learned to sing various songs in different keys, incorporated movement with the music and most recently have been using wooden sticks to learn the rhythm of music. In the upcoming year the teacher "Miss Kelly" will be starting to do a more formal curriculum that parents can use in their lesson plans to send to the school districts.

Classes are once a month and it is a wonderful time for the children (and the parents!) to get together and have fun! 

While the older siblings are in class, the moms and younger kids get to sit, relax and play a little.  Amazing how much socializing happens in homeschool huh? ;)

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Dealing with difficult people

When I first started seeing patients for physical therapy in a home care setting, I would get frustrated at how difficult some of them could be.  Now, I'm not talking about how difficult their diagnoses were but just how some of them seemed to be miserable, grumpy and impossible to please.  When working with another therapist on a particularly negative patient I got frustrated and asked her "how do you DEAL with this day in and day out?!?!"

Then I got advice that has forever changed the way I deal with people.

The other therapist told me "Nicole, I kill them with kindness". 

I started right away.  As soon as I knew I was walking into a "difficult" patient's house, I would put on a big smile and treat the patient with EXTRA kindness, EXTRA patience, EXTRA love.  And things started changing.

But not how I thought they would.

Not all my patients changed.  Some were still grumpy after my attitude change...and that was OK.  What changed was ME.  I began automatically being "sweet as pie" to ALL my patients and soon it wasn't an act.  I was happier.  I began genuinely wanting to make things better for some of my patients who never seemed happy.  In fact, some of my most difficult patients became the ones I enjoyed visiting the most!  I realized that if I were homebound, in pain, or lonely...I may not be the most agreeable person either.  After giving this piece of advice to my husband, he has done this with some of his patients and has had wonderful success as well!

I read once that "you love God as much as you love your worst enemy".  Next time you meet someone disagreeable, try to smile and "kill 'em with kindness" and see what blessings happen for you :)

Sunday, July 24, 2011

The Gospel in a Nutshell - What do you treasure?

Mt 13: 44-46

Jesus said to his disciples:
“The kingdom of heaven is like a treasure buried in a field,
which a person finds and hides again,
and out of joy goes and sells all that he has and buys that field.
Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant
searching for fine pearls.
When he finds a pearl of great price,
he goes and sells all that he has and buys it.”

In today's gospel, Jesus uses parables once again to describe the kingdom of heaven.  He describes heaven as a treasure, as something we would trade everything to find.  We know, however, where to find the kingdom of is where Jesus is.  Keeping our hearts focused on Jesus we can be sure that we are heading toward our treasure.

What do we treasure? When we live our lives with material objects to treasure we are steering off course from the REAL treasure, the kingdom of heaven.  The gospel of Luke has a complimentary passage to this gospel reading that can give us all something to think about this week:

Luke 12:34    For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.

Now, Jesus did not say that we should put our treasures where our own hearts lead us to. Instead, He teaches that when our treasures on earth are directed to heaven our hearts will follow and go there too.

This week, ask God where to invest your treasures and that is where your heart will follow.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

How we teach reading

As a child I loved to read.  My mother tells me stories of how when I was in grade one I was reading novels (she also remembers my sister walking at 8 months which I'm pretty sure is not take my accounts of being a reading prodigy with a grain of salt!).

When teaching my eldest how to read, I had not seriously considered homeschooling.  I didn't research the homeschooling blogs to see what method was best, or what manipulatives should be used to reinforce what was taught...instead I turned to trusty! I searched "learn to read" and the best selling, highest rated book was Teach your child to read in 100 easy lessons by Siegfried Engelmann, Phyllis Haddox and Elaine Bruner.

When I received the book, I was somewhat intimidated because they make use of Distar orthography which looks like the English language with strange lines and dots above and below the letters.  I actually held on to the book for a few months before starting it when Sofia was shy of 4 years old because I thought it would involve a lot of time learning a new "language" on my part.  I was wrong (thankfully!).  The funny writing you see below is very easy to learn and really does make learning phonics logical and organized.

The lessons are scripted and tell you exactly what to say.  In the picture above you can see the parts that the parent has to say typed in red.  I liked this although it is a complaint some parents have about the program.  The book claims that lessons take about 20 minutes a day and for us this was largely true.  Sofia did not, however, learn to read in 100 days!  At first she flew through her lessons and sometimes did 2-3 lessons a time.  Then halfway through the book, she hated it.  We left it alone for a few weeks and then came back to it.  I am so happy we revisited it because not soon after she began reading by herself!  Somewhere around lesson 80 students will be reading passages like this:

Important phonics lessons are incorporated slowly into each subsequent lesson.  It is done so gradually that you barely even notice they are adding them.  In addition to reading, there are comprehension questions that make sure your child understands the stories they are reading.  There is also writing practice at the end of each lesson where the child writes the letter sound they learned.  We did this at the beginning but we eventually cut that part out.  By lesson 100 your child is reading at a second grade level.  At that point Sofia had no problem reading the stories in the book but was still hesitant to read "regular" books on her own.

Sofia finished this program earlier this year and overall I think it was a success!  It is amazing to watch your child go from learning letter sounds to figuring out entire sentences before your eyes.  What is even better is watching Sofia now reading to Maya and Emelia.  Maya usually loses interest after a while and Emelia just wants to eat the book...but it is still precious and one of my favorite things to see.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

The way you wish you'd been taught!

Curriculum shopping is probably the most exciting and difficult area to prepare for when starting to homeschool.  Like my indecisiveness to home school, I went back and forth on what curriculum to buy.  Mind you, this is only kindergarten...but by the way I researched curriculum you would think I was preparing to teach Sofia college level astrophysics!

My goals for choosing my first lot of curriculum were that:

  1. The material was planned out for me day by day.  I need order.  I do not do well with making and sticking to my own schedule. 
  2. I wanted a curriculum that I could use again with the younger girls.
  3. We are a family that loves to read so I wanted to find something that would further that love and allow us all to enjoy learning together.
With these goals in mind my decision was to use Sonlight

Sonlight is a Christian curriculum that is literature based. Their slogan is "the way you wish you'd been taught" and the more I go over this curriculum, the more I think they are right!  The books we have received for Kindergarten (Core A) look amazing.  The two older girls have already gone through lots of them and have been asking me to read from the poetry books and chapter books!  I figure this can only be a good thing ;)

There are many Catholic curriculum choices out there but, to me, they looked dry and dull.  I would love to incorporate more of the Catholic faith into our home school (and I will), but I didn't care for the curriculum that is currently available.  I can modify what I use/don't use with Sonlight to make it into a Catholic curriculum as needed.

With Sonlight we went with Core A with Level 1 readers.  Upon first glance at the books, the Level 1 readers look somewhat easy for Sofia, but I think some review will be good and since she is enjoying reading, I don't want to frustrate her.

We have also purchased their Science A program but have decided to start that after we finish Core A.

For the rest of the subjects we have chosen:
  • Math:  Horizons K
  • Phonics: Explode the Code Book 2
  • Spelling: All about Spelling
  • Handwriting: Handwriting without Tears
  • Physical Activity: Dance class and/or Gymnastics.  Hopefully we can get a membership to the Y and incorporate some swimming in the winter months!
  • Music: Homeschool music class that she has been attending for a few months already
  • Religion: Sunday School Kindergarten at church.
Written down, this sounds like a lot! Lets see how much of this I keep the same and how much  I'll change in the following months!

Saturday, July 16, 2011


I love being Catholic.

Problem is, I don't know many other families my age that are also as excited about their faith as I am. I even contemplated "visiting" another church to see what it was about them that got their members so excited  about attending.  I wanted that fellowship.  I wanted to meet other families with my beliefs and I didn't know how to find it in the Catholic Church.

My prayers were answered.

Today, my family was invited to a parishioners house.  Not just my husband and myself...but the WHOLE family.  Alongside three other families, we shared a meal and then read and discussed the gospel for tomorrow.  The children all played together with a couple babysitters while the parents got to talk.  This was priceless for my husband and I because although we start off mass with every intention of listening to the readings, with three young children it becomes difficult and (for my husband) sometimes impossible. :)

The group will meet every month for a meal and discussion of the gospel.  I left the group today so happy to meet new friends, to find other practicing Catholic families, to see my children so excited to play with new friends and to have an understanding of the readings at mass tomorrow.

Here's a picture of the girls and I before leaving to go to the gathering. 

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

The Journey Begins...

We have officially decided to homeschool.

I have gone back and forth about whether or not I was making the right decision for our family.  It seemed like every time I spoke to a homeschooling family or went to a homeschool conference I was completely convinced that I wanted to homeschool our children.  Then I would talk to a public school parent or walk through a Catholic school with their classrooms full of beautiful crafts and kids all in uniforms and I would think...nope, we'll send our kids to school.

I wrote my pros and cons down, and all my cons of homeschooling had something in common.  They all had to do with MY insecurities; will people think we are freaks? will my children be freaks? Truth is, we have been freaks from the beginning.

It started with natural childbirth, which lead to delayed vaccinations, cloth diapering, babywearing, not letting our children watch TV...and the list continues to go on.

I'm sure there are people who don't agree with some or all of our parenting decisions, but so far I think we have some pretty amazing children and I am excited to start our next journey as a family into freak-ness. Lets get ready to homeschool!