Thursday, January 31, 2008

Successful Marriage and Not Back to School

Wednesday was the official Back To School Day for schools here in New South Wales; the start of the new school year.

We had our own Not Back To School celebration ~ we ( Greg, Thomas, Alexander, Anthony and I) drove to the city, went to Borders and other places, met up with Jonathon after his photo shoot, caught the train to St Leonards to meet Luke for lunch. Went to Olios, a yummy Italian restaurant/cafe near Luke's work.

Trying to keep the calories down, but celebration up, I had vegetable risotto and no wine.

Back to the city where some caught a train home and some drove ( we can't all fit in one car any more).

Good day.

While at Borders I read a few women's magazines. Pretty fluffy mind stuff. One, however, had an article on Successful Marriages.

Readers shared their tips for a successful marriage.

The tips were, well, weird. In my not so humble opinion.

Like ~ never have a fight with clothes on ( can you magine it!).

But I got to thinking.This April dh and I will have been marred 29 years . ( Insert gasp. OMG. I am OLD.).

I entered marriage as a pretty young, pretty silly, pretty fun seeking university student, a student with a flippant attitude. Hey, we can divorce if it doesn't work out.

This was my family's experience of marriage. And of divorce.

So, I have often second guessed my vocation.

Was I really called to marriage and, then, to mothering?

Why has our marriage survived, been a success, considering my less-than-serious attitude to the sacrament prior to marriage and my lingering doubts over marriage as my vocation.

I think in part,that it has been laughter, our sense of humour, that has made our marriage a success. Made our marriage last.

Dh and I tend to see the silly side of situations . Like when I nearly died dring labour, having son number 5 and the nurse asked me for a name for the child they thought wouldn't live. Alhough in pain, I laughed and recited, with dh catching the drift, "Alexander; because the labour has been a Terrible Horrible No Good Very Bad Day. " As in the book by Judith Viorst.

Why laugh at a time like that?

Why not?

Have you seen Home Alone 3, where the parents are explaining that they have lost son Kevin again. The police ask if this has happened before. The parents start laughing and talk about losing Kevin at Christmas being a " McAllister family tradition."

The police are not amused.

Every time dh and I see that film, we look at each other and laugh. That comment, that laughter in sometimes inappropriate situations, is so us.

My tip for a successful marriage is laughter.

And don't take yourselves too seriously.

And... I think it's about time I stop questioning my vocation, too. Sure, I suck at many traditional mothering, wifely, housekeepy things. But dh and I have been married nearly 29 years and we and the kids are mostly, usually, funnily happy.

So, this is my vocation after all.

Took me a long time to realise that.

My mothering and unschooling "mentor"

St John Bosco Feast day January 31.

More here.

Enjoy yourself as much as you like - if only you keep from sin.

- Saint John Bosco

My kind of saint.

St John Bosco's patience with the boys in his care was phenomonal ~ something to which I aspire but often do not achieve, being surrounded and outnumbered by males .

My sons, in my long experience very often I had to be convinced of this great truth. It is easier to become angry than to restrain oneself, and to threaten a boy than to persuade him. Yes, indeed, it is more fitting to be persistent in punishing our own impatience and pride than to correct the boys. We must be firm but kind, and be patient with them.

See that no one finds you motivated by impetuosity or willfulness. It is difficult to keep calm when administering punishment, but this must be done if we are to keep ourselves from showing off our authority or spilling out our anger.

Let us regard those boys over whom we have some authority as our own sons. Let us place ourselves in their service. Let us be ashamed to assume an attitude of superiority. Let us not rule over them except for the purpose of serving them better.

This was the method that Jesus used with the apostles. He put up with their ignorance and roughness and even their infidelity. He treated sinners with a kindness and affection that caused some to be shocked, others to be scandalized and still others to hope for God's mercy. And so he bade us to be gentle and humble of heart.

Generation Y and Jonathon

Jonathon was
interviewed about his job and My Space.


He does this work, is studying at university, teaches catechism and is involved in our parish , the youth band and youth group. Keeps him on his toes...

Saturday, January 26, 2008

God has a sense of humour.

We have had a rather funny week. Full of ups and downs.

It began with me feeling unwell - tummy aches, neck and shoulder pain. Tension? Probably.

I felt fat and bloated , too.

But my unwellness was improved by two Masses on Sunday ( one Latin, one our usual parish Mass) and Sunday evening dinner with one of the Friars .

Dh has been in hospital for two days this week, for medical tests. I had a LOT of work meetings and some meetings for World Youth Day ( I am a WYD Homestay Coordinator in our parish). And phone calls for the parish morning teas. And Kumon reports to do. And people over for lunch - talking to a friend about a marriage breakup and a new possible partner. Arrgh. A difficult situation.

Greg taught his first French class for homeschoolers at our house this week - I think it looked like fun, but I was really in and out in a sporadic fashion. Because God has a sense of humour.


Dh and I have deliberated about buying a newer car the last few weeks. We have dithered . We have talked.

But the decision was made for us on Thursday. Jonathon (18) had a car accident in our blue station wagon ( Francois or Frankie, as it is called).

Good news. Jonathon and the driver of the other car are okay.

But our car is not..So, within the next few hours of the accident, we found a newer car on the internet, had it brought out for perusal, got a bank cheque and bought a new-for-us station wagon - Tristan, is the family vote for his name.

All of this while dh was resting from medical stuff. Sort of.

God has a sense of humour, for sure.

The week ended well, however - went for a trip to Wollongong on Friday, a visit with two Friars. Cool day. And today, Australia Day, is Jonathon's birthday. So far, Mass, Adoration, breakfast out, DVDs and Singstar.


And today I don't feel quite so fat, either! lol!

Monday, January 21, 2008

Homeschool Log

Trying to update my homeschool log for this last week.

What have we done, in educational terms?


Mostly reading.

Yes, we have been shopping and to the movies and the kids have accompanied me to work meetings. Been to their part time jobs and their delivery of junk mail, too.

Yes, they have played the piano and guitar and listened to CDs and jumped on the trampoline and played and used the computer and Wii , sung along with Singstar, caught up with friends, and we visited another homeschool family.

Yes ,they have served and sung at Mass and have done a bit of formal study here and there - some Maths, Anny some Kumon English, some Latin, some writing.

But most of this week has been reading.

In the car. In bed. In the family room...sitting room...dining room... the library and at the bookshop.

The clutter of books everywhere is driving me batty! I walk around and tidy up piles. Piles of books.

My house reminds me of a quote from one of our Agatha Christie novels ~

It was clear that the books owned the shop rather than the otherway about. Everywhere they had run wild and taken possession of their habitat, breeding and multiplying and clearly lacking any stronghand to keep them down.

What has been read?

Everything. And anything.

From fiction ( P.G. Wodehouse and Tolkien and Lewis Carroll) to non fction ( Life on Mars, The Dangerous Book for Boys, Famous Speeches, The Joy of Mathematics) to magazines ( White Dwarf), to picture books ( The Frances series by Russell Hoban) to roleplaying game books to a biography of Pope John Paul II and a mini Saints book. And a 1962 Missal.

I'll just write reading and books down in my log. I'll know what that means.

An unschooling life, made up of books and reading.

When I look back, I am so impressed again with the life-giving power of literature. If I were a young person today, trying to gain a sense ofmyself in the world, I would do that again by reading,just as I did when I was young.~ Maya Angelou ~

And why are the children such readers? Perhaps this quote explains it... a bit .....

Children are made readers on the laps of their parents. ~ Emilie Buchwald ~

The years of reading aloud, of comforting toddlers with books, of living in libraries and bookshops, seem to have made books the friends of my boys.

Well, books are my friends, too...

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Woman. And education.

I am reading Woman by Edith Stein ( St Teresa Benedicta of the Cross).Translation by Freda Mary Oben, PhD.

I have enjoyed other writings of Edith Stein and this book also captures me. There is a sympathy in her writings, and this is coupled with Stein's ability to write clearly on philosophy and ethics.

I have begun this volume with the section on education. Of course. As a homeschooling mother, a teacher, a Kumon Education Supervisor, what would draw my interest most, if not education?

Edith Stein consecrated herself in full to whatever she undertook, including education. She used the spoken and written word not only in teaching at school and at teacher's college but also in bringing about educational reform. Her influence was through her work, yes, but also strongly through her personal example. This fits with her educational philosophy ~

The children in not need merely what we have but rather what we are.

The entire educational process must be carried out with love which is perceptible in every disciplinary measure and which does not instill any fear. And the most effective educational method is not the word of instruction but the living example without which all words remain useless. ( page 6)

Who I am as a teacher and a mother, the way I act, what I do, communicates volumes to my students and children. All the perfect curricula I could collect, the perfect setting for my homeschool or my Kumon centre, means little without my interest, love, integrity, care. My own learning and growth.

Stein wrote ~ Education is not an external possession of learning but rather the gestalt ( form or character) which the human personality assumes under the influence of manifold external forces, i.e. the process of this formation. ...The body draws from the physical world, the psyche from its intellectual environment - from the world of people and from the values which nourish it.

The first fundamental formation happens within the soul. Just as an inner form resides in the seed of plants, an invisible force making a fir tree shoot up here and a beech there, there is in this way an inner mold set in human beings which urges the evolution into a certain direction and works towards a certain gestalt in blind singleness of purpose, that of the personality which is mature, fuly developed, and uniquely individual....

Actual formative material is received not merely by the senses and intellect but is integrated by the 'heart and soul' as well. But if it actually becomes transformed into the soul, then it ceases to be mere material; it works itself, forming, developing; it helps the soul reach its intended gestalt. ( pages 130-131)

So, according to Edth Stein, true education touches both the soul and the intellect. We, as teachers, as parents, we unschoolers, should continue to be aware of the important effect of environment and atmosphere, of life itself, of others, and of our values, on our children and students ...

I have to keep reading this book, so many concepts to consider.
Love it!
And I need to add it to my just-starting-list at Good Reads. ( Thanks, Mary, for the tip to join !).

Sunday, January 13, 2008

The Holy Family.

This morning we went, not to our usual parish Mass, but to a Latin Mass.

In the "old" calendar, the Sunday after the Epiphany is the Feast of the Holy Family.

Jonathon snapped a pic of dh and I, before we all left to go to Mass.

In my missal there is a commentary before the Epistle ( Colossians 3:12-17). Too good not to share ~

The authentic atmosphere of a profoundly Christian life is made up of kindness, charity, mutual comprehension, prayer and thanksgiving and joy in the Holy Spirit.

Nice to remember...

Saturday, January 12, 2008


Or perhaps I should say - re-organisation.

This afternoon, I enlisted the family to help with some household organisation. We cleaned out the laundry - all the junk above came out of our laundry! Wow!

And see the finished laundry - lots of clear white space. Very nice.

I recently bought wire shelving units for use at my Kumon Education Centre ( work) and used one here in the laundry. Helps to keep things sorted and neat.

We also re-arranged bedrooms Again.

There is a lot of re-arranging going on in our house, as two older sons have moved to Sydney. Perhaps temporarily. We hope permanently.

An answer to prayer.

Nevertheless, adding adult sons back into the family mix calls for re-arrangement. Of physical places ( so Luke and Greg can have their own rooms - this is the two eldest sons).

And of mental and relational spaces - getting along together, giving each other room to move and breathe, to be different.

Letting go. Remembering that the way one parents and relates to an adult son is different to the way one relates to and parents a younger son.

Funnily enough. it is my dh who finds this the hardest. Maybe those male and female differences again ? Do fathers find it harder to parent less, to let go? Or am I just an unusual mother ~ letting go is not what I find hard.

What do I find hard?

Being the mediator between these relationships, helping both parent and son to see each other's point of view. ( Those males!). Can be wearying.

But worthwhile.
Like all aspects of family life.

Re-organisation of space, I find, ends up helping with re-establishing and re-orienting relationships.
I am pondering on these thoughts and words, on our family life and on my role as a parent.
Some of us went to a Latin Mass this morning, and the Gospel reading was Luke 2: 15-20. Fr. mentioned this line ~ But Mary kept all these words, pondering them in her heart.
I got to thinking - How often do we mothers ponder things, ponder about family life, keep these thoughts close to our heart?
I'll keep up my pondering, my re-organising, my re-arranging, my praying.
I need it!

I Am Sad!


Well, the last week or so I"ve been doing my tougher more advanced workouts - Taebo Advanced Lives, Turbo Jam Cardio Party 3, the old FIRM Volume 1.

But, guess, what - they are not so tough anymore! :-(

Sure they are great workouts, you build up a fantastic sweat, I have some biceps coming along
nicely :-), and the endorphins flow - but I don't feel dead or wiped out at the end of the workout. And the DOMS aren't as tough.

It's weird but I like to workout for fun and intensity and to get that really worked out feeling.

Oh, and here I am in the middle of a sweaty Taebo workout, using a staff. Now, that is what I call fun!

Thursday, January 10, 2008


Warning - a ranting blog post below..


You gotta love them, but gosh ~ take it from me, as the only female in an otherwise male dominated household - men can be frustrating.

And some of my men friends and the men I work with are no better.

Aargh. If only they weren't so touchy , so grumpy, so anti -advice. :-)

This article, They Just Can't Help It, describes some differences in brains. You cannot determine a person's brain type by sex; however, it emerges that, on average, more women have "intuitive" brains and more men have "systemising" brains. From the article:

The evidence for a female advantage in empathising comes from many different directions. For example, studies show that when children play together with a little movie player that has only one eye-piece, boys tend to get more of their fair share of looking down the eye piece. They just shoulder the girls out of the way. Less empathy, more self-centred. Or if you leave out a bunch of those big plastic cars that kids can ride on, what you see is that more little boys play the "ramming" game. They deliberately drive the vehicle into another child. The little girls ride around more carefully, avoiding the other children more often. This suggests the girls are being more sensitive to others.

Baby girls, as young as 12 months old, respond more empathically to the distress of other people, showing greater concern through more sad looks, sympathetic vocalisations and comforting. This echoes what you find in adulthood: more women report frequently sharing the emotional distress of their friends. Women also spend more time comforting people.

When asked to judge when someone might have said something potentially hurtful, girls score higher from at least seven years old. Women are also more sensitive to facial expressions. They are better at decoding non-verbal communication, picking up subtle nuances from tone of voice or facial expression, or judging a person's character.

Makes sense to me. I am often the one who smoothes the troubled waters, who picks up nuances and responds accordingly, who may be the mediator, the first to apologise - yes, even when I am not necessarily in the wrong, but I know someone has to take the first step.... And this someone is rarely male!

I love the men in my life ~ my dh, my sons , their friends, my male friends..I enjoy being with my male work colleagues. But , sometimes, I yearn just for a woman only conversation!

Men. You gotta love them, you gotta live and work with them but give me a break, occasionally. :-)

The Catechism of the Catholic Church has this to say about male and female dfferences~

2333 Everyone, man and woman, should acknowledge and accept his sexual identity. Physical, moral, and spiritual difference and complementarity are oriented toward the goods of marriage and the flourishing of family life. The harmony of the couple and of society depends in part on the way in which the complementarity, needs, and mutual support between the sexes are lived out.

2334 "In creating men 'male and female,' God gives man and woman an equal personal dignity."118 "Man is a person, man and woman equally so, since both were created in the image and likeness of the personal God."119

2335 Each of the two sexes is an image of the power and tenderness of God, with equal dignity though in a different way.

I really like that last line ~ both sexes being "an image of the power and tenderness of God."

Thanks for letting me rant - hey, thats what blogs are for , right?

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Sometimes, less is more.

Someone asked at the 4 real learning forum, about stepping off the conveyor belt of education.

You know, the factory model often denigrated by John Taylor Gatto. Doing work for the sake of work with no interest, motivation, respect for the learner.

I shared that, for us, less is sometimes more.

We tend to focus on a few things at a time, leaving a lot to life learning, to activities and interests and reading and movies. Computer games. Music.

Our January focus is unschooling - learning from life, from interests. Just living. Seeking joy and beauty. As in our new Saints book.

With a dash of classical education mixed in.

This translates in January as Kumon English ( for one son), Maths, Latin, and work on our Mary Notebooks.

Plus reading. All the time.

I know these main areas of focus will change, as the months progress. Our educational themes grow out of life, as Susan tells us in her post on themes and resolutions . Thomas ( 15) wants to write a novel. Alexander (16) will be studying a first year university subject through Open University. We are organizing French classes for interested homeschoolers. Maybe a book discussion group. Thinking of a unit study/integrated unit of work with Anthony (12) on the novel Prince Caspian, before the movie is released . A splash of formal Chemistry for Thomas and formal Physics for Alexander.

But the constants are Maths, Latin, Religion and Life.

Classical unschooling? See what Willa has to say on the subject.

And check out Live Free Learn Free magazine.

The Epiphany Blessing.

I completely forgot about this on January 6. Duh! Reading my 1962 missal this morning jogged my memory.

+Epiphany Blessing Of A Home+

All make the Sign of the Cross.

Head of Household: "Peace be to this house and: to all who dwell here, in the name of tfie Lord.

All: Blessed be God forever.

Reader: In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things cme to be through him, and without him nothing came to be..... And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we saw his glory, the glory as of the Fahter's only Son, full of grace and truth. (John 1:1-3.14)

Using chalk, write on the outside of your house, above or next to an entrance:
(write the first half of the current year)






(write the other half of the year)

These words mean. "May Christ bless this house".
All: Lord God of heaven and earth, you revealed your only begotten Son to every nation by the guidance of a star. Bless this house and all who inhabit it. May we be blessed with health, goodness of heart, gentleness and the keeping of your law. Fill us with the light of Christ, that our love for each other may go out to all. We ask this through Christ our Lord. Amen.

Monday, January 07, 2008

Current Centrepiece

..for our dining table.

A few gold covered chocolate coins, leftover from the Epiphany.

A gorgeous bunch of flowers , a gift from my dh.

And, on the display stand, my new book.

Saints, a Year in Faith and Art.

What a glorious book to strew! ( Remember strewing and it's role in unschooling? )

Each day, the book opens flat to reveal a mini biography of a saint for that day, accompanied by a representative piece of art. Fom the blurb ~

This richly illustrated, unique volume portrays more than 375 Catholic saints, arranged by the days of the year on which each beatified figure is honoured. The images range from world-famous works of art by such masters as Caravaggio, Rubens, Velázquez, and El Greco to more modern and lesser-known depictions. Rosa Giorgi has chosen up to three saints for each day of the year and has composed a brief accompanying description of each—including etymology of names, historical background, and occupations, cities, and countries of patronage.

Encompassing angels and abbots, mystics and martyrs, priests and prophets, virgins and visionaries, the exquisite saint portraits in these pages will not only inspire Catholics—making this an ideal confirmation or Christmas gift—but will also fascinate scholars and art historians.

I bought this book on impulse after reading rave reviews at the 4 Real Learning forum.

In retrospect, an excellent impulse purchase!

Working hard.

January 7. And we are back to more focused time together in our day.

Here, Anthony is at work on the laptop, writing a piece for his Mary or Our Lady Notebook. A piece on a recent Marian solemnity ~ Mary, Mother of God. Theotokos.

I thought Anny looked sweet, sitting and working hard at the laptop.

Sunday, January 06, 2008

Feelin' powerful.

At archery with the family.

I felt tough.

( Laughs at self. )

Fun to go out together - dh, me, all seven sons, and Hannah, Nick's girlfriend from Adelaide.

The Epiphany...

...or Twelfth Night.

We traditionally share chocolate gold coins on this day, in imitation of the three Kings who brought gifts to the Child Jesus - gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh.

Friday, January 04, 2008

New Year Reading

I am in "holiday" mode and thus have a little bit of extra time for readng. Fantastic! I love books and reading.

Next week, it is back to work and Kumon Maths study for me and so my reading time will be sadly lessened..

What am I reading this week?

Just finished another in the Jonathon Argyll/Flavia di Stefano art mystery series by
Iain Pears - Death and Restoration. I like these books. Light yet articulate. ( Can one call a book articulate? Who cares. I just did!). Witty. Filled with attractive descriptions of Rome, with a dash of humour and some art history and Catholicism blended in. The crimes themselves are intriguing - one wants to help solve each crime, each little twist.

Started Hide by Lisa Gardner. Wow. I keep trying to sneak snatches of this book. It fits right in the can't-put-it-down category of books. A suspense thriller.

These two authors were recommendations ~ it is fun to talk books, to try new authors, to share book tales...

For non fiction, I am reading Ordinary Work, Extraordinary Grace: My Spiritual Journey in Opus Dei by Scott Hahn. Now, I must admit to having little to no interest in being involved in the Opus Dei movement. However, I have liked a number of books by Dr Hahn and am interested in his spiritual journey and discussion. So far, so good. I like what I am reading. Work and pray.

My other non fiction read is Winning After Losing. Author Stacy Halparin lost 350 pounds, after gastric bypass surgery. But her journey didn't end there. She needed to learn how to live without a dependence on food to solve problems, to experience the joy and pain, to learn to eat and exercise for health. The author suggests creating a Winner's Circle notebook, to help with the journey. It's about the mind, not just about the food or weight. ...I haven't lost 350 pounds nor have I had gastric bypass surgery, and can't see myself keeping such a notebook :-) but am still working on diet and fitness and weight loss and body acceptance. And am enjoying the book....
Any other book suggestions?

Tuesday, January 01, 2008

2008. Mottoes. Themes. Not Goals!

As I mentioned at Lean But Not Mean, I don't do goals well. Or resolutions.

I get stressed.

Instead, I do mottoes and/or themes.

I write , in the front of my diary, my mottoes or themes for the year. I've been doing ths for over ten years now. I *do* think that this practice has made a difference to my life, to who I am, to my family. Each time I open my diary all year, evey day, I am reminded 0f who I want to be and of what I want to do.

The mottoes act as prompts.
Not as sledgehammers.

Today, I am transferring info from my 2007 diary to the shiny, new, 2008 diary.
As the I turn to the front of the old diary, I see my mottoes for 2007.
Did they help? Did they influence my life? My year?


Be Not Afraid
( Ooh, I haven't been so good at following and remembering these two).

Be More Than A Conqueror ( for fitness - I can do it - yes, this has been a help).

Every day Above Ground is a Blessed day ( another from Billy Blanks and Taebo. This motto, this saying, has reminded me to smile more. And more. Regardless. Even when I am sh**ty).

Where I am today is where my mind put me. Where I'll be tomorrow is where my mind'll put me. ( More from Billy. Very powerful for me, spiritually and physically).

So, what am I writing on the pristine, front leaf of my new diary?

You get out what you put in ( Effort. Be it in fitness, diet, family life, spiritual life, homeschooling, work...).

Joy. Time. Prayer
(From Fr.'s homily this Sunday, the Feast of the Holy Family. Three important things for families and for individuals. To do. To follow. To remember. I don't hold much hope of ever being Mary ~like - yeah, right. . Similarly, our family doesn't look much like the Holy Family, or even like a holy family. But , as Fr. pointed out, we can try...I am hoping that these words will remind me of what I need to do, as a Christian mother and as a Christian wife. With the grace of God. With the help of the sacraments. )
Be a better example.

( Self explanatory. I can be a bit wild sometimes and, as such, a poor example to my sons and to others. But do I need a whole personality change? lol!).

And from the Lean But Not Mean blog , my fitness theme ~
Being Fit For Life.

Continue to make lifestyle changes and choices.

Continue to work out for about one hour each day with intensity, doing what I love, probably mostly cardio/kickboxing/AWT ( aerobic weight training).

Try to eat more vegan like - I already eat more vegetarian but want to eat less dairy and less processed, more whole foods. Well, only 80% of the time. I need my junk, my alcohol too, sometimes, you know. :-)

Watch portions - whether it be by eyeballing, food journalling, calories, points, food exchanges, whatever, it can vary.

Aim to lose another 3 kg ( about 6-7 lbs). Well, in my ideal I'd be super thin but I am trying to avoid my body image paranoia and low body self esteem trip. I am aiming to feel good about my more , well, athletic build. :-)

Do you choose mottoes or themes? Or make resolutions? I'll pray for you, friends, in 2008 and for your plans and dreams.