Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Telling My Daughter About Santa Claus

I had an unexpected discussion with my just-turned 8-year-old a couple of weeks ago.  At a much younger age than I expected, she guessed the truth about Santa.

As a child, I found out at about the same age, but the sole reason was that I read it in one of those very silly children's books that gives away the secret.  I am not super analytical by nature, and I don't think that I would have reasoned it out, at least not that young.  My little G., on the other hand, is very logical and is a deep thinker, and she basically just figured it out on her own.

While she actually did not ask me for the truth directly, she presented a number of reasoned out points which she said were making her not believe.  While I am comfortable continuing this long Christian tradition with my children, I was not comfortable making up a lot of fictional answers to her reasonable points, and so I told her.

Interestingly, her first reaction was a sort of relief - relief, I believe, that what she was thinking did indeed make sense.  Her second reaction was some sadness.  I remember when I found out as a child being so disappointed that there was no source of gifts that was not limited by budget or other parental concerns.

However, for her part, G started to cry a little and said, "You mean some kids don't get presents?"

I wanted to cry myself at this; I was so touched that her first reaction was to think of others.  I told her that is why we are here - to help each other - and that is why we have donated toys at Christmas time and filled shoeboxes for poor kids and so on.  I had to really assure her that everyone wanted all children to have toys at Christmas, and that there were many groups that would help parents who couldn't afford presents.

At some point in there she also did say, "But it was a lie." And this is why some friends I know don't "do" Santa, because they believe it is lying to their children.  This was my opportunity to explain to her why I don't see it that way.

"It's a myth," I told her, "a legend."  These are concepts she is very familiar with, as she loves Greek mythology.  We have also talked many times about a legend having its roots in history, but being embellished over time. 

She seemed to accept this explanation, and we talked about St. Nicholas.  I have always told my children that Santa is St.Nicholas, and I love him so much that they know all about him.  She also never questioned the reality of St. Nicholas during the discussion; she had already intuited the way the tradition had developed from the real historical events of his life.

I told her what I really believe: that Santa is the spirit of St. Nicholas living on through all of us.  The spirit of giving in secret, without a chance of being thanked, is what Santa is all about.

We talked about how this is a big secret know only to "big people," and of course we talked about how she couldn't share it with other kids.  I told her that although I was disappointed when I found out about Santa, my best memories of the tradition are from when I was older, when I was able to help my mom be Santa to my younger siblings. 

 I asked her, "Would you like to help me and to be my 'elf' now?"

"Oh yes!"  Her eyes shone as she said it.  And I knew: the spirit of St. Nicholas is alive.

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Curriculum Choices of a Newbie Homeschooler

I'm not exactly sure why you'd want to know my curriculum choices, since I am brand new at this homeschooling thing.  But in case you're curious, here you go.

I always though that I'd be a "boxed curriculum" type of gal if I ever homeschooled, since I see many benefits to structured school.  However, I surprised myself when in came down to it that I really just wanted to pick just what I wanted!  I guess I figure that even if homeschooling wasn't our first choice this year, I might as well reap its benefits, like being totally in control.

These books and subjects were also all chosen with simplicity in mind.  I'm not out to win "homeschooler of the year" here.  My goals are the following:
- to keep the girls on par with their classes at school
- to get my first grader reading chapter books fluently
- to have fun and focus on a few areas that we all will enjoy

So, here's what I picked, by subject, for my 1st and 3rd graders:

Saxon Math 1
Saxon Math 3

Exciting, right?  This is what the girls used at school, and many homeschoolers use it as well.  They're used to it.  Why mess with it?

All About Reading Level 1
All About Reading Level 2

My mom is now an Orton-Gillingham trained reading specialist, so I knew that I had to look for something using this method.   Even though H, my first grader, can sound out words well and knows many sight words, we're going to go ahead and start with Level 1, but go through it quickly.


All About Spelling Level 1
All About Spelling Level 2

See above - this is obviously the  related program.  They recommend starting with Level 1 if you've never done the program before, so even my third grader is going to start there.  However, I have a feeling we're going to need Level 3 very soon.

A Reason for Handwriting Manuscript A
A Reason for Handwriting Cursive D

As my friend who recommended this program put it, if they're going to be writing something, they might as well be writing Scripture!  I like how this program has a special page at the end of each week that they can write in their best handwriting and decorate.  My 3rd grader learned cursive in school last year, so I went ahead and got her the 4th grade cursive book.

Abeka Language 3

I was raised on Abeka books, and all of my siblings and I are grammar geeks.  My sister is even a professional writer and editor.  So again, why mess with what works?

Prima Latina

Prima Latina Set   -     By: Leigh Lowe

Our Catholic school started Latin in 1st grade, and I am determined to keep up with it.  This seemed to be the most academic program of the few that exist for elementary students.

American Girl History Study
The dolls having a glass of wine to start off the school year.

You'll be hearing lots more on this one!  This is the "fun" subject that I allowed myself.  I knew that I wanted to give my girls a better sense of American history, and what better way than through the stories of their beloved dolls?  I have lots and lots of ideas for this one - that's definitely a whole separate post.

The Magic School Bus Science Kits
The Magic School Bus: Explore the Wonders of Nature Kit  -

This is going to be an occasional subject, mostly consisting of "workshops" conducted by Daddy on the weekends, supplemented with watching the show and reading the books.


I've saved the most important for last.  This is an academic subject in that there is much to learn, yet I don't want it to seem like "just another subject."   All three children will be attending an Atrium, staring in a few weeks, which will be their main religious instruction.  Besides that I am still pondering what other materials to use, beyond what we normally do as a Catholic family.  That is probably also a future post.

Well, these are the books I've chosen, for better or for worse!  Now, I guess I have to teach with them . . .

This post contains affiliate links for some of the books.

Saturday, August 9, 2014

I'm Back!

So, it's time for me to pick back up with this little blog.   Coincidentally (or not), I see that it was two years ago this month that I published my last post.

No big explanation or excuses why I stopped writing after a short time.  It's been a rough 2-1/2 years around here, with my husband's unemployment/underemployment and all the family stress that comes with it.  The past year has been a lot better on the job front, however, and his present position is stable, though not permanent.

I've composed tons of posts for this blog in my head, and it's time to let some of them out.  Don't necessarily look for profundity though - really, I just want somewhere to publish pictures of my kids' parties.

One topic that I'm planning to blog about this year is homeschooling.  After three years in Catholic school, we had to make the tough decision to withdraw this year for financial reasons and to homeschool.  We loved - and I mean *loved* - our Catholic school, and we are hoping to send the kids back as soon as next year. 

But although many tears were shed over this decision, I am determined to enjoy our year homeschooling.  I am treating it as a special "gap year" and an opportunity to spend extra time with my kids and to do some things that it is difficult to find time for with the school schedule.  I have some fun ideas, and, of course, they don't count unless you blog about them, right?

So, to any of you still following - Hello!

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Today I am Thankful For . . .

My Mom Friends -- I didn't have any close girlfriends growing up, and only a few in college.  Many of my friends in college were guys, a relationship that naturally changes a lot when you get married.  So I didn't have much experience of close female friendship until I met my mommy friends.  For me, motherhood has created a bond with other women that I never thought I would experience.  How would I have gotten through the past six years without them?  And I feel like that connection will always be there to those friends from my earliest mommy days, even through geographical moves and life changes.

A Good Novel to Read -- I often watch a little TV on Netflix at night, but in reality it's both more satisfying and more relaxing to get lost in an absorbing book instead.  Currently I'm about 2/3 through The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society.  I highly recommend it!

A Great Deal -- This may seem weird or silly to some people, but I feel like God often blesses me through great deals.  Yesterday, a lady from a local classifieds group sold me some new-in-package birthday presents for my son for much less than she could have asked for them.  I feel so blessed by her lack of greed and am so excited to be able to get these items for my baby.  I can't wait to see his face when he opens them!

Thank You.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

On Suffering and Endurance

My family has been going through some trials lately, specifically financial ones.

It has been a time of hardship and stress, but also a time of some broadening and growth spiritually and in relationships.  Specifically, I have been greatly inspired by Ann Voskamp's beautiful book One Thousand Gifts - a book that is primarily about thanksgiving.  As someone who loves to plan, organize, and be in control, I have been slowly learning to truly live in and for the moment and to give thanks for the moment.

Something I picked up from the book was really a huge revelation to me.  I always tended to think of God's will as kind of a future thing, something you search out and achieve.  I would think that trials happen for a reason, but some future reason, to accomplish God's future will.  Instead, I have come to see that perhaps God's will is now, this moment -- that the trials we are going through are what God's will is for us right now, no matter what the future is.  That small insight has brought me great peace and it is what has gotten me through the days and days of not knowing what the future holds.

I would love to say that I am continuing to grow spiritually.  I would also love to say that our trials are indeed  leading up to a happy end.  Unfortunately, right now I am not sure that I can say either.

That's just the thing.  For many days I have been repeating to myself, "Eucharisteo (thanksgiving) precedes the miracle," a quotation from the book.  It is an observation that before he performed miracles Jesus always gave thanks.  I have been trying to give thanks in it all, but now I find myself ready for the miracle!

And what if the miracle doesn't come when I want it?  I am finding that it some ways it is easy to be faithful in the early stages of a crisis,when the adrenaline kicks in and you spring into action.  I'm always good if I have a plan.  But continuing on and on with the thanksgiving, when the hardships don't abate and your life is not looking the way you want it to look.  That must be the true sanctity.

I'm not there yet.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Why I Don't Have a Smartphone

Recently, my brother, who is also the owner of a dowdy "dumb" cellphone like myself, shared that he had read an article which accused us non-smartphone users of being pretentious and self-consciously chic.  We had a good laugh about that, as we both know that a truer characterization is self-consciously "cheap"!

I do not own a Smartphone, and I honestly do not desire or plan to get one any time soon.  Upon reflection, I realized that there are three main reasons for this.

First, yes, I am cheap.  Or perhaps more accurately, I am on a very limited budget and am careful about how I spend every dollar.  Smartphones may seem a necessity to many people, but it cannot be denied that they can be expensive to own and use.

Secondly, and this point is related to the first, it does not seem to me that whatever value the useful apps might have, they would be worth the cost to me personally.  I have read and heard about all the great apps available, and there are new ones all the time.  Sometimes I wish I could try some of these tools that can organize and manage everything from your receipts to your prayers.  However, one thing I have learned as an adult and a mom is that no tool can substitute for my own self-discipline.  I have purchased great planners and organizers before, but they only work if I work.  I laughed a little bit to myself one day at the gym when I heard a lady describe a sit-ups app with such excitement that it literally sounded like the app did the sit-ups for her!  When they create an app like that, I'll get the smartphone!

My last reason is truly the most important, and it has nothing to do with money.  I think we have all been in the situation where we felt ignored or snubbed because a friend, family member, or acquaintance was checking their phone instead of paying attention to us.  It seems that our culture as a whole is devaluing personal face-to-face connection, and I think that is sad.  And the thing is, I don't criticize this behavior because I think I'm better than these people.  Actually, I know myself, and I think I could be just as bad.  I already am sometimes guilty of spending too much time on my netbook computer at home or checking my email or facebook too many times a day.  I certainly don't need the temptation to do this when I am out at my kids activities, shopping, or visiting friends.  I realize that there are people who perhaps need to be connected to their jobs, but I think my emails from the PTO, my moms' group, and my daughter's AHG troop can probably wait until I get home.

As it is, I have been considering my own technology use lately and how it is contributing (or not) to the kind of intentional life that I want.  I have been reading things like Hands Free Mama and One Thousand Gifts: A Dare to Live Fully Right Where You Are , and I am still mulling over these authors' insights about living distraction free in the moment.  But one thing I do know is that I don't want to spend my life constantly connected to technology.

Of course, I'm not saying that other people should not have Smartphones; this is my personal decision.   I'm also not going to back myself into a corner here, so that I get "ah-ha" emails in a few years when I might indeed have one.  I'm not going to say I will never get one.  I realize that they may become so much a part of life that they might be hard to avoid, just as the internet and cellphones have in the past years.  But I'm not in a hurry, and I would not do it without extremely grave consideration.

For now, my phone will stay "dumb."

Sunday, July 15, 2012

The Circus McGuirkus


I am Elizabeth McGuirk, aka Liz to a lot of people, and this is my personal blog.  I have been blogging already for 3-1/2 years at Frugally Blonde, a frugal blog which I recently decided to bring to a close.  I also still blog at Catholic Deals, which is just like it sounds - a blog featuring great deals for Catholics (and many of interest to other Christians as well).

I am a wife and stay-at-home mom in my late twenties.  I am married to M, who works in IT and we are blessed with three children. Our kiddos are "GiGi," a rising first grader who is sometimes almost-six-going-on-thirty and is sometimes just plain five and three quarters; "LuLu," my crazy, exuberant almost four year old; and "Gem," my sweet "baby" boy who is almost two.  These are not my children's real names, and I don't publish their real names or their complete pictures on my blogs.

Here are our "Circus McGuirkus" I will be posting about my faith, family, cooking, my attempts and frugal and simple living, or anything else that jumps to mind.

Thanks for stopping by!