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Waging the Boredom Battle

May 25, 2017
By Mark Van Zant, LPC, RPT

As the days of summer approach the common topic of conversation with parents of children I work with turn to the end of school and plans for the summer break. The immediate response from parents is typically a sigh of relief that they and their child(ren) successfully navigated another school year. The attention then quickly shifts to all the camps, activities, and trips on the summer schedule. All of these things at a cost, including your sanity when the inevitable "I'm bored" is heard after all the effort to keep them busy and happy. So, it begs the question, is there really a solution to this perennial problem? 

Let's first look at, "I'm bored." What is bored? Lots of different possible answers to this one, most of which revolve around I'm not entertained, captivated by anything, or this isn't something I want to do. A typical response you may have as a parent or adult is to suggest something or create something for your child to do.  An intriguing article entitled "What is Boredom", speaks to a few studies conducted which identified triggers for boredom including lack of attention, lack of control, and negative association. All things experienced whether we are enduring a dull waiting room or even an overstimulating situation. The article gives some interesting examples and even points to the correlation between stress and boredom. So it begs the question, how do you combat boredom?

First answer this, what message does it give your child when you routinely find something for them to do? A couple thoughts in a child's mind might be, "You are here to keep my entertained" or "I can't solve my own boredom". This habit or tendency of adults may come from you being a problem solver or fixer. It could simply come from a more pleasant alternative to pulling your hair out after hearing "I'm bored" for the umpteenth time. Ah yes, the child's trump card. They are persistent little buggers. They are masterful at wearing adults down. Boredom isn't the only example of that.

A possible response you can try is, "I think that is something you can figure out" or "You can decide if you want to find something to do". This keeps you from owning their boredom and gives it back to them. If they feel bored, okay. You can hear them out. Ultimately, your job is not to save them from every difficult feeling they experience. 

Another idea, turn boredom into an activity. Have your child(ren) sit down and brainstorm ALL the fun things they could possibly do (when bored). Have them cut little slips of paper and jot down all the toys, sports, games, puzzles, crafts, activity books, and science experiments they can do. Maybe it involves you and taking a trip to the library to learn about a new country, person, or language, or going to a museum you haven't be to visit in a while, or to the neighborhood pool. Maybe it is make it a afternoon of coloring or drawing, starting a business (i.e. lemonade and cookie stand, rainbow loom bracelets), or going on an outdoor adventure riding bikes or in your own backyard. Feel free to throw in some of your own suggestions to get the ball rolling. This can be great as a mobile activity. Move around the house together as you are doing this to see and put your eyes and hands on these various things.

After they are done place all the ideas into a "Bored Jar". (Note, you can put ideas in this jar year round to keep things fresh and up to date!) Perhaps while you are on your walk around the home you see that it is time to do some decluttering so your children can see all the different things available to them. Now you are not only working on getting rid of boredom but also superfluous stuff in your home. Win-Win! In identifying things to purge, this becomes a learning opportunity in temperance for your child as well as in works of mercy, as these items can now be donated to those in need, a non-profit and/or a children's hospital. Make it a annual trip where you take your child along with the box of items so they can deliver it themselves. You have now helped to combat your child's boredom, decluttered your home, and given your child a life changing experience of caring for others in need. Win-Win-Win!!!

So, the next time you hear that magical phrase, "I'm bored", simply motion them to their "Bored Jar" and off they go on their next adventure!!

5 Awesome Real-Life Ways to raise kids Catholic: Parenting Powered by ECyD

May 18, 2017
By Kerrie Rivard, Regnum Christi Leadership Training and Communications

In my 20 years of parenting I have gone through almost every possible clever method of Catholic child-rearing one could imagine. Most of them worked (for a while) to support the faith and values that we wanted to raise our kids with. Some were really creative, like saint card albums to create litanies for kids who can’t read yet, star charts for when a little ones does an act of virtue, representing the stars they will have when they receive their crown in heaven. Some were old-school, like regular confession, mass every Sunday (NO.MATTER.WHAT.) and praying the rosary.

For many years my kids have participated in Conquest and Challenge programs run by Regnum Christi to support the faith we are raising them with.  Conquest and Challenge are ‘powered by ECyD’ and I recently learned what that means with the publication of their new statutes.  In the statutes, ECyD talks about 5 parts of their methodology: prayer, team life, formation, personal accompaniment and mission.  It dawned on me- that list summarizes the way we found our groove in raising our kids.  We are parenting powered by ECyD!  Which makes sense, since the primary educators of kids are the parents- any youth group is meant to support and strengthen the values that are learned and built in the family.  The 5 elements of ECyD are so practical and ‘real life’ that they are a framework possible for any iteration of crazy family life.

1. Prayer

You need to pray. Your kids need to pray. Pray together, pray alone, pray formally, pray spontaneously. Here are some things that work for us.

Mass – every Sunday without fail (except if someone is too sick to go- that is the only excuse)

Prayer before meals and before bed

Praying a ‘hail Mary’ in the car when we see an emergency vehicle- for whoever needs help

Confession- once a month as a family followed by ice cream to celebrate our squeaky clean souls!

For children who are becoming more independent we found devotional books really helped. My pre-teens loved “Jesus Calling: 365 Devotionals for Kids” by Sarah Young.  My younger kids loved the easy to read saint-a-day books or the kid-friendly bibles we would read a chapter of before bed each night. My youngest son actually has a bible told in Minecraft…no joke.  Don’t worry, we use a real one when pray together.  But he loves his Minecraft bible too. My teenage daughter loves the daily devotional “He Speaks to You” by Sister Helena Burns. All of these books encourage the growth of personal prayer. Don’t be afraid to challenge older teens in their prayer. Introduce them to rebels like St. Augustine.

Retreats. You need them- at least annually, and your kids do too. From age 11 on, our kids have gone on 1 day to 3 day retreats to give them a time to go deeper with Jesus. The ones the Rivardlets have frequented are put on by Conquest and Challenge.

2. Team Life

Teams, man, do we have teams. We got soccer teams, fencing teams, mathlete teams, and volleyball teams.  All kinds of teams… But team 1 is team Rivard. For us, team life means family life.

St John Paul II said: “The family is the first and fundamental school of social living: as a community of love, it finds in self-giving the law that guides it and makes it grow. The self- giving that inspires the love of husband and wife for each other is the model and norm for the self-giving that must be practiced in the relationships between brothers and sisters and the different generations living together in the family. And the communion and sharing that are part of everyday life in the home at times of joy and at times of difficulty are the most concrete and effective pedagogy for the active, responsible and fruitful inclusion of the children in the wider horizon of society.”  (Familiaris Consortio 37).

•        Family dinner every night we can.  I always look forward to this as a lovely time to teach our kids manners, share our days and calmly enjoy each other, but inevitably, it ends up being when the silliest most embarrassing things come out in conversation… oops…

•        Family vacation, according to whatever budget you have. Our lives our hectic-crazy every single day and night.  Vacations force us to unplug and tolerate (I mean enjoy) each other’s company, rediscovering the beauty of family. Take lots of pictures. They'll forget the squabbleso n vacation but the pictures will bring back the happy times.

•        Chores. They must be done. Everyone should have a part in doing them.

•        Have the big kids help the little kids. The little ones LOVE their heroes spending time with them and there is nothing like a little kid to draw a self-centered teenager out of themselves to think about someone else. If you have no little kids, consider changing that. Really- I’m serious! Be not afraid! Some of my best friends had 2 kids age 12 and 10 when they became pregnant with twin boys in their early 40s… it has been the most awesome thing to ever happen to an already awesome family. No pressure…but don’t be afraid either!

•        Remember the extended team, and your team in Heaven. Love and make the aunts, uncles, siblings, grandparents a big part of your kid’s lives as much as you can.  And don’t forget those who passed away. We regularly talk about and pray to our 3 kids who died in miscarriage (named Gabriel, Raphael and Michael) they are still close to us, and I remind the 6 here on earth that 1/3 of my children are already saints…. Just sayin’...

•        Don’t forget that your little family team is part of a bigger team- the Church!  Get them involved in their parish, have your priests over for dinner, try as much as you can to expose them to the vocation to consecrated and religious life as something ‘normal”, because ya never know…. the next one might be in your home!

3. Formation

Solid Catholic education is a huge gift and boost to the formation of kids.  Whether it is in a Catholic school, homeschooling or CCD, our kids need a structured way to learn their faith- to learn the reasons our family lives the way they do. Why we believe what we believe. They need a backbone of Catechesis to learn to make decisions from.

Programs like Challenge, Conquest, and Mission Youth have been really helpful for strengthening the formation of our kids, and connecting them with their peers who believe what they do and live like they do.

4. Personal Accompaniment

 One on one time.  Sometimes it is special, like taking a kid to a concert or professional sports game.  Sometimes it is conversation alone in the car. All of our kids need it. Regularly. There are a billion ways to do it.

 When one-one-one time means discipline, try to be merciful as your Father in Heaven is merciful. Kids learn their image of God from us (SCARY) … Even if you are freaking out inside, make the family and their relationship with you a sanctuary, a place of calm for them, a strong, stable unconditionally loving place. Their foundation.  PRAY for the help you need to do this.

5. Mission

Your family is meant to love inside and outside of itself. It is incredibly fulfilling.

Serve the poor or homeless together. It is very impactful for your kids to meet those loved deeply by our lord who are poor and need help.

Look at the corporal acts of mercy and talk about where you can live them as a family. Pick 2 to do together this year.

Volunteer at the parish. 

Be an extraordinary minister of the Eucharist, encourage your kids serve Mass, be readers, work in the soup kitchen or food pantry.  Ask your pastor or DRE what your family can do to help and try to do it together!  This is a tradition your kids will cherish.

Go on mission trips- near or far.  Leaving your home and going out to serve someone is an incredible experience.  We are stewards of the gifts we are given, including our time and abilities. Many people in our world need your help. The inevitable surprise (does that even make sense?) is that you go to give Christ and his love to others, but you end up receiving Christ’s love from them. It’s awesome.

In the end, the acronym of ECyD speaks volumes in family life. It means “Experiences, Convictions, YOUR Decisions”. We can give the experiences and help build the convictions, but they have to make the decisions.  I have little kids, teenagers and young adult children. The five things above may be foolproof ways to live our Catholic faith concretely, but foolproof does not mean freedom-proof.  Expect imperfection.  As adults we are imperfect. We make mistakes and bad choices all the time- hence the beauty of confession.  Our kids will too.  God-willing, they will keep coming back to the King of Mercy.  We know that the only ones who can make their decisions are…them… in the end.  And as parents, we entrust to the Lord.  His grace is more active in their hearts than even our best parenting is.  If it causes us sadness or stress to see them walk away from their faith, imagine how He feels… he will never stop reaching into their lives and souls to ask for their hearts.  The most important part of parenting isn’t having a perfect plan, it’s letting go and letting God.


Angel Cake - The Life of our Moms

May 11, 2017
By Fr Simon Cleary, LC, Boy's Formation Director

This week’s edition of The Spark is a printing of Fr Simon Cleary’s homily from the Mother’s Day Mass which was celebrated last Thursday, in honor of all Moms. As we prepare to celebrate Mother’s Day this coming Sunday, consider this recipe.

There’s a saying, “God knew we might need a second guardian angel, so he gave us moms!” In a special way today, we want to be thankful to all moms and all moms do for us. Sometimes we don’t quite know how to thank mom.

There was a poem about what being a mom is like. But it was written in the 1800s, so it exaggerates how easy being a mom is:

Monday's child is fair of face,
Tuesday's child is full of grace;
Wednesday's child is full of woe,
Thursday's child has far to go;
Friday's child is loving and giving,
Saturday's child works hard for its living;
But the child that is born on the Sabbath day
Is bonny and good and quite happay.

However, other moms have said it’s more like:

Monday’s child is red and spotty
Tuesday’s child won’t use the potty
Wednesday’s child won’t go to bed
Thursday’s child will not be fed
Friday’s child breaks all his toys
Saturday’s child makes an awful noise
And the child that is born on the seventh day
Is just a mess like the rest, okay?

So being real about things, I think the right way to thank your mom is to bake her a cake! Let me give you a good, tested recipe, where each ingredient is a special thank you to your mom. Even the name of this cake is a word of praise for your mom!

First of all, we start with 1 and ¾ cups of sugar. The life of a mom has unexpected sweetness. Like that moment when a mom is out on a romantic dinner with her husband… and she realizes she was cutting his steak into small pieces for him. Or a six-year-old son, Nicholas, sat in the grocery cart as his mom checked through the canned vegetables aisle. “How about this one, Mommy?” he asked, and handed her a can of asparagus. “I love asparagus!” she told him. “Asparagus is my favorite vegetable, but it’s just too expensive.” So she put the can back on the shelf. Three months later, Nick’s mom opened a crudely wrapped present from under the Christmas tree. It was a can of asparagus. Nicholas beamed in delight as he explained how he had saved his pennies to buy his mom the best Christmas gift she’d ever received. Sugar also reminds us that moms are sweet to us, even when we don’t deserve it.

We need to blend the sugar until it’s fine. Half of the sugar gets put aside, half goes mixes with the next ingredients!

Flour is the basic cake ingredient. To make flour, you need to grind wheat down, carefully and slowly. Millstones take a while and it’s hard work. Being a mom is a lot of daily hard work.

For example, Tommy’s mom went to school with all the other parents, for a mother’s day artwork assembly. All the other boys and girls drew pictures of their mom smiling beside flowers, with titles like “My mom in the garden” or next to houses, like “My mom at home.” Tommy’s last name started with a Z, so he was last. When Tommy got up to show his picture, there was no house or flowers next to the picture of Mom. Tommy had drawn a square with a circle in the middle, and lots of squiggles in the circle. Worse, Tommy’s picture of mom didn’t have a smiley face. Her mouth was a straight line. And her eyes had rings around them. Last of all, her hair wasn’t a solid block hanging around her ears, but a bunch of lines sticking out. “This is my picture of my Mom washing laundry at 4 o’clock in the morning with rings under her eyes.” Tommy loudly announced to everyone. Everyone giggled. Tommy went on just as loudly, “But I didn’t get her hair right. It sticks up more than that.”

Yes. Moms are there every day, in the daily grind like flour. Flour tells us that Moms are patient, they’re giving to us every day. We need a cup of flour for this recipe.

Now we add the next ingredient: Salt! Why put something bitter in a cake? Is it because moms are salty? JDefinitely not! Salt brings out the flavor in things, that’s why Jesus asked his messengers to be the salt of the earth. Moms try to bring out the goodness in us; moms try to give us words and witness that point us to Jesus. And children do learn from their moms. A child came crying to his mother and complained that he has severe stomach-ache. She told him, “It is because your belly is empty. Come and have some food.” The child obeyed and smiled. The next day the mother had a heavy head ache. The child consoled her, saying innocently, “Mommy, is it because your head is empty?” Kids don’t always learn things from their moms first time around, but they do learn from their moms eventually. ¼ teaspoon of salt gets mixed with the flour and sugar.

Now we sift half of the sugar, all the flour and salt together. Being a mom isn’t some floury-steady days and some sugar-sweet days. Usually every day is a mix of the daily effort and the sweetness of caring for her children. You can’t un-sift flour and sugar; you can’t separate the troubles and the triumphs of a mom.

Time for liquids, in a separate bowl!

We need 1/3 cup of warm water. Not just cold and straight from the faucet, but warm. Everyone knows that the cure for every cut starts with a kiss from Mom. Being a mom is about simple and little things – nothing’s simpler than water – but given with warmth.

We need 12 egg whites. Making egg whites takes practice. No-one gets it right the first time. Eggshells get broken. Trying to stop the yolk get into the whites is always a hassle. To be a mom, it takes practice. Except you’ve only got one try. So you might have to break a few eggs. Here are some learning curves other moms went through:

  • when you hear the toilet flush and the words "Uh-oh", it's already too late. Just call the plumber.
  • Or the time a Mom was helping her son sell clown noses to fight cancer… and had a lot left over. So she wrote a sign for an all-school assembly saying “Pick your nose here!”

No-one gets being a mom right the first time. But they don’t give up, thank God! So egg whites mean moms don’t give up, even when things don’t go right the first time!

The next-to-last ingredient is more rare: 1 ½ teaspoons of cream of tartar. Cream of tartar has a long and fancy chemical name that you can ask your science teacher for. It helps to keep things steady as cake rises. And cream of tartar forms under corks when wine is aging. There’s a lot about being a mom that takes a long time. For example… 9 months! But that time it takes to make the Cream of being a Mom helps us know there’s a lot about coming home to Mom that just makes you steady again. Greg Louganis was the first Olympic diver to ever get more than 700 points from the judges. He broke this world record at the Los Angeles Olympics in 1984. How did he stay focused? He said that as he approached the platform, instead of nervousness, he would always tell himself, “Even if I fail, my mom still loves me.” Cream of Tartar steadies; mom’s hugs every day as we grow up make us steady again.

The last ingredient is 1 teaspoon of orange extract. Orange extract is a little bitter and comes from the rinds of oranges. There are some not-so-sweet moments in mom’s lives. Some of these include: walking on Lego blocks with bare feet. Or discovering where your son hid the broccoli you thought he’d eaten… two whole weeks later.

Now we’re going to whisk all those liquids together. Ask your mom if she’s ever whisked back and forth from your school to your basketball practice to pick up your other sibling? Let’s thank moms for whisking back and forth like unpaid Uber drivers!

And the last stage is to slowly fold the flour-sugar-salt into the mix. There’s a lot of folding in mom’s lives! For a mom, sometimes it’s an eternal battle between her and the piles of clothes to wash and fold! Let’s thank them for the folding and the whisking! Once you have folded everything into peaks, add the rest of the sugar and blend that in too! (After all the folding is finally done, doesn’t everything get sweeter?)

We put all that mix into an oven at 350o for 35 minutes, in an ungreased, non-stick tube pan. A tip you know if you’re a mom: Always look in the oven before you turn it on. There might be a toy in there! After that it needs to cool for an hour, out of the tube pan, and upside down. Upside down? Yes, sometimes your mom has to think of things sideways or even the other way around trying to figure out your problems!

Today, we join with Mary and Elizabeth, in praising God for moms’ virtues: sweet joys of sugar, constancy of flour, Gospel salt-of-the-earth wisdom, the broken eggs but never giving up, warmth and simplicity of water, cream of tartar’s steadiness, and the bitter orange extract.

We thank moms for visiting us and we thank God for blessing them and blessing all of us with moms! That’s why even the name of the cake is praise for God giving us an extra guardian angel in mom’s: you’ve given her an Angel Cake!


Why Summer Reading Pays Off Year-Round

May 03, 2017
By Toni Seeton, Academic Coordinator

 May is finally here!  The end of the school year is a few short weeks away, and our minds are churning thoughts of long summer days of fun in the sun, filled with family vacations, summer camps, vacation bible school, and many, many more activities.  One activity we may not be thinking of, especially our students, is summer reading.  “But why?” they ask, “Summer’s supposed to be fun!”  Why, indeed?  Numerous studies show that students who do not spend time engaged in reading and other learning activities over the summer experience the “summer slide,” or loss of valuable skills they have just spent the past ten months learning!  

How to offset this summer slide?  The Highlands School has required summer reading for grades 6-12, not to torture our students or take away important family time in the summer, but to help our students keep their minds focused and their critical reading, thinking, and writing skills sharp.  We want them to begin the 2017-2018 school year ready to move forward, full steam ahead!  

Be on the lookout for the THS middle school and high school summer reading assignments available on our website May 15th! In the meantime, take a look at the below blog post, including tips for avoiding the summer slide...

Numerous studies indicate that students who don’t read or read infrequently during their summer vacation see their reading abilities stagnate or decline. This effect becomes more pronounced as students get older and advance through the school system. The situation for economically disadvantaged students is especially grim: if students from low-income families don’t read over the summer, they are much more likely to fall behind their more privileged peers, widening the “achievement gap.”

“It’s like if you play an instrument but put it down for three months,” said Laurie Calvert, a teacher who is working as the Director of Teacher Outreach at ED. She wrote an academic thesis on improving summer reading programs at her North Carolina high school. “You’re not going to be as good as a person who continues to play the instrument over those three months.”

However, this “summer slide” can be avoided by ensuring that children are as engaged as possible in whatever they choose to read—just as long as they’re reading every day.

“Anything that keeps students reading works,” Calvert said. “The more engaged you are in the text, the closer you’re going to read it. The closer you read it, the more you comprehend. And that process grows your skill.”

The best ways to keep your child from becoming a “rusty reader” over the summer are:

1.Encourage your children to read books they enjoy for at least 30 minutes per day. Your child will likely be more engrossed in material they choose themselves than material that is forced on them.

2.Provide incentives for reluctant readers. For example, if your child enjoys basketball, agree to take them to the local court if they do their “daily reading.”

3.Make reading a social act. Establish a time during the day when all members of the family gather and read on their own, or take turns reading the same book aloud.

4.Connect your reading to family outings. If you take your kids to an aquarium, consider reading a book about fish or the ocean with them later that day. The outing can help place the reading into a broader context.

There’s still time for kids to pick up a book this summer. Take your children to your local library or bookstore and let them pick out a book they’re going to love today. They will be better readers tomorrow for it.

Republished from:

Recent Posts

5/25/17 - By Mark Van Zant, LPC, RPT
5/18/17 - By Kerrie Rivard, Regnum Christi Leadership Training and Communications
5/11/17 - By Fr Simon Cleary, LC, Boy's Formation Director
5/3/17 - By Toni Seeton, Academic Coordinator
4/26/17 - By Mark Van Zant, LPC, RPT and article reprinted from The Catholic News Agency