Home Again

And happy to be here.  On the agenda for this week:

  1. Finish out the Family Honor course.  Funny how being on the road for ten days will cut into homework time.
  2. Get over this lovely cold I brought home from VA, so that I’m fit for society come Friday – parish homeschooling group’s kick-off Mass and pot luck.  (Yes, prayers appreciated.)
  3. Make a respectable showing for first week of school.  So far, so acceptable.  Despite two sick kids and one very welcome but perhaps a tiny bit bored house guest.
  4. Catch up on 10,000 post-conference to-do items.
  5. Write stuff.
  6. Other things I can’t remember right now.

In good news:

A.  The conference was excellent.  Seriously fun.  Loved it.  Met and re-met a bazillion very cool people.  Presentations went well (I’m told), gave out a pile of books, and confirmed that yes, my handwriting is that bad.

B.  Local Catholic bookstore tells me they’ve already sold 25 copies of the new book.  In a couple days.  Typically they do not sell 25 copies of any given book.  Luckily they laid in a big stash. (Why yes, you can order my book by the case of 100.)

C.  I re-read the book.  It’s really good.  My copy-editor and I disagree on which set of comma rules are the ideal set, but if you are like me and are a bit thrown by Liguori’s style sheet, let me just challenge you: There is a set of rules they are following, and it is logical and all that.  So I tentatively approve, even though when I’m the editor, I use the list Jen Fulwiler put up on Pinterest the other week.  (Um, no link, I’m being speedy here, you just go search “Jen Fulwiler” + “pinterest” + “comma rules”.)

Back to homework.  If I owe you an e-mail, my goal is to be caught up with all pressing internet chores by the end of the week.  Phone if it’s urgent.

Updated to toss in a picture and a link, because I see my side bar is having a bad book day.  Picture of the book here:

Classroom Management for Catechists

And link to Liguori’s site, where at this very moment (9:45 AM on 8/13) they are showing $3.50 for the sales price.  Half off. Sheesh.  Crazy marketing people.  (I approve!)

Bleg 2: Favorite Tax / Bookkeeping software?

I realized people are probably going to ask this question. I do all my accounting-chores in Excel, but not everyone wants to write a giant re-usable tax spreadsheet, so I thought I’d collect some recommendations from normal people. 

If you use a personal tax or small-business bookkeeping software, what do you like?  What do you hate? What’s worth the money?  What’s overpriced for what you get?

Thank You Kind Patron

Dear Person Who Got Us the $50 Discount,

Thank you so much for listing us as the “family that referred you” when you first enrolled with Kolbe Academy.  What a pleasant surprise I had yesterday, when Nancy the friendly book lady told me she’d have to reduce my book bill by $50, on account of the credit someone had given us. I promptly went out and spent the bonus on . . . more books.

Predictably Yours,


PS: The SuperHusband is making pointed comments about me overfilling the newly-built bookshelves shelves.  I have dispatched him to the opening-day festivities at Conquest Brewing while I quickly file my new finds, so that he is unable to tell exactly how many used books I acquired this morning. 

PPS: In any case, it was not really that many.  Because I could carry them all to the car in a single trip.


A book cover, which means a final title. Woohoo!

We’re still in quarantine, and hopefully coming out soon.  I will clean out my inbox tomorrow, I promise.   Meanwhile, I got online this morning to send regrets for an event this afternoon, and there was a book cover in my inbox:

Classroom Management for Catechists – click twice to make it open as a PDF.

Woohoo!  So, looks like Classroom Management for Catechists is the final title on the book, yay. Easy to remember.  Or you could remember it as “that purple book”.  I’m sure your local Catholic bookstore owner will appreciate you asking to see all the purple books in stock.  Narrow it down by saying, “That purple book from Liguori, with the lady on the cover who’s wearing a clean white ruffly blouse while she paints with preschoolers, and it’s still clean, I want to be like her one day.”

(That lady is not me.  I advise you to wear an apron when painting with preschoolers. But think of it as an aspirational photo.  They didn’t do the “before” image.  If you’re buying my book, you probably have your own “before” images permanently seared in your memory, and are pursuing Memory Destruction Therapy in the hope that even though everyone else in your parish will never forget The Time They Let You Teach Kindergarten, maybe you can.)

My understanding — don’t hold me to this, because I’m working from a few conversations last August, and this news could change, is that the e-book will come out early spring (As soon as February? Maybe?), and the paperback for the “Fall 2013” line.  Apparently “Fall” is a loosely-used term in the publishing world, which can mean as early as, “I’m at the waterpark” or as late as “Help me shovel this snow.”

Now back to our regularly-scheduled Advent break.

Ooh! Ooh! Ooh!

My December CatholicMom.com post got picked by Catholic Lane, and then by Big Pulp.it.

a) Why yes, I am wildly excited.

b) Why yes, I did intentionally go check just to see if the Pulp.it picked it up, because I knew that although the odds were not great, I would be wildly excited if they did.

c) And they did.

In real life: The mild sore-throat thing turned hard-core evil.  SuperHusband’s been felled, which is actually helping school stay on track, because when he’s awake, he says to any moving child, “Have you done your school work?” and they quick go look busy.  We’re doing that in shifts.  And my first grader can read.

Bleg #1: What are your favorite late-elementary aged, non-specific learning disabilities, help-me-learn-to-read resources?  I have a real-life friend asking.  4th grader, strong auditory skills, still waiting on the school to get their act together and evaluate difficulties on the visual processing and motor skills end, per mom’s reports, meanwhile mom wants to do what she can in the afternoons, without spending $ frivolously.

Bleg #2: Favorite readable, top-quality, Catholic resources for chastity, sexuality, NFP, Theology of the Body, all-that-stuff, target audience is parents and kids in late elementary – high school*.  Because I talked someone into letting me write a review round-up of resources, and I know what I think I’m going to cover, but you might know about something I’ve missed.  Need to have my media in hand by the first of January so I can read and review and write for an early February deadline.

*The answer is not Love and Responsibility.  We’re talking readable.  Things you leave on the back of the toilet, and your teenager sits down and reads the whole book, because it was interesting, made sense, and was an effective way to stall at doing the dishes.  That genre.


Happy Advent!

You’ll be pleased to know I don’t have a single bit of real-life drama to explain why I suddenly dropped off the internet.  Just, you know, real life.  Errands.  Christmas presents.  Educating children.  Imprisoning chickens.  A little bit of teaching (fun), a lot of laundry (relaxing), and a dinner guest (seriously awesome, but of course we had to make the house 90% less disgusting in advance, plus cook half-decent food).

But here’s what happened at Mass the other week, before I ever disappeared:

I had this thought.

Now 98% of the things I think about during Mass have one very easy-to-interpret deeper meaning:

You need to quit daydreaming and pay attention to the Mass.  Hello?  King of the Universe visiting your neighborhood, right now?  Say hello, eh?  And He knows what you’re thinking, so just staring in the right general direction doesn’t cut it.

That’s the usual.

Here’s the unusual one: I should quit blogging for December, so that I can get the manuscript on the homeschooling book done.

For various reasons, I’m inclined to take that one seriously.


By “quit” blogging, I don’t of course actually mean “quit blogging”.  My December CatholicMom.com column is up now, and fits right with the theme for the book.  Still on the horizon for this month:

  • A textbook review at Amazing Catechists, of the new “parish edition” of Midwest Theological Forums’s excellent high school series.
  • A review here of Forming Intentional Disciples.  (Go ahead and buy it.)
  • My December column at New Evangelizers, which I think (this could change) is going to be about, “How do I evangelize when my parish stinks?”  Because someone asked me that.  I’m sure there’s more than one guy who has that question.

I think that’s about it.  Maybe some Catholic Writer’s Guild odds and ends, and I have fantasies of doing the long-awaited blog maintenance here, and tending to the SuperHusband’s photoblogs, but let’s just admit it, I have a rich fantasy life.  We’ll see.


I adjusted the sidebar to reflect the reality that I’m not going to be reading much of anywhere either.   It’s just way too easy for me to get on the computer to start writing, quick go check just that one awesome blog I love so much (yours), and next thing I know I’ve spent an hour reading, and funny the family thinks I shouldn’t be glued to the computer all day (see: chicken prison, dinner guests, educating children, etc.).


But just because I’m not reading, doesn’t mean my many fine readers here are going to give it up. So in lieu of Tuesday Link Day, we’ll just have link month here in this post.  As always, 100% optional, just a little outlet for the people who like to e-mail cool links.

Have a lovely Advent, and beautifully Christ-filled Christmas, and I’ll see you in January. I’m thinking mid-January, let’s go ahead an give me the whole season, okay?  I’ll be back with a manuscript.  Ready to be passed around for evisceration.  If you’ve ever been edited by me, you know you want a chance to wield the Pen of Death.  That’ll be your chance.

Book Review: St. Catherine Laboure

Continuing with the theme of “Books I need to choose so my daughter doesn’t disown me,” I picked St. Catherine Laboure and Our Lady of the Miraculous Medal as my most recent Catholic Company review title.  I was particularly curious because things like “miraculous medals” fall into the category of devotionals I don’t know much about — but when my eldest daughter was born, a random parishioner came up and gave me a blessed medal, and I do wear it. (Not always. Sometimes.  Long story.)

Synopsis for people who don’t know the story:  St. Catherine was a 19th century French farm girl who discerned a religious vocation.  While in the convent, she had a series of visions of the Blessed Mother, who instructed her to have a certain silver medal made and distributed.  Recall the French Revolution had wiped out large numbers of clergy and religious, and militant atheism was still very much afoot in St. Catherine’s time.  Forget all the warm-fuzzies associated with France being the Eldest Daughter of the Church, the 1800’s are no wonderland for those prone to religious nostalgia.

So anyhow, St. Catherine eventually did get the medal made.  It proved to be a great spiritual help to many.  And meanwhile, Catherine went on being an ordinary saintly religious sister, quietly doing her work, and never letting on that she was the visionary responsible for the origins of the “Miraculous Medal”.

(It’s called “Miraculous” not because it works miracles — sacramentals aren’t magic objects — but because of the miraculous nature of the visions that led to its creation.  There are miracles associated with the medal, just as there are miracles associated with praying the Rosary, visiting Lourdes, or sitting under the shadow of select Apostles.  Miracles aren’t scientific wonders, they are the freely chosen acts of a Person, God, responding in an unusual way to another person — a human — in a way that will benefit the human’s soul. )

Reading Level:  Upper Elementary and older.  As an adult I found the biography to be readable, enjoyable, and with plenty of interesting content.  I didn’t find the story was at all dumbed-down.  My 5th grader read it without difficulty, though as with others in this series,  it helps to have a general knowledge of the Catholic world. For a mixed-group book study, plan to have a group leader who can answer basic questions about the faith in order to assist readers who don’t know much about Catholic culture yet.

A note on the pronunciations:  The book gives easy pronunciation guides to the all the French names and vocabulary, as the words appear in the text, which is great for the reader, since most kids (and grown-ups) don’t know how to pronounce French stuff.  I noted one name in the book that the given pronunciation did not match what I thought it should be.  I don’t know if that is a regional/historical variation, or a typo.  In any case it was a fairly trivial concern, and of all the pronunciations, there was only the one that seemed slightly off to me.

What I love about the book:  The focus on the utterly normal nature of St. Catherine and her vocation.  In shorter treatments of her life, and undue amount of attention is given to her visions and the making of the miraculous medal, with one or two sentences summarizing an entire life that bookended that one part of her life.  In this biography, in contrast, we see St. Catherine growing up, discerning her vocation, and devoting the bulk of her life’s work to taking her everyday gifts (household management, farming, a kind personality) and using them to help others and share the faith.  If she was blessed with an unusual spiritual life, it was a spiritual life grounded in the everyday holiness that all of us can aspire to.

Late in her life we get to see an incident of extraordinary courage, the kind of heroic courage that caps a lifetime of small decisions to do the right thing in little every day matters.  In many ways this biography dovetails nicely with a study of St. Therese’s Little Way.

Summary: It’s a great book.  If you’re looking for an enjoyable, readable life of St. Catherine Laboure, here you go.  Very nicely done.



The fine print, and yeah, I just copied and pasted it off my reviewer-info page: 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 Catherine Labouré . The Catholic Company is a great resource for tools to help you participate in the Year of Faith, including Year of Faith bible studies and exclusive Year of Faith personalized gifts. The Catholic Company also has all your Advent needs in stock, such as Advent calendars and Advent wreaths.


And look at this: Here’s a list of all the books I’ve reviewed for the Catholic Company to date.   I thought it was cool.

Anna Mei, Blessing In Disguise – Reviewed – See All Reviews

Benedict of Bavaria – Reviewed – See All Reviews

Saint Gianna Beretta Molla – The Gift of Life – Reviewed – See All Reviews

Doctors of the Church – Reviewed – See All Reviews

The Mass Explained for Kids – Reviewed – See All Reviews

Theology of the Body for Teens – Middle School Edition Bundle – Reviewed – See All Reviews

Why Enough Is Never Enough-Overcoming Worries about Money – Reviewed – See All Reviews

Prove It! – God – Reviewed – See All Reviews

Who Is Jesus Christ? Unlocking the Mystery in the Gospel of Matthew – Reviewed – See All Reviews

The Salvation Controversy – Reviewed – See All Reviews

Sex au Naturel – Reviewed – See All Reviews

Saint of the Day (Revised Sixth Edition) – Reviewed – See All Reviews

Mary, Mother of the Son 3 Volume Set – Reviewed – See All Reviews

The Angels and Their Mission – Reviewed – See All Reviews

The Apostles Illustrated Edition – Reviewed – See All Reviews

Dark Night of the Soul – New Edition – Reviewed – See All Reviews

The Fathers – Reviewed – See All Reviews


Make that one long take. (Holy water, death, evangelization.)

I was goofing on Google Reader and discovered I’d written something.  I tend to forget about my New Evangelizers column because I turn it in a week ahead of when it’s published.  Here’s the background: My friend and I were talking on the phone, and she told me her death-bed-holy-water-evangelization story.  It stuck with me, and when my NE deadline came to my attention, I e-mailed and asked if I could borrow the story for the column.  We changed the names to protect privacy, and after I wrote up my draft, she looked it over and corrected a few details I’d mixed up (working from my memory of the phone conversation).

Anyhow, it’s a lovely story of evangelization by a person you don’t think of as an “evangelist”, but who is a good Catholic doing her normal Catholic housewife stuff, and gets a miracle.  Yeah.  Seriously.  A little miracle. But not so little to the person on her death bed who benefited from it.  Go look.

The Geography of Busyness


In the early 1930’s in Fort Lee, New Jersey, my grandmother took singing lessons.  It didn’t last long; one day the instructor took my great-grandmother aside and said, “Mrs. Hook, you are wasting your money.” My grandmother was sent down the street to tap-dancing lessons instead, and everyone was happier for it.

Also, they didn’t feel too busy.

Sunday I ran into a fellow homeschooling mom.  “Why do I always feel so busy?” she asked.  “We’re not doing too many activities.”  She has only one student at home anymore, now a high school senior, and they moderate the extra-curriculars.  It shouldn’t be a crazy time of life.

I shook my head.  “I don’t know.”

But I think I do know.  I think it’s all the driving.


Here’s what our week looks like right now:

  1. Daily mass.
  2. School at home.
  3. 1 piano lesson on Tuesdays.
  4. 1 violin lesson on Thursdays.
  5. Boys go mountain biking or hunting or some such on various afternoons / evenings.

(No, I’m not teaching RE this year, so that buys us a lot of time.)

For all these things, we have to drive.  What if instead of being Catholic I were Methodist, Baptist, Pentecostal or Lutheran?  I could walk to church.  Two blocks. Let’s imagine my daughter then took her piano lesson with that flavor music director, instead of our Catholic one.  She could walk to and from piano.  Let’s triple-imagine: What if instead of violin at a publicly-funded school downtown, my other daughter had her classes at the school on our corner — one block away?

Now let’s get super crazy.  What if instead of trying to figure out how to meet up with homeschooling friends from across the city for Little Flowers, all we had to do was pick which house (or church) in our hypothetically-shared neighborhood we’d host it at?  What if the nice new family with four girls that I want to meet up with for a playdate lived . . . not twenty minutes away, by car, but twenty minutes on foot, right in my subdivision?  What if my friend who’s miscarrying lived down the street instead of down the highway?  How about my mother-in-law? And what if our good friends who live a mile away down a busy road were connected by a decent sidewalk?


There are two things going on.  One is the way we live: Picky.  We drive farther to get to the grocery store we prefer; we’d rather see distant friends who better match our personality, than socialize with near neighbors.  And I tried being Lutheran, for nearly 90 minutes in 1998; it didn’t take.  Nearly all our neighbors have the religion problem, too, it’s not just Catholics who are choosy about their churches.

The other is structural.  No sidewalks — that’s a physical structure that’s missing.  But also the way our car-centered life changes our expectations: We consider it normal to drive ten or twenty miles for everyday activities, farther for weekly or special events — and then wonder why it feels like we’re living in the car.

The cost is physical — having to make special time to exercise, having to cram in meals between outings.  The cost is also social.  Up front we win, picking and choosing the best of friends and hobbies from around town.  In the long run we lose; we’re socially isolated from our next door neighbors,with all the decay and loss that brings.

I don’t like it.  I also don’t have a sense of how to change it, or even of really wanting to make the sacrifices that would be required to change it.  But there it is.  Why I’m too busy and my great-grandmother was not.


It’s Tuesday, so I bet you’re looking for 3.5 Takes.  Here’s Larry D., our host, entertaining you with the awesomely awesome Savage Chickens.  And 2.5 More:

Have a great week!