What is your child reading? 

Most parents want their children to be good readers.  But do you know what your children are reading?  Does it matter?  Very often, I hear from parents and teachers alike comments like this,

“As long as they are reading, I am happy!” 

It always makes me nervous when I hear it.  I am an avid reader and in my constant search for good reading material I often encounter books that should never be read by our children.  Secularism with it’s lack of respect for all that we hold true for good family life and love is reaching our children by the means of books.  And especially in a very scary way, through children’s books.  I am often baffled by the choices presented to young kids from toddler time at library to high school required reading lists.

Recently, in our catholic school, I’m finding books that are being promoted to our children with poor content.  Examples of such books include The Diary of a Wimpy Kid series, Big Nate series, Junie B Jones, and Judy Blume books.  These books portray negative family values, disrespect for parents/ teachers/authority in general and provide negative formation for puberty and love.

The truth is the “As long as they are reading, I am happy!” attitude is everywhere, hence very little vigilance on books by parents and teachers.

It matters what children read 

Once the ideas presented in books reach the young minds, the information has become irrevocable. In the case of poor concepts and world views, the damage is non-removable similar to looking at pornography.   This is especially true for their formative years, age 18 and under, when their imagination and moral compass are forming.

Books should be carefully chosen to orient the children towards the greater good.  You can’t simply choose a book because it is popular or has the most reviews on amazon anymore.  Greed and selfishness are king in the secular world and many authors don’t care about wholesome values. Popular books often focus on self and an it’s all about me attitude. Disrespectful language, negative feelings and thoughts of self and siblings, and the concept of a good “lie”.

One such example of this is the popular Judy Blume books.  I’ll be adding a detailed review on Judy Blume books here.

Children are like sponges.  They absorb everything from their environment.  If we give them good books, they absorb good. If we give them poor books, they absorb that too.

Ok I get it but there is so much junk out there!  What can we do?

First, we need to be more vigilant and aware of what our children are reading at home and in school.  Whenever possible, read together with the child so you can help them ponder and reason when you encounter negative ideas in books.   If you can’t read together, try to take a few minutes to scan the books that they’re bringing home to see if the attitudes and behaviors expressed in a few different sections of the book are aligning with the values you want to instill in your child.

If the books with poor content are being read at school where you are not present, do not be afraid to talk to the teachers.  Often teachers will allow you an opt out option.  Remember, it’s our job as parents to educate our children.  We entrust our schools and teachers to part of this responsibility.  When the information being presented no longer represents our interests and intentions, we need to speak up.

Talk to children about good authors that you trust.  It matters who wrote the book.  The worldview and moral compass of the authors often comes through in the books.

If the child knows which authors to trust, it also gives them something to search in libraries instead of judging by covers.

When choosing books from library get in the habit of putting preselected books on hold rather than letting children choose any book they want from shelves.

Also make good books available within their reach.  Create your own little library on bookshelves stocked with classics and good literature.  Choose books that help their imagination with good fertile ideas.  Invest time in seeking and finding good books for the children.  Make your own booklist of good finds.  This will make it easier to share and also acquire them.

How do we go about choosing good books? 

The easiest place to start is to find booklists that are created by trusted resources.  There are books with booklists and lists posted online on blogs and homeschool websites.  Take advice from friends you trust about good reading material.  Classics offer a great starting place because it’ll be easier to find out what they contain.  The longer a book has been around, more likely to find thorough reviews and summaries online.  Another reason to stick to older books is the finding of this study on modern books at https://www.cbsnews.com/news/study-finds-modern-word-choices-reflect-a-more-self-centered-culture/

Below I’ll provide a few of the booklists I’ve come across:

John Senior, a noted retired professor of Comparative Literature from the University of Kansas has put out a great list of thousand books.

Christian homeschooling websites are another great resource.  Here are few that I’ve found resourceful.

Catholic bloggers

Books with booklists

Final thought

Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. Phillipians 4:8

The mind can be likened to a garden and the time we spend thinking.  Do you want a garden full or weeds or a garden of beautiful flowers?

 

 

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We recently got an email from my mom-in-law sharing the testimony of Catalina Rivas of Bolivia about how Jesus and Mary guided her through the mass.  It was so beautiful and enlightening.   I highly recommend that everyone read this testimony.  I promise it’ll help improve your participation of mass.  My husband read the story first and came to me, urging me to put the information into a missal form that he could take to mass.  There was no way he could remember all the things Jesus and Mary taught otherwise.  I thought about how true that was because it wasn’t the first time I had read this testimony and there was much more I still needed to change.

My sister is a huge advocate of the movie ‘The Greatest Miracle‘ which is an animation movie based on these revelations to Catalina.  The movie is a great way to introduce the message to children.  My children especially love the parts where the devil tries to distract the people and how praying well makes them disappear.  I love everything that motivates their better participation at mass.

So with the help of my husband’s gentle nudges during the crazy time of life when you bring a newborn home, I was able to make the missal into a booklet form.

HolyMassBooklet-TwoSidedPrinting

HolyMassBooklet-SingleSidedPrinting

 

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I’m 38 weeks pregnant with our fifth child and ready to pack the bags.  Here are some of the things that I pack.  I like to pack two separate bags.  One for birthing and one for post baby.  Normally my husband can fetch the post baby bag later from the car.  Here’s what I’ve normally packed in my very catholic birthing bag.

Birth plan

I’m one of those people who shy away from taking medicine even for headaches.  I prefer nature more than interventions when it comes to the process of birthing.  I trust that God made my body to birth and he’ll help me through it.  I try to stay away from epidurals except for emergencies.  I find the pain of labor somewhat redemptive and endure it for love of God.

I’ve always prayed hard for normal deliveries with healthy babies.  I’m terrified of C-sections. I did have one emergency C-section but it helped me to learn to trust God for what’s best. Also God taught me an important lesson on unanswered prayers.  Not all prayers are answered and I had to learn to trust God even when things aren’t going according my birth plan.

I take several printouts of my birth plan for the hospital staff.  It’s also good to give it to the provider towards the last appointment.

My birth plan asks for birthing to be as private as possible with no unnecessary staff or trainees and ask for the least amount of interventions.  Birth plan options to consider while making your own.

Comfort Measures

Socks and Toe warmer packets – With the rush of hormones sometimes I’m hot and other times cold. These are really handy since feet tend to be cold a lot. Even more so if an emergency C section is needed.
Back pain patches – My husband will run out and get a few of these at early signs of labor. I almost always have really bad back pain during labor and this really helps. Early labor at home I tend to rely on water jet in the tub but later stages these are handy.
Tylenol – Most people would laugh but I do take about 4 of these during labor to help take the edge of pain during active labor to transition time. Maybe it’s the placebo effect when enduring labor with no epidural.
Birthing ball – Normally I call ahead and find out that they have a birthing ball at the hospital. These are really good when standing is hard and you need the help of gravity during the contractions.
CD player with relaxing music – Since relaxing is key to pain control I ask for the lights to be down and put in music to breath through those contractions.
Snack bars – In case I’m in for a long labor.  Also for the hungry husband post delivery when he is all forgotten by the staff.
Water bottle – To hide in my bag and take drinks since they only feed you ice chips at the hospital.  I’m always parched.

Holy Comfort Measures

Rosary – Holding on to rosary feels a lot like holding Mother Mary’s hands so I either hold one or put one around my neck. Make sure it’s not a metal one so C-section friendly in case it’s needed.
Scapular – I can never have enough sacramentals around when trying to tap into all sources of grace during labor.
Holy Water – Never know if you need a quick infant baptism or not but I like to bless my baby with holy water and say a prayer of thanksgiving as soon as I’m able to.
Consecration Prayers – I like to take prayers consecrating my child to the immaculate heart of Mary and Jesus.
Mother’s manual prayer book – These have such great prayers for the new baby. If you don’t have this book already I highly recommend it. I leave it in the bathroom of our house so first thing in the morning I’m praying the consecration prayer and few of the following ones for all my children.
Holy Images – I take two blessed picture frames of Jesus and Mary with me to labor to direct my thoughts to God and to help remind me the presence of God. They also help take the mind off the pain.
Index cards with encouraging verses – I hold on to these and repeat them through out labor. Helps to turn each contraction into a prayer and to cling on to especially during painful contractions.

  • Isaiah 66:9 – Shall I bring to the point of birth and not give delivery? says the Lord.  Or shall I who gives delivery shut the womb? says your God.
  • Psalm 127:3 – Behold, children are a gift of the Lord, the fruit of the womb is a reward.
  • Psalm 71:6 – By you I have been sustained from my birth; You are he who took me from my mother’s womb; my praise is continually of you.
  • Psalm 139:13 – For you formed my inward parts; you wove me in my mother’s womb.

Post baby bag essentials

Comfy night gown
Sleep Nursing Bras
Regular Nursing Bra
Boppy pillow
Nursing cover
Toiletries
Book for Meditation
Journal
Cute baby outfit for hospital pictures
Baby socks
An outfit for me to come home in

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From the time they are a year old and eager to mock me, I encourage my children to genuflect before the altar.  They normally start out not completely facing Jesus, but as they get older, they do look for the tabernacle before genuflecting.  Now that my younger ones have older children to follow, it is so wonderful to watch from the pew when an older child is helping the younger one genuflect.  Genuflecting helps them to know that they are in the holy presence of God.  Although they do tend to forget this 5 minutes or less after genuflecting, it’s a great start.

Today, I came across the story of a saintly young girl, Alexia Gonzalez-Barros in a book called Saintly Youth of Modern Times by Joan Carroll Cruz.  In her story, her mother watches Alexia genuflecting reverently and when asked about it, she tells her that, “I tell him things Mommy!  Like I say, ‘Jesus, may I always do what You want!'” I am very inspired by this young girls little prayer.  I plan to teach my children this prayer as they genuflect.

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This past week, I was privileged to be a part of Catechesis of the Good Shepherd Pentecost ceremony for 6 to 9 year olds.  I wanted to share what I saw and found beautiful.  The children were gathered around the prayer table.  The table held a long candle holder that held 7 red tapers of equal height and the Bible.  The catechist solemnly proclaimed the reading from the Bible (Isaiah 11:2).

And the spirit of the Lord shall rest upon him, 
the spirit of wisdom and understanding,
the spirit of counsel and strength,
the spirit of knowledge and fear of the Lord.

After a short pause, she handed out small paper cards each containing a gift of the spirit with it’s corresponding meaning to seven children.  They were short and simple.

Wisdom  To value what is important
Understanding To see clearly what is stated
Counsel To understand God’s way
Strength To go on even when it’s hard
Piety To humbly delight in the Lord
Knowledge  To learn more deeply about God
Awe of God To recognize God’s greatness

Each child with the card were invited to come up front one at a time and read the name of the gift and it’s meaning to the group.  The catechist pondered with the children what each of them meant.  The catechist lit one of the candles and invited the child to place his/her gift of the spirit card under the lit candle.  It was so beautiful to see the all 7 candles lighting with their corresponding gift cards underneath.  After a moment of pause, every child was called by name to come up one at a time and choose a gift they would like to pray for.  They each received a candle that was lit from the candle with the corresponding gift they chose and placed in front of it.

I enjoyed watching the children as they chose the gift they wanted to receive and ponder on the meaning of each gift.  What a beautiful way to teach the children about the gifts of the spirit and to desire them.  This would be easy to use/adopt in the family especially this week while we are praying to the Holy Spirit for his seven gifts.

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Today, the 41st day of easter, the day after the great feast of Ascension starts our preparation for another great feast, the Pentecost.  Feast days have great graces associated with them.  Pentecost is a great time to ask for the gifts and fruits of the spirit.  Priest at our local church encouraged us all to start the novena today to prepare for Pentecost.  So let’s prepare together for this feast by praying the novena for the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit.

Novena to the Holy Spirit

 

 

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Recently, I was asked how does your family prepare for advent.  The question was posed in a group where the women were feeling overwhelmed by the christmas shopping, decorating and planning family events.  We all want to hold on to baby Jesus and not let go. But how can we do that in a culture where giving to needy takes on a whole different level.  Now we feel terrible if a child were to receive only ONE present during christmas no matter if all that child’s needs and more are met all year long.

Currently, I had been pondering about various ways to counter this problem since I live in a mixed culture home.  I hail from entirely the opposite part of the world from my husband.  My memories of Christmas are so beautiful with the focus on the christ child.  We were truly excited for the Birthday of Jesus.  We made the crib ready for him to be born in our house.  The nativity scenes there were called cribs and we had lots of fun trying to find the right kind of tree limbs that looked mostly like pines in the tropical part of the world.  We used twigs and lights to decorate the nativity scene with the empty manger. On Christmas eve we broke our fast from meat and celebrated Jesus’ birthday with plum cake and placed him in his manger with songs and prayers.  We received no presents except the greatest gift, the Christ child whom we prepared to receive in our hearts all advent long.

My mother spent a few years with the nuns before she got married and she learned a lot of great things from them.  One of the things she learned and saved (handwritten) were their prayers for Christmas.  As a family, we used those handwritten prayers of hers every year to prepare for Christmas.  It was a combination of St.Andrew’s Novena and various spiritual bouquets with aspirations. These notes were all written in malayalam.  Although my father had scanned in my mother’s diary and copied prayers for us to use in our families,  I had not yet been able to make it happen.  This is partly because the prayers were in malayalam and not in English.

Today, as I was sharing my childhood Christmas with my friends I realized it’s time to translate and share these beautiful prayers with others.  This is my gift to you…

Spiritual Preparation for Christmas

 

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