Monthly Archives: January 2012

For the Children’s sake

My husband took St. John Bosco as his Confirmation saint when he was received into the Church. As it’s the good saint’s feast day today I thought I’d write about him.

He was called by God pretty early in life and knew long before adulthood that he was to become a priest and care for children. I love the fact that he learned circus acts like tightrope walking and had the people say the rosary when they gathered to watch him.

Once he was ordained he set about establishing the schools for boys, many of whom were not so much poor as destitute and who often had some serious behaviour problems as a result of their nasty background. Fr Bosco insisted that he and his fellow priests treat the boys as sons and called the priests foster-fathers especially once the boarding schools were established.

Meanwhile girl’s schools were being established by some of the women who had helped F. Bosco with his work for boys.

Fr. John insisted on firm but kind discipline for the children. He warned against temper induced punishments. Many of the boys were undoubtedly used to vicious punishment having lived on the streets quite often. Fr. John wanted them to learn another way of life and they could not be expected to do this if the priests caring for them behaved as badly as the other adults they had known.

Letters from Fr John explain his method and exhort his priests to remember they were as parents to these boys and must love them as sons.

Of course one of the things about this saint that makes him so well known are the visions and dreams that God granted him. He knew when a boy was going to die and could therefore ensure the child was properly prepared. He was granted an awful vision of the boys hurtling to hell, and this helped motivate him to ensure their formation and rescue them from lives of crime and ugly behaviour. His most famous vision of course is the one where he saw the Barque of Peter like a great ship with the Pope guiding it. The ship was buffeted and attacked in many ways on stormy seas and the Holy Father was killed but a new Pope was soon elected. Then at last the ship came to rest anchored between the two pillars of the Holy Eucharist and Our Lady. (The pillar of the Eucharist was larger).

At the time the Church was facing the growth of modernism the synthesis of all error.  In 1886 Pope Leo XIII had seen a vision in which Satan was granted a century to attack and test the Church. The poor Holy Father was so horrified at this warning that he wrote the Prayer to St. Michael which is still said by many today and increasingly parishes have re-established the saying of this prayer after Mass.

It would seem that St John’s vision was part of the same prophecy and a reminder that God is still in charge of His Bride and He will bring Her safely to harbour in the end.

Books on St John Bosco

It is also the feast day of two English Martyrs St. Alban Roe and St Thomas Green (Reynolds). Both were priests working for the persecuted Church in England and although they were executed for being priests on Jan 21st 1642, their feast day is today.

Home Education: workbooks are not as boring as I expected.

I must admit that as I began to adjust the home education approach here to a more workbook based way of learning I was a bit worried that while I wouldn’t have to be using up energy I don’t have trying to plan and work through stuff, that the children would soon become bored rigid.

As it happens the children seem to enjoy their workbooks. Ronan has learned a lot about St. Josaphat while doing Grammar; and I have learned a lot of grammar while helping Ronan as well as getting to grips with a fascinating story about someone I had previously never heard of. English for Young Catholics 3 has so far proved a great workbook that stretches him (and me) but has all the information and explanation within the book, so there’s no extra cost of the teacher’s book to go with it. Ronan is so taken with the story of St. Josaphat that not only has he not moaned about predicates, he has asked if there is a proper book about the saint of the Byzantine Rite.

I like the Seton approach to workbooks as they use a story and teach from there. So it’s not such a massive step away from the Charlotte Mason method after all.

I have come across discussions in some places about the pros and cons of workbooks that are so religiously based. Do we want our children to be so steeped in their Faith that no matter what the subject they are learning Church history, saint stories and theology?

It seems that most people treat it as a Marmite question. You either love it, or you hate it. I am straddling the fence on this one. I don’t buy all the work from Seton, although I respect their very high standard. I do want to the children to learn about their Faith and it’s history obviously, but I think they need to learn more than that and so we have other stuff that has other approaches to subjects such as Usborne books and some that have no specific approach other than to teach the subject such as Math U See and Life of Fred.

Some parents in the discussions noted that the reason so many homeschool publishers tend to tout the fact that they are Christian/Catholic or have a Christian focus is because so many curriculums have quite deliberately and dishonestly edited out anything Christian or even basic morals from their stories. In a reaction to this some homeschool publishers have released books that are definitely Christian and allow a child to grow in their Faith by reading about other people who also believe and behave as they do and if they don’t have the good grace to be sorry.

Our home ed books are a mix of the “very” Catholic to the “it’s just part of life” Catholicism of say, Tomie DePaola through to the God Who? kind of books, that would never mention Himself, but aren’t overtly anti-Christian either.

I have been a little uncomfortable of too much overtly “holy” stuff as a method of teaching other things. While I think it’s important the children know about their Faith, it’s more important that they have a relationship with Christ and His Church through prayer and practice. In a culture that is unfriendly to Christ and His ideals, there is a danger that we could swing off to the other extreme (what I think some would call the ghetto mentality) so I want to be wary of that.

Meanwhile the children are learning and seem settled with the routine and adaptable to my shifting abilities.

I’ve discovered some more audio resources.

I have recently discovered a couple of radio stations from Eastern Rite Catholics.

Annunciation Byzantine Catholic Church has links to Light of the East and Body of Truth. There is great information on the plight of our Eastern Rite brothers and sisters under persecution in places like Iraq. The Chaldean Catholics have been brutally treated and many are martyred.

There’s information too on Divine Liturgy and some of the different practices of Eastern Rites compared to the Latin Rites.

Catholics of the Eastern Rite get justifiably irritated with the general western view that the Catholic Church is “Roman” alone, when in fact she has two good lungs.

If you want some good easy to listen too talks on Church History from the beginning to the Threshold of Hope then try Fr. Michael J Witt’s great site. His talks are very good and straight forward enough that I think older children would get a lot from them.

I also recommend Fr. Seraphim’s Catholic Under the Hood. He’s recently talked about the story of Fr. Gereon Goldman the German Franciscan who had a colourful war experience. If you’ve never read Shadow of His Wings I recommend it. I think Fr Goldman was a brave man, but he was also a bit …how shall I put this?…badly behaved at times. But times were extreme, so I suppose it’s difficult to say how he should have behaved.

Enjoy and fill your brains.

The Government want to define what “full time education” is for 16 – 17 yr olds

It has been noted by the Government that education as it stands isn’t working so well. strangely the Education Act of 2008 in which it was decreed that adults must stay in school until they are 17 or 18 has been continued. It was one of the most glaring examples of doing more of something that was already failing that I have ever seen, but for whatever reason Grove and his mates are sticking with it.

A new consultation document has been released to discuss how this further compulsory education is to be handled. Part of that is to decide what is going to constitute “full time education”

Home education is marked down as a valid form of full time education and there it is further stated that how the education takes place should be at the discretion of the families.

But I am left wondering why the “time” spent in education is so important and the actual education that takes place in that time apparently secondary. As with most home educating families we get through a lot of work in a shorter time than schools manage simply because we don’t waste as much time.

There’s no queueing outside the classroom until the teacher comes. There’s no faffing about while everyone settles. The lessons go on for as long as they need to and are not interrupted by the bell. There is no moving around big locked buildings.

As a result of the efficient use of time there is also no “homework” after a long day of learning.

I can’t help thinking that sorting out the standard of education, how children learn and whether the national curriculum is fit for purpose (which I doubt) is a little bit more important than how many hours constitute full time education. It looks like drawing another tick box. Frankly deleting a few tick boxes would be more useful.

As it stands I am not convinced this going to be a problem for HE yet. But I suppose there will be LA people who want us to buy timers to ensure we are fulfilling the time directive or whatever. We’ll see.

Make plans – make God laugh.

Jonah gets a bad rap. He is the prophet of God who tried to run away, got swallowed by a big sea creature, preached to the people of Nineveh and then had sulky pity party when they actually listened and obeyed and didn’t get destroyed.

I love Jonah. God called him to be a prophet and he was up for it. Many of us know that feeling. “Hey God,” we say all enthusiastically, “I am here and I will do Your Will.” And of course we mean it – kinda. But then of course we have a pretty good idea in our little heads what that might entail.

Then God takes us at our word.

Why is it, I wonder, that what He asks of us is NEVER what we planned He should ask of us? He has the most appalling sense of humour.

Take poor Jonah, a good, God fearing Israelite. God tells him to go to the powerful enemy city of Nineveh and tell them to repent or be destroyed.  So, if he does this, Jonah faces the prospect that they wont listen and he’ll get killed but at least they will get destroyed and not be a problem to Israel ever again, or worse still, they DO listen, he gets to live and so do they, and then they can be a big strong, God fearing, enemy of Israel.

Is it any wonder Jonah thought Spain was looking good for the time of year? I am sure I am not the only one who has faced things in life that have made me want to take ship to Spain rather than face what God is asking of me. The “I’m off to Spain” conversation goes like this, “I said I would do Your will, but You are taking the mic a bit aren’t You?”

“Are you saying you wont do My Will?”

“Erm…well…does this HAVE to be Your Will. I mean I have some other ideas…”

And then you just know that the big fish moment is heading your way and there’s really not much point in trying to side step to Spain and so you rather sulkily say “Oh alright then.” And God does His thing and you get to carry the cross but you have wasted a bit of grace by being grumpy.

Or is this only me?

education for a life – being isolated parents

Friends came over yesterday for our Friday joint history and art lesson day. Having spent some time looking at the 14thCentury Black Death that killed so many people it changed the way the world worked, K and I somehow got on to the subject of children and “stuff”. The plague effected the way people behaved. Our culture effects the way people behave too.

Iona mentioned she thought there were parts of the Sherlock Holmes film she has been to see that would be disturbing for children under the age of 12 or even slightly older than that. The rate is 12A and she has seen much younger children in the cinema and wondered why the adults were not more cautious about it.

Avila has come home from something and told me one of her friends has five TVs in their house and there are only four people. Avila was a bit taken aback that her friend has a TV in her bedroom.

K pointed out that as her children attend lots of groups in her area (which is a pretty wealthy area) that there is pressure on her to provide “stuff” because “everyone else’s children have it.” And this in turn leads to “but everyone else is allowed to do this,” conversations.

Iona mentioned watching a programme about Amish youngsters and how they worked really hard doing labour and housework. There were visiting children from the Uk (I think) who couldn’t even imagine having to do housework every day and actually getting satisfaction from the repetitive work of it.

“We learn patience this way,” one of the Amish children had explained.

I note that it must be much easier for Amish parents to bring their children up with a good understanding of their responsibility and having to work for what they have, as they are all doing it.

The biggest problem parents like K and myself have is we are surrounded by a culture in which parents wouldn’t normally dream of saying “no” to their children for anything. Little ones watch appalling TV programmes because the parents wont say no, and of course, wont turn the machine off.

It is so much harder to parent our children against the prevailing culture.

Even among home educators – especially in the UK I think – there is still the culture of “give ‘em what they want when they want it” and don’t expect much from them as far as responsibility and solid moral behaviour. It really makes being a parent so very much harder than it would be if their was more mutual moral support.

In an interesting twist I think the internet actually helps with this. Knowing other families around the world who share the same moral underpinnings as we do can be a support in a difficult time. But also I think home education itself is as massive step forward in helping to keep a good deal of the toxicity of the cultural norms away from our children while they are developing as people.

It’s just a bit ironic sometimes when the “S” question gets asked and we are not really considered polite when we say how poorly socialised schooled children are. There is a bizarre acceptance, even expectation among parents that at certain ages children will behave obnoxiously and that’s all there is to it. In fact I wonder if parents are so convinced that nasty attitudes and behaviour are “normal” that they encourage it as they don’t want their children to stand out as “different”.

One of the major aspects of Amish life that I think the editors of TV programmes probably miss, is that their family centred lives have a purpose. The children might work much harder than the average Western kid, but they are part of a family structure that respects them and values them as people.

We really need to turn our culture around, and I think the first thing we need to do is respect our children and love them enough to say “no” as often as it needs saying – and especially when it’s just so hard to say it.

Home education websites I have found recently.

Just come across Literactive which has some good stuff for pre-school to grade 1. I only found it today so I haven’t fully explored it, but so far it looked good.

We have also been using this free Montessori reading website now and then.

I have also just found Sylvan Dell Publishing which also looks pretty good. There’s a charge for full usage of around $49 a year with discounts for extra years and so on. Those in homeschool co-ops look like they can get discounts too. (Co-ops don’t seem to exist much here in the UK).

there are some nice little colouring and activity sheets at CRAYOLA

Learn some of the basics of British Sign Language here

This free science curriculum isn’t perfect but it has some good stuff and it’s free.

Home Education during sickness – doing it but slowly.

As I can’t get about very well right now, it’s important the children get “aired” in some way even without me. They have spent a lot of time in and out of the garden making ice blocks and playing while keeping and eye on the temperature to see just how cold it has to get before their ice blocks freeze right the way through.

My voice comes and goes but I managed to read to them for a little while. I think I am going to need to find some other method of getting some of the usual read alouds done for the time being – or shelve them until I can talk and breathe properly.

I am sorting out the workbooks so that on the whole the children can work as independently as possible and that I only need to do a bit of listening and explaining here and there. I manage this with them all working in the same room and having the workboxes set up and ready to roll in the morning.

Ronan is helping with the lifting and carrying that needs doing which means I am still managing to be set up for the learning day by half nine.

Despite some faffing about, and both Ronan and Avila interrupting their work to help Heleyna a couple of times when I couldn’t – everything we set out to do today was done.

The three older ones are doing more of the taking and fetching for beavers and cubs and tomorrow for ballet.

I did manage to cook the tea starting the process at lunch time and getting a bit at a time done so that it was all ready by tea time.

Other housework is falling behind but I am hoping to catch up on some of it once the steroids and antibiotics kick in properly (although this time around they are taking their own sweet time over it).

Some of the jobs I would usually just do, the smaller ones are beginning to take on. For example they can easily put their own breakfast bowls and plates in the dishwasher themselves.  I am reminding them more about tidying up their own things, rather than me doing it for them.

The older ones are taking on more stuff too, so that hopefully things can run fairly smoothly for a while yet.

I am trying to get some of the work set up in advance so that they are still covered no matter what happens. This is where I think just allowing them to write straight into the workbooks and be done with it might be my best course of action, instead of having the notebooks to write into.

I am still undecided on this as workbook work is more expensive anyway – but then, its more important the education continues… We’ll see how that goes.

I really do think a lot of this is down to how much is expected of the children. If they are expected to get on with work, they tend to do so. It helps enormously that I am not having to make enormous changes to their and my routine to get this done.

Looking around at other Home educating and homeschooling families who have gone through long-term sickness it seems there’s a lot of adjustment and outside support to be had. Having older children who are well versed in taking care of themselves and their own learning has come up a few times, meaning things that might otherwise not have been manageable are manageable.

I’ll write more of this as we go through it. I hope the ideas and methods I use will help anyone else in this situation.

The Spartacus Report as the Government tries to get the sick and disabled to pay for the bankers crisis.

I haven’t been paying attention. I heard a few muffled rumours that this Government, being not so different from the last one had targeted sick and disabled people to claw back the money lost by the economic crash. You know, the one with the bankers who were bailed out and other corruptions in finance around MPs and such.

Anyway, sorting out the economy and helping to kick start some jobs must wait. First the Government are going to take the money from the seriously ill and disabled. SEE HEREWE HAVE UNTIL TUESDAY TO GET THE PETITION DONE SO PLEASE TAKE A MOMENT TO SIGN

There had been a bit of a media campaign last year – again I missed it – that was aimed at saying those of us claiming DLA are faking it. Thanks Mr. Cameron. As it happens less than 1 % of DLA claims are false, but why let reality get in the way of a good bit of propaganda and we all know how the mainstream media love it too. It’s why I barely read or watch the stuff – and that’s also why I was a bit out of the loop on DLA.

There had even been a vagueish promise that DLA was safe. HA! If I had seen that promise I would have known straight away it wasn’t. There had been some rumblings back in October.

The way the Government has been rather sneaky has caused a firestorm and the Spartacus Report showing how dishonest and just basically nasty this is has gone viral. Good. I was especially shocked by the idea that cancer patients should wait six months before they could claim - hoping they would be too sick or dead eh? Really that is low. It’s effect on carers is noted too.

Boris Johnson the Mayor of London has stepped up to the plate on this, and as I have never been a fan of his, I would like to say I respect him a bit more now. Even the Daily Mail covered it, although of course they had to have the poor pitiful cripple in a wheelchair picture (blergh!) Actually i don’t like having my photo taken but those pitiful-crip pictures are as bad as the oh-so-brave-crip ones; perhaps a cheerful, normal(ish) badly behaved cripple picture is required.

In the House of Lords today the “reforms” (how often that word is misused) were defeated. Nevertheless there are some fears that the Government will do an Ed Balls and simply trample over anything that smacks of democracy or simple justice.

As it happens I have great reservations about benefits even though I receive DLA. I actually found the process of claiming horrible and can only think it could be damaging and deeply humiliating to a lot of people. Probably why over £13m in benefits remained unclaimed last year.

The idea of changing over a benefit from DLA to PIP or whatever is surely going to cost a small fortune and while it will undoubtedly keep pencil pushers and clip board carriers in work – it is a costly way to deny help to the disabled.

I think families should look after their sick and disabled and should be enabled to do so through tax allowances, which would mean keeping the money earned, far cheaper than taking it away, renaming it a benefit and giving bits back,  that help someone be home with the person who needs care. If families were not being so heavily taxed in every way shape and form we could probably afford some of the extra costs of having a dilapidated old cripple in our midst. It would also, perhaps, iron out some of the awful injustices I am aware of. For example I get DLA and have had, so far, no problems with this. But I am aware of others with similar disability levels to me who can’t get it for some reason and are put through astonishingly stressful processes to prove how sick they are.

The bizarre idea that many disabled people could find work leaves me stunned. There are so many able-bodied healthy people who can’t get work. On what grounds do these clip board carriers believe someone who can barely get upstairs or who is so ill they can’t stay awake by 2pm is going to get a job?

It’s a bit of a sad irony that only days after my reminiscence over Maggie Thatcher’s attack on the long-term sick - that Dave is up to the same.

It’s all in a day.

We had a lovely quiet day yesterday with J and her children. She was looking very uncomfortable as Iona’s godson was refusing to be born – cheeky chap. He had been due on Boxing Day and had been putting his poor mother through more nights of on and off contractions than are considered polite.

As she had another hospital appt this morning and had a home birth planned, you can imagine that she really didn’t want to face the pressure to come in and stay in for induction.

Prayed lots last night and got Shana onside this morning as she was up at some unearthly time her side of the pond working her little historical socks of for a homeschool day. God was listening and the lad arrived at 11:40 today at home, just as he was supposed to. He weighs  in at 8lb 7oz and is of course wonderful- as you would expect from my daughter’s godson.

And I saw the doc this afternoon. Have more steroids and antibiotics and a form to go for a chest x-ray. He recommended the pneumonia jab when I’m well enough.

It’s all in  a day.

Home education with acute and chronic sickness

Over the years I think we have managed the home ed through some astonishingly tough times. My illness, hospital admissions and Avila’s frequent hospital admissions, and other things that are sent to try us. Throughout it all there is the hovering guilt, “I am not doing enough with them…”

I have read the excellent little ebook See I Told Me So last year or sometime earlier so I know that keeping the children educated even through a really long term problem is possible. I know single mums who have home educated even through the divorce process and of course my friend who kept up the home ed through a year of chemo.

But my situation is slightly different. My illness is long-term and it is getting slowly worse. There are more things to deal with all the time and the process of keeping on top of the children’s education is harder on me than it was.

The way I have managed things this week is to do what can only be called “skeleton HE”. The children have done stuff that doesn’t involve me moving around too much. The workbook based stuff has been straight forward enough. I can’t read anything aloud so we have gone to Story Nory for some traditional tales such as The Snow Queen and something else I can’t remember.

There are what the children call “funny people” on the BBC schools sites and Heleyna still has More.Starfall which has the massive advantage that the computer does all the talking. Then Ronan will get books and read them either to the girls or just have a quiet reading time.

We’ve done music and Songschool Latin because I don’t need to speak or move around for any of that either.

Thankfully now Ronan is old enough he and the girls have done some unsupervised cooking and  craft. They clear up after themselves and they do an end of day tidy up before TV and play computer time.

I have managed to do small bits of housework but to be honest Iona has taken over a lot at the moment. As soon as I move around even a bit the coughing and wheezing starts.

I think Charlotte Mason’s insistance that in the “pre-school” years the children need to learn how to learn, how to form the right habits of learning and taking care of themselves, is very wise. You never know when your children will need to show their independance and trustworthyness – if you haven’t done the training in the gentle days, the difficult days could prove to be far worse than you would otherwise have to deal with.

Four the last 5 days I have been on a liquid diet. Soup and yoghurt mainly. Anyway ages and ages ago I ordered some FibroResponse to see if it really would do anything. It arrived yesterday. Marvellous, I thought, perhaps it can start work straight away. Well the tablets are the size of bricks! Even on a good day I am not sure I could swallow. The makes obviously hadn’t figured in the swallowing difficulties so many of us have on a “good day” let alone when it’s all gone to pot. ROFL!

The boys are hoping to engineer a way of grinding them down. Fun for all. They do get good reviews so here’s hoping.

Unfortunately my lack of breathing ability (and sleep) have caused me to cave on my new year’s resolution of “No More Doctors”. Sigh.

I don’t do politics usually but…

I tend to follow the Chestonian view that “It is terrible to contemplate how few politicians are hanged.”  Frankly the whole lot of them are so alike it would be difficult to tell them apart even though they wear different coloured ties.

Until I settled on distributism as a general political, social and economic view I suppose I was more or less a Labour supporter. That changed rather rapidly when Blair fitzThatcher took over and the astonishingly nasty Balls and Brown dark-comedy duo hit town.

Interestingly I see Fr Ray has this post with a link to this article which appeared in the Herald, and I never got around to reading. It’s a good article that explains how people like me ended up with no “politics” to speak of at all.

Some of you may remember how difficult I found it to decide how to vote at the last General Election. I knew from a tactical point I had to vote Tory, but most people of my age have a lot of memories of the Thatcher years and they aren’t good.  I went to school in an area where within a couple of years of Mrs Thatcher’s attack on the unions we had a school full of kids on “free dinners” because their dad’s were suddenly out of work. Whole communities went to the wall – and frankly the Union grip didn’t seem to get any less. But I was just a kid – what did I know?

As a nurse however I saw something up close that I still think was so utterly unethical and wicked, I am amazed there was such silence on it. It was the full on attack on those who had long term serious illness.

Most people noticed that “Care in the Community” was nothing of the sort. Beds in psychiatric hospitals closed with a startling correlation on the number of people with mental illness in prison and the rise in homeless figures.  Like many nurses in the ’80s I saw people who had once been patients begging on the streets.

But for me it was one patient that made me swear never to vote Tory. Let’s call him Jim. He had schizophrenia. It had not been all that well controlled and he had been in and out of hospital and sectioned more than once. Then one day out in the community he had been attacked and left with brain damage. He had been transferred to the psych from general and once his schizophrenia was controlled I had received him for rehab. By this point he had been in hospital a good number of months. He had to deal with trying to get well, and coping with the permanent damage he had been left with thanks to his attackers. (I don’t think they were ever caught).

Jim had a flat in a high-rise which he had continued to pay rent on while in hospital so he would have a home to go to. Unfortunately, his brain damage and the uncertainty of the effects this would have on his long-term mental health meant we no longer deemed it a safe place to be discharged to. Thankfully Jim had a good mother. She was getting on a bit and just about making ends meet on her state pension but she was willing to take care of her son and keep an eye  out. All we needed was a change of tenancy so he could live on the ground floor and near her. SIMPLE.

However, sneakily Thatcher and her buddies had changed the benefits system. Once a seriously ill person had spent more than a year in hospital their benefits were drastically cut. No appeal. Just cut. So Jim received weekly benefits that were less than his weekly rent. This put him into rent arrears obviously and also meant he couldn’t even buy basics such as toiletries. – just at a time when hospitals were no longer helping out there either.

Like many student and qualified staff back then, we bought stuff for our patients because they wouldn’t have them otherwise.

Being in arrears meant Jim could not have a change of tenancy even with the maximum medical points that he had.  In the end his mother had to try and pay off his debt out of her state pension. I can only assume she went without a great deal to do this for her son. God bless her.

At last we were able to get Jim the flat near his mother that he needed. No thanks at all to the astonishing attack on the truly vulnerable from that Tory Government.

Tony Blair was pretty dreadful and nick named “son of Thatcher” for a reason. But he did at least ensure nurses got a reasonable wage, eventually.

As a distributist I believe that families should be left with their own money so they can take care of their own and that with local funding and charity projects the truly vulnerable will be known and not slip through the enormous holes in the net we have now.

Jesus said “The poor we will have with us always,” but He never said, “So lets make the really vulnerable as poor as possible.”

The Mighty Squeak!

It is our first proper day back of home ed today. We’ve moved slowly up to this point over last week and so today was to be full-on muscular home ed. Yes, but for the small fact that I have lost my voice! I have a cough that makes me sound like a flat battery crossed with an oil leak – all very entertaining. The timing is a bit irritating, but I reckon all these can’t breath, lost voice attacks I’ve been having recently may be God’s little 2×4 telling me I talk too much!

So the gentle Franciscan cum Benedictian kind of home education we do here has given way to the more Trappist approach - into some kind of silence. (There will never be great silence in our house while Heleyna lives here).

Thank God for all those audio files I have tucked away for such moments.

How many miracles does it take to make someone believe?

I think it was some time last year that I read R H Benson’s  book on Lourdes and he mentioned the famous – or should I say infamous – case of Emil Zola who not only refused to believe even when God in His mercy provided a miracle for the author’s own viewing, but he went home and wrote up on the miracle telling an outright lie about the end result!

It goes with that strange moment after the miracle of the loaves and fishes when Jesus gives the admittedly difficult to grasp discourse about eating His Flesh and drinking His Blood and all those disciples who had only the day previously eaten miraculously produced food, did a runner. I assume that many of those who left Jesus that day had seen the healings, exorcisms and maybe even the raising of dead people – and yet they walked away. Did they have to lie to themselves and others to excuse the inexcusable? I don’t know.

As I cleaned the kitchen and cooked the dinner today I was listened to Fr Mitch’s Open Line and a man phoned in about the Tilma of Guadalupe. He had been told it was a Spanish import. How weird. There is the Tilma that has gone through a gammit of scientific investigations and survived a bomb attack and still there are those who do not just refuse to believe, but have to lie about it in order to prop up their unbelief.

Obviously there are a lot of fake miracles out there. It’s why the Church has a binding and loosing authority and uses science to help her make decisions. We are all still awaiting the decision about the events of Medjugorje in Croatia.

There have been healings and other miracles throughout the Church since Day 1 and yet so many ignore these signs and don’t bother to even see if they are true or not. It can be a little too easy when reading Scripture to be annoyed at the blindness and astronomical pride of the Pharisees – but nothing much has changed really. We can’t say “But we have not seen,” because in every age God gives us something to look at and see. We just have to look.



Happy Epiphany to you. With the new way the Masses work now we wont actually be celebrating it until Sunday. In fact our MC was trying to work out how long he could live the crib scene up with the Magi in. They are heavy and he wanted to have his time-worth after lugging them into place. I suggested Candlemass (hehehe).

Should have read the children The Legend of Old Befana today and made some sugar coal or something. But we didn’t. Tomorrow maybe.

Happy Birthday 18!

Iona turned 18 yesterday. She and her friends gathered for a lovely dinner party. Iona and her friend C did the cooking and there was lashings of tea all round.

She got some lovely presents from people – a lot on the tea drinking theme. Al and I joined them for the deserts and present opening. I laughed when she opened one of her presents from us – a mould for making chocolate tea pot and cup and saucer – there was a universal “OH WOW!” from the girls. The boys had a less exuberant response. LOL.

A lovely time was had by all.

New years Resolution; NO MORE DOCTORS

Filed in the ‘you just couldn’t make this up’ catagory.

I received an appoitment to see a doctor today. I phoned up beforehand to see who he was and why I was seeing him and was told quite clearly that he was a specialist in ME. I was over the moon (stupidly) – could hardly believe there was a doctor who had chosen to specialise in such a disrespected illness.

I had reached the end of the road as far as doctors are concerned but this silly appoitment raised my hopes. (very stupidly)

Turns out the doc is not a specialist in ME. In fact he isn’t even aware of the research developments in ME/CFS/FM. He basically told me the illness was a non-illness and that I just needed aerobic exercsie and CBT. I pointed out I had done the exercsie and now can’t even walk to the end of the road. He said – do it all again and have CBT.

He practically laughed at the notion he was a specialist in ME because who would bother with that? I said I had noticed that no one did. He said that doctors kept referring CFS/ME/FM patients to him and he didnt really know why! Bearing in mind he hasn’t any knowledge of the new research I don’t know why either.

Hoping beyong any hope at this point I tentiviely raised the question of Gaberpentin and whether it would help me with the twitching and jerking. He didn’t know but then he knew so little about the illness that I had to explain that amitripylene is use as pain relief.

I am afraid I cried on the way home. But it has helped in one way. I will not be returning to the doctors. I will not attend any more hospital appoitments and I will simply manage.

Fortunately I am pretty strong willed and I have coped well over the last 10 years – so I will continue to cope. No more doctors. No more let downs.

I am gradually getting more disabled and sicker but I am sure I will find ways to deal with it. After all in the olden days people had to as there was no medicine. As it is clear the NHS makes medieval approaches to medicine look good, I will experiment and see what helps from natural remedies.

A question of chairs

It’s the new year and I am wondering about my plans for the year ahead. there are things I would like to be able to do with the children, places to go and things to see. One of the places is lovely, but has gravel paths. Last time we went I used my shove-it wheelchair as a zimmer frame and managed to walk quite a bit and sit still occasionally. There was no way the wheelchair could cope with the paths.

I do have a scooter which gets me to Mass and which the men can load into the trailer for family trips out. But the scooter needs the trailer and a strong man and to be honest is can be pretty painful to use on rough ground.

The shove-it is becoming impossible to use as my arms (particularly my right one) simply can’t wheel it these days, so I have to be pushed. Not a great way to maintain independence.

So for some months now I have been considering a power chair. It is a difficult decision on a number of levels. The first obstacle is me, having to get my head around needing one and feeling like this is a step down the road of disability rather than up towards being less disabled. But then I think I have to be realistic and face facts – I am more disabled than I was before the flare.

The next question is cost – do I hire or buy and which chair will allow me the freedom to be out with the children without having to be “cared” for?

Going out in the shove it requires someone to push me. Now in museums or flat spaces this isn’t such a problem, but out and about it’s pretty tough on Iona and I am sorry to admit that I still struggle with needing to be pushed. I want to feel a bit more independant.

The next question is do I hire or buy? I would rather hire with a view to buying so I can use the chair and see if it is really the right thing. There are so many different power chairs out there and the prices vary just as hugely. I like the look of the Jazzy and think it will be robust enough to deal with home education days out. I don’t think it’s very car friendly though, but then perhaps I could get it on a bus. Not sure. These are the things I need to try out.

Hiring the mid range type chairs is expensive, but I think more sensible than parting with something from  £1k to £2k in one go only to find the thing isn’t right in some way.

The other question is would it replace the scooter or the shove it?  Decisions decisions. I think it’s something I want to get on with though while I can still claim Disability Living Allowance. Questions are being raised as to how long that will last with the cut backs.

Hospital appoitment tomorrow with a doctor who is apparently a specialist in ME (which in the UK covers ME CFS and FM). As far as I am concerned this is the last one. If a specialist in the actual disease can’t spend more than three minutes and has no ideas I give up. After the cardio appt I had decided not to go back, but to just try and manage.  We’ll see, but at this point I have had more than enough of doctors. It is exhausting going to hospital appoitments and as the appoitments are so short - about five minutes at most - and nothing gets done it doesn’t seem worth the bother. Must admit the doc at the Hypertension Clinic was good though. She almost restored my very battered faith.

If there is one thing this Government could do to help the quality of patient care it would be to have a bonfire of the tick boxes.


Papa Beni speaks about education

In his new year Angelus address the Holy Father said

“It is necessary and urgent to educate new generations, giving them a solid and integral formation that includes moral and spiritual dimensions. In particular, I want to highlight those that deal with justice and peace…”

In the rush to start the New Year term I need to remember that workbooks, craft and home ed meetings are not the be all and end all. If I am not helping them form their consciences so they stand firm and make just and moral decisions, then I am not much of a mother.

Theotokos and Happy 2012

Bouncing into the new year celebrating the Solemnity of Mary the Mother of God; known from the Greek as Theotokos – God bearer.

Nestorius in the 4th to 5th Century tried to insist that Jesus could not have been fully human and fully Divine and that Mary could not be called “God-bearer” but “Christ-bearer”. His compromise in title, however, found no foothold with either side of the  argument as the real question was on the nature of the Incarnation. Jesus is fully human and fully Divine; not half and half or one thing or the other. The temptation towards papa-sum-ism was strong from the beginning of the Church it seems.

The Church and the actual Pope reminded Christians that Christ is God and that there is One God in three persons, not three Gods and that Christ was one person with two natures, human and divine and as such Mary is indeed the Theotokos.

It’s a nice complicated theological toffee to get your teeth stuck into at the beginning of each year!

Have a blessed 2012.