Monthly Archives: April 2012

The moral minefield of being a mum

From the moment that extra line appears on the dipstick a mother has decisions to make about how to best take care of her child. There are some moral absolutes in there, but many decisions about how best to be a mother fall into the prudential judgement area, and that can be more difficult. Starting with what you put into your body. It is obvious that ingesting some kind of poison that will be detrimental to the baby is bad – but then is drinking any alcohol really bad? Or should all pregnant mothers really avoid soft cheese and prawns because some minor studies say so?  Once you have tiptoed through that little minefield and the baby has arrived, what about breast feeding?

Is breastfeeding a moral issue? In some ways yes, but again it’s in the prudential judgement area. Putting aside for one moment the obvious non-moral case of a mother who can’t breastfeed thanks to medical problems faced by her or her child (reflux, tongue tie, needing very strong meds such as chemo etc) there is still the question of breast verses bottle and how long to do what. I have seen some people make the strong sweeping statement that bottle feeding is immoral. But it isn’t intrinsically immoral, any more than needing a wet nurse is.

This is followed by what has been dubbed the “mummy wars” where a row breaks out over what is best, stay at home or work outside the home? If a mother has to work outside of the home, what is she morally obliged to do with her children?

Then there’s the education war between home education and send them to school. When, if ever, is it morally right to put children into institutional education? Is there ever a time when it is immoral to home educate?

Among this comes the question of when or whether to have the next baby.

We also are called to guide and teach our children to live good moral lives and that means using discipline. So what kind of discipline should be use?

When there are so few absolutes in being a mum, where do we turn for guidance, truth and strength? Is there a design for the family that we can try and follow so that we offer the best for our children growing up, while retaining some level of sanity?

Lots of questions. Now I have to try and work out some answers…

Medjugorje and Me.

At the moment the 30 year events going on in Medjugorje in Bosnia Herz are being fully investigated by a team at the Vatican. There’s a general belief that a definitive judgement on whether Our Blessed Mother has been appearing there will be made by the end of this year. In the meantime there’s quite a bit of argument and controversy over the matter. I don’t want to add to that, but I thought I might tell what part this place and it’s events have had on my faith.

I grew up and went to Catholic schools in the 1970’s and early 80’s. It was during the Catechism-free-zone days of Catholic teaching. I was being unpleasantly sandwiched between the dark judgemental “can’t wait for an excuse to send you to hell” god on the one side and the pink and fluffy”how does it feel for you?” god on the other. It was not good.

One thing that began to bug me was the sheer volume of miracles. I don’t mean cures as such, but the spinning sun seemed to happen all the time and then there was the business of people’s rosaries turning to gold. Something about that seemed wrong.

Without going into the rigmarole of my painful Faith journey back then I had reached the point where I knew God existed (from reason) but I had no idea who He was and had a strong suspicion that even if the Jesus of Scripture was God and that He had spent nearly 2000 showing His love for His people, all that had vanished some time after the first world war and He had shipped out, leaving us to ourselves. I could see no evidence at that point in my life that God had anything more to do with the world or His Church (if the Catholic Church was His Church and I was not convinced of that).

News reached me somehow (I can’t remember how) that Our Blessed Mother may be appearing to some young people in a place called Medjugorje. At first I wasn’t able to find out much about it, but eventually I found a magazine about the events and I signed up to see if it was true. I was pretty cautious at first as I wasn’t one to trust anyone very easily, but the stories of the apparitions, cures, conversions and the joy that came with them all captivated me and I began to think it highly likely that the apparitions were true and I was so grateful to have the hope that God hadn’t done a runner. (As you can see spiritually I was way off beam still). The fact that I was beginning to believe in it meant that I decided to make the effort to live the messages; going to Mass more often, praying the rosary, reading the Bible – just trying to be better at this Christianity thing I was so unsure of. I have to admit, it was all very good for me and certainly played a pretty big part in steering me in the right direction. But doubts began to creep in.

I can’t remember when exactly, I began to sense something off about it all. One of the first red flags was the Bishop of Mostar being so against it and the anger towards him by those who supported it. He may have been completely wrong, I didn’t know (and having been brought up in the catechism-free-zone I had no idea that the local ordinary had the authority to declare on local private revelation. I don’t think I even knew there was a distinction between public and private revelation at this point).  The other thing I began to feel uncomfortable with was the number of times I met people who put immense pressure on me to go there. One couple in particular had a really negative effect on me, even though I thought they were very nice people. It was the “come and see the miracles” approach that niggled at me. I didn’t give up hoping it was real though.

Then I met a friend who had been there. He told me that his rosary had turned to gold while he was there. Far from being pleased with this, it had unnerved him. He said that he had thought the event “brash and tasteless” and wondered if it really was Our Blessed Mother doing this. Somehow this conversation vocalised the niggling doubts and strange feeling that had been growing for me and I decided to leave well alone until there was a definitive judgement. Some time after that the Bishop of Mostar asked the visionaries not to speak any more on the visions (or some say he asked them to stop having visions) but nothing has changed. Knowing that in other apparitions Our Blessed Mother has obeyed the Bishop’s request because he has the authority from her Son – this was the clincher for me.

At this point it is 30 years down the line and a lot has been written and said. Many, many of those who have or still support the authenticity of the apparitions are truly good, holy people who I respect. A couple of the leading lights against Medjugorje on the other hand come across as arrogant and snarky. But there are also good, holy people who are pretty sure the Vatican will say it is not authentic.

Where do I stand now? I can’t help thinking this probably was a genuine apparition to begin with. But so many other things have happened that need unknotting or undoing that I can’t see there’s much room for the Commission to say any of it was authentic. But they have far more info than I do- so we wait.

I have to say I think the Church has taken the Ent-Moot far to far on this matter. Countless souls are wrapped up in these events and I am afraid I think they have been left to flounder without proper guidance. Hopefully the Commission will give and clear, definitive judgement. As a matter of fact one of the advantages (to me) of being Catholic is that there are rigorous investigations of purported miracles and apparitions. It is a shame it’s taken so long, but better late than never.

Good books for late teens/young adults (and old adults who need to reignite those battered grey cells)

One of the joys of home education is the massive opportunity to invest in good books for the children (and me) that encourage thought, silence of the soul and goodness. Simcha Fisher’s post about books for young adults begins with what can only be described as insitutional emotional manipulation “everything we read had to be about two or more of the following, the Holocaust, suicide or bulimia…”

Having typed up my oldest sons A level essays (he has only recently learned to type – so much for school) I was always somewhat disturbed that just about everything he had to write about involved some sort of depression, self harm and dark misery of the utterly pointless kind. How it was supposed to be helpful or encouraging of maturity in any way completely escaped me.

I want something better for my other children and wish I had been savvy enough and brave enough back then to pull him from school.

Simcha’s list include books I have read and loved.

Til we Have Faces by C S Lewis is an excellent book and the fact it is not on any A level list is deeply sad. Peter Kreeft has an excellent lecture on Beauty includes a good study of this book.

Another one of her choices is A Canticle for Leibowitz by Walter Miller which is available in audio here. I loved this book. It’s got a weird feel to it at times but it has that deep rooted truth that makes the story real much like Lord of the Rings has, although both books are completely different in style and story. I also have Leib and the Horse Woman but I haven’t read it yet.

The Don Camillo books are brilliant. I read them in my teens and now my dh loves them. They give a genuine and funny insight into Italy after the war and my favourite book Comrade Don Camillo gives a  funny and poignant insight into communist Russia and the ordinary people who had to find ways to survive there. Why not let young adults see the horror of those times without bashing them over the head?

She then returns to C S Lewis with the Out of the Silent Plant trilogy although Simcha leaves out That Hideous Strength. I loved these books but I must admit I found Perelandra hard going and I…erm…skipped a bit. ahem. Anyway the trilogy is good but I think it would suit the older end of teens.

I would add some classics like the works of Jane Austin

Crime and Punishment and Conan Doyle books

For lighter reading my older children have enjoyed the Regina Doman retelling of fairy tales for older people

I must write a blog post on the joy of a good murder. But before I do there’s Fr Brown. Now I am going to say something – brace yourself Chesterton fans – I don’t think all the Fr Brown stories are that good. But the ones that aren’t are still way better than some of the stuff you could be inflicted with otherwise so this isn’t a terrible diss of G K.

Had my EEG today.

Today’s hospital appointment is the last one for the time being. Still awaiting the Lung Specialist, but apparently the waiting list is very long indeed.

Anyway today it was the EEG. Interestingly (to me anyway) the myoclonus has calmed down a bit over the last few days and so I wondered if the fact I’ve been back on Prednisolone might have anything to do with that, or whether it was just coincidence. The eeg-man (who probably has a proper title, sorry) said he wasn’t sure, but it was possible that if the twitching, jerking, absences and general weirdness is to do with some sort of inflammation, then steroids could possibly calm that down. Interesting.

I was duly wired up. The way it works is I parked up the wheelchair with a little box on a stand behind me. From the box came all the lovely coloured wires. These were attached to my head with stickers and gel which included a wire stuck to each collar-bone area. Not sure what they were for. Nothing too uncomfortable.

There was a camara pointed at me.

Once I was wired and properly facing the camera the test began. I had to just sit there, eyes open, then shut, then open and so on. That was ok, although keeping my eyes shut was weird as my body started twitching – not something I had expected. Don’t know what that’s supposed to mean.

The next bit involved looking into a bright flashing light, eyes open and shut. It was pretty unpleasant. He did say I could stop him but I decided to keep going. At the point where I thought the nausea was more than I could politely manage the thing finished! Thank heavens for that!

That was it. No idea how long before I get to hear of results but the next epilepsy clinic appt isn’t until October so I am guessing I have to wait 6 months (Ah the NHS).

I’ve had a look at a couple of epilepsy sites to see what I can hope for especially if (as always seems to happen) they can’t see anything on it or as happens even more often they simply lose the thing. Unfortunately it seems that EEGs are not as useful as I’d hoped. So many people have clear ones even at the point of grand mall seizures. This is not what I wanted to read.

For ten years I have handled all the “there’s nothing in the results” from doctors and I’ve coped with FM and all it’s extras reasonably well. During the major flare two years ago I realised that even in a serious state of illness like then, there is no medical support for this disease.  I started to read the research myself and find my own way through, learning to accept that I am getting worse and that I wont ever get better (unless God offers me a miracle). I have managed that. I have been extraordinarily blessed that I have never had to deal with depression or anxiety about any of this. I have been frustrated and angry at times and I have lost what little faith I ever had in the medical profession as a whole – with one or two exceptions, but I think a bit of anger and frustration helps the fight, whereas I think depression must make it so much harder to deal with.

But this business is proving a real challenge to my keep-b%$%^ing-on (as Churchill signed all his letters) approach to life and this disease. I just can’t stand the idea that I will be having these weird jerks and twitches in public. The idea that I will be left with them, and that they will have to get a lot worse until I’m having full fits before there’s a hope of treatment is terrifying frankly. Seeing the number of people left to suffer just because the machine hasn’t spotted the problem is deeply disturbing. So many good doctors and researchers have spoken out against a machine based approach to medicine. Patients are human beings not mere machines, and we know our own bodies.

I am not saying I wont carry this cross if God sends it. Obviouly I will. But I can’t help a little hope that the doc will say, “The results show you have this…” and then “And we have a great treatment for that…” or better yet, “And we can stop it happening.”

Home Education, Living Literature – because Charlotte Mason is still my heroine.

Obviously when it comes to children reading and being read to grades are a very vague guide. For example Ronan has been reading St Ignatius without too many problems – apart from the Spanish names – but it isn’t on Seton until much later (I discovered by accident t’other day). While I am a great believer in giving children books to read that expand their vocabulary and stretch them a bit, I don’t advocate making reading so hard it puts them off.  I think there’s a place for “page candy” as well (in small doses) – although I can’t think of any the children are reading at the moment.

(Grade 3-4) Ronan is reading (to me) Tom’s Midnight Garden  (from my Kindle) and St Ignatius Loyola.

Avila is reading Why? by Tomie DePaola which she has nearly finished. Once she has I will buy For the Duration which both she and Ronan have been looking forward too. I think she’ll probably get to read it first.

Avila will also be reading The Weight of the Mass and Take it to the Queen.

Ronan and Avila are allowed to read in bed now.

Ronan is reading T. H. White’s The Sword in the Stone which Iona picked up from a charity shop.

Avila has been reading mainly picture books each night – lots of Tomie dePaola and other stuff.

I’ve been printing off comics from Treasure Chest of Fact and Fun for them both as well. This has gone down better than I expected. The only complaint so far has been the type quality sometimes.  I’ve got some copies of Fairy Tale Parade  (I didn’t get them from the site linked but hopefully that site works ok) as well which now we have a cheap to run laser printer I am printing selected stories from.

They have been listening to Stranger Moon from Ancient Faith Radio’s Under the Grapevine. We have all the Narnia books downloaded as well as some other stories. It’s lovely stuff and has been a God-send now that I can’t read out loud for any length of time. Heleyna’s favourite is the story of St. Helena and the Cats. There’s also that lovely Wemmick story – we have the book from a friend.

Other books the children have been reading or will be reading over the next few weeks are:

The Librarian Who Measured The Earth for the little ones history.

Wise Guy about Socrates.

This beautiful book Angel in teh Waters to go with a little project we are doing on human fetal development.

Iona is reading Anne Fran’s Short Stories lent by a friend. Anne wrote them when she was a teenager and Iona reckons she was very wise for her age. Then she will read The Flight of the Falcon by Daphne De Maurier 

I am still reading Osler’s Web which I very much recommend. It’s a brilliantly researched and written expose of the sheer corruption, egos and narcisistic personalities as well as the heroic and genuine care and hard work done by reserchers and medics into the mystery of ME which was named Chronic Fatique Syndrome in a deliberate and frankly malicious attempt to prevent patient care.

Check out my Amazon Store (no, I am not making any money on this) for other books we either have or wish to have that I think I worth reading.

Home Education. What we are using or plan to use for Pre-k grade 1 and grade 3 and stepping up.

I’ve been sorting out and planning for the rest of the term to the Summer. As we have moved more towards workbooks and bought curriculum things have become a little easier on my foggy brain. One thing that has been fortunate is that the workbooks and curriculum I already have is working well so that I am not having to buy lots of new stuff over and over. So here’s the list.

As this post is going to be very long and some of you might want to come back to check resources and links I’ll make it sticky.

Continue reading

Is there are history curriculum out there that doesn’t lean to a world view, but just tells the truth?

Teaching history is a mine field, peppered with little bombs of “worldview” that can go off at any time.

In my search for a history curriculum I actually came across advice on one homeschool site, that parents should make sure the history package they choose reflects their world view. That means as a Catholic I have to buy Catholic history books, not just to teach my children their Faith and history, but because non-Catholic history books will be skewed. Or I can’t buy Catholic books if I’m protestant or Jewish because Catholic books will be skewed. By skewed I mean dishonest.

I have no objection to buying my children well written history books that offer them the stories of their Faith, particularly on saints and great Catholics good and bad and downright awful. What I don’t want is to read Catholic history that has had all the truly awful ones removed. I want a TRUTHFUL history with all the saints and sinners who took part given a fair hearing.

I don’t want to buy a protestant history that dishes out all the Black Legends and blood libels against Catholics, while white washing the appalling behaviour of some of their “heroes” like Luther and the tyrant Elizabeth I. I want to see the whole story, told properly and honestly with actual history. If a writer must break the commandment against bearing false witness in order to give their ‘worldview’ then that worldview isn’t worth much.

Just one example of this is in a well known children’s history book in which it is stated that Catherine of Aragon had a “real” marriage with Arthur Tudor. The author, without producing any evidence, is saying that Catherine perjured herself when she took an oath in God’s Name saying her marriage with Arthur was not consummated. On her oath the marriage was annulled freeing her to marry Henry VIII. Even secular historians do not accuse Catherine of perjury.  As the same author says Henry VIII was pleased with Luther I can only assume she wrote a book without having read any on this subject! The same author decided that Prince Vladimir the great joined the Orthodox church quite some years before it even existed, presumably because she had no idea of the Catholic Byzantine Rite. (Eastern Rite Catholics understandably roll their eyes at the lack of recognition of their existence).

As for secular history book; Editing out all that any Christian did unless it was bad and of course including legend, is both pointless and dishonest. It is because of these books that Christians and others have taken up the task of writing their own history books. The problem is, in reacting to the shoddy work of some of these books, they are in danger of falling off the other side and producing shoddy work slanted dishonestly from another worldview. Some of the Catholic books seem to lean that way, and while they are great at putting forward parts of Catholic history that has been edited out and deliberately ignored – there’s a danger in this I believe, that we can get a bit of a ‘victim’ complex. Do you know what I mean?  For 2000 years almost without a break Catholics somewhere have faced injustice, persecution and martyrdom. wholesale anti-Catholic propaganda especially (and shamefully) in the English speaking world has meant quite a backlash now Catholics have more freedom (in the English speaking countries).

Persecution is something to be proud of, not get angry about. Blaming those alive today for what their ancestors did doesn’t strike me as all that helpful and as Catholics we are forbidden from this anyway because Jesus said so! Saying it happened and how is good history, but the facts can speak for themselves.

There has been a view, which I have never agreed with, that the winners write history and so all history is necessarily dishonest. This isn’t so. There are plenty of ways of ascertaining what happened, especially these days when more archives and documents have been made available; when it happened, to whom and why using documents and archeological evidence from both sides. It’s when chunks of the story are deliberately ignored because it’s embarrassing that things go wrong.

For us Catholics there is a great deal of history that is toe curlingly bad. We look with sadness at the Avignon popes and the growing political corruption that came to a head under the infamous Borgia family.  (With the shining exception of St, Francis Borgia – was he related to them? I haven’t read his story yet). We see Christendom filled with sinners and saints who faced the corruption of popes and bishops head on – most notably women saints such as St. Catherine of Siena and St. Bridget of Sweden. We see the work of St Francis of Assisi against some of the appalling decisions made by crusader armies. None of that needs to be avoided. Surely we can learn as much from the sinners in history as the saints.

I did once see a home ed mother actually bragging that she had removed her child from the carefully chosen secular school because they were teaching Bible events as though they actually happened! LOL! Bigotry and ignorance always seem to go together – but honestly! To be fair to good secular history books they don’t go so far as to try and pretend Jews and Christians have no history!

In some ways Catholic history writers are almost forced to write the bad things Catholics did, because God raised up so many very powerful high profile saints to tackle it. It would be difficult to impossible, I would guess, to write about saints like Sts Francis of Assisi, Catherine of Siena, Bridget of Sweden, Dominic, Ignatius Loyola, Teresa of Avila…and so on without mentioning that they faced the often utterly immoral and appalling behaviour of Catholics both clerical, lay and of course political.

You certainly can’t talk about Our Lady of Guadalupe without pointing out that the reason God had to send her, was the lack of conversions among the native people thanks to the slave trade and greed of the so-called Catholic rulers. The priests and brothers who worked so hard and protested the slave trade so well received their reward when nearly 9 million native south American people converted.

But I don’t want a history that has the guts ripped out of it as authors avoid the wonders of Art and architecture, medicine and philosophy, just because it was so strongly Church led.

All I want is a good children’s (mixed age) history curriculum that tells the truth. Written by someone who actually knows the history they are writing! I want it editorially honest treating black legend with the same disgust as the Jewish blood libel.


OK I wrote all that and now I am going to say that with another family we are going to have a go at R C History because the books are broad and they make the boast that they are catholic as well as Catholic.  Let’s see how it goes.