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Recently,  I read my first Judy Blume book, ‘Tales of fourth grade nothing’ to review my son’s classroom read aloud.  I had thumped through it while at his desk and decided I needed to read it and was glad I did.  I was not impressed by this work and find it as a poor choice for children’s literature.  Below are my concerns with this particular book.

No moral

There wasn’t any clear moral to the story and despite ample opportunity, the main character didn’t improve or really even change from the beginning to the end.

Poor Portrayal of Family

Multiple times Peter wishes his brother wasn’t born and it is the overall theme of the book (It never acknowledges that it’s wrong to feel that way.  We should be helping our kids see that their siblings are gifts from God)

The book starts with assuming that others may think that his mother is his biggest problem.  Although it says she’s not, just the suggestion bothers me. It goes on to affirm that his brother is his biggest problem. I don’t even want to suggest to my children that parents/siblings could ever be a ‘Problem’.

General Lack of Respect & Lack of Thought

Peter often uses unkind words, like “Shut up!”.  This is something I won’t allow my kids to say to each other.

“She’s such a pain” one of the kids says about their siblings.

At one point, Peter runs upstairs, slams his door and throws his shoe at the wall.  The parent never even mentions that is bad behavior.

The parent dumps cereal on the child’s head as a form of punishment?  It’s funny; but not sure it’s teaching anything.

Portrayal of Drugs/Medicines

pg 30. “Because a lot of dope-pushers hang around here.  But taking dope is even dumber than smoking, so nobody’s going to hook me.”  Here, I don’t like the new vocabulary introduced.

pg 54, chapter 5 ends with, “my mother flopped down in a chair. Grandma brought her two aspirins and a glass of water. “Here dear,” she said, “Maybe these will help.” My mother swallowed the pills.” I don’t like that without being sick, she’s offered pills and popping pills because of tough day she had with the child.

 

 

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Judy Blume is not an author we should teach the children to trust

Recently, my daughter brought home a Judy Blume book from school that her class was reading.  I was cautious about it because I had just had my son bring home another Judy Blume book that I reviewed only days before and found as not a good choice of a book for children.  My main concern with her books is that Blume’s approach to human love and sexuality is very immoral and contrary to christian belief.  Below I detail some of the concerns with this particular book after reading it.

Poor potrayal of siblings

Siblings are never kind and loving to one another.

Poor formation for Puberty & Love

Her sister Libby is portrayed as a boy crazy girl who is very self-centered.  In pages 38, 39, 48,49, Libby is wearing her bikini to attract attention, wants to get swim lessons because the teacher looks good, has a crush on the lifeguard, who her mother says is much too old for her.

Libby also has a poor self-image. pg 88. “I am so ugly it’s unbelievable!” “And just wait until you’re thirteen.  You’ll be as ugly as me if not uglier! Oh…I could just cry!”

pg 118, During their stay in vacation Tarrytown, her sister is “in love for a change.” “She sat right up close to Hank and we’re not sure but we think they kissed a couple of times.”

pg 79, A dog starts to come visit the girl dog only at night and makes lots of noises. Her sister tells her it’s a boy dog because, “I saw him make,” Libby said. The girl dog is pregnant in the next couple pages.

Lack of respect & Lack of Thought

 Shut up!, Stupid, calling someone ugly, and a pain. (ex: pg 7, 90 91)

chp 13.  The idea like making a slam book is very cruel (ex: pg 106) – It could easily introduce mock slam books and lead to bullying.

Lying is shown as normal part of growing up

Main character deals with insecurities by lying throughout the book about herself.

Lying to the parent to cover up with no corrections or consequences.

  • When Sheila breaks the model planes and is trying to fix them she lies to mom.
  • When she sat on toothpaste prank meant for her sister she again lies to mom.
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Although Judy Blume has become a popular children’s author, she is not an author we can trust our children with.  With her popularity, schools like ours are requiring the children to read her books.  In our school, children were introduced to Judy Blume book, “Tales of a fourth grade nothing” as an all class read together in third grade.  In fourth grade they delve deeper into Judy Blume by studying her book as class, “Judy Blume: otherwise known as Sheila the great.”  This is alarming, because once children like a book, they’ll continue to find more books by the same author.  Her books for younger audience like the above contain sibling rivalry, lying, problems with self-image, boy craziness, all of which are not directing our children towards the moral good.  In my further research, this is just the tip of the iceberg, her books for older children takes a turn for the worse with topics such as masturbation, premarital sex, bullying, all without resolve.

Children are vulnerable since they are at an impressionable age where they start to care about how they are perceived.   Hence, the damage caused by these books are even greater. Here are a few examples from some of her books with why our children shouldn’t read them in their formative years.

Deenie – In this book, Blume presents masturbation as a good feeling when you touch your special place.  The main character touches herself every night since it was the only way she could fall asleep.

Are you there, God? It’s me Margaret – the main character doesn’t find God after searching in religion. The book is an exploration of the main characters, puberty and sexuality.  Readers are introduced to playboy magazines and kissing games with boys in a manner one could say, intro to sexual promiscuity.

Blubber – Here she writes about an overweight girl being bullied and having her underwear exposed.  There are several profane and crude language introduced such as calling teacher Bi*ch.  Bullying is not punished.  No morals learned.

Forever – This book explores teen pre-marital teenage intercourse and birth control.  In Judy’s own words, “A book where two nice kids do it and nobody has to die.”  Book is popular in today’s culture because it teaches children that it’s ok to have sex as long as you go to planned parenthood for birth control pills and do it responsibly.  What about abstinence and waiting till you are married?  It is never mentioned.  Book contains a character peripheral to the story who is unsure of his sexual orientation and is suicidal.  Further detailed review can be found here: http://www.pluggedin.com/book-reviews/forever

Tiger Eyes  – detailed review can be found here: http://www.pluggedin.com/book-reviews/tiger-eyes/

Then Again, Maybe I won’t – This book explores male puberty.  Here the main character looks at girl next door undressing and masturbates.  Although he wonders at the end of book whether to stop but as title suggests, he decides, Then again, maybe I won’t.

Judy Blume is also an open supporter of the Planned Parenthood and she uses her books to promote her ideas.  On May 5, 2009, Judy wrote an open letter supporting Planned Parenthood, with the title cleverly headed “Are you there [Your Name Here]? It’s me, Judy,” referencing her book, “Are you There God? It’s Me Margaret”.  Contents of the email were to solicit donation funds for Planned Parenthood in honor of mother’s on Mother’s day.  Full email can be viewed here on catholic key: http://catholickey.blogspot.com/2009/05/judy-blume-honor-mom-by-supporting.html

When the secular world outside is bombarding our children with negative ideas of marriage, family and sexuality, let’s not buy into it by supporting authors like Judy Blume.  Instead let’s work together in our homes and schools to counter that with wholesome children’s books portraying families where sacrificial life giving love is nurtured.

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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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