Monday, November 30, 2015

An Abundance of Advent Assistance!

For all the evil and temptations out there, I have to admit that I love the internet. It's existence is making motherhood and homeschooling so much easier for me since, like many moms these days, I'm not around the block from my family the way things used to be.

So many beautiful talents are on display, and I'm grateful for each one who shares a little of their light, allowing Christ's mercy and God's goodness to shine. If you are one of those who share online, whether by blogging, through social media, or in some other way, thank you for the way you share of yourself and allow the rest of us to benefit from your gifts.

Proof of this is in the multitude of Advent help we can access from devoted men and women who are walking the journey to Christmas with us. There are definitely ideas for family and for children, but I specifically want to point out the resources that I feel can benefit moms at home. In fact, this is the first Advent I really feel like I have a plan for ME to grow these days leading up to the celebration of Jesus' birthday.

Admittedly, my ambitions are high, and you will see from my list below that I do have too many things. But I am looking at these all as options. Some days I will get to prayerfully reflect on all of them. Many days I will only enjoy one or two, and inevitably, there will be days (plural!) that the shortest Advent email I receive will be the only thing I read.

If you have not yet found something to inspire you in this season of preparation, try one (yes, just one) of the following (free unless noted):
Comfort & Joy: Living the Liturgy During the Advent Season ebook by Elizabeth & Kristin Foss ($9)
Waiting in the Word: A Mother's Advent Journey ebook by Laura, Nancy, & my friend Nell ($8)
The Greatest Gift: Unwrapping the Full Love Story of Christmas ebook by Ann Voskamp ($6.30)
Danielle Bean's Advent Daily Prayer emails
Dynamic Catholic Best Advent Ever email videos
Bishop Barron's Daily Advent Reflections emails
Advent Daily Dose emails by my friend Katie
Advent Boot Camp post by Meg (

And then, not Advent specific, but I'm also enjoying:
Pray More Novenas email subscription
Divine Mercy Daily email subscription from Lighthouse Media
Morning Offering email from The Catholic Company

What are your favorite ebooks or email subscriptions to help you with daily prayer, whether they're Advent-specific or not?

Sunday, November 29, 2015

It's Never Too Late to Cross It Off Your List

Your lists are made, at least in your head, if not on paper. (Mine are half in my head and half on paper, so I don't have to face how long and unrealistic they are!) You have Advent plans for your family, your homeschool, and (hopefully) yourself. You have feast day plans and social plans and family gathering plans. You definitely have Christmas plans and even New Year's plans are starting to form. Most of us are doing too much, or trying to do too much.

It's the first Sunday of Advent, but I want to tell you that it's never too late to cross something off of that list! It's never too late to cut back, do less, simplify. Because what happens when we do less is that we pay more attention to the things that we do and, more importantly, the people that we do them with. We aren't halfway through one thing and already thinking about the next.

So just because you did it today or planned it for tomorrow doesn't mean your list can't change. In fact, I urge you to take your fancy lists and cross off at least a quarter of the things on it. I challenge those of you with longer lists to cross off at least half of those things. Your family will still feel loved. You will not be less of a mom than that other mommy or less of a Catholic or less of a homeschooler. As you set things aside, you will encounter love and peace like never before.

I'm learning this. Little by little by little. Rest and margin are key to peace. And a mama without peace does not create a happy home.

Please tell me in the comments what one thing you are crossing off right now!

Monday, July 27, 2015

And God said, “Don’t worry. I’ve got this.”

Con mi familia en Cholula, Puebla

I heard from a few of you that just reading my previous post made you tired. No kidding! Me too! Writing all of that out was truly an exercise in humility, wondering how in the world it is I do all of those things and reflecting on which of those things, if any, I’m not truly called to be doing.

As I gear up for our school year, typing courses of study and lesson plans, organizing books and materials, my brain is on overload, and I’m feeling a bit overwhelmed. Understatement. We start in a week, and I’m not done. And I’ve committed to attending a moms’ retreat this week, every morning! The devil is definitely trying to get me to cancel that encounter with Christ, but I keep reminding myself to punch him in the face and not listen (thanks for the awesome image, Kelly).

Anyway, it’s abundantly clear that I can’t do it all. I want more than anything for these precious children to be the center of everything I do, and yet, most of my volunteer service really pulls my focus away from them. I love doing it, but I definitely feel guilty that they sometimes get slighted by meetings and emails and events. On the other hand, by my actions, they learn how important it is to serve others and to serve with a generous heart.

So what to do? God has given me two answers this summer.

One came through the challenging words of an honest friend at one of these meetings who reminded me that if I need help, I should ask for it. Therefore, I will repeat to myself over and over as I work on all of my volunteer activities: delegate, delegate, delegate. Let it go! Teach someone else to do it!

Last summer, when I was overwhelmed, it was because my business relied only on me. I couldn’t delegate. I could only do as much as I could do. The rest wasn’t going to get done, and it wasn’t enough to be profitable. So, I closed the business. But, running a non-profit is different! I have wonderful volunteers to whom I can delegate and who truly want to help! I just have to learn to be humble and let go of my illusion of control.

The other answer, mercifully, came today. I was on my way to Mass, by myself, to a Spanish Mass, because it was the only nearby Mass that fit into my one-car crazy schedule for today. My husband’s car speakers were blaring some Matt Maher, and I decided to put it all out there. God, I said, I know you are calling me to do these things, but I know I can’t remain peaceful amidst it all. You’re just calling me to do too much!

Well, I’m not sure if it was more humble or more stupid to contradict God in that way, but as I’m straining to comprehend the Spanish Mass (I did study abroad in Mexico and lived with a lovely family while attending Universidad de las Americas in Puebla*, but that was over 18 years ago!!!), I began to understand the first reading was about Elisha and the bread of God. I froze, because I knew what was coming for the Gospel.

Isn’t our Church amazing? We know what’s coming! And, here is why our God is unbelievably awesome. This summer, our Catholic homeschooling moms’ group studied Sarah Mackenzie’s Teaching from Rest: A Homeschooler’s Guide to Unshakable Peace. In it, Sarah writes about giving God our poor efforts each day, our measly loaves and fishes that cannot possibly feed all the people we are supposed to feed. You know the rest of the story.

So, I’m trying not to cry as the Gospel is read and realizing that God is speaking directly, intimately to me. He does that. Really. Sometimes you can go years and years without hearing Him, but He is knit into our very being. He knows us and loves us and wants to speak to our hearts the words we need to hear at that moment. He is asking me for my loaves and fishes.

Sarah also reminds us in her book to start each day acknowledging that we are going to mess up. At the start of our academic year, I admit, I will mess up. Probably a lot. But I also know that if I offer my insufficient efforts to God every day, He will multiply my efforts and work through me and many others to make beautiful things happen!

*More proof that God knows our heart. The second collection at this Spanish Mass at this parish I’ve never attended before was for the paint and floors for a new mission church being built in the state of Puebla. So, I took my last $5 in cash that I was planning to use to buy a sweet tea this afternoon (while I waited to meet a few moms to pick up their peg doll saints) and put it in the basket. When I ordered my sweet tea and presented my free cookie coupon to the cashier, intending to charge the tea, and she tells me not to worry about paying for the tea. That was when I knew God wanted me to write this post while I waited. We are each desperately loved by our God. I wish I could stop forgetting that!

Are there activities in your life you should be delegating, whether by recruiting more volunteers or enlisting your family to assist you more? And, when have you offered God your poor efforts that couldn’t possibly be enough but resulted in something more wonderful than you could have imagined?


Tuesday, June 30, 2015

I don't know how you do it

Twice in the past few days as a result of our latest monthly Moms breakfast, someone has said to me, “I don’t know how you do it.” What I hear from mamas who say that to one another is, “Something you do is something I want to do, and I am not sure how to make that happen.” Or, “I am so exhausted doing what I do that there is no way I could do the things you do.” Let us look at those for a moment; then, I will try to answer the HDYDI question.

Something you do is something I want to do

Then do it! What is stopping you? Are you afraid you will fail? How will you know if you don’t try?

I find that doing things I love to do happens easily and actually gives me positive energy to do the rest of the stuff I have to do. I do not love to cook or clean, although I know mamas who do. I love to connect other women with one another. Doing that feeds me, both because I get connected and because my personality-type (ESTJ) thrives on organizing and belonging to groups. (Go here to find your Myers-Briggs personality-type if you don’t know it.)

If you have a dream and you wait until the right time to do it, it might never happen. Sure, there are seasons in life where we need to say no to things, but if you are truly unsatisfied, that could be a prompting of the Holy Spirit to step out in faith and be the one to fill a need in your community. Serving one another selflessly is too rare in our individualistic culture, and sometimes the unfolded laundry has to get piled on the bed in order to have a few moms over for coffee. (And, yes, I realize inviting those mamas to help fold laundry would be even better, but I am a recovering perfectionist and not there yet!)

I am so exhausted there is no way I could do the things you do

Chances are, then, you are not called to do the things I do. Focus on what you are called to do and how to find internal rest in the chaos.

Are you going through a season of motherhood where you aren’t sleeping much? Then, find a way to nap or at least put your feet up twice a day and quiet yourself. Go to bed earlier and put aside the millions of things you should be doing, choosing rest, for now. This, too, shall pass.

What refreshes you? Make a list of the things you love to do, including big and little things that fill your tank. Plan to do at least two small things each day that bring you joy. I call this my joy list, and it includes things like turning on music or doing a quick word puzzle. I keep magazines or a book in my bathroom at all times and sneak a few pages while…

What do I do

For those of you who don’t know me IRL, here are the projects I am currently involved in running outside of my home:
·       Co-director of Saint Anne Homeschool Support Group (, which founded the San Antonio Catholic Homeschool Conference 4 years ago

·       Leader of Grace Days™ initiative in the San Antonio area (, hosting Days of Grace for homeschooling mothers 2-3 times a year

·       Leader of Saint Anne’s Summer Series, directing discussions on various homeschooling topics weekly in the summer months

·       Hostess of Catholic Homeschooling Moms’ Breakfasts, leading monthly potluck breakfasts in my home for fellowship and discussion on some topic relevant to our vocations

·       Coordinator of random swaps among mamas, such as saint peg dolls and activity/busy bags for toddlers and preschoolers about twice a year

·       Trying to start a Catholic homeschool co-op in my area, two attempts two years apart which both failed due to lack of space to hold classes (maybe we will just start a park day this year)

And I clean my house (sometimes and never by myself), educate three children at home, keep the fourth (a toddler) out of trouble (mostly), make three homemade meals a day (usually), keep up with laundry for two little boys and two adults, shop for groceries and run other errands, etc. I check Facebook at least three times a day. I read blog posts that inform and encourage me, except lately my reader has been abandoned, and I only click through from Facebook links. I listen to podcasts. I read real books, usually with one fiction and at least one nonfiction going at a time. I talk with and watch movies with and enjoy time (at home) with my husband regularly. And I blog. Much, much less than I would like.

How do I do it all

I don’t. The end.

You just think I do. There are things you do that I do not do. My dinners are not elaborate. My big kids wash, fold, and put away their own laundry, clean bathrooms, sweep floors. Those floors only get mopped once a month, just before those monthly moms breakfasts. My husband is not an extrovert like I am, and we have no family in town. I rarely leave town. We are not involved at a parish beyond Sunday Mass and fellowship afterwards. It is rare for us to go anywhere on a Saturday, except perhaps to run errands. If it costs money, we stay home. Law school loans. Too often, I tell my kids to leave me alone to do my “work,” forgetting they are my primary “work.” Daily prayer where I sit down to be alone with God is, unfortunately, rare.

And I type this post hurriedly, just before rushing out the door to take a kid to the doctor. That means one kid (who will be going with us) is still asleep. One is playing Wii Lord of the Rings longer than he is supposed to be playing. I do not have shoes or glasses on, so I better…

But, but, but…

Yes, I do accomplish a lot. It’s the way I’m wired. I like it. I have some posts in mind to share my planning process on a monthly, weekly, and daily basis. It’s not perfect. I’m far from perfect. I like a lot of chocolate throughout the day, hot tea in the morning, sweet tea in the afternoon, and a Shiner or a margarita at night (red wine is nice on rare cold days).

Some of my obsession with productivity is learned, too. My father practically raised me on the adage “Much good work is lost for the lack of a little more,” while my mother kept reminding me to “Bloom where you’re planted.” I know that I have talents, and I feel obliged to use them to serve my family and my community.

How do you do it?

So, the honest answer is: by the grace of God. Sometimes I get burned out, because I do too much. Sometimes my family suffers when I make poor choices. Sometimes, though, I see that I helped another mom in her journey towards Christ, and that brings her children closer to Christ. And that’s why I keep saying yes and keep trying to find balance and failing. When I see how God uses me when I serve others, it’s all worth it.

I do it as an offering, as un-humble as that sounds to “say out loud.” I want my kids to notice that I didn’t go to bed one single night where I didn’t spend my day wholeheartedly trying to serve God through serving my family and others. I want to fall into bed exhausted, knowing I gave everything for Him. I want to do the best I can to take care of me, my family, and the people God has put in my life. My love language is acts of service, so I serve in order to love others.

 P.S. This blog post took 9 days to write.

What amazing thing did you do today? Did you listen to a five-year-old’s nonsense story? Did you bite your tongue when criticism was on its way out? Did you accept a phone call from a difficult relative? Did you keep your cool with your over-emotional teen? Did you reach out to another mother in need and encourage her?


Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Saint Anne Homeschool Support Group

My time online these past several months, aside from emails and the time vulture others call Facebook, has been creating and filling our local homeschool support group's website. You can check it out here if you want - We are especially proud that we are trying to connect the many local Catholic homeschooling support groups in one place and post links to Catholic curricula options.

Saint Anne Homeschool Support Group was started as a nonprofit by my friend, Margaret, and me in order to launch an independent Catholic homeschool conference here in San Antonio. We ran three successful conferences and decided to take this year off, as our volunteer team was stretched too far the previous year.

The year off has resulted in a couple of wonderful things and other ways for me to spend my time in service to others. You see, I love connecting Catholic homeschooling mothers. As I mentioned yesterday, I think that women need to connect with other women in real life, and especially homeschoolers need to support one another. A dear friend recently quipped, "I have never worked as hard in my life as I do now as a homeschooling mom!" We need to be around others who understand that while we work harder than we could have ever imagined, we choose this vocation.

So, inspired by Maureen and Michele's Grace Days initiative, I coordinated a Day of Grace for Catholic homeschooling mothers at our beloved Mission of Divine Mercy. The day in late April was a mixture of prayer and fellowship and a fantastic success to push us forward to finish out the academic year with grace. It was such a gift to myself and the other women that I am already planning our second Day of Grace to be held in San Antonio in early August to start off the school year.

Because we did not host an independent conference this year, IHM Conferences came in and hosted a half-day conference of their own. This ministry, funded primarily by Seton Home Study School, is a generous outreach to Catholic homeschooling families. Saint Anne's participated through a book sale and providing local volunteers, but I feel very strongly that IHM Conferences only present one style of Catholic homeschooling. Being a universal Church, there are endless styles, methods, and curricula a family can combine to be successful homeschoolers.

Therefore, I created the Saint Anne Summer Series. We are meeting once a week for six weeks and offering free discussions on topics related to Catholic homeschooling for parents. I will post more details about our topics and how this worked another time, as we have only had one session, so far, but our topics range from why should we homeschool to what curricula options are out there to housework while homeschooling.

As you can see, I am keeping busy with Saint Anne events, and this is yet another reason I have neglected this poor ol' blog, although I love writing and sharing with you!