On Barb’s Bookshelf: Ways to Keep Teens’ Faith Alive

Keeping Teens' Faith Alive

When you’ve invested over a decade in raising your child, you discover that as he enters his teen years, the way you need to nurture his faith changes drastically. This is the time when your child needs to begin to take over his own faith development, but it doesn’t mean you’re off the hook — or unnecessary.

Ignatius Press has released two books to help parents and teens in this stage: The Light Entrusted to You, for parents, and Humility Rules, for teens (though parents shouldn’t skip this one).

light entrusted to you

John R. Wood’s The Light Entrusted to You: Keeping the Flame of Faith Alive is a parent-to-parent guide to help you share Catholicism with your family by living Catholicism with your family. The author is not a theologian or professor: he’s an eye doctor and a parent who loves his children and his faith. The chapters are cleverly titled to form the acronym “SAINTS,” and the topics covered range from saints to Scripture to sports (yes, sports). A more-detailed table of contents or an index would be helpful in this book, but the information in the book is solid and Wood’s delivery is engaging.

Christ is our model. After His baptism He does not go to the beach to drink a piña colada. He goes to the desert to fast and do battle with the devil (see Mt 4). We must follow His lead and also teach our children to “do battle”. Much of our time parenting is simply training our children to overcome concupiscence, the tendency to do wrong because of original sin. It should be obvious that children often desire to do and have things that are not good for them. Imagine if we simply let our children do everything they wanted to do. They would probably end up either dead or in prison very early in life. We strive to teach them to live lives of virtue, and we all know it is a long journey that each of us continues his entire life. (25)

From the corporal and spiritual works of mercy to the great cathedrals to a synopsis of Old Testament events, Wood invites readers to dive deep into the deposit of the faith and nurture their own souls so that they can inspire their children.

humility rules

While you’re reading Wood’s book, hand Humility Rules: Saint Benedict’s 12-Step Guide to Genuine Self-Esteem to your teen or college student. Author J. Augustine Wetta, OSB, does not talk down to teens, but rather challenges them to engage with their faith as they grow in virtue. Self-esteem might seem like a dated buzzword, but Wetta demonstrates how it’s important, even virtuous, for teens to develop a healthy self-esteem.

Genuine self-esteem is a form of holiness, and holiness, in Saint Benedict’s eyes, is not about self-love but self-abandonment. In fact, the whole idea of holding yourself in high esteem would sound ridiculous to him. It would defeat the very purpose of the Christian life, which is to empty one’s self in order to make room for God’s grace. (18-19)

Wetta distills, from the Rule of Saint Benedict, 12 steps along the ladder of humility, and challenges his readers to climb that ladder.

Humility Rules would make an excellent Confirmation or graduation gift.

Barb's Book shelf blog title

Copyright 2018 Barb Szyszkiewicz
This article contains Amazon affiliate links.
I received review copies of these books, but no compensation, for my review. Opinions expressed here are my own.


Wrong Answer. Wrong Question?

“How was church?” I asked my daughter yesterday after she returned from the 8:00 Mass.


Maybe I’d asked the wrong question. Maybe I should have inquired if she’d seen anyone she knows there, or how the music was, or who had preached the homily.

I don’t know what answer I’d hoped to hear. But the answer I did hear leads me to believe that I’ve failed.

When I was her age I suffered through the summers because I had to sit in the pews instead of with the musicians. I didn’t have a place to sing at home in the summertime. I’d go to Mass with my parents sometimes (and once I begged sheet music for original hymns from the songwriter who was playing them at Mass.) Other times, I’d walk to the church a mile away from our house. A lot depended on my work schedule.

I didn’t consider it boring, but then again, I didn’t go to Mass expecting entertainment. My biggest obstacle in the summer was that I wasn’t serving.

And maybe that’s the problem. Maybe I haven’t taught my kids that Mass isn’t about entertainment. Maybe I haven’t stressed enough that we’re not there to get, but to give (and I’m not referring to what we’re putting into the collection baskets).

I can make my kids go (as long as they’re living in my house) and I can even insist that they don’t wear shorts to Mass. But I can’t make them want to.

Is my example enough? Is bringing them week after week after week, sending them to Catholic school, enough? Should I have done, said, been something more?

Have I failed my Domestic Church?

Photo copyright 2015 Barb Szyszkiewicz. All rights reserved.

Copyright 2017 Barb Szyszkiewicz

#WorthRevisit: Parenting in Public

In two days, Tech Week starts at the high school. TheKid is playing Lord Farquaad in the school’s production of “Shrek,” his fourth time participating in the high-school musical–but his first time as an actual high-school student.

Tech Week at this school features Tech Week dinners, coordinated by a group of parents with themes and fun and a good (not fast-food) meal for the entire cast, crew, orchestra and directorial staff. This will be my 6th year helping out with these dinners.

Five years ago, I found myself parenting very publicly at one of these dinners. Cue soundtrack: “Walking on Broken Glass.”

"Worth Revisit: Parenting in Public" by Barb Szyszkiewicz @franciscanmom
Those windows at left rear? The broken glass in question. Copyright 2016 Barb Szyszkiewicz. All rights reserved.

Little Brother’s not in the play this year, but he’s at Tech Week Dinners with me because there’s no one else at home to watch him at that time. This year, he’s the only grade-school kid there. He eats with the kids, his old buddies from his Munchkin days during Wizard of Oz last spring. He’s even made a few new friends among the students, including one young man who was kicking a soccer ball around with him outside the cafeteria after dinner tonight.

I was helping to put away the drink coolers when we heard a crash. Sure enough, that soccer ball had sailed through one of the cafeteria windows. And all the other parents were watching as I ran to the door, spied my son, and ordered, “Get in here.”

“Get in here,” I heard someone chuckle behind me. (Seriously? You’re going to laugh at me now?) Clearly I was on the stage, with an audience of more than 20 parents and grandparents who were clearly glad not to be in my shoes. So I took it outside, where my little boy and his soccer-playing buddy both assured me that my son wasn’t the guilty party. The young man who’d been playing soccer with him showed me his own feet, trying to convince me that Little Brother’s legs aren’t powerful enough to have kicked the ball through the window. After sending Little Brother to the car to put away the soccer ball, I took off my apron and started picking up the few shards of glass that had fallen outside the building. Did you know that aprons are good for picking up–and holding–broken glass, so you don’t cut your hands while you do that job?

The vice principal is also in charge of stage crew, so before long he was in the cafeteria talking to my son and the high-school boy. Again, lots of parents were watching as I told the vice principal that whether or not Little Brother had kicked it, he had been the one to bring the ball to the dinner, so he should share in the damages. The other student was trying to take all the blame upon himself, and I insisted (and will follow up) that we divide the bill for the glass replacement. Little Brother insisted that he would pay for it with his own money. While a custodian taped cardboard over the broken window, I returned to the kitchen to finish cleaning up. The parents wanted to know if I was OK.

Aside from a few bonus blood-pressure points, I was fine. Actually, I was impressed with the student who tried to deflect the blame from my child, willing to take all of it (including a financial penalty) on himself. I was more annoyed with the parents who said, “You shouldn’t have to pay for that. It’s a cost of doing business.” No. It’s not. My kid was playing soccer against the side of a building–in an area where there were windows. It was an accident waiting to happen and we’re all very lucky that no one got hurt. I was annoyed with myself for not stopping him sooner. I was annoyed with the parents who laughed at my initial reaction, which I found remarkably restrained, considering.

The soccer ball won’t be coming back to Tech Week Dinners. We will pay our half of the glass bill and Little Brother will have to contribute to that. And I can’t help but wish that the parents who seemed to think that Little Brother and I should let a teenage boy shoulder all the blame for this–and the ones who seemed to think that neither soccer player was at fault at all–had taken a page from that teenager’s script.

We parents have our work on display at all times, every time our child leaves the house for the day at school. “By their fruits you shall know them,” after all. I hope that Little Brother learned a lesson or two tonight. I don’t know if the Play Parents did. And if I ever get to meet the parents of a certain teenager, I’ll be sure to tell them that they can be very proud of their son, who politely and immediately claimed and accepted responsibility for his role (and more than his role) in the breaking of that window.

worth revisit

I’m linking up with Reconciled to You and Theology is a Verb for #WorthRevisit Wednesday, a place where you can come and bring a past & treasured post to share, and link up with fellow bloggers!

Copyright 2017 Barb Szyszkiewicz, OFS

On Barb’s Bookshelf: Getting Past Perfect

I found Kate Wicker’s book on perfectionism, Getting Past Perfect (Ave Maria Press, 2017) to be a book of surprises, beginning with the fact that a “seasoned” mom like me, with kids age 15 to 25, can learn important lessons from a mom whose oldest child is younger than my youngest.


getting past perfect

I may be a more-experienced mom, but that really only means that I have logged a lot more years of falling into the comparison trap. I’m old enough to know that it’s not good for me (or for my family) but I’m not always strong enough to keep myself from teetering over that precarious edge.

Clearly I spend too much time listening to what Kate calls the “evil earworm.” She begins each chapter with one of these, then counters is with the “unvarnished truth.”

quote from Getting Past Perfect @franciscanmom

We need to hear this kind of truth. We need to acknowledge that there’s a difference between perfectionism and striving for excellence. As Kate observes in chapter 3 (the same chapter from which the text in the above graphic is quoted):

What often prevents God’s grace from working in our lives is less our sins or failings than it is our failure to accept our own weaknesses–all those rejections, conscious or not, of what we really are or of our real situations. We have to set grace free in our lives by accepting the parts of ourselves that we want to perfect, hide or reject. (35-6)

While I definitely agree with Kate’s premise that perfectionism is damaging to us as women and as mothers, I do believe that there’s also a danger in perfect imperfection. We need to be careful about crossing that line between openly admitting our own flaws and foibles in the name of commonality and bringing comfort to others who are stuck in that “grass is always greener” mode, and showing off how bad we have it (even if that’s our schtick.) I confess to being guilty of the latter and even though I tend to fall into that trap, I find it very annoying when all I hear from someone is how “crazy” her life is. It’s almost like we’re competing for the booby prize: who has it worst? We all need to find a balance here–there’s a time and a place for the good, the bad, and the funny.

Whether you’re a brand-new mom or, like me, over 25 years into your mothering journey, Getting Past Perfect has truths you need to hear. My copy has stars and arrows and comments; I’ve circled and underlined and even written down some of the most important points. When you read it, keep your pen handy and open up your heart to realizing that you really are enough.

Don’t forget to sign up for the Getting Past Perfect Book Club at CatholicMom.com! The book club kicks off with an author interview tomorrow, and we’ll begin discussing the book on April 1.


Barb's Book shelf blog title
This post contains Amazon affiliate links; your purchase through these links helps support this blog. Thank you! I received a free review copy of this book courtesy of Ave Maria Press, but no other compensation. Opinions expressed here are mine alone.

Copyright 2017 Barb Szyszkiewicz, OFS

The Example We Set

A friend of mine emailed me the other day to find out TheKid’s performance dates in the upcoming musical at the community theatre.

Her own kids had also auditioned for the musical but were not cast.

And that’s a hard thing to live with, as it is, when you’re 9 years old–and when you’re the parents of those 9-year-olds.

I didn’t expect my friend to bring her kids to see TheKid in this particular show. I’d have totally understood why they’d all want to sit this one out. I let her know that, too, when she emailed me again to tell me she’d purchased their tickets.

“Thanks for supporting TheKid,” I replied. “You are teaching your kids about graciousness in a way many parents wouldn’t bother or be able to do.”

These boys are learning how to rise above their own disappointments and support their friends who were not similarly disappointed. It’s a hard lesson–at any age.

How many adults have not learned such a lesson? How often do we let our own wounded pride stand in the way of enjoying an experience or supporting a friend?

Time to Foster Some Self-Discipline

Because I do not intend to spend this school year fighting with my eighth-grader every morning, I want to work with TheKid to get some strategies in place so that he gets up and out the door and onto the school bus.

I feel like I have been letting him do a lot of sliding in areas where I challenged the older kids to be more self-disciplined and self-starting at the same age. Part of that is because he’s the youngest, and I’m old. And tired.

And part of it is because of diabetes. He’s been extraordinarily self-disciplined when it comes to that. He’s gotten very independent with many aspects of his care. I’m proud of him for that. But there are all those other things that we’ve been doing FOR him, things that he is more than old enough and capable enough to do for himself.

It’s not good for him that we’re letting him slide. He has to learn how to do all the things, not just all the diabetes things. He has to learn how to figure out what time to wake up in the morning so that he won’t miss the bus. He has to set his alarm and make sure it’s on AM, not PM, and actually get up when the alarm goes off.

If we do all the other things for him, we’re really doing that out of pity, and pity is the last thing this kid (or any kid) needs.

So as he begins his eighth-grade year, I’m resolving to begin again too–to begin to foster some life skills that everyone needs to learn.

teens and time managementTo get myself motivated, I purchased this little book from Amazon: What’s the Deal with Teens and Time Management: A Parents’ Guide to Helping Your Teen Succeed. I’m not expecting any all-at-once miracles, but there are a few strategies I intend to start using right off the bat.

It’s a matter of setting priorities. It may even have the side effect of making everyone’s lives a little more pleasant around here.

Note: my link to this book is an Amazon affiliate link. If you purchase through this link, it’s like you’re leaving me a little virtual tip! So, thanks!

#WorthRevisit: Bells Are Ringing

worth revisitI’m linking up at Worth Revisiting Wednesday, hosted by Theology is a Verb and Reconciled to You. As the school year draws to a close, I’m revisiting this post from June 2013.

Bells Are Ringing

This morning I went to Mass at the school, because they were honoring the parents who volunteered during the school year. Usually I avoid this event (it’s a social-anxiety thing) but Little Brother was persistent in telling me he really wanted me to be there.

He’s 11. How much longer is he going to be happy to see his mom volunteering at school? I returned the form saying I’d attend the Mass and social afterward.

When I got there, dripping from the rain because TheDad had mistakenly taken both our umbrellas to work with him, a smiling student met me at the church door and told me that all the volunteers were supposed to sit up front. So I did, because Little Brother wanted me to be there.

Fortunately there was no naming of names, just a group “all volunteers please stand up so we can thank you” at the end of Mass. I could deal with that.

Afterwards, we went into the cafegymatorium for a nice little reception. There were two decorated tables with these cute gifts that the first and second grades had put together–with handwritten thank-you notes from the kids. There were smiling seventh-graders pouring our coffee and juice and inviting us to take fruit and pastries.

I sat next to a mom whose oldest son is in Little Brother’s class, and across the table from a mom whom I don’t know, but who had a beautiful one-year-old daughter with her. The little girl had made an impression on me during Mass; she was very quiet most of the time, but when the altar server rang the bell, she exclaimed, “Yay! Bells!” Both times.

That reminded me of Little Brother at the same age. Big Brother was an altar server then, and I was up front with the choir. TheDad would sit in the back with Little Brother, and when the servers rang the bells, Little Brother would yell, “Big Brother’s ringing the bells!” You could hear him throughout the whole church.

I was telling the other moms at my table about this, and the mom with a boy in Little Brother’s class said that her sons used to ask her why the servers rang the bells. Her answer was that they ring the bells to show that this is an important moment. Of course, the next week, when the bells would ring, one of her boys would (loudly) say, “It’s an important moment, right, Mom?”

I was dreading that reception, and even thought about ducking out on it, but I’m glad I went. I’m glad I sat with moms who bring their children to Mass. I’m glad my child attends this school where the kids are taken to church and can learn about Jesus and why it’s an important moment when the bells ring. I’m glad that the parents can share, through funny stories about what their own kids did in church, how we help our children understand those important moments.

Mommy Dangerfield Moment

IMG_0423You’d think I’d have figured this out by now.

But maybe I really DO have “DOORMAT” stamped on my forehead.

The issue here is respect for my time, respect I don’t feel I’m getting from my family.

I work from home. That doesn’t have to mean that I’m 100% available 100% of the time just because someone couldn’t be bothered to get out of bed in time to catch the school bus.

Because Hubs enjoys spending a few minutes in the morning driving The Kid to school, he’s been enabled in his slugabed ways. Hubs is away on business this week, though, and that leaves me to do the driving, whether or not it happens to fit into my plans for the day. Those plans begin at 7:40 AM–when the bus rolls away.

When I complain, they both act as if I’m being unreasonable in expecting The Kid to get moving in the morning and make it onto the bus.

I don’t think it should be on me to rearrange my schedule because someone wanted to catch a few more Zs.

I’m willing to dump my plans at the drop of a hat when medical necessity is involved. It’s a big part of the reason I work from home. But why is my schedule always subject to change when someone else decides to be lazy?

The way I see it, I have limited choices here. I don’t want to call a halt to Hubs’ time with The Kid in the morning, because it’s something they both enjoy.

These are things I can do and need to do:

  1. Work with The Kid to establish a better morning routine that will get him out the door in time for the school bus.
  2. Give The Kid the responsibility of finding out whether Hubs is available to drive him to school–the night before.
  3. Determine a reasonable plan of action for those days when Hubs can’t drive The Kid, who then misses the bus anyway.

Number 3 is going to be the hardest one, because everyone thinks that because my job allows for a flexible schedule, they can be the ones to decide to flex it.

photoMeanwhile, I’m going to read the chapter on “Organizing Your Time” in Katharine Grubb’s new book, Write a Novel in 10 Minutes a Day. (No, I’m not writing a novel, but there are plenty of ideas in here that will apply.)

Because I’m not willing to start my workday at 8:30. And I shouldn’t have to. Early morning is my most productive time, and I want to make the most of that.

I need to start setting the example here and respect my own time.

Small Success: Mercy, Courage and Soup


Small-Success-Thursday-400pxThursdays at CatholicMom.com begin with a look at the past week’s Small Successes!


I could be substitute-teaching today, but I had to decline the gig. That’s because Middle Sister asked me to take her to the funeral for her high school track coach’s wife. After the funeral I need to get her back to college in time for her 3:30 class. Whether she realizes it or not, Middle Sister is all about the Corporal Works of Mercy, and I’m not going to get in the way of that if I can help it.


Scene from Tuesday night’s soccer practice:  It’s dark. So dark the coach can’t see the kids, and the kids can’t see the soccer ball or each other. Time to be done. The coach calls the team over for a conference while they fumble for their water bottles in the dark. “Guys! SUNDAY SUNDAY SUNDAY! I scheduled a 10:00 scrimmage game against Burlington City GIRLS team! My son will tell you how good they are. We have to play our best.”

Dead silence.

Then Little Brother piped up. “I have church.”

Half the team chimed in with him at that point.

Coach decided to reschedule the game.


Chicken gnocchi soup (3)And because Small Success around here wouldn’t be complete without a recipe, here’s my re-creation of Olive Garden’s soup. Only my version comes with Neverending Gnocchi.

BONUS:  I made it to the gym 3 times this week and on the day I didn’t go I worked out at home on the Gazelle!

Share your Small Successes at CatholicMom.com by joining the linkup in the bottom of today’s post. No blog? List yours in the comments box!

Trust, Insecurity and Double-Checking

My child’s life depends on double-checking.

He has a continuous glucose monitor that constantly checks his blood sugar–but at least twice a day he has to do a finger stick to double-check that the monitor is correct.

dexcom g4When he leaves the house, we’re always asking him if he has his supplies (and the receiver to his monitor, which he removes from his pocket when he comes in the door. His routine:  take off shoes, take monitor out of pocket.)

I’m OK with that, because he’s a kid.

But when someone double-checks ME, it never fails. I get all bent out of shape, and I react in a manner that’s WAY out of proportion with the situation.

Just this morning:  I woke Little Brother up in time for him to get ready to go to theater camp. I asked what he wanted for breakfast and we figured out the carbs. As I scrambled eggs, he gave himself a shot. I wrote down his blood sugar, carbs and dose of insulin and went back to the stove to finish the eggs. Hubs walked in and asked Little Brother if he’d had a shot yet.

“I’m RIGHT HERE with him,” I yelled.

It’s not Hubs’ fault for double-checking. This is MY problem. Double-checking is important, but when someone double-checks me, I get all sorts of offended and upset. I feel like they don’t think I’m good enough to manage the task on my own. I feel like I’m not being trusted to do it.

There is no room for insecurity like that when it comes to dealing with diabetes. Hubs and I need to work as a team–and we need to be able to double-check each other and communicate well.

I could have just answered, “Done.” I could have said, “I wrote it down.” I could have just given a thumbs-up and turned back to the stove.

What am I so afraid of, anyway?