Sunday, June 21, 2015

We The People He Has Fathered

Thirty six years ago....honestly, I can't believe I did anything that long ago!, 

36 long years ago, my siblings and I made this certificate for my Dad on Father's Day. 

Well, Dad, we were blessed to be fathered by you for 31 more years after that Father's Day. 
We can't believe you have been gone from this earth for five years now. 
Maybe that is because you are not really gone. 

In our hearts, in our memories, in our imaginations you live on. 
We still share Steve Puccio stories, 
we still learn from the memory of your life spent in love and self sacrifice for your family and friends.

I can still see you coming home from work after a long day, 

I can still see you Saturday mornings, under the car fixing it yet again, behind the washing machine or out in the yard. 

I can still remember the sound of Vin Scully on the radio as you listened to the Dodgers while doing all that work. 

I can still see you taking such good care of your cousin Marian. 

I can still see you sitting on the end of my bed apologizing for losing your temper, and I still learn the great gift of forgiveness from that act. 

I can still see you vacuuming out my car quickly before I went back to my little apartment in Redondo. 

These days we picture you sweeping the front porch of heaven and reassuring St. Peter that the yard will be in tip top shape before the next saint comes through the gate. 


And now, my own kids honor their father on Father's Day. And I thank God, and the example of my own Dad, that I had the wisdom to choose such a great father for my kids. 
Jim, the decision to say "yes" to you was the best one I made in my life. 
Thank you for almost fifteen years of marriage and almost fourteen years of parenthood. 

UPDATE: I failed to tell the story of how I came across the 1979 Certificate. I found it about 6 months ago in a frame that I was getting rid of. It was behind several layers of photos. For all I know it has been there since 1979!

Sunday, June 7, 2015

The Great Allowance Experiment

Even though I promised Mary (in the comments below) to write her homeschool plans for the next year, I thought I would write about our allowance experiment. Sorry Mary! Maybe next week.

We have never before done allowance in the Kennedy house. The kids have gotten money to spend once or twice while on vacation and that usually ended up resulting in anguished decission making processes which culminated in the purchase of a piece of junk that promptly broke.

Then I read a book.
So many things have changed in our life because I read a book.
Not all of them good.

The book that changed things this time was this:

(full disclosure: I am an Amazon Affiliate which means if you click on the above link and buy that book or something else I get a little money.)

When I read this book I realized that allowance was not about chores (which are done inconsistently around here and so connecting allowance to work would be too difficult to navigate). Chores are about the work that must be done to live. They are service, not paying jobs.

Allowance is about learning how to handle money. Allowance is a curriculum plan for financial education. And learning how to handle and use money is an absolutely necessary life skill that many college graduates never learn till they get their first real job (and by then it may be too late). Now, when they are young, is the time to distinguish between "want" and "need" and figure out how to get all that we need and some of what we want.

These concepts prompted us to try allowance as our financial-education curriculum.

So I thought I would share our experience over the last two months.

Here is what we did: 

We decided on $10 a week per child. Though the book recommended calibrating the amount to the age and giving yearly raises (timed to birthdays), we decided our kids could all start in the same spot and if we give raises they would be tied to Jim's raises at work. In other words, when the family income increases their spending power increases.

Each child has three jars. One for saving, one for giving and one for spending.

Each week they must put at least $4 in their savings jar. To use their savings jar they have to set a goal (not too far off---so saving for a car or college is not the point here, we're talking something more short term--an amount that would require anywhere from one to six months worth of saving time.) The goal can be an amount, or a thing (approved by parents) they are saving to buy. They can also dip into savings when buying gifts for others.

Each week they must put at least $2 in their give jar. This money is meant for charity. They can put it in the basket on Sunday or donate it to some worthy cause (chosen with our guidance). So far a few dollars have gone into the Sunday basket and "big" plans have been made to send money to the Pope, priest friends, and other worthy causes, but none of that has happened yet.

Each week they can put $4 in their spend jar. This money can be spent on (almost) anything. We give them guidelines, but the point here is to waste their money.

Yes, I said the point is to WASTE their money. Here you want them buying that junk they are always begging for, and then regretting it later.

The guidelines we give for this money is that they can spend it on toys, art supplies, food, clothes, etc. I will no longer buy those things outside of what is needed.

In fact, one particular area that is "want", not "need" is Starbucks. I am in the habit of stopping and getting myself an iced tea, which had led to the habit of getting them snacks. We no longer spring for those snacks (unless we are out as a family outing). If we are running errands I try to have some healthy snacks on hand as an alternative and then they can use "spending money" for anything else they want (within reason--I do control portion sizes and take into account what other sweets they may have had).

Here are the challenges: 

Coming up with cash each week is a challenge. I am not used to having cash in my purse and when I do it isn't $30 dollars. That being said, after the first few weeks (and once the kids began really using their money), the bank (the extra jar with change etc.) was often full enough to pay out the weekly allowance.

Do the kids carry money with them? Not usually, unless there is some planned spending going on. But I front the money and they pay it back. They need to have a fairly accurate idea of what they have in their spend jar, and for some that isn't a problem at all. I have to remember to have them pay up when we get home.

Here is what we have learned: 

I have learned that two out of my three kids really don't care that much about treats at Starbucks, or any snack foods for that matter. When it is up to them to pay, two of my kids ALWAYS pass. The other one (the one who is my mini-me) will always choose a snack.

I have learned that my kids are really generous when it comes to gift giving. They love to spend their money on their siblings and parents. I was surprised at the things they have come up with to buy for each other. So far, we have had one birthday and one baptismal day (in which the one celebrating buys small gifts for everyone in the family).

I have learned what toys/supplies/junk they REALLY want. In fact, they seldom ask for things anymore when we are at the store. I can get through Target without hearing how some kid "desperately NEEDS" some item that they never knew they needed before that moment. Of course, I, on the other hand, do NEED those things I buy! (tongue firmly in cheek)

Which brings me to the last point: Far from making my kids focused on STUFF, the allowance experiment has tended to focus us all on what we really need and only the best of what we want.

So far, so good.

UPDATED: I understand some people have not been able to see the link above. The title of the book is The Opposite of Spoiled: Raising Kids Who are Grounded, Generous and Smart About Money by Ron Lieber. 

Saturday, June 6, 2015

We DID NOT run off to Scotland!

I thought I should post and assure my blog readers....both of them....that we did not run off. 

I am still here. 

I have lots of things in my head to write about, but have not done so. 

Where is my teacher giving me deadlines and grades and stuff so I can get some writing done????

Thursday, February 5, 2015

{p,h,f,r} Robert Burns Edition

I started this post last week, and then we were hit with the second bout of sore throats and stuffy noses for this year. So, a week later than planned, I present the Robert Burns Supper Post:


Sunday, January 25, was the birthday of Robert Burns and so we had our first annual Burn's Supper. In case you have never heard of it, a Burn's Supper is a Scottish tradition to celebrate the life and poetry of Scottish poet Robert Burns. 
Step one was decorations. The kids colored pictures and then set the table. 

The Flag of Scotland was a gift to Jim from his Uncle Tom years ago. It was given along with a sword (which you will see D holding below)

Next, the guests and the food is piped in (which means there is a bagpiper playing as they enter). The tradition is to serve Haggis at a Burn's supper, but we are not that brave hearted. 
What is Haggis? 
All I can gather is that most people really don't know, though there is rumor of sheep's stomachs. 
No thank you. 
It is also traditional to recite Robert Burns' poem "Address to a Haggis":

Fair and full is your honest, jolly face,
Great chieftain of the sausage race!
Above them all you take your place,
Stomach, tripe, or intestines:
Well are you worthy of a grace
As long as my arm.

We didn't do that either. But the kids, having an affinity for processions, took care of the other tradition and marched in with D at the lead. 
D was holding Jim's sword (you can imagine his creativity in coming up with reasons to bring out the sword) and since no one knows how to play the bagpipes, this recording played in the background:

The Kennedy Family Crest and Tartan.


And what is food, if not happy!
For us, a Scottish meal means mince and tatties (ground beef with gravy and mashed potatoes), peas (not mushy), and of course HP (the bottle of "brown sauce" in the foreground)
Trifle for dessert. This is my gluten-free version, we used the trifle bowl for the rest of it. 

And the food was declared to be good. 


"Can I just eat in peace? Why must my entire life be recorded?"

"I am being really patient here, but my trifle is calling me!"


A certain member of the family, who shall remain nameless, STILL does not eat peas. 

"Shhh....don't tell my mom!"

After dinner there was reciting and singing. This being our first year, we had only one poem memorized (at least in part) and that was only because Jim memorized it as a young boy and still recites it: 

My Heart's In The Highlands


Farewell to the Highlands, farewell to the North, 
The birth-place of Valour, the country of Worth; 
Wherever I wander, wherever I rove, 
The hills of the Highlands for ever I love. 

Chorus.-My heart's in the Highlands, my heart is not here, 
My heart's in the Highlands, a-chasing the deer; 
Chasing the wild-deer, and following the roe, 
My heart's in the Highlands, wherever I go. 

Farewell to the mountains, high-cover'd with snow, 
Farewell to the straths and green vallies below; 
Farewell to the forests and wild-hanging woods, 
Farewell to the torrents and loud-pouring floods. 

My heart's in the Highlands, &c.

We also sang the famous Robert Burns song: 

Auld Lang Syne

Should auld acquaintance be forgot, 
And never brought to mind? 
Should auld acquaintance be forgot, 
And auld lang syne! 

Chorus.-For auld lang syne, my dear, 
For auld lang syne. 
We'll tak a cup o' kindness yet, 
For auld lang syne. 

And surely ye'll be your pint stowp! 
And surely I'll be mine! 
And we'll tak a cup o'kindness yet, 
For auld lang syne. 
For auld, &c. 

We twa hae run about the braes, 
And pou'd the gowans fine; 
But we've wander'd mony a weary fit, 
Sin' auld lang syne. 
For auld, &c. 

We twa hae paidl'd in the burn, 
Frae morning sun till dine; 
But seas between us braid hae roar'd 
Sin' auld lang syne. 
For auld, &c. 

And there's a hand, my trusty fere! 
And gie's a hand o' thine! 
And we'll tak a right gude-willie waught, 
For auld lang syne. 
For auld, &c.

And we read aloud from a few more selections: 

A Red, Red Rose
[Hear Red, Red Rose]
Type: Poem

O my Luve's like a red, red rose, 
That's newly sprung in June: 
O my Luve's like the melodie, 
That's sweetly play'd in tune. 

As fair art thou, my bonie lass, 
So deep in luve am I; 
And I will luve thee still, my dear, 
Till a' the seas gang dry. 

Till a' the seas gang dry, my dear, 
And the rocks melt wi' the sun; 
And I will luve thee still, my dear, 
While the sands o' life shall run. 

And fare-thee-weel, my only Luve! 
And fare-thee-weel, a while! 
And I will come again, my Luve, 
Tho' 'twere ten thousand mile!

A Grace Before Dinner, Extempore


O thou who kindly dost provide 
For every creature's want! 
We bless Thee, God of Nature wide, 
For all Thy goodness lent: 
And if it please Thee, Heavenly Guide, 
May never worse be sent; 
But, whether granted, or denied, 
Lord, bless us with content. Amen!

A Grace After Dinner, Extempore


O thou, in whom we live and move- 
Who made the sea and shore; 
Thy goodness constantly we prove, 
And grateful would adore; 
And, if it please Thee, Power above! 
Still grant us, with such store, 
The friend we trust, the fair we love- 
And we desire no more. Amen!

We declared this First Annual Kennedy Family Burn's Supper a success and decide we should do more of these sorts of celebrations. 
How about an Adam Smith Celebration of Economics? 
(did you know he was Scottish?)

Saturday, January 17, 2015

Reflecting On A Happy Death

Back in 2003, shortly after the crash of the Space Shuttle Columbia, I wrote this short article about the Catholic teaching on death. It was brought to mind this morning by a tragic event in our local Parish. Yesterday afternoon, Deacon Mike Mims lost his life in a helicopter accident. Though we did not know him in a personal way, he was obviously a man who knew, loved, and served God in this life. We know only the barest of facts from the tragic crash that claimed his life, but the circumstances suggest that the Deacon may have had some awareness of what was about to happen to him, and this gives us some hope, as I have explained in the article that follows. As we mourn the loss of his presence in our parish and we pray for the comfort of his family, we can also reflect on our own impending death. 

“60 seconds of fear”

When I saw the headline declaring that the Columbia crew may have had as much as one minute knowing what would happen before their ship exploded, my Catholic mind sighed with relief. But this was not the response of the writer of the article, or of the world. Why is this? Is it because I am some sort of masochistic fanatic who wants others to suffer? Or is it because the world has little idea of the importance of those last sixty seconds before death. 

Happy Death

Catholics have a habit of praying for a happy death. For a long time, growing up, I thought this meant a painless death, one with little suffering. But this is far from the truth. The truth is closer to what a good friend used to say: the best way to die would be on a plane you knew was going down sitting next to a priest. In the Catholic mind, a happy death is one in which we have the opportunity to meet death with a willing heart, and a recently cleaned soul.

Suffering is Good

It is common for the loved ones of those who have died to console one another with the fact that the deceased “didn’t suffer”, “went quickly” or “died in their sleep”. And in many ways these phrases can be comforting. No one wishes that a loved one will suffer. However, imagine that loved one has things in his life that he regrets but has never asked for forgiveness. Or perhaps he has behaviors and habits that turn him from God and he has stubbornly held onto them. 

Let’s face it, none of us is without sin, and all of us have neglected our relationship with God in some way or another. It is only in this life that we can freely turn to God and ask for healing and forgiveness. Once we have died, our fate is sealed. 
We all know that we will one day die, but seldom do we have a chance to know ahead of time when that will be. Most of us imagine, or at least hope, that we will die at a ripe old age, after those final years of contented retirement during which we spent a lot of time in contemplative prayer. 

Necessary Things

However, our death could come today, tomorrow, in ten years, 30 years…or in 60 seconds. Think of the great gift of one small minute when an untimely death comes upon us. In that sixty seconds I can quickly bring to mind the ways in which I have offended God, and ask him for forgiveness. I can recite the Act of Contrition—a perfect formula for getting right with God. I can even offer my suffering, both mental and physical, in reparation for my sins or for a loved one whom I will leave behind. 

Sixty seconds could be enough to get me a free pass straight to heaven, without a moment’s lingering in purgatory. Not only should we thank God when others have had those final moments, but we should pray that we, too, have the gift of time to face death willingly, and with true contrition for our sins. And perhaps a little final suffering would come in handy…but only if necessary. 

Dear St. Joseph, Patron of a Happy Death, pray for us

Thursday, January 1, 2015

The Second Annual Oor Wullie Day

In honor of all invented holidays with little to no real meaning, I present to you 
OOR WULLIE DAY, December 31, 2014!

Imagine a 1940's, Scottish Bart Simpson/Dennis the Menace. That is Oor Wullie. With his spikey hair and dungarees he gets into, and often neatly out of, messes and then philosophizes about them from his seat on his trademark upturned bucket.

Jim grew up getting Oor Wullie Annuals every year from his Aunt in Scotland, and now our kids read Oor Wullie. I learned early on that they can't be read least not be this non-Scottish Mama. I'm raising Scotsmen but I don't speak it.

Here is D's Oor Wullie imitation. And you can see the books all over the floor. 

See how hard it is to read? "It's a sait fiche" means literally "It's a sore fight" but figuratively "It's a hard life". 

"Oor Wullie Day" began in 2012 when the kids got an Oor Wullie comic book for Christmas and they got so absorbed in it that, several days later we had to put it away. That was when we decided that a once a year Oor Wullie marathon would be a good way to balance it out.

So, New Years Eve 2014 was the first actual Oor Wullie day. The kids had a ball pretending like Oor Wullie was going to come down the chimney and leave them food, or books or something. They made a sign and left him cookies. In the morning all the collected Oor Wullie and The Broons (a sort of companion comic strip) annuals were set out on the hearth and they had a few new ones.
This is from Oor Wullie Day 2014.
Then the fun begins:

Hour 1

Hour 3

Hour 5

Seriously. They read pretty much all day. D was the most absorbed, reaching his goal of reading every Oor Wullie Annual we own. He decided that next year he would read all the Oor Wullie and two of The Broons. M is a Broons fan and A just likes to find funny pictures to show everyone. 

It was the most peaceful, relaxing day we have had all year. Jim and I wanted to try and bottle it can we set aside some special things and keep them from becoming old and boring, or obsessions? How can we better foster a love of reading, or other non-screen activities that we can do as a family? We will be pondering these questions in the new year. 

Happy New Year! 
And remember, only 364 more days until Oor Wulle Day!

Friday, December 19, 2014

Christmas Past

As we approach this last week of Advent 2014, I am taking a walk down memory lane on my blog. While this has not been a big year for blogging, and it may seem that I am really not very dedicated to GIKids, I still see this as my place to record our little life and share my thoughts with whomever wants to read them. I write for myself, for my kids (I imagine them reading this someday as a record of our family life), for my husband (Jim is often the one saying "You should blog about that!") and for you--the faithful remnant that still come back to see what I have to say. Thank you for reading and commenting over the past four years.

Here are the links along my memory lane stroll. It looks like late 2012 was my low point of blogging since there is no year in review post for that year. This year's Christmas card post is a page linked up at the top just under the close-up of our Christmas tree with the St. Nicholas Ornament. Enjoy!

Christmas Card 2013
Fontanini Traditions from 2013
Christmas Card 2011
The Scandal of the Incarnation from 2011
Reindeer Games from 2011
A New Church Year from 2011
Christmas Card 2010
An Accounting of Christmas from 2010
We do that every year too from 2010
We do that every Advent from 2010