Friday, August 31, 2007

Adventures in Birdwatching (DVD)

We've really been immersing ourselves in bird identification around here lately. We found a cool DVD at the library: Adventures in Birdwatching to help us out.

Most of the birdwatching videos we've discovered have been pretty dull. Not as dull as paint drying on the wall, but close. Adventures in Birdwatching is much more interesting than anything we've seen and the kids have been enjoying it immensely. (Parental warning: there is a wee bit of discussion on bird reproduction.)

The star of the series is Ken Dial. He's a Wyoming ornithologist with a sense of humor. He makes birdwatching fun. He definitely loves what he does and his enthusiasm is contagious. In fact, he reminded the kids of another bird enthusiast we all know. I heard a few times as we watched, "That guy sounds just like Dad!"

Adventures in Birdwatching comes from the cable station Animal Planet. Being a non-TV family, I wasn't aware of Animal Planet's programming. But if this is an example, they're doing a good job. Not that I'm pining for cable TV. Even good shows have those wretched and horribly inappropriate commercials.

These days, you can still watch cool TV shows by going to the library and checking out whole seasons on DVD and forgo all commercials. I love it.

Now I'm off to see if I can find an interesting DVD on identifying animal skulls. You think I'm kidding, don't you?

Thursday, August 30, 2007

For the Love of Literature in Catalog

I just got my Ecce Homo catalog and the new book is on the cover. The price is $11.95, which is wonderfully inexpensive. My twelve years of homeschooling all for twelve bucks. That's a dollar a year! What a great deal!

My web guy and I are working on updating my homeschooling website for the book's release (approx. Oct. 15th). We're uploading some free downloads and getting ordering information together.

It's all so very exciting!

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Discerning Harry Potter

In the past, I've recommended parents read as much as they can about Harry Potter, pointing them toward a whole slew of resources, in order to help them discern whether or not HP was for their family. Nancy Brown's recent blog posts on gnosticism, combined with some completely off-the-wall anti-HP articles I've recently discovered, have made me realize that parents should just read HP for themselves and then make up their own minds about it.

What About Socialization?

Another reason to homeschool: Illinois School Pushes Smut on Children as Young as 12

Kudos to the parents fighting this stuff.

Monday, August 27, 2007

You Shall Be Changed to My Likeness

Rob writes:

Wow,what an incredible insight into the Eucharist that Augustine provides below -- that it is not about God being changed into the form of our flesh but about us being changed into His likeness! Hopefully I will never forget this insight again in receiving Our Lord. In my frail humanity, I too often fall into the selfish thought that receiving God is about sustaining ME in this valley of tears instead of becoming literally one with Him as he became One with us.
Commentary of the day:

Saint Augustine (354-430), bishop of Hippo (North Africa) and doctor of the Church
Confessions, VII, 10

Christ calls us to see the light on ourselves

Being admonished by my books to return into myself, I entered into my inward soul, guided by you. This I could do because you were my helper. And I entered, and with the eye of my soul saw above the same eye and above my mind immutable light. It was not the common light which all flesh can see; nor was it simply a greater light of the same sort, as if the light of day here to grow brighter and brighter and flood all space. It was not like that light, but different, indeed very different from all earthly light whatever.

Nor was it above my mind in the same way as oil is above water, or heaven above earth, but it was higher because it made me, and I was below it because I was made by it. Those who know the truth know that light, and those who know it know eternity. Love knows it, O Eternal Truth and True Love and Beloved Eternity! You are my God, to whom I sigh both night and day.

When I first knew you, you lifted me up, that I might see that there was something to be seen, though I was not yet fit to see it. And you revealed the weakness of my sight, shining forth upon me your dazzling beams of light, and I trembled with love and fear. I realized that I was far away from you, in the land of unlikeness, and I heard your voice as if from on high: “I am the food of strong men; grow and you shall feed on me; but you shall not change me, like the food of your flesh, into yourself, but you shall be changed into my likeness.

It's a Major Giveaway

Lisa at is giving away free Catholic Bible study videos to the first 30 people to respond. Hurry up and get over there!

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Lit Book Update

I've got a release date for For the Love of Literature -- October 15th. The publisher is planning to offer a presale deal in the upcoming weeks. I'll keep you posted.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

First Field Guides

Teen Son and Teen Daughter 1 have been poring over field guides and books on tracking animals all week in preparation for their MYHEC competition this weekend.

This has inspired the younger kids to pull out their own field guides and nature books.

I love field guides. They're great to take on camping trips and to have on hand for nature walks. Gosh, we've pulled them out to identify creatures in our own backyard.

The National Audubon Society has a series out just for the younger kids (grade to middle school) called First Field Guides. They're great. They're simplified versions of the full-fledged field guides.

See if you can find them at your library and if you like them, buy some to have on hand. You can find them pretty cheap used. Some books require ownership such as good reference books. The First Field Guides fit that bill. (If you click on the covers, you'll go to the page to read reviews.)

PS If you're a Blogger expert, can you give me a tutorial on how to upload multiple graphics so they look nice and neat? I don't think Moms Who Blog have approached this topic yet, have they?

A Woman's Choice and College Writing Courses

Teen Son and I went to the community college bookstore to purchase the last of his books today as some had been back ordered. The style guide for his composition class is The Little Penguin Handbook. I opened it to a random page to check it out and found the example for apostrophe use to be: "a woman's choice." Okay, you can't tell me that wasn't put in there for political reasons. I'm sure this is just the very beginning of PC junk he'll be finding in his classes.

I can't wait to get him to Franciscan University! (Oh, if they only had muzzleloading scholarships!!!)

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Mice and Humility

If you're The Thrifty Homeschooler and a list member writes to you to ask, "I have mice in my house what do I do?" and you smugly think to yourself, "Oh, poor dear! I'm glad I don't have THAT problem," God will use this opportunity to teach you a lesson in humility.

You will find, the very next day, a mouse in your house. Not any ordinary mouse mind you, but a very different sort of mouse. A black mouse who comes out in the middle of the day to visit your daughter's pet mouse, Cocoa.

You'll found yourself acting like a cartoon character out of Tom and Jerry, standing on top of a chair with a broom, imploring the children to go outside and find the cat. They'll find the cat, bring him in, and set him down in the middle of the room. The cat will then look at you like you're some kind of idiot, turn, and smugly walk back outside through the hole in the screen door.

You'll then go through your husband's work bench in the basement to find the handy dandy 99 cent mouse trap, muttering something about "no mouse is going to make a fool out of me" and set it with a nice chunk of cheese.

You'll be careful to set the trap out of sight of Cocoa's cage as your daughter is concerned that her pet mouse will be forever traumatized at seeing her new beau murdered in cold blood.

Three nights in a row you'll set out the mouse trap and three nights in a row the little black mouse will steal the cheese without setting off the trap, even though you tested it.

You'll mention all this to your friend Dawn who will in turn comfort you with her wisdom, "You know, if you see one mouse, there's at least five more living in your walls." Remind me to send Dawn a thank you card.

At this point you'll throw up your hands and give it to St. Francis, begging him to ask the little mice to go live outside where it's nice and sunny rather than in your house.

Yes, God has a sense of humor and seeks to humble us whenever He can.

Monday, August 20, 2007

Shooting Sports and Homeschoolers

Homeschool Siblings Win Scholastic Skeet Contest from The Hudson Reporter (New Jersey).

Practical Homeschooling did a nice article on shooting sports for homeschoolers in their December 2006 issue. I wish I could share it with you, but alas it's not online. I only just found it because I picked it up at the library.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Prayer Request

My friend Ali asks for your prayers. On Monday she'll be speaking at the local prison on NFP. Yep, natural family planning to inmates. God bless her soul! She'll give a talk to the women and then meet separately with the men. May the Holy Spirit guide Ali's words and fill the hearts of those who hear her.

Saturday, August 18, 2007

HP and Expressing Grief

I was so moved by this post that all I can say is: go read it yourself.

Regina Doman Speaks: Harry Potter and the Grieving Mother

Back to House Hunting

The bank turned down our bid on the house (it was a bank-owned property). Someone outbid us by a measely $1,500. I suppose it wasn't meant to be. Back to square one.

Friday, August 17, 2007

I'm Washington Times Famous

Last night, Rob was sitting at the kitchen table reading the weekly edition of the Washington Times while I curled up on the living room couch poring over kitchen makeover books. Here is the conversation that flowed between rooms:

Rob: Maureen!
Me: Yes?
Rob: You made the Washington Times!
Me: Huh?
Rob: You're mentioned in the Washington Times!
Me: Me?
Rob: Yes.
Me: By name?
Rob: Well, not by name. But it's you! You're famous!

What happened was that Pete Vere's review of Nancy Brown's book The Mystery of Harry Potter made the Washington Times. In the review, Pete writes, "Then one day, she discovered that another Catholic mother from her home-schooling circle considered the books to be good children's literature."

I'm the "Catholic mother from her home-schooling circle."

I'm famous. Sort of.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Literature and Crisis of Faith

Yesterday was our Teen Wednesday discussion of the new Harry Potter book and it was a great discussion. There was one tidbit that sticks out in my mind and I just have to share with you all.

The subject of Philip Pullman's books came up. One of the teens, an incredibly bright and faithful young man, who is about to head back to college for his Sophomore year, shared how The Golden Compass and it's sequels caused a crisis of faith for him. He found himself questioning whether God was really all He was cracked up to be, as a direct result of this literary series.

The young man also shared that he once had a similar crisis and that was after reading The Da Vinci Code. That time, he found himself questioning the Church. He said, "Satan knows I LOVE books and that's how he's going to attack me."

I asked if the HP books caused any kind of spiritual crisis. "No," he replied, "quite the opposite." He, and all of the young people present at this discussion, found the HP books to be morally uplifting.

The Golden Compass is coming out as a movie soon. Please don't be duped by the media into going to see it. It is not in the tradtion of LOTR as they claim. Pullman has publicly stated that his goal in writing children's literature is lead them away from Christianity.

Every now and then I'll run into a good Christian homeschooling parent who mentions their children love the Pullman books, being completely unaware of the books' content. They assume they're good literature because of all the hype and awards they've received.

This is what Jeff Miller referred to as swatting at gnats while letting the camel through. We need to see all the effort that has been placed into attacking HP placed into warning parents about the Pullman books.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Senior Year

Just because I haven't had enough life-changing experiences in the past week, I enrolled Teen Son in college yesterday. Community college, but college none the less.

He'll be taking algebra, Spanish, and composition at the local community college as part of his senior year. He'll still have religion, literature, and science at home.

I think it'll be a nice way to ease him into life away at college. Especially having to get up four days a week to make an 8 AM class!

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

CueCat Barcode Scanner

If you Library Thing, you just have to get the Cat Thing. Actually, it's called CueCat. What it does is scan the bar codes on the back of your books making cataloging on Library Thing very easy.

Mine came yesterday and I just scanned all my DK Eyewitness books. It only took a few minutes. In all honesty, it doesn't take tons longer to manually type in an ISBN number, but if you're doing a lot of books it is a very nice tool to have on hand. And besides, it's way more fun to scan the code than to type it in.

Just wait until the kids discover it!

Monday, August 13, 2007

St. Joseph Pray for Us

Rob and I put a bid on a house this weekend. Rob is on his way, at this very moment, to deliver the earnest money to the real estate agency.

Looking at houses has been fun but actually spending the money to buy one is a whole other ballgame.

Pray and breathe. Pray and breathe.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Love in the Little Things

The best advice I ever got from an editor was not to be too heavy handed with the message in my writing. He taught me to just simply tell my story and let the reader find the moral on his own. It was excellent advice I try to remember to this day, many years later.

That editor was Mike Aquilina and he follows his own advice, as you can see from my review of his book Love in the Little Things. (If you find my review or other reviews helpful, make sure to click the little helpful button.)

Saturday, August 11, 2007

Blessed Toys

I received the following email this morning and thought some of you may be interested:

Could you forward this to your homeschool families? I am a homeschool Mom from Chaplet, South Jersey, Jennifer Racancoj:

Hi, everyone! I started selling Blessed Toys. I bought some for my children also. They are really neat!

You can buy Mary and Jesus, St. Paul, St. Peter, David and Goliath. Samson, Noah, and Moses for the boys. They have a toy nativity set to play with during Advent and a really cute teddy bear that sings "Jesus loves me...the Bible tells me so"

The Messenger of Faith dolls tell their biography and recite Bible verses. Jesus, Mary, and Esther are beautiful dolls and so are Leah, Elizabeth and Abigail. They are called Proverb 31 dolls (tells about a good wife being a blessing). They dress modestly and bring the children closer to God and help bring God and virtue into their imaginations.

If you are interested in buying any or looking at them, please go to my website at (if you are ordering, please make sure you are on the website with the "members/jenmary" at the end so I get credit for the sale.) If you click on Contact Me, my email for the business comes up Feel free to contact me with any questions.

I really want to spread these toys around because we need to help children to think holy and play holy!

Thursday, August 09, 2007

Thank You

The children and I are back home in Michigan, safe and sound. Rob will fly home in a few days so that he may spend a little more time with his dad.

Thank you all so much for your prayers and kind notes of condolences. They lifted us up and carried us through a difficult week.

Friday, August 03, 2007

Continued Prayers Please

Thank you for your prayers. Rob was at his mother's side when she passed away earlier this evening. Her long battle with Parkinson's Disease has come to an end.

The kids and I will leave for St. Louis first thing in the morning. Your continued prayers are much appreciated.

Super Boy (5-years old) put it all in perspective for us when he said, "Grandma didn't die. She went to live with Jesus."

Which Byzantine Ruler Are You?

I had a little fun with this quiz . . .

You’re Eudoxia!

This strong-willed Frankish lady, from a military family, rose to an imperial marriage thanks to the machinations of a eunuch named Eutropius. Eudoxia eventually soured on her benefactor and had him condemned to death. St. John Chrysostom, the patriarch of Constantinople — who was himself no great fan of Eutropius — protested and pleaded for the eunuch’s life. Eudoxia found this annoying, and she took offense at the patriarch’s homiletic assaults on her use of makeup and her habit of erecting monuments in her own honor. She sentenced him to two increasingly arduous exiles, from whose hardships he died. Eudoxia herself died shortly afterward, still quite young.

Find out which Byzantine ruler you are at The Way of the Fathers!

Note: To find out my true Byzantine identity, click on the comments.

"That Ride Scrambled Me!"

If you take your 5-year old to the fair and he begs to ride the Scrambler, don't give in. He may just get off, stagger over to the midway, and promptly throw up.

Just in case you were wondering.

(Said boy pictured here after his mother got a clue and confined him to Kiddie Land.)

Thursday, August 02, 2007

From White Ribbons to Gold Medals

The shooting sports awards were Tuesday and the kids came home with loads of medals and ribbons. Teen Son, Teen Daughter One, Teen Daughter Two, and Buster all made their parents proud. Watching Teen Son pick up his gold medals, I couldn't help but reflect on our first 4-H archery competition.

Six years ago we decided to try archery as a family sport. We began in April, meeting every Monday with our 4-H club, using borrowed equipment, through the middle of June.

I'll never forget sitting in my lawn chair watching the kids at that first 4-H competition. Teen Son, then an 11-year-old boy, completely missed the target with his first six arrows. I buried my face in my hands and prayed, "Please Lord, don't let him end up with a zero. Please, help him hit the target. Please!" Most of the next 54 arrows at least hit the target. His end score was dismally low, but it wasn't a zero.

At the award ceremony two weeks later, my son picked up his white ribbon ("C" award) and I assumed that was the end of archery. I thought he would be so discouraged that there wouldn't be enough enthusiasm to continue the sport when spring came around again.

I couldn't have been more wrong. We went home and TS set up a target in the backyard and began to practice. When spring came around, he not only practiced at the coach's house on Mondays, but throughout the week at home. That year, TS came home with a blue ribbon.

In years to come, gold and silver medals would become the norm and he would compete in archery at the national level. He came to enjoy other shooting sports and this year found himself the national 4-H champion in muzzleloading.

I share all this with you, not so much to brag but to encourage the kids who read this blog. Champions aren't born, they're made. They're made of persistance. If, at first, you don't succeed, try, try again. Champions don't win every competition (even Tiger Woods has a bad day now and then). They're different from others because they put those losses behind them and get right back to practicing. So, if you have a dream and you experience setbacks, don't give up. Try, try again.

Prayer Rquest Update

Rob will soon be leaving from Detroit to head to St. Louis to be with his mom (Mary). Continued prayers for Mary as well as for Rob's safe travel are greatly appreciated. I'm not sure yet when the kids and I will join him.

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Prayers Please

Please offer up prayers for Rob's mom, Mary. She's in hospice care and had a particularly rough time last night. We're asking for many prayers, especially today. Thank you.