Monthly Archives: February 2008

Those sunny (or not) homeschool days

We have homeschooled with a vengeance the last three days.

There was a lovely glass painting and card making activity on Wednesday morning at homeschool group, so the children could make gifts and cards for Mother’s Day this Sunday.

In Sign Language we began a more difficult song to practice. As I said I have been inspired by The Choir on BBC2 and have decided we need to get this Sign Language group working together as a Sign-Song Choir. I am going to aim at them doing a performance after Easter.

Yesterday was a normal day, but we managed to get to Mass as well. When the weather is fine I can take the scooter out.

Josh received quite a generous amount of money from a lovely priest to help towards him getting to FUS. We spent ages looking at how to apply for scholarships-but came up blank. Still, there is hope…

Today Karen came over with her children and one of Val’s. Iona and Emily worked on a project on the 1920’s.  The boys and Avila learned about what prehistoric people ate. We went scavenging in the garden and then with the help of my laminater we made mobiles.

A good three days.

Values Clarification and Dr William Coulson.

29103.jpgAlistair asked me to get him this 3 CD set of lectures for Christmas. I was a bit surprised as is rather work related for him, but I obliged. I have just had the chance to listen to them myself. Some time ago I had a tape of his which covered his involvment with Dr Carl Rogers and Dr Maslow and his apology for the immense damage their system has caused in both Catholic institutions and education. Dr Rogers nearly wrecked his life with his new values clarification system. The impact of the system certainly wrecked a lot of other people’s lives. In the end he saw he had created a monster, but sadly it was too late.

Dr Coulson, is now making it his life’s work I think to apologise for and try to undo some of the damage done when ‘client centred’ therapy was introduced and then ‘child centred’ education. He points out that in the early days many people who had agreed to take part in the experiement with the theory pulled out when they saw how destructive it was. ‘Normal’ people, Coulson says, saw what would happen if they allowed this dismantling of basic moral norms to go ahead.

As a psychi nurse I could see pretty quickly that the whole “warm, empathic, non-judgemental, unconditional positive regard” idea was simply a way of allowing patients to get away with not taking responsibility for their actions. It meant they had no reason to change.

The basis of the counselling, no matter what the client had done, or wanted to do, was that there was no such thing as ‘ought’ and that guilt was not a good thing. We could not ‘judge’ the actions of others, only they could say how it felt for them. “How does it feel for you?” as the question.

I think most of us knew it was silly and if used indiscriminately, dangerous. One of my clients informed me of her plans to murder her step-father.  I was well aware how it ‘felt for her’ but that didn’t change the fact that she could not kill someone; it’s BAD as well as illegal.

You can read more HERE and HERE

I think the victim culture we live in is rooted in the Rogarian system. It is this basis that says we are simply what we are made to be-that we cannot rise above that and make an act of will to be better because we ‘ought’ to. If there is nothing good and all is relative, then why struggle to be good?

I hear so often those who assume that being abused means you will abuse; that being broken in some way means you have to brake others. RUBBISH!!

As Dr Ray points out in his book “Back to the Family” many people do rise above the abuse they suffered in childhood and become good, even ‘excellent’ parents. If someone who has been abused, beaten, lived with an alcholic parent or been passed from pillar to post can grow up and be a good parent…

Both Guarendi and Coulson believe there has been too much pychology in education and that it has massively undermined the rights and authority of parents, where schools now leave children with the idea they have a right to choose whatever they want to do, believe etc. Then these kids are wide open to the pressure from big business such as contracption, abortion, tobacco and alchohol.

There’s a lot to say about this. Get the CDs and any time you wish you could put your children in school-remember why you are glad you don’t.

Ronan is 5

noonoofeb08-028.jpgYesterday was Ronan’s 5th birthday. Time flies! He had a lovely day with Grandad and Auntie Shirley coming over for dinner. Here he is wearing the shirt from his Auntie Fiona and Uncle Iain and holding the telescope our friend Julie gave him. We have just started some work on the solar system so we are hoping for a clear night soon to have a good look at the moon.

Hols are over :(

 No The hols are over. Al goes back to work on Monday and after 2 weeks of slack-happy I have to get back to the homeschooling. So I had better get some plans sorted for the next few weeks until Easter.

I went shopping with Iona yesterday-girls time. I had a lot of book tokens so I got some stuff for Ronan and the girls including the DK Spanish set. I don’t know how good it is, but DK tend to be pretty good. Ronan is pleased with it and looking forward to Monday’s lesson.

Hoping to head off to the Library on Tuesday.

Homeschool group and Sign Language on Wednesday. I have decided to choose three or four songs everyone can learn to sing and sign and set them up as a choir. Perhaps I have been inspired by watching The Choir-Boys Don’t Sing on BBC over the last 4weeks.

Then finally on Friday Karen is coming over with her children. Emily and Iona are to start a project about the 1920s and 1930s together with an eye to PG Wodehouse’s Jeeves and Wooster. Meanwhile Matthew and Ronan are going to start learning about the Stone Age; hunting and gathering etc.

 Caveman  Cavewoman

Hospital Appt for Avila

 XrayAvila had her appoitment at the Children’s Hospital today. She was not all that keen on going, but I promised her she would not be kept in and she settled down. The Out Patients door is different from the A&E entrance so she was more relaxed once we were there.

Weight and Height; she’s on the 9th centile now which is a vast improvement to this time last year when she was under the 4th! The doctor said he was not a paediatrician, he was a surgeon, but he felt he ought to see her properly before referring her on the paeds in case she needed any surgery.

He took a history and had a look at her tummy and then sent her for an x-ray. Normally the x-rays would automatically appear on his computer back in his office but the computers were down so it had to be done the good old fashioned way. Her x-ray was up on the old light. She is very impacted and so requires a proper bowel clear out, which he is arranging via the GP. Then she is to have another appt with him-this time at City Hosp-for a day surgery bowel biopsy.

He is not concerned about her meds, but has offered a couple of alternative ideas in the letter to the GP.

Hopefully these things will offer us some answers and help Avila get healthier.

Art Gallery


As Alistair is off this week, we are having some family trips out. Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery has the biggest collection of Pre-Raphaelite in the world. This is great for me because I LOVE the pre-Raphs.

The above painting is called “Boar War” by John Byam Liston Shaw (1872-1919). Yes, they all had names like that. My favourite of these artists is Edward Byrne Jones. Anyway back to this painting. Shaw painted it around 1901 (oil on canvas). The woman is his sister Margaret Glencain and she grieves the loss of her cousin George in the war. The painting shouts in fine detail the glory of life in early summer, demanding joy and laughter, but the purple shadow is the woman, the wool unknitted in her hand. She has no one to knit for now.

The most famous pre-raph art the Gallery has must be the Stunning Grail Tapestries. They are in storage most of the time so I have only seen them once properly, but they are my favourite.

It does seem that all that romantic high expressed emotion was not good for these artists who all seemed a bit overly preoccupied with the more miserable aspects of life. They did a lot of religious work too, but even then they seemed to find the joy in Christianity rather elusive.

hm3_11_5_0_big.jpgThe huge oil on canvas version of this tapestry is there. The detail is fine and each feather of the angel almost glows. It’s another painting I love BUT this is the adoration of the Magi and it looks like a Wake! My beloved husband-an art critic (hehehe)- announced that Mary had a face like “a bag spanners”. She does! So does Jesus. She is not even meeting the gaze of these men who have travelled so far. This is a painting and tapestry that is about the prophecy of the gifts, gold, frankincense and myrrh- prophet, priest and king. His priesthood is sacrifice and the Sacrifice is the crucifixion. Despite the sadness I do love this stuff.


Alex saw this painting and liked it so much he bought a poster for his room. It’s called Dominicans in Feathers by Henry Stacy Marks (1880-1887). Marks apparently painted a lot of birds as he preferred them to people. He is supposed to have rather pomposly announced that birds were less conceited, less greedy and less boring than people. The poor man must hasve kept with some bad company. The painting is lovely though.

For the children there is plenty to see, to explore and as they get older to copy and draw.

Upstairs there was an area showing a Vicotorian sitting room and scullery as well as a kitchen circa 1960 and another one of around 1940. The kids dressed up in Victorian servants clothes and had a good look at the 1940s house with its papered windows and gas masks.

Surprise in the post!

Tithing is not a strong point with me, but just before Christmas I thought I had better sort a few things out. AS I listen to Catholic Answers rather a lot I thought I would donate to them. They were having a drive at the time with free books as part of it, but living so far away across the pond I assumed the books would not come this way.

But the postman arrived the other day with a parcel and there were two signed books inside!

1111172.jpg I got Karl Keatings book “Catholicism and Fundamentalism” which I read some time ago. It’s a useful overview of the more bizarre end of the battles we face.

The other book was Rosalind Moss’s new book; a study of St Luke’s Gospel, just in time for Year C and the Bible study we are doing in homeschool. It is pitched just right for Iona, beautifully written as you would expect from Rosalind Moss and very straight forward. Her Jewish background gives a depth of understanding that might otherwise be missing.

For some time now I have been a rather inactive member of the Association of Hebrew Catholics established by her brother David. I have learned a great deal about the Jewish roots of the Catholic Church from them, although some of the more complicated aspects of Mitzvah go way over my head.

Meanwhile I’ve finished reading the Ray Guarendi book-which I do want to try and find time to write about again-and I’ve started Marcus Grodi’s novel “How Firm a Foundation”, which I am really enjoying.

As a side note Josh has met Mr. and Mrs Grodi and liked them very much.

“Quid est veritas?”

christ-pilate.jpgThe First Station: Jesus is condemned to death: “We adore Thee O Christ and we bless Thee, Because by Thy Holy Cross Thou hast redeemed the world.”

There’s a drama excersise in which everyone is given a short phrase to say and they have to explore as many ways of saying it as possible. I have often wondered just how Pontius Pilate put those words “What is truth?” as he faced Jesus. I was always taught that this was a purely rhetorical question and that Pilate was mocking Jesus when he asked it; but I wonder about that.

In his film The Passion of The Christ, Pilate is cynical but there is an edge to his question. It was not a throw away line. Was there just a little mustard seed of seeking there?  Did he spend time considering the whole trial and his meeting with Christ later on? Surely he must have done if for no other reason than his wife ran off with the Christians! Claudia Procla became a disciple of St Paul and is a saint of the Eastern Rites.

There is also a tradition among those of the Ethiopian Copts that Pilate himself died a martyr and is a saint. This comes from an addition to the Gospel of Nicedemus the Acti Pilati.

If Pilate asked “What is truth?” without interest then I am quite sure he never found the answer; -even thouh He was staring him in the face. The opposite of seeking and finding is not seeking and not finding-obviously. However if Pilate began to take his own question seriously, perhaps under the influence of his wife(?) then I tend to see why the Ethoipians believe what they believe.

Certainly if Pilate never sought the Truth he is the last person to be able to use invincible ignorance as a defence

I am reading Marcus Grodi’s new novel “How Firm a Foundation” and the lead character Stephen LaPointe is spending a lot of time asking himself the same question in a miriad of ways. “How do I know…?” “What is truth here?” Grodi himself went through these questions-as did I as I struggled with my faith and The Faith.

Pilate was standing face to face with Jesus as He is. Most of us have been subjected to cardboard Jesus’s that are really ‘Me’s’. How many books and preachers are out there insisting their version of Jesus is the ‘real’ Jesus when NONE of them are? How are we supposed to work through them and find the Truth?

There is a book out there; don’t remember the title (probably for the best) that a friend of mine enjoyed in which the author proposes a system of pick your own churches made to suit the ‘customer’. Christ is not the central reason to attend such churches, He barely gets to slide in the back-no, these are comfy ‘warm empathic, non-judemental..’ places of self worship. They are places where no one is seeking anything other than self actualisation.

Claudia Procla knew the Truth when she saw it and she gave up her wealthy life and even her politcally savvy marriage to follow an itinerant tent maker who could give her Christ in all His Fullness. She must have had to give up so much, not just materially though. She came from a pagan religion, with all its comforting beliefs and had to accept a Faith and a God who demanded she “Take up [her] cross…”

Asking “What is Truth?” can lead to some really uncomfortable answers, but I do wonder what will happen to those who wont ask the question

SS Cyril and Methodius

cyrillmethodius.jpgI know this is a day late and really I should have written about them ahead of the St Vals-but all saints are saints and I rather like the golden legend behind the second St Valentine.

SS Cyril and Methodius -well mainly St Cyril, invented the alphabet for the Slavonic people and so they could translate the Gospels into their language. In the end St Methodius managed to get nearly all of Scripture translated.

The alphabet opened the door to a huge amount of learning for the Slavonic people as well as having the Scriptures and Church teaching available to them in written form.

BTW in England the Ven Bede had already managed to translate the Gospels into AngloSaxon-which strictly speaking is the first English translation. All that black legend about the Church only allowing Scripture to be in Latin (which was a translation into the linga franca anyway) doesn’t hold much water when history gets told.

Scripture was the springboard of so much learning through the ages, and despite the problems associated with the so called ‘enlightenment’ which cast so many shadows, Scripture still is.

St Valentines come in threes.

 Teddy There were three St Valentine’s for Feb 14th alone it seems. You can read about them HERE. Some time ago I heard a golden legend about St Valentine Bishop of Interanma. He prepared a couple for marriage and married them despite the fact that the groom was a pagan. While the good Bishop was not one to stand in the way of true love, the grooms parents turned out to be inlaws from hell. They went to the persecuting authorities and had their daughter in law and her bishop arrested. They were duly martyred, but the parents then found to their horror that their son was baptised and became a Christian-and I think he too died for his love of Christ.

We’re having a takeaway tonight, so no cooking for me.


Wednesday kinda day.

It’s half term so I was a bit surprised we were having a homeschool group-but I braced myself…until this morning.

I got up as usual and then as soon as I got downstairs I slumped in a chair with Heleyna and thought I could never get through the day-surely, I’d done enough for the day already! I looked at the clock; it said 08:03. I gave myself a firm talking to (Come on, you know you talk to yourself too) and forced myself to get the day under way.

So we got to homeschool group, and managed to be pretty well on time as well. There was less families than usual because of the hols, but two new mums are joining us. One has decided to homeschool and is bringing her not-so-sure friend along to see. She told me there are other mums near her who are all thinking of homeschooling. It’s good to see the group expanding. They are interested in the Sign Language as well.

Karen had brought lots of lining paper and pens etc. A lot of drawing around each other went on and then remarkable quiet as a hall full of children and mums concentrated on decorating their ‘person’. Then there was a lot of measuring and putting the ‘people’ in order of size. For the one and only time in my life I was the tallest!!

Sign Language back here afterwards with some deaf awareness stories.

The biggies had their friends over and they went out until I had nearly finished the Sign and then came back, borrowed the lap top and disappeared to watch a film. When the homeschoolers had left, they invaded the living room and are playing some kind of racing game on the thingy.

And Alistair has just come home…bye…

Josh’s first shift at the Children’s Hospice

Josh did a late shift yesterday; his first at the Children’s Hospice. Although I really loved it there when I worked there, it did occur to me that things can change. However when he got back last night he was really pleased.

It’s a lovely place with lovely staff and a culture in which the patient comes first. The patients themselves are usually a great lot. There are some who are more difficult as you would expect, but that is few and far between. (Perhaps the Baronesses Meacher and Tonge might like to visit and see those people who are ‘not viable human beings’!)

To my surprise Josh even nursed a couple of my old patients.

He’s back there on an early Friday.

Body and Soul

In this morning’s Divine Office St Paul asks  “Think of God’s mercy, my brothers, and worship him, I beg you, in a way that is worthy of thinking beings, by offering your living bodies as a holy sacrifice, truly pleasing to God. Do not model yourselves on the behaviour of the world around you, but let your behaviour change, modelled by your new mind. This is the only way to discover the will of God and know what is good, what it is that God wants, what is the perfect thing to do.” (Rom 12:1-2)

Doing something material-with our bodies-for Lent is part of that sacrifice St Paul demands of us. Sacrifice is giving up a good, like the wonders of chocolate or the appreciation of a good glass of wine, and offering it up for a greater good; love of Christ and making ourselves holy. St Paul doesn’t say, just pray in your head and you’ll be holy. When Paul tells the Romans not to model themselves on the world around them, he is looking at a world not that much different from ours it seems, materialism and selfishness are not new ideas. He calls for Christians to ‘man up about it’ and train their bodies for spiritual battle.

Prayer has to be body and soul. So much of the wholeness of prayer has been lost, and with it, I think, the understanding of just how powerful prayer is. For the little ones, movement, song and words are a great way to learn to converse with God.

They can kneel down, put their hands together, make the Sign of the Cross and gradually come to understand more of how to relate to a God they cannot see with their eyes. 

It is the feast of Our Lady of Lourdes today. Even there we see that body and soul at work; Bernadette had to dig for the spring and pilgrims journey there and then bathe in the waters.

I’ve been to Lourdes once when I was 14. The baths are a strange experience. I was sent into a changing room, where I removed my clothes and put on a white robe. Then I stepped out  to the baths. Two nuns stood on either side and assisted me to walk down some stone steps into the water which was absolutely FREEZING. Holding an elbow each the nuns silently guided me towards a little statue of Our Lady at the other side of the bath and then I had to bend into the water to kiss her. I turned round and was guided back. In the changing room I removed the wet robe and without drying myself-no towels-I dressed. I was covered in this strange warmth that lasted for the rest of the day.

The grotto was stuffed with old crutches and other equipment from those who had been healed there. Even so, the Church, ever cautious has only recognised a few of those cures as miraculous.

The fact is, God treats us body and soul. He heals both and loves us as whole people.

No home ed for 2 weeks-How slack is that?!

 Recliner It’s half term this week. The biggies are getting together with friends and I get to not bother to homeschool. Next week Al is off so we have family time. I have said this week is reading week, which is no big deal as Iona reads through the hols anyway. Homeschool group and Sign Language on Wed but other than that we are chilled.

Alex has already been using his free time to get online tutorials to increase his skills with Photoshop. Parallel to his college media work he is continuing to build his art portfolio.

Josh is still trying to find ways to do his degree in America. I’ve got to say, unless something pretty spectacular happens, I can’t see how we are going to pull this off. I hope he can get a lot of work at the hospice once he is established, but even then it could take at least another two, maybe three years before he would have saved anything near enough. There is no rush, I guess, and a bit of life and work experience before going to Uni is a very good thing. Teaching Sign Language for over 5yrs in a Uni taught me that!! The other option-and a more manageable one-would be if he worked and did his foundation year here and then the final two years over there. Anyway, we’ll see; he is still planning his trip for May and we’ll take it from there.

Sunday’s aren’t Lent :))

 Flowers Spring is in the air and we headed off together for Mass enjoying the fresh breeze and clear, slightly warm light of the sun. I haven’t had the chance to get to Mass for the last couple of weeks so this was a bit of a treat.

Josh went off to Leicester yesterday to visit with friends and as some other’s were away as well Alex was left with one other server for Mass-but they did okay. Very Lentern and sparce.

Had Sunday Lunch and a sense of relaxing from Lent this afternoon. Each Sunday is like a little oasis in the desert which sets you up for the six days ahead-a bit like Wayside Shrines.

Family News bits

Josh has finally got the all clear from Acorns Children’s Hospice and he starts work there on Tuesday, and has another shift booked for Friday. This has taken a LLLLLOOOOOG time to get sorted and I am relieved he has this work as his work for the Fire Service is just about finished.

I hope he enjoys working there as much as I did.

St Josephine Bakhita

bakhita5.jpgToday is the feast of St Josephine Bakhita, the first saint of Sudan. I have mentioned before that I am trying to write her story, which I would like to give to our godchildren at some point; that point being-when I get to finish it! LOL!

Many of you will remember that she gets a big mention in the Holy Father’s encyclical Spe Salvi. If you have not read it yet-it’s Lent, grab a moment.

Josephine was born in Darfur, Sudan somewhere around1869 and taken by muslim slavers when she was only about 7 years old. She was sold to various master’s including one who beat her nearly to death and then the Turkish General whose wife had her tattooed. She was 13 when this happened. A woman was hired who put 114 cuts all over the saint’s body (not her face) and rubbed them with flour and salt to ensure maximum scarring. The pain and blood-loss this child suffered is beyond imagining.

She had no memory of her own name and was named Bakhita by her captors. It means ‘fortunate one’- a cruel joke but one that she was to treasure. All her life she sought God and Truth, believing she would find it some day and as she sought Him, she was bound to find Him.

Finally little Bakhita was bought by an Italian consul Callisto Legnani who rescued her with the intention of setting her free. But the war with the Arab factions was heating up in Africa, the Italians needed to leave and he gave Bakhita over to a friend whose Orthodox wife was expecting a child. They escaped to Italy and Bakhita became nurse to the little girl Minimma.

Some time later Minimma’s parent’s left for business and Bakhita was to take the child and live under the care of the Canossian sisters. It was here, at last that she found what she was looking for.

There is a crucifix in the chapel there, where she first set eyes on her Lord and Saviour. She never hated those who had tormented her so much and as the sisters taught her about Jesus and the Church she found a Lord who loved her and a freedom she had never had.

When Minimma’s  parent’s returned they wanted to take Bakhita back with them, but she was granted her freedom in an Italian court.

In 1890 she was baptised and took the name Josephine-or more correctly Guiseppina Margarita. She joined the Canossian sisters and worked as portress for something like 45 years. She seems to have had a great love of the children and they of her, calling her ‘la nostra madre moretta’ (our little brown mother).

Her years of slavery had knocked her about though and she suffered with poor health. She died on Feb 8th 1947, undoubtedly having suffered to watch Italy go through upheaval of war.

I love her because she never let what happened to her as a child destroy her life. She loved no matter what and was never resentful. Her ability to forgive, just astonishes me.

I love the fact she genuinely wanted to know who God is-where He was to be found-and He guided her to Himself.


You can see more HERE

514zsjbchjl__aa240_.jpg I’ve just about finished this book and I wanted to say a few words about it before I do. Alistair wants to read it after me and a friend has also asked to borrow it.

Dr Ray worked David Eich to find America’s happiest and healthiest families-and what made it work for them. Teachers recommened families and finally 100 were nominated as the best at being ‘happy’. Most of them had older chilren, teens and adults because those who were nominating wanted to say the families had proven they could do it.

The major voice in the book is that of the children who even seem to appreciate the discipline their parents impose. There’s nothing like being grounded to make you know you’re loved.

Interestingly, although there was no rules set down as such there seems to be a strong sense of Christianity and it’s core values at the heart of nearly all these families. They came from all over the country and varied in social class, education and number’s of childre; anything up to 18.

There is a lot to be got from this book, but for me one of the most important parts of the book looked at parents who had brought up their happy, well adjusted children after themselves having been badly parented and abused.

I’d like to say more, but Heleyna is rampaging  Crawling Baby so I’ll leave it there….

Kung Hei Fat Choy!


It’s Chinese New Year today. The year of the RAT.  I didn’t go into great detail. We printed up a zodiac and we each looked at what our year of birth was. I have a couple of goats, a snake a monkey and a Rooster.

We made lanterns were are so easy and ideal for the little ones and then we made the lucky red purses which they decorated.

We had a look at where China is on Ronan’s Atlas and they had a go at saying “Kung hei fat choy!” to each other. I am quite sure anyone fluent in the nuances of tone for pronunciation would have wondered what on earth they were actually saying-but we had fun.

I didn’t print up any colouring in sheets. Frankly they hate them. I am not a great believer in worksheets either; and anyway Ronan is too young for that sort of thing. We just spent time looking at the pictures and the Atlas. The craft activities were just enough for children that age.

Give it up already! Lent is here.

Last night I enjoyed a lovely glass of wine and a small, but beautiful bar of Green and Black’s chocolate. The older three children also enjoyed their last chocolate and Josh, his last beer.

I don’t know what other parents do, or think about getting their children through Lent, but I think that from a reasonable age, say post Holy Communion, a child should be able to give something up for Lent. When the biggies were little they used to have a money box in which the sweet money they didn’t spend on sweets went for a charity of choice. I am afraid we got out of that habit, but I still insist they each give something up. They are always quite willing and although it is often difficult-that’s okay. Giving up something easy is not a sacrifice.

I know, Iknow, just how unfashionable can you get? Don’t I know that all that negative stuff about Lent is passe and we are now into positive approaches-doing something extra; just something small. Well, I did that back in the 80’s and it doesn’t work. I don’t think it’s ever physical enough somehow.

There are extra things that have to be done of course-going to receive the Sacrament of Confession for one. Nothing like huge dollop of grace to see you through.

ASH WED Home ed.

Innormal circumstances we would begin by going to Mass and receiving the ashes; but not with chicken pox. So I simply explained what we would be doing during morning prayer. Ronan asked about the ashes and I explained they were made from burning last years palm crosses. A little blessed olive oil is added and they are ready. I explained that Father would make a cross on our heads and we would think about sorry we were for our sins. I haven’t given him more information than that.

Whole persons: (This is for the older ones). Ritual is a very important part of how we express our relationships with one another, with God and as an expression of our humanity. Christ demands that we worship God with our whole minds, soul, heart and strength-with our WHOLE selves, body and soul. The wholeness of the person is a very important understanding of the Faith and one which over the years has been under attack from various heresies and pagan or secular beliefs. At the end of time we will be resurrected as Christ promised-not just be wondering around as ghosts for all eternity. Body and soul, as Catholic apologists like to say it’s ‘both and’ not ‘either/or’.

In receiving the ashes we are told “Remember Man, thou art dust and to dust thou shalt return.”

Like most things in the Mass this is from Scripture; Gen 3:19 when God tells Adam the curse that goes with his sin. Death comes into the world thanks to poor old Adam and his inability to stick up for his bride Eve who also sins and Death is destroyed thanks to the Second Adam who is willing to pour Himself out for His Bride (the Church) and the Second Eve who gives her two ‘Fiats’ to God.

Ashes have been used as a sign of grief, mourning and repentance since Old Testament times. They were very much part of the pre-Temple and Temple liturgy as well as being used by people such as the appallingly treated Tamar (2Sam13-19), Mordecai (Est 4:1) Job (42:) and of course the repentant people of Nineveh (Jonah 3:6).

Then Jesus Himself speaks of repenting in sackcloth and ashes (Mat 11:21 & Luk 10:13).

So we wear the ashes- a cross on our heads because sin is death and the cross is life. We pray with our whole selves and we repent with our whole selves because we sin with our whole selves.

Lent offers quite a few opportunities to remember we are WHOLE persons who must be redeemed body and soul.

With the children I will be looking at the Stations of the Cross with this theme in mind.

Gentle art of homeschooling

I think the smalls are through the worst of the chicken pox now. Although still spotty neither of them have spiked a temp to day or gone ‘flop’ . I haven’t had to give out any Calpol so whoopee!

Although Alex is still pretty unwell even he has managed without Piritin since this morning and hasn’t been sleeping today. He wont be well enough for work or college for few days yet-but I think we are over the worst.

Iona and I took the three smalls down to the Deli to buy real maple syrup and Paul (Alex’s boss) was very understanding of the situation. They are quite fond of Alex at the Deli.

  Homeschooling was ‘gentle’ today. Ronan did some of his maths book and then we sat together with Avila and looked at the solar system on the computer. We talked about the planets and the job Jupiter has as the system vacuum cleaner and everyone commiserated with poor old Pluto for being demoted as a planet. We don’t care, we have decided, we think Pluto has great planetary aspirations. Dance

During breakfast Iona and I discussed some historical bits’n’pieces and some of her plans for future study. She would like to so something about the 1930’s perhaps comparing life in the UK with USA. She is also wondering whether she could do this with one of the other homeschooled children she is rather fond of.

Then she got on with her maths before coming to do more work on her forensic project; she added toxicology to the wall display. Going through the work we realised we have missed out ballistics-so that has to be done from scratch. I think this will look good in her portfolio by the time she has it all done. She also worked on her magazine before going off to read.

A council strike in Birmingham means that most of the schools were closed today but we carried on regardless.

There’s a lot going on this week:

Today is Shrove Tuesday and Iona is cooking the pancakes. This year I haven’t gone over the history and traditions of this day because we have done it so often before.

Ash Wednesday tomorrow and Lent begins. There have been a few jitters over the ‘giving things up’ but we have told each other to “Man up about it”-an Iona phrase I believe. Umm. I’ll do a big soup for tea as our ‘fasting’ meal and try and encourage the boys to remember it is a day of fasting and abstaining-not just abstaining. They need to ‘man up’ more than us girls I think Winky 

Then Friday is the feast of St Josephine Bakhita. I’ve been writing about her for a very, very long time now-and am nowhere near finished. I am determined I will finish the story one day…and I’ll post about her on Friday.

Monday stuff

 Scratching We are still infested with chicken pox here. Alex, poor lad, is really ill with it. Paracetamol and Piratin are only just helping. Ronan and Avila are both reasonably okay-just spiking a temp now and then and getting really tired. Avila is handling it better than I thought she would which I am pleased about.

Being ill doesn’t mean a day off school (evil laugh hehehe) so Ronan has been reading, which Avila loves to join in with. Then he decided to look at his Atlas; followed by going over some Latin and then we had a look at the solar system on a web links from Topmarks. He also played a game about Incy Wincy Spider-which was fun.

I took the little ones and Iona out for a bit of a walk. With all the illness we haven’t been out of the house as much, so it was a good little adventure. We saw the snowdrops were out, which to me is the first sign of Spring-and I am SO looking forward to Spring.

Then after lunch the smalls did some cooking with Iona using their own cooking set they got at Christmas. They can make little cakes and biscuits etc for a teddy bears picnic. While everything cooked Iona came and flopped down on the sofa and the others went off to play-so I read to her.

Food is Love

 Broccoli Cherries I was talking to a friend the other day about feeding our children. Like me she often has other people’s children in her house to feed. It can be difficult when the children we are taking care of are not used to proper food or sitting at the table with a knife and fork.

I believe the old cliche that food is love. It’s not just what we feed our children, although a proper balanced diet is important, it is also HOW we do it. My friend told me of quite a sick child she has at her house who only seems to eat fruit and veg when she has him. Despite being so ill- or possibly partly because of it- he is allowed to live on sweets and cakes at home, so much so he has had to have teeth removed.

Food is often a real discipline problem with little children. I think their taste buds change and develop around the age of 3 and all the lovely veggies and fruit they had happily eaten until then become suddenly yukky and unbearable. Avila is just reaching this point, where things she has always eaten such as peas, strawberries even her beloved grapes are less appealing or downright unappealing. Grape 2 It means we have to train her to eat that stuff, while she finds eating cakes, chocolate etc all too easy.

We are going through the battle with Ronan too but as he is nearly 5 now, things are a little easier-mainly because he knows there is little point in arguing, no veg=no desert. Simple. The sight of a chocolate cake coming to the table that she would have to watch the rest of us eat can make Avila eat broccoli with alacrity.

Table manners are important too. Children need to be able to sit properly at the table for the whole meal, learn to use cutlery properly and to take turns in conversation. It is an important skill for children to be able to do this especially for family events where no parents wants to inflict their badly socialised children on others. Now I am not saying I expect a 2 yr old to sit sweetly through a long drawn out ‘grown ups’ meal out without so much as fidget; adults need to be reasonable about what children can do-but the child at that age should be learning to sit at the table.

The best way children learn all this is through being part of the family meal time. It is very important in our family to have the evening family meal together. When Alistair and I both worked shifts it was not possible to do this every day, but even then we made sure it happened at least once or twice a week. Now I am at home and Al works normal hours we have nearly every evening and we have a proper Sunday lunch together.

Back in the days when I worked at the Child and Adolescent Mental Health Unit (and Alistair was my boss) the ‘powers-that-be’ decided that nursing staff should not be sitting down and eating with the children. They had the bizarre idea that the children should sit at the tables and we would just hover  over them! I was asked to write an “academic” response to the order-which I did, complete with references to the research that showed how adults role model behaviour for children and how those units and foster homes that had staff sit and eat with the children had better overall outcomes and therapeutic relationships. The ‘powers-that-be’ backed off for a little while. While I expected to find research that backed up the common sense notion that adults and children eating together was good for mealtime behaviour and ensuring balanced diet, I must admit back then I was surprised to find that in children’s foster homes the staff eating with the children actually helped overall behaviour.

It is important to me that the children learn how to cook. Now I confess I have failed with Josh, God bless him, but he’s just a liability in the kitchen-but he does make a lovely cup of tea or coffee. Alex and Iona are good cooks and part of Iona’s homeschool time is spent teaching Ronan and Avila to cook.

They also get to help in the kitchen when I am cooking at times.

And for those of you who are wondering when I am going to mention the deeply significant theological aspects of this; quails, manna the Holy Eucharist…well, come on, how long do you want this post to be? Winky 2 


theo2lsmall.jpgThe Feast of the Presentation of Our Lord at the Temple and the Purification of the Blessed Mother.

Strictly speaking you know, this is the end of Christmas, rather than Epiphany-don’t you think?

Jesus was born and then on the 8th day he was circumcised into the Covenant and then on the 40th day his parents took him to the Temple to make the sacrifices as per the Law (Lev 12). She and Jospeh were poor and made the offering of the pair of doves. Apparently the Temple had baths that the women would enter by walking down a flight of steps and here Mary would have received her cleansing.

There is some discussion among the rabbi’s and Hebrew Catholics about the reason for 40 days of impurity after a boy was born and 80 days after a girl. It has been suggested that the extra days of tuma after a girl was born was a way of protecting the new mother from a husband overly eager to try for a son. I have to say, that is not an explanation I think holds water. Mothers ecologically breastfed their babies back then; so it is highly unlikely there was much fear of such quick succession pregnancies.

Another view is that childbirth is a symbol (sacramental if you like) of life and in tuma a mother has time to bring on her milk and bond with her child. A boy will enter the community earlier than a girl. A girl needs longer bonding because she will learn from her mother as her brothers would learn from their father. Also it is double tuma for a girl because a girl herself is a symbol of life, having the hope of future motherhood.

I like that explanation; but if you find a better one- take it-and let me know!

Meanwhile Mary and Joseph were bringing Jesus to the Temple and there offer their first born son as per Exodos 13.2 In the Temple were Simeon an old man who had spent his life awaiting the fulfilment of the prophecy of the coming Messiah who would be the “consolation of Israel”.  It is thought that Simeon may have been the son of the great Rabbi Hillel, but that is not really known for sure.

There was also Anna the daughter of Phanuel (a name meaning ‘have seen the face of God) an old woman of the tribe of Ashur. Now Scott Hahn points out how significant the little bit of info about her tribe is. The people who are waiting for a Messiah are awaiting the new David who will save ALL ISRAEL, not just the Jews. After the exile only the tribes of Judah and Benjamin got to return; hence the land was called Judea and not Israel. The other ten tribes were still of the Diaspora. Luke is probably writing to the hellenist Jews of the diaspora saying; look here- a sign that Jesus did indeed come for all Israel as my mate Paul has been telling you.

Simeon takes the baby Jesus into his arms and knows Him. Then he says that beautiful prayer that is so much part of the Nighly office:

Nunc dimittis servum tuum Domine secundum verbum tuum in pace

quia viderunt oculi mei salutare tuum quod parasti ante faciem omnium populorum

lumen ad revelationem gentium et glorium plebis tuae Isreal” (Luke 2:28-32)

At Mass tonight and tomorrow they will bless the new candles.

It’s Friday Deo Gratias!

It’s the weekend! We always finish homeschool early on a Friday. Iona is still working away. She is getting on well with her big wall display and she is also working on a magazine. She has a Maths lesson tonight (much to her disgust) because Nigel couldn’t make it yesterday.

I noticed today that after Ronan had been reading and was starting on his maths that Avila went and sat in a corner with his reading books and began to tell herself the stories-sometimes with the correct words because Ronan has read them to her. This surely is the way children learned before schools took them in so young. It’s as though there is a natural way to learn to read. Perhaps that is why the examples Charlotte Mason uses for children learning to read aged 7, they seem to do so almost immediatly.  Reading 

My friend Ruth offered us the chance of chicken pox for the smalls a couple of weeks ago-but then Avila was ill and I wanted to avoid it. The biggies have all had it, and as Iona didn’t get it until she was 11 and was very ill with it, I wanted the smalls to get it and be done with it.

So what has happened? ALEX has it! Scratching 

No sign at all of the little ones getting it!

Soup tonight so I had better start making it. Heleyna is very demanding around 5-6pm every evening at the moment, so food prep has to be even more long and drawn out to get around her; or Iona ends up doing all the cooking.