Thursday, September 21, 2017

Yeah, it's been quite a while...here's why

I know its been basically a year since I've written. The reason? Life. Strait up.

Blog post topics and Scriptures used to fall into my mind like dew when the Holy Spirit wanted me to share a thought. But in the last year He has, instead, been training me on some serious interior work. The best image I can use to help you  understand is from the Chronicles of Narnia when Eustis is a dragon and his scales are being pulled off to free him from his selfishness and self preservation by the only one who can help- Aslan.

It's the same with me. In the last year and continuing through to the present moment, God has and is helping me to have joy in difficulty, patience with fatigue, clarity in the noise (and my house is pretty darn loud), and trust in the unknown. I just have such a long way to go that I feel like posting on this precious blog is not part of that growth. So for whoever is reading this, that's where I've been.  Its where I will be for a while I imagine. We had a baby, we tried the spring baseball (madness), ballet revue, family retreat over the summer, vbs, Domestic Church retreats, a child had a tonsillectomy, and a few other things. We haven't been busy, but our life has been intense anyway. Like I said, busy interiorly.

I can't change the world but I can try (and fail sometimes) to get better at being a mama and wife. My little house is my world, so that's where I'll be working for a while.


Monday, October 3, 2016

So what's the deal with homeschooling?


I was asked by a friend two very general, but in depth questions, which he asked me to reply via email. After I finished, I realized that it may answer some of the questions that others ask when they see me. So in case you, lovely reader, are one of these people or have asked one of these questions, then this post is for you:


What is the most positive (fruitful, growing etc.) in home schooling?


I love that homeschooling gives my children the ability to spend their days together. They practice living and loving with one another MORE than they take time for school work. 

I have seen my older children take initiative on helping/teaching the younger children. For example- my readers will read directions or entire books to the non-readers.

My children are great independent workers, but we also do a lot of reading aloud: history, English literature (in small bites), and religion.

I have been able to tailor the children's work to a level that best fits where they are. Therese's art skills are far beyond where John Paul's were at her same age, so she does more intricate art work than he. John Paul is a third grader, but has been on a 4th grade level for a while, and so we are able to move more quickly than he would be able to in a traditional school. 

I get to hold my children in my lap (which is being taken up by a large belly, so temporarily, they sit NEXT to me) to teach them to read. I have two children who I am teaching to read, and that is the posture they prefer for their lessons. 

My babies are exposed to whatever my school children are doing, so they like to "do school" in whatever for they feel: play-dough at the table, drawing, cheerios to count and sort, etc.

David plays an active role in their education as well- he reads to them, and if he is home, he will do a lot of teaching. He also helps to finish up what I have not finished once he comes home (which sounds like what parents have to do ANYWAY when their children come home from traditional school).

Our "after school" sports and activities are a nice chance to get out of the house rather than the insanity of running all over Tarnation from one place to another, and we don't have to race home to do the homework/supper/bath/bedtime routine.

There is so much support out there, whether through the sheer number of homeschooling families where you live (like here on the Northshore of LA), or online... like so many free printables!

And most importantly- we all stay in our rooms until 7:30 in the morning, and we don't have to get up early to deal with lunches, uniforms, speedy morning routines, etc.

And of equal importance- we are able to make Mass more often during the week.




What is the biggest problem, difficulties, limits in home schooling?

Having more babies than school-aged children is the most difficult hurdle. They know when I get into teacher mode, and they don't really like it. It isn't always enough to simply hold Mary Clare, but her intelligence tells her that I should be interacting with her too! So she expects her time with mommy/teacher as well and asks for school work!

I am usually too tired to pick up leftover school work at the morning, and I have set up our day so that the entire house 1) goes to sleep 2) reads quietly on the couch, and I use usually use this time to do my personal prayer and scripture reading. But the more pregnant I become the more tired I am at this time of day. So I feel like a failure most days that I don't get to prayer or finish up school like I wish and simply end up falling asleep. Sigh...

Another difficulty is that it can be a bit draining to have all 5 (and soon 6) children at home with me all day long... every day. It may be more difficult if it hadn't always been this way, but we've never had the kids in mother's day out or childcare, so I've never known life with little breaks here and there. It makes me really have to trust in the Lord to provide such opportunities. We are blessed that David's flexible schedule allows for him to be home if there are doctor's appointments that I need to take of, though, so the Lord always provides.

The biggest difficulty is the recognition that this is a life-long task- the rearing and education of our children (even if we put some in traditional school at some point, the task remains the same). The temptation to despair and get discouraged can creep in often, especially if it is a particularly difficult school year, and I look to be successful at homeschooling rather than faithful, as God calls me to be. 

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Most people's first response to hearing that we homeschool is "Oh, I could never do what you do." And to those women I say, "If I can do it, ANYONE CAN DO IT!" and I also think inwardly, "I could never do what YOU do. Getting up before 6 just to get everyone else out the house on time is a thought that makes me throw up in my moth a little bit, so POWER TO 'YA"

We have only been doing this for five years now, and I can PROMISE you that when we get to middle school math, I will punt to David... or to anyone who doesn't get sweaty thinking about teaching division with carrying. 

My children are also VERY aware that their mother is a short-tempered, crazy human being (which was hard for me at first, growing up with a mom who was able to juggle a full time job, home-life, spiritual life, marriage, and a career change thrown in their somewhere with what looked like harmonious ease (and she may be reading this and laughing at it's inaccuracy, but now you know, Mom), and so I was so disappointed in myself when my kids began to see me... um... not doing the juggling so well. Some days it's more like tripping on the juggling balls and face planting into someone's diaper that they took off when I wasn't looking. 

Homeschooling requires a grace that can be given to us to be able to do it, and all I have to do is ask!!  HE HAS PROVIDED! He will continue to do so! 

And now for some good 'ole fashioned poking fun...






Friday, September 23, 2016

It's been a while... and I think I know why.

It may be that nobody noticed, but it's been almost 4 months since I've last posted and there are two main reasons for that- one is important and one is not so important...

1) I don't have an easy way to get pictures of my kids to the computer and I'm not tech savvy enough to blog from my phone.

2) The Lord has had me in a season of learning about myself and my deep need for his mercy. Another way of putting this is to say that God has had so much for me to learn about myself and how to be a wife and mom and daughter of His that I basically have nothing deep or helpful to share with anyone that they probably didn't already know or read on someone else's blog.... 

So here are some things that have happened:


We still attempt to fit everyone in a little kid pool that is smaller than safely manageable. 

God has gifted us with another son... that brings the tally to 4 boys and 2 girls. Anyone sweating a little bit? Because I am. We're due around January 20th. 



We began our homeschool year on August 8th (why so early you homeschool moms ask? Because of the above photograph, and I don't want to fall behind later once I birth an excuse to be lazy about it).
And, yes, that would be our 8 year old helping to educate our almost 5 year old... If I can homeschool ANYONE CAN HOMESCHOOL!

Therese and Mary Clare are nearly inseparable

This happened one time... in life. 
The "baby boys" as we call the almost 5 &3 year old were reading together & walked away uninjured).

We participated in a Domestic Church family retreat, and our friends made a promotional video to encourage others to try one...

So what's happened is the I've learned some things in the last few months that have been game changers for me, but have come with a hearty dose of humility (ever had that before?). So I'll share some nuggets..

God loves with an AGE-OLD love! This means that He's done this sort of thing before- you know forgiving and being merciful and continuing to poor out abundant blessings on his child who tries so hard yet continues tripping up.

If we really want the world to change, it's not going to be through sharing knowledge... it's going to be through loving the ones right in front of us.

God to MAKE ALL THINGS NEW! It has been super helpful to ask the Lord to help me to see my children (and my vocation to love, nurture, and educate them) in a new way from time to time. It has been a huge help in dialing down the discouragement.

Screaming is lazy. Cursing is lazy. Tantrums are thrown by adults as well. Spanking a three year old is not helpful. Are you scandalized? I'm sorry

Exercise is a must and is something for which we can ask God to provide. 

God wants to help us get better at loving our spouses... it's pretty much the most important thing to Him!

If you feel like you are being "spiritually attacked" in your family. Have hope! It means that such amazing things are happening there, that Satan is doing his darnedest to mess with that!

"Do not grow weary doing good" - the Bible

My commitment to prayer and praying with Scripture has carried me through these months... and I imagine they will continue to do so! I'm so glad that God wants to talk to me!

I hope and pray that you are able to recognize the wonderful things that God is doing in your life as well...

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

YOU ARE NOT ALONE!!

Is this you in church? Yeah... us either.

It's more like this...



Fee this same way?

I see you moms and dads and awesome grandparents who take your children to mass...

Wrestling while standing in the back of mass with your baby who insists on "blessing" himself over and over again...

Swaying continuously while hoping your baby forgets what they were so upset about...

Letting go of all your parenting convictions as you let your child "get down" and practice walking in the vestibule of church...

Entire family who has to sit in the cry room because one of your children just cannot sit in church...

WE ARE RIGHT THERE WITH YOU!!

I felt so much solidarity with all of you this last Sunday.... THE FEAST OF CORPUS CHRISTI for goodness sake. I had to ask our priest if I could snag his notes from the pulpit because I didn't hear ONE BLASTED WORD from his homily (thanks, Fr Ian).

WE CAN DO THIS, Y'ALL!!

Let's not give up! Let's continue to go to Mass as a family. Let's continue to let the grace of God and the goodness and faithfulness of God and the desire to pass this reality onto our children continue to get our tired, worn-out selves to Mass!!

You are not a hindrance or a burden- YOU KEEP THE CHURCH ALIVE!!

You are not alone!!

See you on Sunday!!

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Since when did I start equating Lent with fruitlessness?

The other night when a friend (who is also a great priest) was over for dinner, we were discussing the different kinds of Lenten decor (or the appropriate lack thereof), a question arose that nearly knocked me off the couch...

"When did we start associating Lent with being fruitless?"


WHAT?!?

Before this particular Lent, if you were to ask me to recall some images that come to mind when I hear the word Lent, I would have said the following: a dry desert, sticks in a clay pot, a mouth-watering chocolate cake behind an electric fence, low blood sugar attacks, hair shirts (I'm kidding), and bodily suffering (I've had two babies during Lent). And to top it all off, if I'm honest with myself, usually I bring all these images and good merits with me to East Sunday like quarters to a vending machine. If Easter Sunday doesn't deliver total peace, joy, and a baby who sleeps all night, I am quite disappointed with the Lord.

Someone tell me that I'm not alone on this!

This conversation with our friend (and consequently lots of prayer) allowed me to realize something- this Lent has been completely different than all other Lents ever! No, I'm not that much more awesome than last Easter (though I do have a baby who can sleep all night from time to time), but MERCY has entered the picture in a bigger way than before!

God does not mean for this [picture] to be our HEARTS during Lent, but merely to represent SOME of our practices- but this was what my heart was lookin' like!



THANKS BE TO GOD AND THANK YOU POPE FRANCIS!! This year of Mercy has open wide the doors for God to work and to till my heart into a more fertile kind soil, and if I can identify something that has been the game-changer to this fertile soil (besides having a fifth children between this Lent and last), it would be MERCY!!


I haven't beat myself up when a bite of chocolate enters my mouth (by accident... or... not by accident), no longer have I focused ONLY on going without that which I do not need, and don't get me wrong, bodily penances are MOST DEFINITELY  a necessary part of a fruitful Lent, but white-knuckling through Lent isn't going to open our hearts to the Lord. It may lead to resenting Him.

My Lent has looked something like this (emphasis on "something like"): Less alcohol, less sweets (like none during the week... except for the three family birthdays and Sacrament celebrations), less yelling, less movies, smaller portions. It also has included more... praying more on my knees rather than in my comfy bed, sitting more often in silent  prayer rather than filling it with books and journaling, which is my normal tendency (this one I was pretty terrible at, but hey, Lent's not over), preparing for consecration to Divine Mercy, working on actually preparing meals for my family rather than winging it all the time, St Alphonsus Ligouri's Stations of the Cross, waking up early to try to both pray and exercise, and consciously attempting to trust more in the Lord.

This last bit I was not exactly specific with the Lord as to how I would go about trusting Him more, and it came in the form of basically giving up my children's health for Lent (up until about 2 days ago, can I get an Thank you, Lord?). So for the first half of Lent, our house had one or all of it's members with tonsillitis, fifth disease, fever, unending coughing, adenoid removal, swollen glands, and several symptoms that accompany low progesterone (ok, maybe that last one was me, but it's a nicer way to say PMS). It was the perfect opportunity to make a conscious effort to trust in God's mercy to bring me through EACH LITTLE MOMENT (day and night). Quite the opportunity, which I can promise you, I did not come up with myself.

Am I making this up? No, I don't think I am... Lent is meant to bring about a blooming of our spiritual life THROUGH stripping away what is less than necessary (though red wine's being superfluous is debatable) and adding extra practices to make our hearts more fertile ground for God to work in us!! But it MUST be laced with an increase of God's LOVE and MERCY... which He will not force on us! This experience has actually INCREASED my desire 1) to actually give prayer the weight it deserves 2) the grace to make prayer go deeper and 3) the penitence and recognition of my smallness to ask God for MORE help in getting me to where He wants me. And if I'm not mistaken (and I'm pretty sure I'm not because many priests have mentioned this), what we change/alter/give up is meant to spill over into the everyday long after we are finally able to shout Alle...lu... ooh wait... not time to say it yet. These practices are meant to become everyday practices to some degree, so if I observe Lenten practices that are next to absurd, I can promise you that I am much more likely to resent them. If, however, the different things that I mentioned earlier can more easily become a part of my everyday life, then Lent was most definitely fruitful- in a sustainable kind of way. I'm shooting for sustainable changes here.

Hosea 2:14 - "I will allure her, I will lead her into the desert, and there I will speak to her heart." (emphasis mine)

Joel 2:13 "...and rend your hearts and not your garments.” Return to the Lordyour God, for he is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love..."


Somewhere over the years, I must have started leaving some of those precious underlined words out... God has already told us that in the desert HE WILL SPEAK TO US and that going without for the sake of going without will NOT help us to learn of the Lord's  gracious and merciful Love!  I have a lot to learn, but this Lent is the start of something so wonderful and new! I used to approach Lent with a WOMP WOMP kind of attitude, but it seems like God in His mercy has allowed this Lent to be different- AND I'M LOVIN' IT- May lent be a season of FRUITFULNESS for all of us!



 Do I mean that for you to drop completely what you may have been doing this Lent? NOPE. I simply think that if you, like me, found/find yourself in a place where Lent is fruitless, there is still time! There is time to reevaluate and ask God to come into this Lent in a different way- a way FILLED with grace and mercy!

Saturday, December 26, 2015

Thursday, December 3, 2015

Advent: A time to WAIT or to PREPARE?

Advent sometimes brings a mix of apprehension and joy in my heart. Ordinary time is over, and we're moving into the season of anticipation and hope! But because David and I have decided that our family traditions include 1) Holding off on Christmas music and decorations until Rose Sunday 2) teaching our children to already know the truth about Santa  3) praying as a family around a lit Advent wreath and 4) adding an activity such as a Jesse Tree, a manger to be filled with "hay" that is made up of good deeds, etc...

...I admit that I struggle a lot to find balance between a certain amount of "white knuckling" through Advent and celebrating Christmas way too early. I used to act as if there were some sort of prize for being the one to celebrate Christmas the least before it's proper time. It makes Christmas day less about JOY and CELEBRATION and more about face-planting at a man-made finish line, spiritually exhausted and not at all prepared for the sheer joy that God means for us to experience. It's the truth that I used to picture God looking on me with hands on His hips and waiting to shake His almighty finger at me if I celebrated too early. Wow... someone's image of God was MESSED UP!



My pride tries desperately to creep in and stop me from the liberating experience that God wants to give me through this beautiful, hope-filled, room-making, anticipatory season. I don't bring this up because I have mastered it by any means, but because I have experienced what it feels like to reach Christmas morning and feel like God OWES me his Son because of all the waiting I've been doing. It's only been in the last few years that I have been able to dip my toe into the beauty that comes with PREPARING for Christmas instead of just WAITING for it.

To get a better sense of what I'm tackling, the best analogy that I have heard for this experience is a Hurricane: think about what happens when you prepare for a hurricane and when you simply wait for it. (Ok, if there is anyone who is not from the Gulf South, just think of your area's version of a big storm). I imagine some are wondering why I'm comparing Jesus to a hurricane... ask anyone who's had a complete 180 degree conversion and it's pretty similar to a hurricane. Anyway, you see the difference in waiting and preparing, right?  So how can I better prepare for Christmas?

Here are some ways that I have found make it easier to turn waiting into preparing:

  •  I try to think of Advent as a penitential season (yes, like Lent). I can choose to deny myself certain pleasures to strip away from my heart what is taking up too much space. (This means skipping desert and extra trips to Adoration and Mass or no TV after the kids are in bed, for example) I am really behind on this one so far this year...
  • Confession... to a priest.
  • Allow my children to talk about Christmas and ask all the questions that they want to help them better understand the difference between Advent and Christmas, while at the same time pointing out that we aren't READY to listen to/watch/decorate yet. (It's pretty sad that I use to wince when they would even attempt to talk about Christmas during Advent out of fear of celebrating incorrectly, and I would almost dismiss it completely. Sigh)
  • Study and pray with the Scriptures that are specific to Advent : Isaiah, the beginning of Luke's Gospel, John the Baptist's birth, or Advent reflection series.
  • All bets are off by Gaudete Sunday/Rose Sunday... ok not totally, but this is traditionally when we buy our tree, decorate, and allow the Christmas music to ring through the house. Truth be told, David would prefer to hold off even longer... but I JUST CAN'T STAND IT ANY LONGER!!! (December 17th is also another date that works, too. The antiphons in the Liturgy of the hours change on this day).... we're so close!!
          (A little tip... most Christmas trees are 1/2 off by this point).
  • Pregnancy- nothing helps me dive into the beauty or preparing room for the Christ child like actually growing one (obviously, we can't just dial this one up).
Each advent is a new experience. Our children are at different ages and their understanding is different, which means that we have to respond differently. I want more than anything to have a heart, a soul, (and a house) cleaned up and PREPARED to welcome Jesus, the God- made-man Child when I finally reach Christmas Mass and hear "Oh Come Let us Adore Him" ! We have a God who TRULY wants what is best for us, and for this season, it means He wants to walk with us through a season of softening and opening our hearts in order to gift us with HIS VERY SELF!