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Sunday, June 12, 2011

My Catholic Arsenal

My Catholic Arsenal

I am blogging about this, (and I don't know how long it's going to be), for a friend of mine who shall remain anonymous in this blog for her privacy.   She is a recent convert, and with very deep faith.  God has His hand on her.  What she has discovered, as I did since I'm also a convert, is NO ONE learns everything in RCIA.  Well.  Maybe if Padre Pio taught your RCIA.   Haha.. but for most of us, it seems, as thorough as they try to be, there is so much information they cannot possibly cover everything.  So they teach the "meat" of it, (sorry to my vegetarian/vegan friends), because as we all know, you have to learn to crawl before you can walk.

I attended RCIA when I was in my early twenties.  I did learn a lot from Father who taught the class.  But even as holy, kind, and deeply committed as he was, a lot of things I didn't learn.  So, (drum roll please), this is my little "101" on what I have and what I do and why.  Just things I have learned that I 'didn't' learn in RCIA.  This is all for my dear friend, but anyone who can glean from it, or heck, add to it, please feel free to be my guest. :)

Number one, I believe a Catholic needs a bible, a copy of the Catechism, and a rosary.  When I went through RCIA, we were recommended to the The New American Bible, but I noticed that Father used and preferred for himself The New Jerusalem Bible.   So that's what I have.  Okay, well, actually I have both.  But the New Jerusalem is my favorite.    Any Catholic bible will do.  If in doubt, do an internet search, or talk with your priest and find out what he recommends.   

Next on the list is a good copy of The Catechism of the Catholic Church.  You can get it in hard back or paper back.  Until you get one, you can find it online at, and I'd bet the family farm they have apps you can get on your phone.   So, why do you need a Catechism?  Because it's a basic "rule book", so to speak.  Any question you have can be looked up and answered.  You can see what the Church's stance is on anything.   Not to mention, it helps you learn your faith.  I cannot recommend it enough.   Some of them can be pricey.  I bought mine at a thrift store.   Look around.  You'll find them.     

Lastly, but most certainly not least, a rosary.  Make sure, please, that it's a Catholic rosary, with 60 beads.  Please get it blessed.  Any priest will be happy to bless your rosary, or anything else, if you ask him.

Other things:  I have in my home a "pie safe" cabinet, which is basically a table that opens up like a cupboard in the front with shelves inside.   You can start small... such as a paper holy picture and a small candle.  I put mine on my pie safe table, and thus started my little table shrine.  My little place to keep holy things.   I've added to it... I bought a table top crucifix, (which I had blessed) a couple of very small "dollar store" statues, (figurines, really, also I got blessed), and put them on top with a candle holder.  Inside I keep my stuff.  Candles, candle holders, blessed salt, holy water, blessed oil, and more.  When I buy a box of salt, a box of tea lite candles (or votives), I take it in and ask the priest to bless it for me.  If the smoke of a candle is carrying my prayers to Heaven, I'd prefer that the candle be blessed.  Also, since the Church has a yearly Candle-mas service to bless all candles, I can't possibly be the only nut who does this.  Hahaha.   So I know that any time I light a candle in prayer, I'm doing so on a blessed candle.   I also buy the candles from church...  They're $3 each, and so I can buy 3 or 4 and they last a while.  And.. I get them blessed.  In our parish bookstore are the glass candle holders identical to the ones they use on the Church alter.  This is important!   A lot of candle holders, YES, even "safe" ones that you buy from the store, will sometimes burst.   Church candle holders are specially made for candles to burn for hours at a time.   They certainly aren't going to risk burning down the Church, so I feel quite safe using those same candle holders in my home.   Bear in mind, it *is* a candle, and accidents do happen.  So please use safety precautions as you would with any other candle.   WHILE I'm on the subject of candles... do NOT buy those crazy grocery store candles with the Saints on them.  Apparently a good many of them are used in Santeria which is voodoo and a lot of their candles look like ours.  It's hard to tell the difference sometimes, so my best advice is DON'T RISK IT and just get the ones from Church.. you know they're not going to sell you anything crazy.   Better safe than sorry.    

I have been told by different folks that you ought to have, (and no, I don't yet but I plan to), two pure beeswax candles (blessed) for emergencies.  Keep them in a brown paper bag in the refrigerator and have them literally for emergencies.   I admit readily I am a little uneducated on this, and so perhaps I shouldn't have mentioned it.  But, it was mentioned to me, and so I'm just sharing the info.  Once again, I say, better safe than sorry.  Sometimes all the details don't really matter when good old fashioned faith is more than enough. :)

Blessed salt.  You can buy any box of regular table salt from the grocery.  Take it, still sealed, to your priest. 

He will bless it as usual, but then he will open up your salt and pray the exorcism prayer over it.   He will sprinkle a little out and make the Sign of the Cross.  Then you have yourself a nice box full of blessed salt.   I will tell you now.. go ahead and take 2 or 3 boxes or salt....  Father will NOT think you're nuts.  And that way you only have to bug him once, and you have enough blessed salt to last a pretty long time.   So, what do you do with blessed salt?  Well, it's a sacramental.   Walk the perimeter of your property, pray for protection for your home and sprinkle a little as you walk and pray.  Walk through your home and pray protection for your home, sprinkling the blessed salt across thresholds... and anywhere you think you'd benefit.  It's not a 'good luck charm'.  It's a sacramental and a matter of faith.   You can sprinkle a few grains in your car, add a pinch to the pot when you're cooking supper, toss a small pinch in front of an abortion clinic as you pass by, and the list goes on.    I do not put it into a salt shaker, but I will not hesitate to add a pinch to a pot of soup, (NOT for seasoning.. for blessing!) and if you can manage it, add a pinch especially to the food of a person who is (such as an ornery teenager), in need of a blessing! :)

Holy Water and Blessed Oil.  Okay.  You can take any bottle with a tight fitting lid and use it to store holy water.  Take your clean, empty bottle to the Church and ask where you may fill your bottle.  I have a few plastic holy water bottles I've bought at our parish bookstore, and I keep them filled.  I usually fill a couple of small bottles, that way I always have a full one when one gets empty.  

 So, what do I do with holy water?  Bless yourself.   Get a holy water font and put it by your front door, and bless yourself every time you go to walk out that door.   And bless yourself again when you come in..  your home is the Domestic Church.  We need all the protection we can get!  Bless yourself, bless your children, bless your dog.   When nerves are frazzled or there's been arguing, spritz holy water into the air.  Cleanse your home.  I've been known to add a drop or two to a a pitcher of iced tea or Crystal Light... an added blessing!!  If you are ill, you can take a tiny sip of the holy water too.

Blessed oil

 When you're at the store buying your salt, pick up a bottle of 100% pure olive oil.  (I buy extra Virgin), and have it blessed too.  Use it like you would holy water.  Use it to bless your loved ones, and to bless yourself.  You can also use a small amount on a wound, and it will help heal it.  Yes I've done this, and YES it did work!!  

Okay folks, it's late.  I will do a "part 2" on this later. :)   Good night and God Bless!!  +JMJ+

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Happy Birthday Granny!!

Happy Birthday to my Granny....

I've not blogged in a week, and irked at myself.. I had things I wanted to blog on, and took pictures and everything.  But life gets in the way, and I suppose it wasn't really important anyway.

Tomorrow is my dear Granny's 84th birthday.  

Here's Granny with her fifth great-grandchild.. my gorgeous little niece, Rebecca. :)  Isn't she just a doll!?!?

Granny was still young when I was born.  I was her first grandchild.  She was still young enough, she could have had more children still.  But she'd stopped years before, bearing only my mother and my aunt.   Short neat hair she'd put a "rinse" on, and blue eyes that looked at you and meant business.  Smart, quick, matter of fact, trim, neat, tidy, and full of the quintessential Southern pride.  Third eldest of thirteen children, raised in the flat lands of South Georgia.  How Southern?  She did, and to this day pronounces "our" as "a-ver", and "window" as "winder".  :)   Love it.  She is one of the remote few people I've known who has a heavier Southern accent than I do.  *laughs*

She married young, to her sweetheart.   They loved each other, and were happy.  Married over 60 years.   It often struck me, how even after all those years, they still held hands, and my grandpop still thought my granny was the prettiest girl in the room. :)   

She's widowed now.  She's the mother of two.  The grandmother of seven.  And the great grandmother of six.  

Happy Birthday Granny.  I love you!!

Friday, June 3, 2011

Why We Homeschool

Why We Homeschool

The background:  My youngest child was born legally blind and with global delays... and some autistic tendencies.   She started receiving OT, PT, Speech, Cognitive, & Vision Services when she was slightly over a year old.  It was all part of "Early Intervention", which was what all families with special needs children were enrolled in, regardless of your income.  In order to continue to receive services, we were obligated to enroll her into the public school system into a special needs "box class" on her third birthday.   Putting my three year old who couldn't even talk yet into a room with strangers was upsetting and scary.  If anyone abused her, or if anyone mistreated her in any way, how could she let me know if she couldn't even talk?

Frightening though it was, I did do basically what I was told to do (*miserable sigh*) and put her in the class.   God help me, it was hard.   We were blessed though, with a sweet teacher who genuinely loved the children and was gentle, patient, and kind.   My daughter was in her class for 2 years.  When she was 4 and a half years old, she was finally toilet trained, and could finally talk. (not clearly, but at least she could now communicate).  

She "graduated" into the Kindergarten "box" class, and though I wasn't as crazy about the teacher, the assistant was a Godsend and so I knew my baby was safe with her.  :)   At the end of that Kindergarten year, the school board lost funding for the class.   I was told that my daughter would go to the nearby neighborhood school, and she would be mainstreamed.  I knew this was wrong.. but what could I do?   All I heard about was the "No Child Left Behind" program.. well, guess what?  My child was about to get left behind.  And no one cared.

She entered the first grade... she could identify a trapezoid, but couldn't say the word...  she had a huge vocabulary that amazed her speech teachers, yet she couldn't even properly pronounce even her own name.   I had this brilliant child, but something was "mis-firing".  I couldn't explain it.  I still can't.  

She did well, all in all, that first year.  She learned to read very simple books.  She learned other basic "first grade" lessons.  But she learned slowly... and she couldn't keep up.  When she learned something, she KNEW it, and wouldn't forget any of it, but it took her longer to 'get' things.   The school decided to retain her.   Unsure of what to do, but knowing that it wouldn't be fair to her to pass her... it would put her even more behind, I agreed to her being retained.

Her second year of first grade was slightly better.   Each morning they still had to have a fellow classmate walk out to get my daughter.. she would come to the carport where we moms dropped off our children, and I would watch this little girl who was a full year younger than my daughter take her by the hand and patiently lead her to her classroom.   Every day, the same thing.. because my daughter knew what "facetious" meant, but couldn't remember where her class even though she was in the same classroom for two years.  

I was delighted at the end of the year when I was told she would be passed to the second grade... but at the same time.... nervous.  How would second grade be?  Work load would be harder, the kids another year older, and already she was getting teased.  "Why are your glasses so thick?"  "What's wrong with you?"  "Why does one of your eyes look funny?"   My daughter already was learning that she wasn't like the other girls, and that was upsetting to her.  It seemed the other kids were advancing.. and she was too... but more slowly.  

I talked to the guidance counselor.   And the teachers.  We had numerous conferences, and I was told point blank that "this was not the right setting" for my daughter. Well, duh.  That much I knew.   Everyone agreed, what she needed was plain out, one on one schooling.  Who could provide this?  No one they knew of.  "Maybe a special, private school", they told me.  Riiiiight.  My last name isn't Rockefeller.  

She started second grade.  Only a few weeks in, and I could see it happening again already.  She couldn't keep up.  The rest of the class was finished with a lesson and she was still trying to understand what they were doing.   Such a smart, smart girl, but just very slow at "getting it".   She needed more time.  And a mainstream class wasn't getting it.  

Her vision teacher contacted me and told me that with her newest updated lenses she now no longer needed vision services.  BUT, her "special needs" teacher that visited her for 15 minutes twice a week knew good and well that she needed large print.  The two teachers ended up in a shouting match... one insisting my daughters work be copied as large print so she could read it, and the other telling him that it wasn't necessary.  God bless that special needs teacher.  He was the best... and he knew what my daughter needed.  But he was being stretched out to cover a LOT of kids, and he just couldn't do and be all that was needed for these kids.  Way to use, and I mean USE a good teacher.   It still makes me mad, even today, how the best teachers out there are the ones that they seem to "stick it to them" the worst.  Its not right.  The good teachers that care deserve better.  And it goes without saying, so do the students.  I digress.

My daughter couldn't stay with this great special needs teacher unfortunately.  She was in this mainstream classroom, falling further behind by the day.  It was upsetting, and we felt like we had no options, no choice, and no voice.  We prayed about it.  And then, we made a choice.

There was no way I could possibly do a worse job.  I may not be the brightest crayon in the box, but surely I can teach my nearest and dearest the basics in elementary education.   I withdrew her from school.  Lord have mercy, I was scared to death.   I half expected the cops to show up and arrest me for being such a bad mother as to not send my daughter to school.  I considered going through the school board for her homeschooling... and decided that NO, I wanted to wash my hands of them, (they'd left a bad taste in my mouth at this point), and my daughter needed the freedom to learn at her own pace, without stress, and develop a love of learning.  I opted for an umbrella school.  Unschoolers, they called it.   I'd never heard this term before.   But, after freaking out, calling and emailing the lady who ran our umbrella school a dozen times, I finally started to relax a little.  

My daughter had a little trouble at first, as she is a creature of habit, and she missed her little friends at school and being with the other kids.  She cried at first, and I wondered if I'd made the right choice.   I had joined a homeschool group, (local) prior to withdrawing her from school, (which is how I learned about umbrella schools), and after much thinking and discussion I slowly started buying workbooks, and finally found the Seton curriculum, which is approved by the Catholic church. :)  We use it, and some Catholic Heritage.  I am terrible at math, so through the advice of a friend and fellow homeschooler, we chose Math-U-See for our mathematics.  (And by the way I cannot recommended Math-U-See enough!  It's the best!!)

Five months after withdrawing my youngest child from school, I finally withdrew my teenage daughter as well.  She was in middle school, and, without getting into too much here, she was in a bad situation, in over her head, and going downhill fast.  Long story short, I got her out of the hell she was in, and brought her home with us.   Having spent many years in public school, she took close to a year to de-school.  But eventually, she stopped dyeing her hair black, stopped the unhealthy things she was doing, the acting out, and slowly she let her wall down... one small piece of a brick at a time.  Lot of praying for her, lot of worrying, lot of bending the ear of our priest, (Thank you Fr Ed!), but THANK YOU JESUS I got my daughter back!  She is now open, sweet, fun, loves going to mass with us, and oh my goodness she talks to me all the time now!  I got my baby back!

When people ask why I homeschool, I try and explain.. but this isn't something I can just put into two sentences.  But I can tell you this... and you can take it to the bank.   My eldest daughter is now happy, healthy, well rounded, smart, and loves life.  I got her back.. and I mean that literally.  

My little daughter is learning by leaps and bounds.  In some subjects she is two grades ahead, and in some subjects she is two grades behind.  BUT she is learning every day, and she is learning at her own pace.  And she is HAPPY!!  We don't do tests... we don't do the "FCAT" (Florida's Conspiracy Against Teaching)  (thanks to my friend Angela for that one! Love that! LOL!!)    I don't worry myself with quantity.. I'd rather have quality.   And we have that now.  

Do I have any regrets about homeschooling my kids?  Absolutely.  And it's this:  My ONE and ONLY regret, is that I didn't homeschool them from the very beginning.  

My girls are precious gifts.. my own beautiful gifts from God.  I love every day with them.   I love that my kids are not having to line up for food, attention, or to use a public toilet..  I love that on cold rainy mornings they can sleep in, and then do math in flannel pajamas while sipping hot cocoa.  I love that my daughters can, anytime they please, go outside and swing under our big tree... or lie back in the grass and photograph the birds and squirrels.  

The world is our classroom.  The funniest thing I've personally learned about homeschooling is that you never know what you CAN do! :)   I never thought I'd have the patience to homeschool.  But I can, and I do. :)  And best of all, I am getting time with my children... I'm not missing out anymore.... and in all truthfulness,  a lot of times I am learning right along with them. :)  

Homeschooling isn't something you "do".  It's a lifestyle.  And we love it!!