Sunday, August 12, 2012

Summer Reading

The last Read-Aloud that the younger kids and I did for the school year was The True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle by Avi. This is a great story about a 13 year old girl returning from her boarding school in England to her parents in Boston, who gets put onto a sailing ship with a crew planning to mutiny. There is treachery and lots of adventure. It is filled with nautical terms. A surprise ending makes this story great!
I've been reading a lot of Non-Fiction this summer. Miracles of John Paul II, by Pawel Zuchniewicz is a nice little hardcover book that I picked up for a dollar at the homeschool conference. It has the subtitle Santo Subito , Italian for "Sainthood Now" which was displayed on many homemade signs at the funeral of this holy Pope. This was a wonderful collection of some of the many miracles associated with him during his life and after his death.The book tells about specific instances of both children and adults being healed of life threatening illnesses through his prayers and touch. John Paul II embodied holiness and had a profound love for our Lord, The Blessed Mother and all people. He was very prayerful and traveled the world. He also embraced the use of media as a way of evangelizing. The author believes that he is a Saint, and in fact, the Church has proclaimed him "Blessed." I know that it is hard to think about him without my eyes tearing up!
Fatima, The Great Sign, written by Francis Johnston, I am reading slowly. This was a also a dollar in the same book bin at the conference. The reason I am reading it is because I am aware that the Virgin Mary appeared in Fatima, Portugal less than 100 years ago to three shepherd children many times and she carried a message to the world. She encouraged the faithful to pray the Rosary daily for peace in the family and in the world. Her apparitions were accompanied by a "great sign", "the Miracle of the Sun" which was witnessed by 70,000 people on October 13, 1917. On that day, it had been raining hard all day and night. At the time of the vision, the sun lurched forward from the sky towards the earth and completely dried up the grounds in an instant. This was reported in newspapers at the time.

I am at the point of believing that any problems that we have that can't be solved with shelves can be turned over to God by way of the daily family Rosary, asking Mary to pray for us poor sinners now and at the hour of our deaths. Praying the Rosary gives me peace and hope. I often need that!

The author of this book is very concerned because one of the Fatima messages stated that Russia  should be consecrated to The Immaculate Heart of Mary by the Church. As far as the author of this book is concerned, this hasn't happened yet due to political correctness. I will have to continue reading to get more of the details on this.
This new paperback, entitled Who's Got You, is written by John Clark, one of the seven sons of Dr. Mary Kay Clark, a homeschool pioneer and the director of Seton Home Study School. His title refers to the fact that most children feel safer if their Dad is there. Just having Dad present makes them feel protected, but where does the buck stop for a Dad to feel safe and protected? This book is hilarious in the way the author presents many scenes from family life and the need for Dads to have a a relationship with God as his source of strength, and to have a Faith that really Works. It was easy to read and made me laugh in its cleverness!
The Eighty Dollar Champion  is written by Elizabeth Letts, who was herself, the runner up of California's Horse and Rider of the Year contest. It is the true story of a horse literally bought off a trailer headed to the slaughter house. This book was a Mother's Day gift from Tim and Kristy and turned out to be the great true story of a young Dutch immigrant and his beautiful young family of blonde haired children who loved and trained this special plow horse to be the winner of The Horse of the Year and the overall Champion Horse at the  Madison Square Garden Diamond Jubilee Horse Show in 1958.
 Harry de Leyer taught riding during the day at a fancy girls' school but during the evenings and on weekends he worked with this horse who was unknown but had "heart". Harry and Snowman could jump over six and seven foot fences back in the day when no one even wore a helmet! This book had tons of horse vocabulary but also talked about the young immigrants struggle to make it in a new country and the changing times that they lived in. Television had a huge impact on the number of folks who watched horse shows and the newspapers loved to report on this underdog. The horse literally pulled a plow during the week and jumped on week-ends!
 Thanks Tim and Kristy for such a great gift! They tricked me, by inserting a written note deep in the last third of the book which I think was designed to see if I actually read it!!! I'm glad I  did because I enjoyed the historical part of the changing culture where the little guy could make a big difference in the posh world of big money through his own hard work and his personal relationship with his own horse.
This last book, The Robe was written by Lloyd Douglas. I saw it at Cecilia's house and she highly recommended it as a life changing story. I am excited and ready for some historical fiction because it is fun to go into a different time and place by reading a good book. In this account of Jesus' time, Biblical figures are the characters and I am told that I will see them in a much more human way.
In addition to re-reading The Hunger Games trilogy and some Hardy Boys books I picked up at the conference, John is now reading the five part series of  The Borrowers written by Mary Norton. These little people live under the floor of a big house and have to forage for the items they need from the big peoples' stuff and they use things in ingenious ways.
Miss J,  who reads at night after she gets into bed, has finished the Happy Little Family series written by Rebecca Caudill, this summer. She and I read them together last year, I read a page and then she read a page while looking on together but she can read them to herself now. It is a shame that there are only four of them because these little kids are cute and have lots of fun and adventure. It is mostly about two sisters but the whole family is featured in their work and play. The stories take place in Kentucky in the early 1900's.
She has also read The American Girl Book of Horse Stories, which is another book that I bought for a dollar at the conference. This a book of short stories about a topic that she loves!

Midnight in the Dollhouse written by Marjorie Filley Stover has been on our shelves for years and was enjoyed by the older girls when they were younger. In this story about a girl who breaks her leg in a tree fall and is bedridden for months, dollhouse people come alive during the night and have a full life going on by her bedside!

Summer is a great time for reading and I am grateful to have had some leisure time in which to enjoy it in between our many activities!

Friday, August 10, 2012

Swim Team

Many of our friends are on one of the six local swim teams. I never thought that I could work the evening practice times into my schedule until this year. Now, I can see what they love about it!

With my youngest child able to participate and the boys wanting to join, this turned out to be a great addition to our summer. We all made friends and the kids' swimming improved tremendously.
The practices were every evening, M-Th for two hours. During that time, I chatted with the other Moms or read. The younger kids swam for an hour and then the older kids the second hour. When they weren't swimming, the kids played Four Square on the concrete or we walked to the playground beside the pool. I had to cook dinner early and serve it by five o'clock or we ate when we got home.
Being new this year, we opted out of the first two Meets, but then the kids signed up and began competing. That was very exciting! The Meets are very well run with an efficient use of time.
Those finishing a race remain in the water until the next racers dive over them to start swimming.That really keeps things moving!
At the beginning of the Meet, each swimmer writes on their arm in permanent marker their event number, the heat they are in, their lane number and the stroke. It is their responsibility to be standing in line ready to swim four events ahead of time. If you aren't ready, they don't wait- the race takes off without you. You can imagine my stress level at our first meet trying to help our kids to get in line for four events each. By the end of the season they didn't need me to help them much at all!
There are four strokes they swim, Freestyle  (the crawl), Breaststroke, Backstroke and the Butterfly. Sam swam in a few relays too.
Our Coach was in her 17th year of coaching this team. She also coached Cindi and Jeff. I remember seeing Jeff's many ribbons from these swim meets but sadly, I don't remember attending one before! Where the heck was I?  I must have been at home with a bunch of younger children. Jeff was driving himself at that age. I really regret missing the Meets that he was in. I also wondered why I hadn't put the girls on this team, however, they actually tried it for a few days, years ago. It wasn't their thing and we got our money back. Instead, we've been going to horse farms for eight years!

The time was just right to be able to enjoy having the three  younger kids in the same activity at the same time and place! They have all become stronger swimmers and have developed many muscles.
Natalie, holding Hank who can someday swim on this team with our kids because the age range is 5-18, enjoyed some of the practices also. She would stand by the pool and talk with her friends.
Joining the Swim Team was a marvelous way to spend many evenings and a few Saturday mornings this summer. We all look forward to doing it next year, God willing!

Thursday, August 9, 2012

VBS 2012

I was able to volunteer my time at our parish's Vacation Bible School which took place over one week from 9am -12 noon daily for 100 kids. I joined about 9 other adults and 30 teens to put on a program that we purchased called "A Radical Ride on the Wings of Prayer".
We started to meet in May to prepare for it and our Director was a truly organized professional. She really knew how to lead a business meeting and I learned a lot from her. Like in years past, The Cat Chat program we used had five stations for the children to rotate through- Faith, Music, Crafts, Games and Snacks. There was an opening and closing assembly daily that featured a short teaching,  skits, singing and dancing.
I was assigned the Snack station which I did last year and really enjoyed. The guidebook gave detailed directions about what snack to serve with pictures and a scripted way to pull the snack into the daily theme. I shopped ahead of time for non-perishables and almost daily to purchase the fruits and vegetables used throughout this incredibly busy week. 
We purchased the food and craft supplies with money donated by generous parishioners for this purpose. Each child paid only 10 dollars for the whole week.
I had to buy 55 pounds of bananas for the first day for the children to make "airplanes" using graham crackers for the wings and tail rudder and chocolate chips stuck into the banana for windows. I picked up another 25 pounds later in the week for extra snacks for the little ones.
On Tuesday we served "Polish Planes" with the same idea only using hotdogs, cheddar cheese and ketchup for windows.
It was also my responsibility to keep our teen-aged volunteers fed! I tried very hard to have plenty of healthy snacks in their work room each day and was able to serve a light buffet "lunch" after the young children went home. While the workers ate, our director wrapped up the day with a short meeting that addressed any areas for improvement and set out the plan for the next day.

Food allergies were something that we paid close attention to! Gluten, peanuts, strawberries, dairy and fruits were some things that individuals had to avoid and we made substitutions for those items for those children. Special nametags with a color coded dot helped to keep that straight and the fantastic teens that I worked with on a daily basis in my station and the "age group" teen leaders were also a huge help in keeping  these children safe.

I had about eight teens that worked in the kitchen with me to prepare a boatload of food in the morning and serve it to the youngsters as each class came in for a 25 minute session. On Pizza Bun day, the boys made pizzas and the girls acted like waitresses for tables of about twenty kids per class. 

The adults made a very special effort to treat our teen helpers with RESPECT. I prayed every morning that I might be able to Lead them and not Boss them. We were all well aware that these teens make this event possible and that they are the future of our church. Many teens come back year after year to help with VBS because it is so rewarding and a lot of fun to volunteer with lots of other young people for a week every summer. Eighth Graders volunteer to get their Confirmation hours and then return because they want to!

Each day I also led a game for the kids after their snack. The book gave some suggestions and we used some from last year that they really liked. One new game that I learned from this was "Bird, Box and Worm. This is just like "Rock, Paper, Scissors and the other version that we played " The Bear, The Hunter and The Lady." The bird eats the worm, the box traps the bird and the worm crawls out of the box to win.

It was a lot of hard work but it was worth it because four of my children worked it daily with me.  Sam played the drums in the Music room, Natalie led the Third graders through their rotation each day and John was the official Time Keeper, giving each station a five minute warning and then ringing the bell when it was time to switch all morning. Miss J. was a participant.We left the house at 7:30 am and returned each day between 2 and 3pm, exhausted. I am trying to pass the faith onto my own children primarily!
Each VBS participant received a CD of all the songs they learned and by the end of the week they had memorized the choreography that goes with each song. It was pretty cute to see our kids singing and dancing for their Dad when they showed him what we had been doing all week! Before VBS this time, I was thinking that I wouldn't sign up again to help next summer but by the end of the week, I had changed my mind!

Dollhouse Redo

 One afternoon the kids impressed me by repainting our wooden doll house.They had a lot of fun selecting and mixing colors, painting each room individually. 

I loved the fact that I was completely out of the loop during this whole project and that they worked together. This seemed like a very good use of a summer afternoon and it would be a pleasure to see them do something like this again!

Lovely Lindsay

We attended a Bridal Shower for my lovely niece and it was delightful in every way.
It was held in a large room which lent itself so well for decorations and accommodated the many friends and  family members who came to offer their Best Wishes.

I was really thrilled to see the many little touches that turned this special occasion into a real social event! All the guests were given their own stem glass with a "blackboard" base and a fresh piece of white chalk tied with a ribbon in wedding colors, black or red, to personalize it.
Beverages were served in wonderful decanters. Fruit Sangria for those who imbibe, lemonade and iced tea.
Many Shower guests brought a favorite bottle of wine to help the couple start their wine cellar. These gifts were placed in a couple of old wooden crates.
Near the wine collection was this whimsical "initial" of the groom's surname made out of corks!
Other elegant touches included vases of different varieties of white flowers placed on table runners of burlap that was edged in white lace!
Near the clever coffee service, a Keurig machine ready to make each guest a "perfect cup", stood this custom photo collage book filled with many pictures  highlighting stages of Lindsay's life.

The Hostesses for this Bridal Shower were two very close friends of Lindsay. Both of these young mothers did a spectacular job and their little ones seemed to enjoy it all!

In fact, babies were in abundance and welcomed on the invitation. It really reminded me of how "Showers" are such a social tradition for women from every generation. For instance, the lady in the halter dress above is the great-grandmother of the baby in polka dots, and the baby with the hair bow had her great-grandmother present as well! Those are two different families!
Showers are far more than gift giving occasions. They are a "right of passage" and a chance to really share in a friend or loved one's good fortune and happiness. Some of us remember when it was our turn to be the "Bride-to-Be" and others perhaps look forward to their special day...

Shower guests included the bride's Mom, Sisters, Grandmother, Holly and other very special friends of the family,
the Groom's family and friends,

And members of my own family!
We nibbled on delicious treats, prepared and presented beautifully!
Besides all of the visiting between many people that I have known for thirty years, all of us sharing in the heart-felt joy of this happy occasion, there was a bounty of gifts to outfit the soon to be Misses' home.

We all had a big laugh when someone lost the clothespin game!
A beautiful fondant icing cake was served toward the end of our wonderful time together.
Wishing you every happiness, Lindsay!  We all love you so much!!!