A New Blog!

Hello, friends!  I am excited to announce that I have created a new blog.

A Few Beads Short is “an honest look at the life of one Catholic mommy.”  The name comes from my realization that I’m “a few beads short of a full Rosary.”  AKA Far from perfect! Please check it out!

I think – hope! – you’ll enjoy it.

And please leave a reply.  I’ve realized that replies are the food that keep us bloggers going.   It’s no fun to think you’re talking to empty space, and lots of fun to be involved in a community of like thinkers… or even just thinkers, even if they don’t “like” everything you have to say.

Special thanks to my hubby who created one blog for me two weeks ago (www.honestcatholic.com).  Then I realized that I didn’t like the name - what am I, some demagogue of honesty, or am I comparing myself to Honest Abe?  The sweet man created “A Few Beads Short” without a single complaint.

They say that our job as spouses is to help eachother get to heaven.  By providing Ray with many opportunities to be patient with me, I believe I am fulfilling my responsibilities.

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A Crafty Snack for the Feast of the Guardian Angels

OK, so it’s not perfect, but for someone who’s not crafty, I thought these turned out pretty cute!

I noticed as I was making Isaac and Mary Lise peanut butter and jelly for their lunches, that the bread was shaped very much like an angel. Since today is the Feast of the Guardian Angels, I thought I’d capitalize on this teachable moment!

Here’s how I created this lovely and yummy guardian angel snack:

I toasted the bread, and then cut the bottom of the bread to make the shape more angelic.

Next, I covered the toast with cream cheese. I added a slice of pepperoni under the cream cheese for a little extra flavor. That was a bit sloppy, but well worth it for the taste.

Next, I cut a piece of swiss cheese for the angel’s head. Being “hole-y”, Swiss seemed like an appropriate choice, but of course any white cheese will do!

Then I cut a sliver off the edge of a piece of pepperoni to make a mouth

Finally, I added raisins, using cream cheese for the glue. Voila! A guardian angel. If I had round pretzels, I’d make a halo, but alas, I don’t.

I’m looking forward to making these with the “big kids” when they get home!

Update:  Here’s a pic of Morgan’s.  I realized I could manufacture a halo from a slice of cheddar cheese. :)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

And just to keep things easy for you, here’s the guardian angel prayer to pray with your children (though WordPress is making this tricky for me by insisting on putting this way down on the page…):

Angel of God,
my guardian dear,
To whom God’s love
commits me here,
Ever this day,
be at my side,
To light and guard,
Rule and guide.
Amen.

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Please Pray a Rosary Novena for the Battle to Save Our Country

Friends,

I typically have kept this blog free from politics, feeling that that particular topic was better left to others. But today I feel compelled to ask you to join with me in praying a Rosary novena for our country.

As we come closer and closer to the election, it looks more and more like a battle between good and evil, though I know some would argue that the side I see as “good” is “evil”, and vice versa.

Today, September 29, is the Feast of the Archangels. In particular, it is the Feast of Saint Michael, Archangel. It was Michael who led the angels in the battle between good and evil in heaven, successfully expelling Lucifer and his malevolent companions and casting them into hell.

October 7th is the Feast of the Holy Rosary, which celebrates the Christian’s miraculous victory in major sea battle in 1571, after Pope Pius V asked all Christians to pray the Rosary for victory.

How fitting, then, to start a Rosary novena today, the Feast of the Archangels, which would wrap up on October 7, the Feast of the Holy Rosary, praying for victory in the battle to save our country.

Please consider praying this novena with me.  That good, Godly men and women will be elected to office, that they will seek and follow God’s will in all their dealings and decisions, and that the United States will remain a beacon of hope, freedom, and prosperity for many generations to come.

St. Michael, pray for us.

Our Lady of Peace and Hope, pray for us.

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Stepping Out of Safety

As Jesus walked to Golgotha, bearing the stripes of our sins and the weight of our follies, one woman stood watching. Her heart ached to see this man, who only days before had been welcomed into Jerusalem with shouts of “Hosanna!”, now beaten down and trudging toward his terrible death.

The story doesn’t tell us whether Veronica had, at this point, recognized Christ as the Messiah, whether she had listened to his teachings or touched his cloak. But this woman, this Veronica, could not stand idly by and watch him suffer. Stepping from the safety of the crowd, Veronica lovingly wiped his brow, his eyes, his cheeks. Knowing that the soldiers might hit her, or kick her out of the way, nonetheless, she felt compelled to move, to help in some small way.

So often, we become comfortable in our lives. At those “comfortable, ” safe times, we may need to consider whether, like Veronica, it is time for us to step out of safety. Perhaps “comfortable” is a rest stop before the next thing God is calling us to. Perhaps, though the world may hit us, or try to kick us out of the way, perhaps it is time to step out of safety to serve Christ in some small way.

 

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Catholic School or Home School – The Decision

I’m sure you’ve been waiting on the edge of your seat (ha!) since my July post regarding the education of my children – Catholic School or Home School? . Based on my lack of posts, you’re probably assuming that I’ve decided to home school, and have been too busy trying to figure out what on earth I’m doing to sit down and write anything. If this is the case, you’re one third accurate.

You see, when I called the school principle to tell her that I didn’t think we’d be coming back this year, I started bawling. This gave me some insight into the fact that I was more torn about the decision than I was admitting to myself. In particular, I was traumatized by the mere thought of Zach and Morgan’s reaction when we told them that they wouldn’t be going to St. Malachy this year.

So, we decided to stick with the status quo for them, but to give homeschooling a shot with our four-year-old, Isaac. Isaac was never too keen on the idea of going to school anyways, so it was a relatively easy decision. Ironically, when I told Zach and Morgan that I would be teaching Isaac at home, they were both a little jealous, but they got over it once they saw their class lists and purchased their school supplies. In some respects though, I do think they’re a bit envious of all the time Isaac gets to spend with Mommy.

And I confess that I’m envious too – envious of all the time they spend at school that I miss, that portion of their growing up that I’ll never see. I hate the fact that they often come home tired and sullen after a long day, and I know that I’ve missed their best hours. I am saddened that we seem to have very little quality time squeezed in between homework and football practice.

So, these last few weeks I’ve been trying to find the perfect balance between school, homework, activities, friends, and family time. It’s left us all exhausted and stretched a little thin. Looking around at other families, I’m pretty sure that a “perfect balance” is unattainable. But I can, at least, make sure that first things come first.

Homeschooling Isaac has been an absolute joy, and I’m very glad that I’m doing it. I’m getting to know my baby boy better than I possibly could have if I were sending him to preschool. I’m beginning to understand how he learn bests, the things he doesn’t like to do, and the things he doesn’t want to do because they’re a challenge for him. In the weeks to come, I must figure out how to respond to this new information by building on his strengths to diminish his weaknesses and help him grow into the boy beautiful and brilliant boy that God made him to be.

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Transfiguration Crafts

I always intend to do a craft with the kids to celebrate liturgical feasts. Today, I’m ahead of the game and researching early in the morning, so chances are improved that I will actually follow through on my intention. I thought I’d share a few of the ideas I found online with you:

From Crafolic.com, one of my favorite Catholic craft sites – Transfiguration Sun Catcher

A coloring page (I like that this includes God’s words, which I think I’ll add to Crafolic’s craft when we do it.)

I love this mosaic idea, too. It allows for more creativity and is good for all ages. Prep work will be rather involved, though.

Happy Crafting! I will try to post pics later, and I’m also working on a Transfiguration reflection that I hope to have out today!

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Great Family Fun

My friend Katie introduced me to a new website, Shannon’s Tot School, yesterday and I’m so enamored, we’ve already done two of the activities.  Sidewalk painting was fun, but the “laser” obstacle course was definitely worth writing about.

My husband took care of setting up the course, and it took him less than ten minutes. I wanted to add a Christian element, so I took a page from The Book of Eli movie to create a scenario for the children.  We pretended that there was only one copy of the Bible left in the world. The evil emperor knew that God’s Word had the power to save the world, and had locked it up behind a laser alarm system. The children’s mission was to get through the course, rescue the Bible, and carry it back out without letting it touch the floor.  Of course, all of this must be done without touching any of the “lasers”.

(Some may feel that it’s a sacrilege to play a game with a Bible, but I felt that since it was teaching the kids the life-saving power of God’s Word, He would be OK with it.)

We did this just before bed time, which was probably not the brightest idea. We could have kept going for hours, and the kids wound up going to bed rather late because we were having so much fun. Daddy ran the stop watch, while I took pictures, and we both refereed. Not surprisingly, eight-year-old Zach (the oldest) won, completing the course in just 21 seconds without tripping a single laser or letting the Bible touch the ground. Six-year-old Morgan was close behind him, and four-year-old Isaac was amazing. Even two-year-old Mary Lise did the course several times, with help from her older siblings. Mommy and Daddy each ran it as well, but our times weren’t nearly as impressive. It’s harder for big people!

It’s such a thrill to find an activity that everyone in the family can enjoy, and I was especially thrilled to find one that also provided physical therapy exercises for Isaac. We will definitely do it again soon, and I think I see a “Spy Kids” birthday party in our future, perhaps with some sock-ball “minions” thrown in for added fun!

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Catholic School or Home School?


For several months, I have been struggling to discern whether I should home school our children. Pray and pray as I might, I don’t seem to be getting any clear answers from above. This is a huge decision, and one that I don’t want to make without being completely confident that the choice is directed by God.

This decision would be much easier if my two oldest weren’t already settled into a Catholic school that they LOVE, and that I love as well. Their school seems to be one of relatively few Catholic schools that is trying to teach the faith in all its fullness, and we love the school community.

Add to this the fact that Zach, my oldest, started his elementary school career at the public school, before we moved him to St. Malachy for his first grade year. He’s a sensitive kid, and I hate to introduce more change into his life, especially when he’s made some really great friends at St. Malachy.  While Zach by no means loves his school work, he certainly enjoys the social aspect of it – especially gym and recess – and he has been successful without being bored in his classes.

Morgan, who will be entering first grade, is another matter. She’s one of those kids that seems to soak things up like a sponge, so she’s already learned much of what Zach has learned simply by being around when he’s doing his homework or studying for tests. Her kindergarten teacher seems to have done a marvelous job of adapting to each child, but I wonder if every teacher will be so great? I’ve also been troubled by some of the attitude that she seems to pick up from the playground drama, which at times has changed my daughter into a kid I barely recognized.

I have been reading Designed to Fail: Catholic Education in America by Steve Kellmeyer. It’s a conspiracy theory book on American education, but everything he argues he supports with strong evidence and research. Kellmeyer maintains that compulsory schools were developed in the United States in order to “dumb down” children, creating people who are unable to think for themselves and who are content to go along with the masses. Kellmeyer even quotes the 1886-1906 U.S. Commissioner of Education, who stated that “Ninety nine [students] out of a hundred are automata, careful to walk in prescribed paths… This is not an accident but the result of substantial education, which, scientifically defined, is the assumption of the individual.”

AUTOMATA? Not an accident? Seriously? Yet, when I am honest with myself, I recognize that my own education left me sadly lacking in critical thinking skills. I was fed educational material, which in many cases had been skewed to reflect a certain point of view, and expected to trust in everything I was being fed as absolute truth. I fell for it, as did 99% of my classmates. I was one of those automatons, happy to walk along the path that they had prescribed for me, blithely thinking that I was going “confidently in the direction of my dreams.”

When I can recognize that in my own education, I am loathe to turn my children over to the same system. I want to raise critical thinkers, adults who look at the facts presented and ask a dozen questions, then go out and find the answers. I want to raise my children to be adults who can defend their politics, religious beliefs, and their Church, intelligently and coherently. While I believe that most teachers would love to achieve the same goals, I don’t believe there are many out there who can achieve that goal in a classroom of twenty-four elementary school children.

Kellmeyer raises many other excellent points, most notably the God-given right and duty of parents to educate their children. In sending my children away every day to be educated by teachers that I barely know, how well am I fulfilling that duty? I don’t know what is taught in the classroom each day, or how it is presented. I don’t know the full content of their text books, and what might be skewed to present a different world view from that which I believe my children should be presented. I simply don’t know.

So there you have it. As you can guess, I’m leaning very strongly toward homeschooling. Of course, my husband must be on board, and at this point he’s on the fence, leaning heavily toward Catholic school. I’ve got less than three weeks to make a decision.

I know that I must trust in the Lord that, if this is what He wants for our family, He will bring about the change in Ray’s outlook. I must also trust in Him to provide the things that I lack that will be necessary to a successful home schooling experience for my children – things like organization, discipline, and patience.

Fortunately, my God is a great God.

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A Great, Totally Catholic VBS

Our parish wrapped up vacation Bible school this week, and I felt compelled to write a review of the curriculum we used, in hopes that more Catholic parishes will choose the “totally Catholic” VBS next year!

In previous years, we’ve used Group’s “Easy VBS” but the reality of “Easy” is that “it ain’t so easy.” This is primarily because every activity and craft they do requires the purchase of materials from Group that are overpriced and simply unattainable for churches on limited budgets. Instead, we have had to find work-arounds, creating different crafts and activities, in order to keep VBS affordable for our parish and our families.

This year, we chose Growing with the Saints’ “Totally Catholic” VBS, “Vatican Express”. We agreed that many of our children attend Protestant vacation Bible schools throughout the summer, and that it was important to give them a week of learning that was focused on the unique, precious, and true teachings of the Catholic Church. Honestly, we thought that it might be more complicated, but we were willing to make that sacrifice in order to provide a great Catholic experience to the children of our parish.

There are other “totally Catholic” VBS’s out there, but from what we could tell, those publishers were simply taking Protestant VBS’s and adding a Catholic element or two. We considered those, but decided to go with the publisher that was truly Catholic, from the ground up.

At the end of the week, I can safely say that we will almost certainly use Growing with the Saints’ curriculum again next yeart, though I’m not the director, so the decision is not up to me! Here are a few thoughts:

Music

The music was awesome. I got goose pimples to hear the children singing “I’m standing on the rock! The universal Church of Jesus… and I’m not gonna move”. Tears sprang to my eyes as they shouted “One! Holy! Catholic Apostolic!” How awesome to have the children learning about their Catholic faith, the one Church, founded by Jesus, through songs that they will remember for years to come. Of course, there were other Christian songs, like “Shine Like the Son” and “Jesus is a-Knockin,” which the kids enjoyed as well. The end of week music performance was arguably the best we’ve done in the five years I’ve been involved, thanks to our pianist and music leader, Dr. Mike, but also largely due to the quality of great, FUN music that the kids could really get into!

Crafts

The crafts were original, affordable, and appropriate for all ages. The last night, the children made a monstrance out of plastic plates, with an image of Jesus in the center, a great opportunity to talk about Christ’s True Presence, and the Eucharistic Miracle of Bourdeaux, where Jesus appeared in the host. This craft coincided with Eucharistic Adoration for all of the children, so it was a very, very appropriate craft.



Other crafts included the keys to the kingdom and St. Jerome spoon dolls. The crafts did not require purchasing anything additional from the publisher, and used inexpensive materials, while being incredibly cute and memorable. These are crafts that I actually want to hang on to, rather than sneaking them into the trash can as I often have with other VBS crafts!

Snacks

The snacks were creative and fun. They were really more of a craft in and of themselves, with children creating confections out of cookies, icing, and M & M’s. OK, so they weren’t healthy, but the kids had a blast, and got to learn more in the process! A few examples are a Popemobile made out of marshmallows, licorice, and M&M’s, and St. Peter’s Big Toe, made out of crackers, licorice, and an M&M for the big toe.

Bible Stories

Bible stories centered around the theme of Jesus founding his Church on Peter, and Christ’s call to follow Him by loving God and eachother. I loved the stories, but do wish that the publisher had come up with more fun, interactive ways to portray the Bible stories to the children. It was good, but not great.

Areas for Improvement

Of course, there’s always room for improvement. Additional suggestions to the publisher for their next VBS would be to avoid trying to pack too much information into each day, and to create greater cohesiveness between all of the activities. We changed most of the games to match the Bible story, and found that some days the snack that they suggested would actually have worked better with the material for the following day. But all in all, every volunteer that I spoke with was extremely impressed with the curriculum and the kids had a great time. In fact, I spoke with a friend today who had heard from several people it was the best VBS we’ve done.

My son’s only complaint was that we didn’t have enough decorations (we kept it super simple because the church property is for sale and needed to be ready for showings), and my daughter’s only complaint was that it wasn’t long enough!! I’ll take those reviews!


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Daily Rosary Prayer Tip #4 – Believe

Jesus said, “Therefore I tell you, all that you ask for in prayer, believe that you will receive it and it shall be yours.” (Mark 11:24).  Yet, in our world of “show me and I’ll believe” many of us struggle to trust that our prayers will be answered.   And if we don’t believe that our prayers will be answered, it is unlikely that the idea of “praying with purpose” will have any impact on our commitment to pray the Rosary every day.

Yet the Rosary, in particular, is an incredibly powerful prayer.  Graces naturally flow from time spent meditating on the life of Christ, and further graces abound when Our Lady offers her prayers for us.  I could write many posts on the blessings I’ve received from praying the Rosary, but I’ll try to keep it short in hopes that you will share your own experiences by commenting below.

First, though its not a personal experience, let me share my favorite Rosary miracle…

When the bomb was dropped on Hiroshima, a group of four (some sources say eight)  German Jesuit priests who prayed the Rosary daily had just finished celebrating the Mass in the chapel attached to their home.  One of the priests was sitting down to breakfast when the A-bomb was detonated just eight blocks away.  He experienced a blinding light and loud noise, but received only minor injuries.  The chapel was damaged, but the home remained intact.  The four priests had no burns, no hearing loss, and no radiation poisoning.  Fifteen years later, every other person who was near the explosion had died from some form of cancer.  But these priests lived, cancer free, still with no signs of any ill-effects from the explosion.  Scientists have no explanation for why these eight men did not suffer the same fate as their neighbors.  But the Priests don’t need a scientific explanation.  “…We survived because we were living the message of Fatima,” they said.  ”We lived and prayed the Rosary daily in that home.” (from wjbpr.com, and shrineofstjude.net)

Most of my personal experiences are much less tangible, with one exception, which I’ve blogged about in the past.  Check out “Mary Saved Me from a Traffic Ticket” for this miracle that was very graciously granted to me!

Another time, my family was driving to Alabama when we saw the remnants of a devastating car accident.  We knew just from looking that no one could have survived, and learned later that four teenagers had been killed.  As we drove away from the troubling scene, we prayed as a family for the souls of the victims and their families, and then I began to pray a Rosary.  As I prayed, a stunningly brilliant rainbow appeared.  It seemed to be resting just above the left side of the hood of the car, and we could see where both ends touched the ground.  It seemed to be a heaven-sent message of reassurance and peace, a reminder of God’s covenant and love.  Perhaps everyone who was traveling southbound on I-65 that day experienced that beautiful sight, but I felt that it was an outflowing of blessings from the Rosary prayers that were being sent up from our car.

I could share many more stories of times when I’ve been deeply troubled and found peace, when I’ve been angry and found the ability to forgive, and when I’ve been lost and found guidance.  But I’d really love to hear your stories, so please comment on this post with any stories of blessings you’ve received through praying the Rosary.

If you enjoyed this post, here are a few more you might like:

Daily Rosary Tip #3 – Take a Walk with Christ

Daily Rosary Tip #2 – Pray with Purpose

Daily Rosary Tip #1 – Make Mundane Tasks Spiritual

 

 

 

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