Thursday, January 31, 2013

Saint Kateri Tekakwitha: Courageous Faith

The story of one of our newest saints is told in the book Saint Kateri Tekakwitha: Courageous Faith. This book is the latest installment in the Encounter the Saints Series which is written for children in the 8 to 12-year-old range.

The story of Kateri Tekakwitha is shared in this book starting from her birth and ending with her death at age twenty-four.  You learn of the early hardships faced by Kateri when her entire family died in a smallpox epidemic, her struggles to hide her faith from her tribe, and the constant mistreatment she suffered at the hands of her relatives once she declared her Christian faith publicly. You travel with her as she secretly escapes her village to live in safety with those who share her beliefs.

This story is told in a way which engages a young reader without being so intense as to go over their heads.  By sharing Kateri's struggles and faith, you are challenged to live your own faith more completely.

I love this series includes a glossary of unfamiliar terms in the back of the book. I know my own children are often reluctant to admit when they have stumbled upon a new word in a book. Having the glossary right at their finger tips will allow them to look up the new words without having to ask for help. I was also happy to see the Native American names used in the story sounded out phonetically the first time they appeared in the story.  The names were pronounced much differently than I would have guessed.

Overall I found Saint Kateri Tekakwitha:  Couragous Faith to be an enjoyable story that I am looking forward to sharing with my middle children.

This review was written as part of the Catholic book reviewer program from The Catholic Company. Visit The Catholic Company to find more information on Saint Kateri Tekakwitha: Courageous Faith. The Catholic Company is the best resource for gifts for every Sacrament celebration, such as First Communion gifts and Baptism gifts, as well as a great selection of limited-time Year of Faith gifts and resources.

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Meal Plan

M: blueberry oatmeal (B), potato soup (D)
T: eggs and biscuits (B), BBQ chicken (D)
W: cereal (B), spaghetti (D)
T: eggs and toast (B), hearty Italian soup (D)
F: yogurt (B), bean enchiladas (D)
S: cranberry bread (B), pizza (D)

Saturday, January 26, 2013

March for Life 2013

Alan, Bryan, and Sean had a blast at the March for Life. They were able to attend the youth Mass/rally at the Verizon Center (which Alan says is always the highlight of the trip).  I'll have pictures to share once Alan sends them my way but I've been told it was a wonderful yet tiring experience.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

NFP Charting for the Modern Family

A common question we receive when teaching natural family planning classes is  what computer based NFP applications we recommend.  Having never found one that I truly fell in love with, we had a list of several for folks to try out but continued to hunt for the perfect application to fill this need.  We recently decided to give MyFertilityMD a test run to see if it would fill this need for us.

MyFertilityMD is an application currently available for apple based products only.  There are plans in the works to have it available for other phones and for computer/web based usage but it is currently only available for folks with iPhones, iPods, and iPads.  To be completely honest, this was a huge initial downfall for me.  I live in a world where smart phones do not exist, iPads are a nifty toy other people own, and an iPod is just not at all for me.  But my husband was very excited about testing out the application so he put it on his iPod.  Given that we are charting my cycle and I never like to mess with his iPod, well, let's just say this initially set us up for issues.  However, this bump in the road is entirely based on the fact that I personally do not use the equipment the application is meant to run on.  If you own such devices yourself, you can trust you won't have the same issues I did.  Let's just say the first time my husband pulled out the app and started to grill me on the state of my mucus observations, he got a look as I snatched his iPod from his hands and said this just is not going to work.  No, I'm not at all squeamish about discussing such things but I prefer to answer all chart related questions myself and not feel like I am taking a pop quiz.  Alan gets points for trying to be supportive and all but, um, that was just not happening.

So that part aside, what exactly is MyFertiltyMD? Simply put it is a program designed to help you chart your fertility signs.  The application is fairly expensive when compared to other apps but when you consider you are paying $5 for something you will use every single month for years to come, the cost is very reasonable. If you are a Billings or Creighton user, the charts in this app will look very familiar to you. You'll see the red, green, and white baby stickers and be very comfortable with the way it looks. If you use another form of NFP, the chart may take a little getting used to visually. Each day the program asks you a series of simple questions regarding your bleeding and cervical mucus and uses the information to determine if you are currently fertile.  You are also given the option of entering other information including basal body temperature, ferning, and cervical position.  If you run into any questions, you have the option of sending an email to a doctor who will get back to you with an answer quickly.  You are also able to use the program to email your charts to your NFP provider.

I would not at all rely on this program to actually teach you how to use NFP.  The program does come with instructional videos on how to use the software but as we like to say, it gives you just enough information to get you into trouble.  In other words, you are given a very brief overview of the basics that will give you a false sense of security.  The program does not tell you exactly what they are using to determine your fertile day or how to make a determination yourself.  For me, this is a major drawback to the system.  MyFertilityMD advertises itself as being organic and healthy and allowing you to avoid the negative side effects of birth control but fails to explain to you the methodology that allows you to do so.  I am a huge believer in giving people all the information so that they can make their own determinations and not have to rely on someone else to do the figuring for them. Yes, you can tell me you are using a sophisticated algorithm to determine my fertile days but unless I can see it, I am not comfortable with trusting that I would make the same determination if doing it myself.

Would I recommend this program to other people? Absolutely but only if I knew they already had training and experience in using NFP.  I do not believe in giving people tools without proper knowledge and instruction first.  Will I use this myself? Not at this point.  It just does not meet my current needs.  I can't imagine it would be easy to chart when Alan is out of town with his iPod for starters.

So, yes, this is a wonderful program that does fill a need for many people.  However, it is just not right for my personal use and as an NFP instructor, I feel it needs to do more to actually explain to the user how fertile determinations are made so that a couple can completely understand what they are seeing on their chart.

We were given a free download of the MyFertiltyMD application in exchange for an honest review of the program.  We were not compensated in any other way and this review expresses my opinion only.  My husband has his own opinion which you can find at his site.

Monday, January 21, 2013

The New Plans

The crew seems to be better finally.  I'm still not feeling quite 100% and definitely not up to eating much real food yet so I'm not sure on a meal plan for the week.  The children have expressed some dismay over the constant menu of soups and have requested a small break.  Granted, since that seems like just about all I can handle right now, they likely won't get what they want but perhaps we can give them a reprieve for a few days at least and pull some of the spinach and tortellini soup out of the freezer.

The middle kids went to a special buddy day at karate today and learned to break boards with a few of their friends.  Everyone seemed to have a good time although a few kids thought it was ludicrous to think they could break a piece of wood and not actually hurt themselves.

Some of the family will be heading to the March for Life this week.  Hopefully they will enjoy themselves.

So we are just taking it one day at a time at the moment.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

All's Quiet on the Messy Front

Life has a way of catching up with you sometimes.  Like when everyone gets knocked over with some sort of nasty virus (no, not the flu although I'm starting to understand why we are hearing reports of more flu cases than normal based on how sick we were this past week). We've all been hunkering down and laying around and trying to get better.  Lesson relearned this week: don't give the sick 2-year-old medicine for her fever.  Once the medicine kicks in, she'll be running around the house then crash when it wears off.  Remind yourself next time that a fever is a good thing and the body's natural defense mechanism and should be allowed to do it's work and force the child to just rest. (Yes, we medicate for truly high fevers or when the kids are uncomfortable enough to not be able to rest but not as a general rule so don't go yelling at me if you believe differently.)  Judging from the sounds of the arguing going on downstairs, I'd say a decent amount of the kids are finally starting to feel 100% again. Hopefully when I've caught up a bit around here, just maybe I'll have something more to share.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Boy Scouts

As of the meeting last night, we officially have three Boy Scouts.  Kieran is very thrilled since he has been counting down the time until he was old enough to join for over a year. (No, we don't do Cub Scouts.  Instead we stick with Blue Knights for the younger boys because we can only handle so many activities per kid and Blue Knights is Dad centered.  Cub Scouts are rather Mom centered and Mom can only handle so much.)

I'll admit I am not as thrilled as Kieran because I do have some reservations about the troop.  I've been spending more of the recent meetings sitting in the school reading. This means I've gotten an up close and personal view of what actually goes on during the meetings. Chaos is the best way to describe it. I was actually rather shocked. There are more than 5 adult leaders present during the meetings but they often leave the boys to their own devices.  Which means some get into trouble and some do not. And some get pulled into trouble because there is nothing else to do. I know the adults are trying for a boy run troop which is what it should be but are forgetting that teen boys in large numbers need more direct supervision than you would think at times. And we've had some bullying issues and thievery on recent camping trips so at the moment, our boys are not participating in the trips. I meant to discuss the issues with the leaders myself a few months ago but, well, then life happened.  So I guess I currently have the troop on probation.  I'm kind of hoping as some of the kids age out, that things will improve.

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Just a Warning

Just a slight warning/vent after the morning I have had. If you decide to continue to refer to Isabel's death as a miscarriage even after being corrected, I just might snap and rip your head off. And it just might not be pretty.  So just maybe you can take all your political correctness and shove it some where. Just a warning.

Sigh. Why yes, it has been a slightly crappy morning.

Monday, January 7, 2013

Catholic Reluctantly

When your kids hit the preteen and teen years, it can be a struggle to find books that both interest the kids and are acceptable from a parental view point.  I'll readily admit that we often encourage the kids to just skip right over the young adult section of the library because so many of the books marketed towards kids of this age are full of inappropriate themes or promote immoral attitudes. I wish this problem could be solved by simply pulling out many of the books published by Christian authors for youth, but many of those books are lacking in any real substance or story.  Far too many Christian books seem to focus on pushing a message to the detriment of the story itself.  Needless to say, this sort of book makes it very hard to keep teens interested in actually reading something. In my attempt to find a new series of books that I could have around for my boys, I picked up a copy of Catholic Reluctantly: John Paul 2 High Book 1.

As the title suggests, this book is the first in a series of books aimed at Catholic youth.  The series is written by a team of young Catholic authors.  The story focuses on a small group of teens who attend start up Catholic school together. Each of the students comes from a different background and carries their own issues into the school with them.

I loved that no two kids was truly alike. However, I was a bit put off by the overuse of the stereotypical. From the super geeky homeschooled kid to slightly dumb jock, every high school stereotype was represented in the book.  I'll admit that made the story a bit hard for me to swallow.  Once I got past that, my overall impression of the book was favorable.

This is a book that I would recommend for teen readers without hesitation.  I do plan to get the other books in the series for our kids.  However, I would not call this an incredibly suspenseful or challenging read.  A decent book to have available for young readers but not what I would call classic level literature.

In an attempt to make sure the book got a truly accurate review, I asked Sean (my thirteen-year-old) to read it.  His father interviewed him about the book and you can hear his opinion of the book here.

This review was written as part of the Catholic book reviewer program from The Catholic Company. Visit The Catholic Company to find more information on Catholic Reluctantly: John Paul 2 High Book 1. The Catholic Company has great gift ideas for all seasons of the liturgical year, be sure to check out their Advent selection and Catholic Christmas Gifts.

Meal Plan

This week I am employing one of my oh so fun tricks.  Monday is date night for Mom and Dad.  We are planning to have dinner alone after the kids head to bed so I am pulling something out of the freezer that I am not a fan of and feeding it to the kids.  Because I am super nice like that.  I'm also planning to make a pot of soup tonight for Alan to have for lunches for the rest of the week.  Which leads me to my question.  Can anyone recommend an inexpensive yet quality thermos to use for transporting such lunches?  I have a fear of the containers we use now opening up in transit and spilling on Alan's laptop.  That would be a decidedly bad thing.

M: oatmeal (B), eggplant parm (D)
T: egg sandwiches (B), chicken soup (D)
W: cereal (B), pot roast (D)
T: hashbrown casserole (B), alphabet soup (D)
F: muffins/quick bread (B), south of the border skillet (D)
S: French toast (B), movie night (D)

Saturday, January 5, 2013

Parenting as News?

Have you seen the news coverage of the Mom who gave her son an iphone for Christmas? And made up a contract to go with it? Can someone please explain to me why this is news worthy?  Why on earth people are posting this all over the web (oops, like I just did) and applauding this lady for being a parent?  And giving her child rules and expectations.  Seriously folks, have we really sunk to this level as a society that a parent acting like a parent is news worthy?

Granted, I think iphones are ridiculous for teens in most cases.  Heck, I think the smart phone craze is ridiculous for adults as well.  We own 3 cell phones in this family and each of them is a dumb phone and we plan to keep it that way.  The teens' phone is a pay-as-you-go phone that sits on the kitchen counter unless we give them permission to take it with them (because it is for OUR convenience, not theirs).  Alan and I will likely be switching to the same pay-as-you-go phones ourselves because my 8 year-old phone is dying.  I refuse to buy another phone and lock us into another contract with Sprint and we only use the phones to call each other a couple times a week, if that.  No reason to keep paying $70 a month for two phones that are rarely used.  But anyway, why on earth is this person being applauded and told she is doing something amazing?  She's not. She's being a parent and doing her stinking job.  Sigh. I'm baffled and confused. Good job, lady. Really.  I'm glad you took the time to set down rules regarding your child's use of the phone. But I just don't see why this is something special and to make noise about.

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Spreadable Butter

This one, although fairly thrifty, definitely falls under the want rather than a need category.  But sometimes it's finding a way to add in a few of those wants that help keep you on your budget without feeling as if you are missing out on something. While using up the yogurt that didn't set right, we ended up with a double batch of muffins, 3 loaves of cranberry bread (did I mention that we snagged fresh cranberries for 33 cents a pound at SAMS), and two loaves of blueberry bread.  Lots of yummy stuff for breakfast.  Ok, only 3 days of breakfast around here but still yummy.  I decided yesterday that all that bread needed some easy to spread butter to go with it so I made a batch of spreadable honey butter yesterday. Yes, this is that same stuff I've been known to pay extra for at the grocery store every so often because it is so much more convenient. Yes, I know you can just leave butter out at room temperature to soften but I know my kids. That just would not be a good idea.  Besides, I have this nifty new professional stand mixer sitting in my kitchen that needs to be used.

If you search the internet, there are lots of recipes. They are all basically the same.  Take your butter and whip it up until smooth.  Add in some oil (something with a light taste to it so it does not impact the taste of the butter) and whip it together until smooth. Some recipes called for adding water. I opted against this one.  Then I added in a little honey.  The butter was a bit runny at first but firmed up in the fridge overnight.  This morning it was spreadable directly out of the fridge which is exactly what I was looking for.  I used two sticks of butter and between 1/3 and 1/2 cup of oil.  Since butter is currently running $1.99 a box (why yes, I did buy more than 20 lbs of butter at that price), my final cost is about $1.25 or so.  Much cheaper than buying it at the store.