Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Kids, Lent, and Learning Activities

Karen Edmiston has some great Lenten activities posted at her blog.
Check it out at: Lent at Our House.
Also see her post: Crown of Thorns.
Oh wait, there is one more: Lenten Crown.
Great stuff!

Tales from the Bonnie Blue House

Mary Ellen Barrett has a lovely review of CHC at her blog, Tales from the Bonnie Blue House. Thank you Mary Ellen! Hers is one of those blogs that I visit regularly.

If you are not familiar with Mary Ellen, she moderates the discussion group, Special Kids Moms. This is a group of Catholic women with special needs children. It's a very nice, supportive group that I am glad to have found.

Look for Mary Ellen in the upcoming summer issue of Heart and Mind (to be mailed 06/01/06). She writes about homeschooling her child with PDD and epilepsy.

Monday, February 27, 2006

I'm a Minority

I was reading recently that families with more than four children make up only 2.5% of American families. Estimates are that homeschoolers make up only 1 to 1.5% of the school population. No wonder people gasp for air when I tell them that I'm a homeschooling mother of seven!

The Pros and Cons of Harry

If you have made the decision to let your children read the Harry Potter books, or if you teach CCD, I highly recommend reading Finding God in Harry Potter by John Granger. This book helped me a great deal in baptizing the Harry books. Mr. Granger's website is http://www.hogwartsprofessor.com/. (Karen also recommended this book in a comment to a previous HP post.)

Another interesting title is The Gospel According to Harry Potter by Connie Neal. Her website is http://www.connieneal.com/.

I borrowed both the Granger and Neal books from my library.

Catholic children's author Regina Doman wrote Harry for Catholics?. And from Amy Welborn: Sorting through Harry Potter.

If you have yet to decide whether or not Harry Potter has a place on your reading list and want to cover all the bases, here is the other side of the story:
Steve Wood has a large selection of articles at his website: Harry Potter.
He also offers a CD by Michael O'Brien, Vivian Dudro & Fr. Philip Scott: Parental Concerns About Harry Potter.

Who's Really Happy?

The Pew Research Center released an interesting study a couple of weeks ago on the happiest people in America. They surveyed 3,014 adults on their level of happiness. Here are a few of the survey results:

47% of conservative Republicans describe themselves as "very happy," compared with 28% of liberal Democrats. (This number flunctuates somewhat depending on which political party is in power.)

34% of Americans overall describe themselves as "very happy."

43% of married people are very happy, compared with 24% of single people.

43% of those who attend church at least once a week are very happy, compared with 26% who seldom or never attend church. (Hey Chrissy, sounds like a great sermon topic for Tom!)

37% of parents with children younger than 18 are very happy; 29% of those who are childless are very happy.

35% of men are very happy, compared to 33% of women.

The survey has a margin of error of 2%.

To find online articles about this survey, click here: http://people-press.org/news/

Sunday, February 26, 2006

Baptizing HP

The best CCD class I ever taught was on Harry Potter . . . unintentionally. I was teaching the Transfiguration. The fourth graders were having a hard time getting it. Then a girl raised her hand and said, "You mean like the Office of Transfiguration in Harry Potter?" I went on to explain the similarities and differences between Jesus' Transfiguration and the Office of Transfiguration in Harry Potter. You should have seen these kids. They were literally on the edge of their seats! Then I said, "Here is the totally cool thing. The Office of Transfiguration in Harry Potter is make believe. Fantasy. Jesus' Transfiguration was REAL! It really happened!" These kids were ooing and ahhing by now, their little faces lit up. Filled with the Holy Spirit (it definitely wasn't me!) I went on . . . "Hermione bilocating -- make believe, fantasy. St. Martin de Porres bilocating REAL! TRUE! How cool is that!" And I went on and on coming up with all kinds of examples. I'm sure that these public school kids never read another Harry Potter book without thinking about the coolness of the Catholic Church!

Creating Word Clouds for Your Blog

This is a cool website: snapshirts.com. Click on Custom and then plug in the url and name of your blog. Snap Shirts then creates a word cloud of the most frequent words from your blog. It's pretty cool. If you really like your word cloud, you can have it put on a t-shirt.

Hat tip to Shrine of the Holy Whapping.

Saturday, February 25, 2006

How We Came to Read HP, Part 2

So, where were we? Oh yes, #1 Son came home from the library with HP having no idea that it was on my banned book list. (Lesson #2: Work on communication skills with my children.) He was already half done and I had a decision to make.

My choices?
1. Rip the book from his hands and go into a screaming rage about evil librarians.
2. Wait until he went to bed and sneak the book out of the house and hope he would forget about it.
3. Tell him the honest truth.

I chose #3. I told him that I had never read the book myself and would be more comfortable reading it before deciding if he could finish the second half.

I didn't put that book down until I finished reading it completely. Not because I was anxious to resolve this issue, but because I was so drawn into the story. As a writer, I was in awe of Rowling's skill.

But what really amazed me was the use of Christian symbolism throughout the story. I found that I could easily baptize this story. (Was it C. S. Lewis that spoke of baptizing the imagination?) I let my son finish the book and then we discussed it together.

The Ten Commandments for Homeschool Moms

You've got to pop over to Spunky Homeschool and read her Ten Commandments for Homeschool Moms. Excellent!

Hat tip to the other Maureen at Trinity Prep School.

While we're on the topic of homeschool blogging: Anyone have feedback on www.homeschoolblogger.com? It's a free service like blogspot.

Friday, February 24, 2006

Emmanuel Books Sale

I love a good sale! Emmanuel Books is having a clearance sale over at their website: www.emmanuelbooks.com. They need to make room for some new items in their upcoming 2006/2007 catalog.

How We Came to Read HP, Part 1

Shortly after the very first Harry Potter book came out, a girlfriend told me all about how I absolutely had to get this book for my kids. Her daughter read it over and over and just loved it. However, as my friend explained the plot line, a red flag went up and I decided that no, this was not a book for my family.

Then the second book came out and, again, my friend went on and on about this new series and couldn't believe that I hadn't given them to my children. A lot of Catholic authors that I respected were already issuing warnings about HP. I figured that we already had too many books on our to-read list anyway. Besides, we homeschool -- my kids would never hear about these books anyway. Right?

Then shortly before the third book was published something happened. Rob was taking the kids to the library every Saturday so that I could have some time alone. He came home one Saturday after a long absence, burst into the house and excitedly told me all about this wonderful book that librarian had given our oldest son. It seems this was THE most popular kid book and it always has major holds on it, but today there was one waiting to be shelved. She gave it to #1 Son and he couldn't put it down. He was already half done. I asked the name of the book and Rob replied, "I never heard of it. Harry Potter?"

How did I handle this? Tune in tomorrow for part 2.

Meanwhile, let this be a lesson in the importance of communication among spouses.

Thursday, February 23, 2006

Steve Wood, Pokemon, HP, and Humility

Because I live across the street from the airport, my volunteer job for our state homeschool conference is sometimes to pick up the speakers and take them to their hotel. This is the best conference job you can ask for, imo.

A few years ago I was very excited to be able to pick up Steve Wood (who, btw, had just come out with articles about the evils of Pokemon and Harry Potter).

My sister was visiting from out of state and she offered to let me use her mini van. I thought it a brilliant idea since it was a lot more comfy than the Wittmann rust bucket. I was also pleased to have my nephew and son tag along.

As Steve got into the passenger seat he peeked around to the back where the boys were sitting. My nephew gave his Gameboy to my son and then picked up a book to read.
Steve asked my son, "Whatcha playing? Baseball?"
"No, Pokemon."
Then he turns to my nephew,"Whatcha reading?"
"Harry Potter."

I imagined myself in for a scolding about how I am the devil's agent, but Steve was very gracious and simply changed the subject.
Thank goodness.

Danielle Bean Endorses the Companion

“There are as many different approaches to Catholic homeschooling as there are different Catholic families. The Catholic Homeschool Companion manages to give its readers an unbiased look at a wide variety of different homeschooling methods along with a great wealth of resources, information, inspiration, and support. Each chapter is written by an expert—a real homeschooling parent who speaks with the voice of real homeschooling experience. From teaching basic core subjects to organizing a co op, from designing your own curriculum to teaching children with special needs, from managing your home to preventing parental burn out—there is something for everyone in this book!”
-– Danielle Bean, Author, My Cup of Tea: Musings of a Catholic Mom

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Heart and Mind Magazine

The spring issue of Heart and Mind is currently with the printer and scheduled to go out in the mail March 1st. Now is a great time to subscribe, if you don't already!

My teen son wrote the student column and did a great job if I do say so myself. The other columns aren't too bad either!

Here is the Table of Contents:

1 Secrets to a Joyful Homeschool by Gregory Popcak
4 Socialization Revisited by Pattie Kelley-Huff
8 The World's Greatest Speeches by Maureen Wittmann
12 Letters to the Editor

14 Fine Arts in the Classical Curriculum by Laura Berquist

21 The Lost Art of Canning by Maureen Wittmann


24 Baby Sign Language by Melissa Wiley

27 Learning from Real Books by Christian Ohnimus

PULLOUT UNIT STUDY A-1 – 4 Composting by Maureen Wittmann

29 Traveling with Literature by Nancy Carpentier Brown

31 School's Out by Barbara and Vincent Puleo

34 The Universe in My Hands
Breastfeeding and Catholic Motherhood
Literary Giants, Literary Catholics
Sewing with St. Anne
Flights of Fancy
Family Worship Resources
Young Faces of Holiness
Jonah and His Amazing Voyage
The Family Cloister
Dominic Savio
The Monks of New Skete

Weed Well, Waste Not by Anne Bryan

Blue Cross Study Guide

I love getting new books in the mail! This week I got Nancy Brown's study guide for G. K. Chesterton's The Blue Cross. If you have high school kids or students, you have got to get this!

If you're not familiar with The Blue Cross, it is one of Chesterton's Fr. Brown mysteries. This is not a lengthy book, but a short story.

And don't you just love the cover!

To learn more, visit the publisher's website: Hillside Education.

To visit Nancy's Chesrterton blog, click here: The Blog of the American Chesterton Society

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Olympic Cross Country Skier Rebecca Dussault

Have you been following the story of Olympian Rebecca Dussault? If not, click here: Olympic skier attracts media attention for devotion to faith, family, to read an article on her story. Great story! (Thanks to Linda for sending the link to me.)

Her personal website is: www.dussaultskis.com

Also check out this children's book by Pauline Media on Dussault's patron: Blessed Pier Giorgio Frassati: Journey to the Summit by Ana Maria Vazquez

Here's one for grownups, also from Pauline: Blessed Pier Giorgio Frassati: An Ordinary Christian by Maria Di Lorenzo

And from Ignatius Press: A Man of the Beatitudes: Pier Giorgio Frassati by Luciana Frassati

Just In Case You Don't Have Enough Blogs Bookmarked

Head over to the 2006 Catholic Blogs Awards to vote before noon today. And then scroll down and check out the links to all the nominees. What a treasure trove! Even if you read this after noon, you should still be able to access the links.

Monday, February 20, 2006

What's On Your Bumper?

Currently on my van:
Mothering: A Proud Profession
Got Jesus?
Smile FM 88.1

Currently on my car:
Choose Life

Bumper sticker I've been searching for:
A Person's a Person No Matter How Small

What's on your bumper? What are some of your favorite bumper stickers?

Saturday, February 18, 2006

Bumper Stickers, Part Three

One Sunday morning as I was leading little children out to the family bus (our 12-seater van), I noticed a new bumper sticker prominently displayed on the back window: You Can't Be Catholic AND Pro-Choice.

I began to quiz the children and found that it was Miss Teen who put the sticker on the van. I expressed concern about the in-your-face wording, especially since it was just a month before the Kerry-Bush election and our parish parking lot was filled with cars that carried pro-Kerry bumper stickers.

Miss Teen challenged me: I always tell her to stand up for what is right, even when it means standing alone. And this was right.

The bumper sticker stayed.

Friday, February 17, 2006

Bumper Stickers, Part Two

First a little background. Rob and I both hate peas. Absolutely despise them. In fact, Rob can't refer to them as simply peas. It's always, "gag-me peas" or "disgusting peas."

Remember those bumper stickers: Visualize World Peace ?

Well, many years ago our friend Lloyd gave Rob a bumper sticker: Visualize Whirled Peas

One of my favorite bumper stickers of all times.

Thursday, February 16, 2006

Bumper Stickers

Seen on a single car near the university, two bumper stickers that read:

Hate Is Not a Family Value
Flush Rush

Anyone else find these stickers contradictory or am I just clueless?

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Catholic Authors on the Web

This is a cool website to visit: Catholic Authors' Websites. It was put together by OSV author Michael Dubruiel.

Especially make sure to visit Tim Bete's site. He's so funny.

I love visiting author websites!

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Thrifty Homeschooler Blog

It is still very rough yet, but I started a Thrifty Homeschooler blog to compliment the Thrifty Homeschooler email list. Check it out to find out how you can get free pancakes.

Happy St. Valentine's Day!

My friend Linda sends the following article:
Forgotten man – Valentine’s Day originated from wise, caring bishop

LONDON – The man behind Feb. 14, when lovers around the world exchange cards and gifts, has been largely forgotten on his own feast day. Such little significance is attached to the memory of St. Valentine that even in the Spanish capital of Madrid in 2005 only a handful of people visited the Church of St. Anton, where what is believed to be his skeleton is kept on a side altar in a glass-fronted baroque case.

And this one from another friend, Cece:
The Origins of St. Valentine's Day

A quick quiz: St. Valentine was:

a) a priest in the Roman Empire who helped persecuted Christians during the reign of Claudius II, was thrown in jail and later beheaded on Feb. 14.

b) a Catholic bishop of Terni who was beheaded, also during the reign of Claudius II.

c) someone who secretly married couples when marriage was forbidden, or suffered in Africa, or wrote letters to his jailer's daughter, and was probably beheaded.

d) all, some, or possibly none of the above.

Click on the links out to find the rest of the story.

Monday, February 13, 2006

Through the Lens

This is a really cool blog to visit: Through the Lens.

It is the blog of photographer Mike Brown, who also happens to be husband of author Nancy Brown.

What I love about Mike's Through the Lens is not only the cool photographs, but how he describes how he got each particular shot.

Make sure to check his archives and share with the kids!

Update: Make sure to leave Mike a comment if you like his blog.

Sunday, February 12, 2006

Matt Pinto Endorses The Catholic Homeschool Companion!

“This book is awesome, a real treasure trove of information about homeschooling. It will surely give confidence to any parents who are considering homeschooling their children. Wittmann and Mackson are to be commended for the work they’ve done.” --Matthew Pinto, Author, Did Adam & Eve Have Belly Buttons?

Saturday, February 11, 2006

Mom Avatar

Miss Teen and her friends created the above avatar for me. I have to admit it does look like me. I'm always cold, so you'll usually find me with a fleece blanket wrapped around my shoulders and nice warm slippers on my feet. That is, until the doorbell rings.

Unity of Truth

Unity of Truth has been more active lately. I hope that you all will pay a visit and leave a comment. All questions, suggestions, tips, and ideas to make the blog better at serving parents are welcomed!

Friday, February 10, 2006

High School of Your Dreams by Nancy Nicholson

I just got this book in the mail and it looks great. I promise a thorough review once I have a chance to read it all the way through, but for now I'll say that I'm sure glad to see this new book available to homeschoolers.

It's pricey at $58, but then it can be used for multiple children and it would be used extensively throughout the four years of high school. That taken into consideration, the price is well worth it.

If you're shaky about spending that much on something sight unseen, make sure to put it on your list of books to check out when you go to your homeschool conference this year.

Nancy Nicholson put a lot of work into this baby and I would like to extend my congratulations to her for a job well done. High School of Your Dreams is available from CHC's beautiful newly revamped website: www.chcweb.com. Or click on the above graphic of the cover to go right to the information page, which will tell you everything that this book includes.

Thank you Nancy and CHC!

The definition of stress is . . .

. . . teaching a 16-year old to drive while menopausal.

Or maybe that's the definition of scary!

Hey, there's the title for Greg Popcak's next book: God Help Me! I'm Scared: I'm Peri-Menopausal and My Teenager is Learning to Drive. I'm going to email Greg right now and tell him to start writing!

Update: I really did email Greg and he replied, "Sounds like a winner. I'll get right on it."

Thursday, February 09, 2006

Be the First on Your Block To Own the Companion

I received a lovely email this morning from Amy, a mom who ordered The Catholic Homeschool Companion earlier this week:

I got it yesterday and LOVE it! I'm about 4 essays in but what a blessing! We have six children so far and were wondering if we had made the right decision to homeschool (we're in year 5 of homeschooling). This book is really speaking to me! God Bless you!!

Thank you Amy!

Bulk Orders Get a Break

I set it up so that support groups can get a break on shipping and handling if they order The Catholic Homeschool Companion from my Catholic homeschooling website, www.maureenwittmann.com.

S/H on the first book is $3.00. The second though fifth book is $1.00 each. Books six and more are free shipping. All that, plus 20% off the list price of $24.95. This is a limited time offer.

Middle Age, Pantsuits, and New Glasses

I so get Hillary Clinton now. No, not her politics, I'll never get that. I mean her pantsuits.

Pantsuits so fit the middle aged body. They cover the imperfections nicely and compliment the extra curves that we find in our forties.

The little black dress that used to hang in my closet has been replaced by a not-so-little black pantsuit.

Speaking of middle age, I got my new progressive lenses a few weeks ago. For those of you who have never heard of progressive lenses -- it's a nice way of saying trifocals. I love them. My eyes adjusted to them right away. It's wonderful to be able to see again!

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Gooey Butter Cookies

This is the cookie version of Gooey Butter Cake. Make these for your next social event and you'll impress all your friends and family. Gee, just make them now and impress yourself!

Recipe is from my sister-in-law, Sue.

1/2 cup softened butter
1/4 teaspoon vanilla
1 egg
1 (8-oz.) package softened cream cheese
1 box yellow cake mix
1/4 c. powdered sugar

Beat butter, vanilla, egg, and cream cheese until light and fluffy. Beat in cake mix. Chill 30 minutes.

Preheat oven to 350 F. Lightly coat cookie sheets with spray. Drop dough by the teaspoonfuls into the powdered sugar. (Don't use cookie scoops, teaspoon is big enough.) Roll into balls. Bake 12 minutes or until golden brown.

Makes 4 dozen.

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

In Loving Memory

Today, we attended the funeral Mass of a dear priest, a dear friend.

Father Timothy was joyful priest, truly filled with the joy of Christ. You could see it in his eyes, his smile. The bishop referred to him as "that happy Franciscan." That he was. Though he suffered greatly due to many physical maladies, Fr. Tim never complained. And he was so witty. Gosh he could crack a joke and get you laughing.

One of the things that I loved most about Fr. Timothy was how sweet and gentle he was in the confessional. Once, after hearing me confess, for the hundredth time, my failings as a wife and mother, he said to me, "Your penance Maureen is to do something special just for yourself. I mean it. Go out by yourself tonight and do something just for you." The next time I found myself confessing the very same failings, he told me, "Maureen you got all them kids, get them praying for you! The first thing they should do every morning when they get up is pray for their mother."

My favorite Fr. Tim quote from his homilies: "If you (insert sin here) you'll end up down south. And I don't mean Florida! Dontcha know?"

Though I know that Fr. Tim is now free from all his suffering and that he is on his way to his Beloved Lord (and oh, how he loved Jesus, especially in the Eucharist), I'm going to miss him terribly.

Please pray for the repose of his soul.

Children's Author Recommends CHC

"The word 'companion' in a book title implies a book you'll turn to for support and inspiration time and time again. The Catholic Homeschool Companion is well named indeed. There is nourishment here for structured homeschoolers and unschoolers alike. Like a good friend, this treasure of a book offers a combination of sound practical wisdom and heart warming encouragement." -- Melissa Wiley, author, The Martha Years and The Charlotte Years series

If you're not familiar with the Martha Years series or the Charlotte Years series, you should really check them out.

The Martha Years Series is a prequel to the Little House On the Prairie series about the childhood adventures of Martha Morse, the great-grandmother of Laura Ingalls Wilder. It takes place in the Scotland Highlands, 1788.

The Charlotte Years Series is also a prequel to the Little House On the Prairie series. It is historical fiction about the childhood adventures of Charlotte Tucker, grandmother of Laura Ingalls Wilder. Takes place in 1814 Boston.

To learn more, visit Melissa's blog at http://melissawiley.typepad.com/. There you will find links to the individual books in the series as well as a link to her website.

Monday, February 06, 2006

Ballet Stories

Princess Rose and I are reading The Illustrated Book of Ballet Stories by Barbara Newman, a DK Read and Listen book. A nice introduction to ballet, it's a perfect read for my almost-six-year-old daughter.

It tells the stories of Sleeping Beauty, Giselle, Coppelia, Swan Lake, and The Nutcracker. Includes nice illustrations from the ballets and also teaches children about dance basics, costuming, set design, etc., all in typical DK fashion with little snippets alongside the story.

The book comes with a music cd of the ballets. Believe it or not, my 10- and 7-year-old boys went out of their way to listen to it while I read to the princess.

Saturday, February 04, 2006

Parental Mistakes

I remember reading, back in my college days, in Psychology Today that the average parent makes 40 mistakes a day in rearing his or her child. I figure if I make 39 mistakes today, I'm an above average parent.

The School Week

Child number three had a lovely week at real school. It was a nice place to visit, but she doesn't want to live there.

Her observations:
The ravioli at lunch is real good.
She can do the same work at home in 2 to 3 hours.
Charlie and the Chocolate Factory is an okay movie.
Since it was such a small school (7 kids in her grade), it wasn't that different.
It was easy to make friends, especially since everyone had seen her before at Sunday Mass.
It's nice to see your friends everyday instead of now and then, like with our homeschooling friends.
Getting up early isn't fun.
The spelling was too easy.
The teacher was real nice.
Every single kid in third grade and up plays on the basketball team. (And it's a championship team!)
They have ugly uniforms.

Friends Love the Companion

Our friend Patrick, upon picking up The Catholic Homeschool Companion:

Wow, this thing is as big as my Bible. It's the homeschool bible!!!

Friday, February 03, 2006

Another Endorsement for The Catholic Homeschool Companion

From my husband, upon being handed this 500 page book:

Wow! I'd pay $30 for this!

Thanks Hun!

Name Rosary

I saw this posted at CathSwap today and it looks really neat. You can have rosaries custom made with your name. I think they would make nice presents for any sacrament, holiday, or the birth of a new baby. The website is: http://www.rosarieswithnames.com/.

If anyone has ordered from this company before, leave a comment. I always like to know about a company's customer service before I place an order.

Thursday, February 02, 2006

Catholic Blog Awards

I just discovered this award site after visiting Nancy Brown's blog. It's sponsored by Cyber Catholics. I'm new to the blogging world and not sure of how I'll vote. Voting ends tomorrow (Friday, Feb. 3) at 3 pm, so I'm going to really think on it quick. Who are your favorite bloggers?

The Mass and Theology of the Body

One of the many things that I love about the Catholic Mass is the way that it uses our whole bodies. It is such a multi-sensory experience.

Touch. We walk into the church and bless ourselves with the holy water, reminding ourselves of our baptism. We shake hands with our neighbor during the sign of peace.

Smell. The sweet smell of incense reminds us of Jesus. The smoke and smell rise to heaven as do our prayers.

Sight. We see Jesus on the crucifix, reminding us that He died for our sins. We see the beauty of the stain glass, icons, and statuary.

Hearing. We listen to the Word. We hear the entire Bible during the Mass (with the exception of some of the genealogies) for every 3-year cycle.

Speech. We praise God with our voices through prayer and song.

Taste. The Eucharist. Just as Jesus commands us in John 6, we eat His Body and drink His Blood.

The Church, in its infinite wisdom, shows us through the Mass how to praise God through our bodies. Radically cool.

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

It's Here!

The UPS man just brought my copies of The Catholic Homeschool Companion. It is a gorgous book. Holding it in my hand, I can't believe what a hefty volume this book turned out to be - 500 pages.

The Catholic Homeschool Companion website is also up and running: www.maureenwittmann.com. Books can be purchased there for 20% off of the list price of 24.95. Just click on Books and then click on Add to Cart (Paypal and credit cards accepted). If you want the book autographed, I think there is a place to leave comments when you place an order.