Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Road Trip Preparation

I've got a few fun craft projects ahead of me, in preparation for our road trip.  I'll share them here, so keep looking for them!  :-)

Tonight's craft?

Road trip binders for each boy.   It took me about 2 hours to do all of it, from start to finish, and I already had some of the supplies on hand, so they ended up being about $8 each.

Check it out!

Start with a few simple supplies:  binder, blank paper, laminating sheets, and crayons.   Cost?  $0.  I had all of this on hand, in our homeschooling supplies

Decorate the binders - My boys are VERY MUCH into Angry Birds right now, so I went with that for the theme

Fill the inside with fun goodies.   I made an "I-spy" bag for each boy, coloured pencils, and a couple of folders.   Cost?  $2 for the coloured pencils, $2 for the pencil bag, $1 for the folders, and $3 for the beads.

Close up of the I-spy bag.  I filled it with shaped beads, and just regular pony beads.   I super-glued the zipper shut, to keep the beads from falling out.

I cut the pencil box into two pieces, and then covered it with my trusty glue gun and some scrap fabric.  I hot-glued it to the binder, along with a list of items to look for in the i-spy bag.

I had a bunch of unused colouring books and workbooks that I'd bought on clearance right after the back to school season at the store.   This came from that stash, so no new costs.

The second folder I filled with blank computer paper, and a supply of construction paper.   Again, this came from our homeschooling stash, so no new purchase.

I'm excited to have the boys play with them.   This will be our "new toy" on Day One of the move.  I'm pretty sure this will keep them pretty busy for awhile in the car - and be able to be used for the rest of the week on the road.   

You could easily fill the folders up with items that would keep your kids' interests - stickers, foam projects, books, puzzles....anything!  

I'll let you know how they make it through the drive!  

Monday, September 17, 2012


Some images from our last few weeks in Arizona......

Dinner at one of our favourite places

After dinner tree climbing....

We are really going to miss this town

And our friends!

And this room.   The schoolroom is all packed and ready to be cleared out.  :-(  Really going to miss this room.

Friday, September 14, 2012

Quick Takes

Thanks to Grace for guest-hosting while Jen is off doing the only reality show I'm actually counting down the minutes until it's on TV!  :-)


Let's see.   What's new here?   In fun news, my tooth saga from May/June is not over.  I've spent the good majority of this week at different dentists and specialists getting all these fun scans done of my mouth.   The diagnosis so far?  No one knows.  Let me tell you how reassuring it is to know that your tooth has officially stumped people who have been in practice a combined 50 years.   Sigh.   Looks like it's going to end up meaning that the tooth is extracted within the next few months, and we'll go from there.   Maybe we'll be able to get some answers at that point.


Wanna see the cause for concern?   Here's a beautiful pic, courtesy of my dentist:

See the last tooth?  The one with the rods in the roots (it's the one that I had a root canal done on in June).  See how much higher it is than the rest of them?   Yep.   It's moved that much in 3 short months, and it's taking the bone along with it on the ride.   So what has my body done?  Created more bone to fill the spaces.   Apparently my jaw wasn't cool enough, at least in my body's perspective.   They had to  mix things up a bit.  ;-)


In other news, I have a carrot cake in the oven and it smells DEE.LIC.IOUS.   Cannot wait to cut into that baby tonight.


Mike and I went to see the 25th anniversary touring production of Les Miserables last night at Arizona State.   We were both a bit hesitant to go, after reading descriptions of the changes that had been made to the score and staging.   However, we were incredibly pleasantly surprised.  It was absolutely fantastic.   I, of course, didn't think ahead after being totally brain dead from my day of dental exams and scans.   Not sure why I didn't recall Les Mis makes me cry, but I didn't.   And I bawled (expectedly).   God bless the woman next to me who brought an extra pack of Kleenex!   She saved my shirtsleeve from being put to use.  Very grateful!

Want some pictures?   Of course you do!  

What have we been drinking every night that Mike's not on call?   Oberon, of course!  It's not sold in Maine.  Gotta get our fill now.  :-)   

A photo to make you jealous.  :-)


What greeted me this morning as I cleaned up the kitchen and made some phone calls after breakfast:

My kids crack me up.


And in moving news, we now have exactly 12 days until we head out on the road again.  Is the house packed, you may wonder?


Not at all.

We've got about 15 boxes filled.  Not bad, right?   I'm trying to avoid them.  We finished up school this week, so next on my to-do list for next week is to box that room up entirely.   That'll make a huge dent in what needs to be done still.   Maybe then I'll feel a bit more accomplished!

Alright, that's a lot about a little!  Have a great weekend, y'all!

Wednesday, September 12, 2012


"It sounds hard to be a Catholic."

"There are too many rules."

"I agree with some Church teachings, but the Church needs to change some other things."

I've heard all of these statements (or variations of) over the past week.   I understand the sentiment behind them, I truly do.   Probably better than some people realize or assume of me - I mean, I've personally uttered versions of these statements in my own past.   They may not know that of me.

In years past, I was hell-bent on changing some of these rules myself.  I would identify myself as Catholic - I even attended Mass weekly - but would openly dissent (loudly) from Church doctrine.  I could reason (so I thought) through anything I chose to do or believe that wasn't in line with the Church.   There was always some hypothetical gray area that I could use to justify my stance.   Always some rationalizing that could be done to prove my point.

And I was a master rationalizer.  I  could make anything sound good.   Lawyers and politicians everywhere would have been proud.

I could justify abortion like nobody's business.....

...... and then turn around and argue against the death penalty.

But I'd flounder when asked to explain why it wasn't okay to kill adult criminals but perfectly okay to end the life of the innocent unborn child.   You see, I'd only accepted half of the puzzle.  I'd decided to pick and choose what parts of the Truth were actually true.

And it was tiring living in such a disjointed belief system.   Nothing lined up.  Nothing fit.

It was tiring....and it was depressing.   I was living in a constant state of uncertainty, where there was no objective truth, where nothing was set in stone, because everything was subjective.   What I felt was true didn't have to be accepted truth because truth was literally undefinable.    Nothing was absolute.   Everything was open to interpretation.

It was limiting and confining.   There was a pretense of freedom (No rules!!  Woo-hoo!), but no accepted wisdom to learn from.  No real direction to grow in or aspire towards.   Nothing was real - everything was a mirage that could be changed on a whim.   Nothing could be certain.

And then I had kids.

Nothing changed at first.   I didn't magically revert back to the Church the instant Rascal #1 made his entrance.   Not by any means.  I held on to my undefinable freedom.   No one was going to tell me what was and was not true.  

Things really started to happen when Rascal #1 began to move around.   He started getting into things.  Hurting himself on things that his mind just couldn't understand quite yet (like the VCR, which he explored with his little hand, culminating in pinched fingers, blood, and lots of tears).  And so, I did what any loving mom who adored her child and only wanted the best for him would do:

I babyproofed the house.

Sharp objects were covered.  Dressers and bookcases anchored to the walls.  Staircases were gated.   It's not easy - or cheap - to do the whole babyproofing thing, but we did it.   Much to Rascal #1's chagrin, the VCR became off limits.   Did he understand why he suddenly couldn't do as his little heart so greatly desired?   Not at all.   The VCR made him happy, and Mom and Dad weren't letting him be happy.

He rebelled at first - trying anything he could to get to that off-limits VCR.   It truly seemed that in his developing mind, that VCR was his only shot at happiness.   We were horribly oppressive, not allowing him the greatest joy in his life.  

And then something interesting happened.  He accepted that the VCR was off-limits.   Things around the house changed.   Instead of focusing on everything he couldn't have.......he started exploring the things he could have.    In his safe environment, he was able to be truly free.   Free from hurting, free from pain, free from suffering.   Free to learn and grow.   Free to laugh and love.   He was protected by all of the babyproofing measures, and that protection allowed him to thrive and become the little boy that he was meant to be.

I found it to be an interesting experience, but honestly, I'm kind of dense sometimes.  It took one more experience to truly start to understand.   You see, one of those issues of faith that I'd publicly dissented from the Church on was the issue of birth control.   I used it, and saw nothing wrong with it.   It was merely modern medicine, an improvement to daily life, and a way of empowering women.   The Church was simply archaic, merely "behind the times."  I was certain that I was right and the 2000-year-old tradition of the Church was just outdated, and, well.....wrong.

I'd been taught well.  I'd had a great education and catechesis when it came to this particular Church teaching.   I'd been taught a simple, easy-and-free-to-follow version of Natural Family Planning in high school.   I had been taught truthfully......but I'd still chosen to dissent.  

A friend called me out on it.   Well, technically, she called me and my husband out on it.  She challenged us to study, learn, and pray for understanding the Church's teaching on contraception and Natural Family Planning.   More than anything else, she challenged us to be obedient while studying.   Live as if we believed in the Church's teaching, while praying for enlightenment, she said.   Learn NFP, and practice it obediently, and the faith will come later.

We were finally willing to hear this challenge.   I'm not sure if we would have responded in the same way if it had been someone else, or if had been merely a year earlier in our lives.   God knew that we were ready to be challenged, and He did so through this friend.

So we did.   We hit some rough moments at first - there's always a bit of a learning curve when it comes to NFP, I'm not going to lie.   Going from a woman who had never taken a second glance at her cycle, one who had never looked for signs of fertility before, to one who was now daily making observations and working to interpret them (through guidance, don't worry!) was a challenge.   There were times when I just wanted to throw it out of the window and go back to being "happy."   Birth control would make me happy, why wouldn't God let me have it?   (I will add here that I had convenient amnesia during this experience.   Birth control was NOT an easy learning curve, either.   I'd gone through many different versions of birth control, all with symptoms and side effects, and still had yet to find one that didn't cause me annoying and uncomfortable side effects when we switched to NFP.   Birth control had not been "easy" by any means, but I'd conveniently left out that part of my memory when complaining about the "rules" of the Church and contraception).

And then something happened.   Like I had noticed with Rascal #1 when he came to accept our babyproofing, something happened with Mike and me.   It was a gradual change, but looking back now, I can see that the difference in us was profound.    Once we accepted the Church teaching and started to abide by it......we were free.

I really struggle with putting this experience into words.   It's hard to find words that truly relays the difference between then and now.   The freedom we feel now is beyond our human language.   The joy that we feel is inadequately described with the English language.   The limits have been removed.   For someone who hasn't experienced NFP this seems to be a contradiction.   How can following rules bring about freedom?    I've put off writing this post because I cannot find the right words to answer that question.   I don't know how it happens.....I just know that following the rules allowed me to be more fully human, more fully female specifically.   Accepting the natural rules written into my body - and learning how to work within them, how to trust my own body - led to freedom.   I was safe within the confines of my own body - not at all unlike Rascal #1's freedom within all of the safety equipment that we'd installed.   He was free to be who he truly was - a creative, curious toddler - without fear.   His limits freed him.   It was the same for Mike and I.   The limits we'd come to accept with our NFP training freed us from the burden of worry, the burden of medical side effects, the burden of health risks.    And if you remember, pregnancy was not without great medical risks for me.   I'd just had a very traumatic birth experience with an emergency room trip, heavy drugs post-partum, and bed rest.   But yet, the "oppression" of NFP freed me from all of that.    Putting all of that experience into a little blog post is impossible.

But what did these two experiences mean, overall, for my faith and my relationship with the Catholic Church?   How does this all tie in to those comments I've heard so many times over the past week?

Watching Rascal #1 thrive within the boundaries that we'd implemented for his own safety, for his own good, and then having such an amazingly freeing experience with a Church teaching that we'd been adamantly against was a bit earth-shaking for Mike and me.   We'd just seen two very clear instances where accepting and following the rules had led to an incredible growth, and incredible freedom, and the rule-follower become who he or she truly was.   Rules, in both instances, weren't limitations.....instead, they were opportunities for true freedom.   Acceptance and obedience of the rules led directly to a more authentic person.   Or as Blessed John Paul II put it:  

"Freedom consists not in doing what we like, but in having the right to do what we ought."

What I'd thought was freeing me was actually confining me.  It was earth-shattering.   My whole world almost came crashing down around me:  everything I had thought I knew about freedom was being turned upside down.

I did a lot of thinking.   A whole lot of praying.   Trusted friends probably were really tired of hearing me talk about it.   But, dear reader, my entire moral framework was being challenged.   It was scary.

If I could be so wrong about what I had been so convinced about (birth control and the "freedom" it provided), how could I trust anything I held to as truth?    I've always been a linear person.  I think in bulletpoints.  I  like logic.   I love reason.   I think this is why I've always been pulled toward things like math and science.....and inherently opposed to (and annoyed by) fields such as literary analysis.    Logic was my friend, my security blanket.   Now, I recognized the fact that my logic was flawed.   

It was completely illogical to say that the Church spoke the Truth, as revealed by God.....only on subjects that I personally agreed with and understood.   I'd just proven to myself that I was wrong on the issue of contraception.    If I was wrong on that, how could I be right on everything else?   I am merely a human, with limited training and theological knowledge.    How could my expertise be greater than such respected thinkers like St Thomas Aquinas?

How could I be smarter than God?

The only way that could be logically true was if Catholic doctrine was not revealed by God.  I could not possibly be smarter than the only logical conclusion was that the Deposit of Faith found within the Catholic Church was not written by God.

And if that was not God's revealed could I trust that any of it really was true?   

How could I say that the Church was right about the True Presence.....but not about abortion?

How could I say that the Church was right about adultery.....but not the gravity of missing Mass?

It was illogical.   And realizing it was scary.   Terrifying, actually, to a person who loves logic and reason.

....and then I saw Rascal #1 playing happily in his cushioned little environment.   He'd accepted the limitations, even if he didn't understand how they protected him.   He'd accepted the gate at the bottom of the stairs, even if he didn't understand why he couldn't go up and down the stairs un-assisted.

....and I saw my NFP chart.   I saw how the "rules" of Natural Family Planning had drastically improved my quality of life, not to mention my marriage.   I saw how NFP had erased the constant hormone-induced cloud of depression.   I saw how NFP had changed our marriage, allowing us to no longer be afraid of something breaking or a mass-produced chemical being ineffective.  (Recalls happen, y'all.   Quite often.  Be warned).   

I began to think that possibly, maybe, the Church had received the Deposit of Faith because it was truly the revealed Truth of God.   And I began to understand that possibly, maybe, God had revealed it because He loved us.   Just as I had loved Rascal #1 enough to put into place rules and protections to ensure his safety and happiness......maybe our Heavenly Father had revealed this Truth to us to protect us and ensure our eternal happiness.   If He truly did love us (which was one of those teachings that I had never doubted, but wholeheartedly believed), why would He not provide us with a safety net?   A babygate at the staircase, if you will.  

Just as it was illogical to believe that I knew better than God, it was also illogical to believe that God, as our Father, would not provide me with the boundaries and "babyproofing" that would allow me to thrive as a human being.   Why would He not provide me with the wisdom and guidance that would allow me to grow and thrive and be eternally happy?   If He truly was my Father - like the Church said, and I had accepted - why would He not provide for me like a parent does for his/her child?

As a parent, I'd imposed rules and limitations for my child.   Not because I wanted to thwart his growth, or because I wanted to oppress his spirit.....but because I wanted to nurture him.  I wanted to protect his happiness.  I wanted to keep him safe.   I began to see God, our Father, in the same light.

Guys, this was scary.   It was hard to humble myself and admit that I, a human with limited knowledge and wisdom, did not know better than God.  It was hard to admit that my belief system did not pass the test of logical reasoning.    It was not coherent.   There was no universal logic.

My experience as a parent and with NFP led me to look at the Church teachings with new eyes.   I began to see that, unlike my disjointed, illogical worldview (you know, the one where the same logic and reason that argued for one personal truth, when applied to another of my personal truths argued against it?) was very much like my toddler's.    When it came to moral reasoning, I was no better than my toddler.   I rebelled against that baby gate because I believed that it limited my happiness, instead of seeing the big picture and how that baby gate kept me safe, and therefore, able to even be happy.   If Rascal #1 fell down that staircase, he definitely would not be happy.  I could see that, simply because I had the understanding of what falling down the stairs meant.   He could not.

As with NFP, the Church had a wisdom and knowledge that I did not possess at the time.  I rebelled against that teaching because I believed that contraception would make me happy.   I could not see the big picture.   The Church could, and did, and so She put a limitation in place to protect us and ensure our overall happiness and freedom.

I'd like to wrap this up by saying that I now wholeheartedly believe and adhere to every single teaching of the Catholic Church.   That I've learned my lesson and begun to see Her as truly the Mother Church, who has only put all of these "rules" in place to protect me.    But I can't.

In some ways, that is true.   I have begun to see the Beauty and Truth contained in the Deposit of Faith.   Are there still some teachings that I don't understand?   Sure.  I may never - on this earth - understand them.    Just like Rascal #1 may never understand why we anchored the dresser to the walls as soon as he started moving around......I may never understand the reasoning behind the doctrine of the Church.

And that's okay with me.   What I do understand is that the doctrine of the Church is like a jigsaw puzzle.    We're only given one piece of understanding at a time - seeing the entire puzzle at once is more than our human minds can fathom (again, St Thomas Aquinas' words come to mind).   Rascal #1 now understands the anchor piece of the babyproofing puzzle...but he doesn't really understand the light socket covers.   His understanding of electrical currents is too weak.  But even without understanding the "why" behind the socket covers, he understands the importance of leaving them in place, especially for his little brothers.   He believes and accepts because he trusts me, his mother, to only have his best interests at heart.

I may not understand the reasoning behind all of the doctrine of the Catholic Church just yet.   But I believe and accept it because I trust that God, my Father, only has my best interests at heart.   According to Church, God created me to "know, love, and serve Him and to spend eternal happiness in Heaven" together.  

I trust this.  He's shown it to me, one piece at a time, like with NFP.   And it is incredibly freeing to believe.    

Why?  Because, just like Rascal #1 in his cushioned play space, I can safely and freely grow, learn, and develop, trusting that my Father is protecting me from harm, pain, and suffering.   

Once I realized that, I was truly free and the "rules" became opportunities to know, love, and serve Him better.

I'm living for eternal happiness. I challenge you to do the same.

Sunday, September 9, 2012


Just pieces of the puzzle of everyday life here at the Circus....

I love my kitchen table.   I love coming downstairs to hot coffee and a new masterpiece.

Goofy rascals

How did they know?

An artist at work

Enjoying a breakfast that is bigger than his head

Homeschool science (experimenting with sound waves)

Life.  Sigh.

Snacks for the Great American Road Trip

Saturday, September 8, 2012

In which I ramble a bit...

I missed quick takes yesterday, guys.  Sorry.

In my defense, I was helping a friend shop (she just had the squishiest, cutest, absolutely-most-lovable little boy) for the first time post-baby-arrival, and then we met another friend for lunch, and then I got that phone call that everyone who's preparing for a move across the country just dreads:  a super perky voice asking "Could we possibly let her show our house to a prospective renter in a mere four hours?"

I mentally walked through every room of my house in about a split-second's worth of silence before cheerily replying, "Sure!   It'll be ready by then!"

Then I packed up the rascals and RAAAANNNNNN HOOOOOMMMMMEEEEE as quickly as our grey-seven-seater-made-in-Japan chariot would take us.

The boys and I managed to get the house beautifully clean, after a quick debate on the book of faces as to whether or not I should mop if the only cleaner I had on hand was Pine-sol, which I happen to love the smell of but understand that not everyone feels the same way.  (Because I know you're wondering, I ended up mopping with it, but a very very very very very very very small amount, and then boiling some vanilla in the oven so that the house smelled lightly of baked yummies).   The one downside to house showings when you're merely renting the house and not the home owner?   We never get any feedback, so I don't know if the prospective tenant appreciated the cleaning stress that he/she put us through or not......

Let's see, where should I ramble to next?

Hmm, let's take a brief homeschooling pause.   We just finished up week 3.  Well almost finished week 3.  We've got one day left, because we missed a couple of days this week helping the friend with the brand-new baby.    School is going well this year - we made a few changes to curriculum and it seems to be boding well for our little school.    No more fights with Rascal #1 about his math assignments - he actually ASKS to complete them.   Rascal #2 is doing an amazing job learning to read, which is a lot of fun.   I'd always said that I was terrified of teaching my children to read - I just cannot remember learning (I learned when I was pretty young), and so trying to teach something that just was second nature to me was a really scary prospect.   I'm happy to say that he and I are both LOVING it.   He actually read an entire little story to me today, with only a few pauses and having to "read it slowly" (what we call the sounding out process, which we don't really rely on, but he tends to fall back on if it's a word he doesn't know).   

Rascal #3 is doing a self-designed preschool program, and then we might be sending him out a few days a week once we get back to Maine to kind of round-out his preschool experience.   Right now, he's working with me on shapes and colours and learning to write, use scissors, count, etc.  He's loving "doing school" and hates when his work is finished and I move on to the next rascal.    Here's a sampling of his work this week:

This child WILL be a graffiti artist, methinks.   He found the sharpie we were using to label moving boxes with.  Sigh.  Luckily he only practiced his letters on a moving box.  That'll be fun to explain to the moving company as they try to figure out where to put this box!

His art project today was to build a house out of construction paper blocks - this is the finished masterpiece.   We were practicing our colours, our counting, and the letter "B"

He drew this on his own the other day - it's a city full of skyscrapers.   The blue tent-like thing is a splash pad and it's under a "roof"  (I think it's supposed to be an awning?).  His drawing is really coming along - it's actually starting to be recognizable!

So, overall, school is going well.   With all the fun of the baby arriving this week and the house showing, I'm even more thankful that we're homeschooling.   It was really a great source of relief for me to know that we could move school to be any time of the day, week, or weekend (yes, we did school today to "make up" for this past week) without any real consequences.   It made being able to be flexible for our friend, or for the showing, so much easier.   One point for homeschooling!

Let's see....rambling where else today?  Hmm..I could get all political on you about the different conventions the past two weeks, but honestly, I don't have the energy today.   We'll deal with those topics on another day.   I will, however, say that I loved Cardinal Dolan at World Youth Day this last year, and I love him even more now.   I especially love the best.tweet.ever, thanks to Cardinal Dolan at the DNC, brought to my attention by the lovely Kara.  Here it is, in all it's fabulousness:


Also, I think that should actually become a verb in our vernacular.  Kind of like "Google-ing" did.   

What other shout-outs should I put on here?   I've seen so many awesome posts recently.   How about a top five list?

In no particular order, some of the best blog posts I've seen this week:

1.  Remember that Open Letter to Melinda Gates that I referenced a few weeks back?   Well, my friend Leila posted it as well, and a very lively discussion started in the comment box at her blog.   Eventually, the actual authour of that open letter joined in, and this blog post is a continuation of that conversation.  Uju (the letter writer) speaks with an eloquence we don't usually hear from a debate in a comment box. I invite you to go check it out!

2.   Ever want to just laugh at yourself as you try out a new exercise routine, or join a new group exercise class?   Meet Ashley Jones.     You need to read her blog.   That's an order.  She's hilarious, and worth every second that you spend in front of her blog, reading about her attempt to get off her couch and get healthy.

3.   Bad Catholic might just be one of my favourite-ist bloggers ever.   He's so often spot-on that I just want to jump for joy reading his posts.   This post about dissent within the Church is no exception.  I cannot wait for part two.  

4.  Have you guys checked out Camp Patton yet?   I really cannot even link to just one post from this week.   Grace is just all-around fabulous.  Hilarious, quirky, and just plain refreshing.   Not to mention a great deal snarky, which is awesome.   Her husband is an OB/GYN resident, so that might just be part of my attraction - I so.very.much. know where she's coming from!

5.  I'm not a huge reality TV kind of person - for some reason, it just doesn't do much for me.  However, drum-roll-please, this might just be a reality TV show that I count down the days to and watch every.single.episode.   Why?  Because it's our very own Jen, over at Conversion Diaries!  Go check it out!!

I think that might very much be enough rambling for this week.  Our house has been overrun with moving boxes, and I need to organize them at least a little bit before I start to lose my mind.  I don't do well living around moving boxes - I might need to shove them into closets so I can pretend they don't exist.  ;-)

Have a great night, y'all!