5 MUST-HAVE School Supplies to Keep Kids on the Path to Heaven

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It’s that time again when moms and dads across this great land finish checking off a mile-long list of obscure, annoyingly specific school supplies. We scour the internet, traipse through aisle after aisle of every big box store and office supply emporium around, trying to find the correct color, brand, and amount, at the right price. But there’s always one item at the bottom of the page that is nowhere to be found—that elusive pre-sharpened number 2 red Ticonderoga training marking-pencil with a white eraser fashioned out of rare unicorn dust and angel feathers…?

We’ve come a long way from my school days (way back in 19—ahem, never mind!) when the list consisted of at most four or five items—pencil, scissors, crayons, glue, and paper. This gets me thinking about what kids actually need to get across the finish line of school and ultimately life. Here’s a hint: you can’t get it at Walmart. What spiritual tools can I provide my children to help them navigate the more arduous path to heaven? A couple years ago, I compiled my first list: The Top 5 Must-Have School Supply Items for Every Catholic Kid. In the spirit of growing lists, I’ve added to it. For a refresher on what is at the top of my list, check it out here. Now for my 2019 new & improved edition of the essential spiritual school supply list:

5. St. Benedict Medal

Sadly, there’s no way to shield our kids from all of the evil that lurks in this world. But we can prepare them to combat it. Why not arm them with one of the strongest sacramentals out there? This medal is not only a reminder for kids to make good choices throughout their day, but it is also a powerful spiritual weapon. On the face of the medal is an image of St. Benedict, known as the father of western monasticism and the patron saint of students. As a young man, he saw his fellow pupils squandering their God-given gifts on pleasure rather than the pursuit of truth. Hmmm. Sound vaguely familiar to our modern educational system? Benedict is a potent intercessor for spiritual protection, helping to fight temptation and angst. On the back of the medal are the initials of an exorcism prayer that relates to an event in Benedict’s own life:

Begone, Satan,

Do not suggest to me thy vanities!

Evil are the things thou offerest,

Drink thou thy own poison!

There is a lot more behind the medal which you can read about here. You can purchase them at any Catholic gift shop. Get your medal blessed by a priest. Then remind little Janie or Johnny to stick it in a pocket or on a necklace and use it. St. Benedict, pray for our youth!

4. Holy Water

We wouldn’t dare send precious Buffy or Biff to school without a water bottle. They might have to use the water fountain. Gasp! Instead of making germ-free hydration our top priority, maybe we should be focused on leading kids to the Living Water. Keep a container of holy water on hand near the door. Before the kids leave, hit them with a few sprinkles to remind them of their baptism as new creations in Christ. When it’s a particularly harried morning, you can have some fun with it. “Ow! Mom, you got me right in the eye!” “Oops. Don’t know how that happened.” Consider offering them a quick blessing too. I like to say, “Provide Jesus a warm and loving home in your heart today,” or “God never tires of loving or forgiving you. Now be Christ to everyone you encounter.” These special moments of connection can be one of those traditions they pass on to their own children someday.

3.The New Saint Joseph Baltimore Catechism

This book series is the spiritual equivalent of an at-home electric pencil sharpener. When things get a little dull, this book will keep kids on point. It’s got everything they need to know about church teaching, written in an easy-to-follow question and answer format. It’s meant for kids in about the third grade, but in my opinion, is helpful through at least 8th grade. I didn’t discover it until the third decade of my life. It could have prevented a lot of turmoil by answering some basic existential questions. Get this book! Keep it somewhere in the house that gets a lot of traffic. It’s a great source for discussion and can lead kids to deeper faith if they get some of the whys behind what we do and what we believe.

2. Inspirational Bible Verses

I know a lot of parents who put notes in their kids’ lunches which is super sweet. “Buford, eat your veggies! Love, Mom” Why not add a quick Bible passage? You could also put it on a post-it note and stick it to the seat in front of them for the commute to school. We can all stand to learn more scripture. Choosing a Bible passage means we adults have to put down our devices for a moment and crack open the Sacred Word while offering some inspiration to our kids. Win-win! If you have a child who is experiencing a particular struggle, cater the Bible verse to offer support and guidance for that issue. The verse could be a good entry point for some hearty discussion at the dinner table. When a kid is well-formed in scripture, they will have the benefit of wisdom to safely lead them through life’s fires. Wondering where to start? Open any of St. Paul’s epistles.

Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.

-Romans 12:21

1. My Identity as a Son/Daughter of God Prayer

Wow, these prayers hit the mark! If you’re not familiar, allow me to be the first person to put them on your spiritual radar. They are poetic, yet powerful reminders of our noble purpose here on Earth.

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Written by Father Ignatius Mazanowski of the Franciscan Friars of the Holy Spirit, the Identity prayer arms a tween or teenager with the knowledge of who he/she is, a son or daughter of the King. Look no further than the staggering news accounts of mass shootings, bullying, and depression to understand the depth of confusion and isolation in young people. Praying is an effective way to combat all the negativity, hate, and competition that is rampant in schools and on social media. It is too easy for an adolescent to lose sight of his true identity as a child of God. We can easily fall into the culture trap of finding our worth in what we do, or the labels other people give us. Reciting this prayer regularly can help build a kid’s self-esteem on a solid Christian foundation. Print a bunch of these. Post it on the bathroom mirror. Slip it in a backpack or the glove box. Use them as bookmarks in textbooks. Tack it to the fridge. Recite it as a family in the evening. Kids need to get hit with messages multiple times before they stick. Seize all the opportunities available. Stand back and marvel at the transformation!

Making saints is tough work, but take heart, it’s also a heck of a lot more rewarding than buying the perfect protractor. While graduation is certainly a noble goal, let’s lead our kids safely across the eternal finish line. May God grant all parents the strength and zeal to bring His children home. A holy and happy school year to all of you!

Parenting Like a Convert

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I’m not a convert, but sometimes I wish I were. I come from a long line of cradle Catholics. It has undoubtedly been a grace to grow up simmering in the rich soup of faith seasoned over time with enduring traditions and profound familial witnesses. What a blessing! So why am I so darn jealous of converts? You know that superstar Catholic who dramatically joins the church after a lifetime denouncing the “whore of Babylon”? I can’t get enough! Who doesn’t love a captivating Scott Hahn story with all those twists and turns that ultimately lead to Rome? Or better yet, what about those amazing creatures who have come to faith after years of card-carrying atheism? Their stories are nothing short of remarkable and bear the stamp of God’s own imprint. They come to the Faith with such zeal, humility, compassion, and moral courage. 

And then there’s me.

I don’t mean to downplay my own “reversion” going from a barely checking-the-boxes pew warmer, to one who longs for deeper intimacy with Jesus and His church. But it’s certainly not the thrilling stuff of, say, Saints Paul and Augustine, Blessed Cardinal Newman, or Edith Stein. Or more recently, Jennifer Fulwiler, Tim Staples, and Leah Libresco. Needless to say, I admire their fire, grit, and heroic journeys of faith, risking so much to heed God’s call. I, however, was born into it, with the proverbial silver baptismal spoon gently nestled in my mouth.

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Shedding Light on Classical Education

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I worked in media for years before becoming a mom. As a writer/producer, I learned the importance of simplicity and brevity in crafting a message. In film school,  I was trained in the art of delivering the mythical elevator pitch—a famous director bumps their grocery cart into yours while perusing the organic fruits section—you better be ready to summarize your idea in a concise, persuasive manner before they finish selecting their non-GMO, pesticide-free dragon fruit. Otherwise, your amazing script idea is DOA. (In case you’re wondering, the opportunity to wow Martin Scorsese never actually materialized. I’ve also never laid eyes on a unicorn.) With experience, I’ve gotten better at pitching ideas to people. Often, I hit the mark, other times—not so much.

Ever since my kids started their Catholic Classical school I have assumed the role of unofficial spokesperson. I may not be on the payroll, but my love for Classical education inclines me to share with everyone I encounter, much to the annoyance of friends and family. For those willing to listen to how amazing my kids’ school is, the natural follow-up question is, “So, what is classical education?”  Easy enough, right?

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Happy Mother’s Day: Lessons My Mom Never Taught Me

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I think about my mom almost daily since her death 26 years ago. While it’s been too long since I’ve heard her laugh, she has left me with a bounty of wisdom that sustains me. In fact, there are simply too many lessons to enumerate. She was a Catholic school teacher by profession, so it was in her nature to instruct and impart knowledge. But there were also things she most certainly did not pass down. There are some worldly teachings she decidedly left by the wayside. And for that, I am even more grateful and bolstered.

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Sibling Rivalry in Reverse

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Have you ever looked at two siblings and wondered how they could have possibly hatched from the same parents? My two brothers and I are all vastly different, in physical characteristics (one brother is 6’2′, while I’m a paltry 5’2″ Yes. I feel cheated!) as well as our varying temperaments. Yet, we are still very much connected. One of my brothers started a publishing company, tintopress due to his love of comics and graphic novels. I, on the other hand, have never been a big fan of sci-fi or comics. But if I’m intellectually honest, along the way he has passed comic books to me that I’ve thoroughly enjoyed. Recently, he shared a comic that he published which I felt compelled to write about. My review is written from a Catholic world view which probably doesn’t perfectly align with his viewpoint, but that’s ok. We’ve touched on common ground. It’s a big deal for me when our worlds meet up. Praise God for our unique differences and those things that unite!

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Snow Day Diaries

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Spring is officially here! There is no wiping this jubilant smile off my face. If you recall, it was just one week ago that we were facing winter Armageddon. In fact, while writing this little piece about the joys of spending time nestled in a snug home with my family as Mother Nature wreaked winter havoc, we received word that a third consecutive snow day had been called.  The school courtyard had been ravaged by heavy winds resulting in uprooted trees. While my husband’s office was officially reopened, the kids would be spending another day home with me… Lord, have mercy! To give you insight into my rollercoaster of emotions, I faithfully transcribed my marathon snow day diaries.

Monday: A huge storm is barreling towards Denver. So. Sick. Of. Snow. The last time they predicted a monster blizzard, it was a mere dusting. I guess if perchance we are homebound for a stretch, I could do some baking. In Little House on the Prairie, Ma Ingalls would’ve baked or churned butter. I’ve already got the butter. But homemade biscuits sound amazing. Our kitchen will smell like a cozy frontier home. Bring on the snow!

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Advent Life Hacks to Help Your Family Grow in Holiness

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It turns out, for most of my life I’ve had Advent all wrong. Caught up in the whirring consumer machine, I often couldn’t wait to kick start the celebration of Christmas. I’d barely make it to the end of the Thanksgiving meal and I was breaking out the decorations, singing the songs and scrounging at the stores. December 1st signaled the beginning of that most magical time of the year known as Christmas, right? Actually…

(Insert record scratch here.)

Advent is not party time. It’s prep time. What helped me to better understand and explain to my kids was this analogy: Lent is to Easter as Advent is to Christmas. You wouldn’t plan to party it up during Holy Week. (Those of you thinking, why not?… allow me to direct you to some great agnostic sites.) The minute Lent begins, we don’t start celebrating Christ’s glorious resurrection. We work on our spiritual lives. We train in order to get our souls in shape. Then on Easter, it’s the big reveal, the greatly anticipated end to all that work. He is risen! OFFICIAL party time. Now pass the doughnuts!

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