Friday, August 14, 2009

Sunday, August 16, 2009 ~ Twentieth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Note: These Sunday & Holy Day Gospel Reflections are written so that mothers may prepare for Holy Mass in advance either as a small group or individually (especially since we are so often necessarily distracted during Mass itself).

John 6:51-58

Jesus said to the crowds:
“I am the living bread that came down from heaven;
whoever eats this bread will live forever;
and the bread that I will give
is my flesh for the life of the world.”

The Jews quarreled among themselves, saying,
“How can this man give us his flesh to eat?”
Jesus said to them,
“Amen, amen, I say to you,
unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood,
you do not have life within you.
Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood
has eternal life,
and I will raise him on the last day.
For my flesh is true food,
and my blood is true drink.
Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood
remains in me and I in him.
Just as the living Father sent me
and I have life because of the Father,
so also the one who feeds on me
will have life because of me.
This is the bread that came down from heaven.
Unlike your ancestors who ate and still died,
whoever eats this bread will live forever.”


I am a cradle Catholic. All of my life I have believed in the Eucharist. I have always known it is the center of our faith and the most essential thing to our spiritual lives. That has always made sense. Of course, the degree to which I understood this reality grows as I mature and endure spiritual growth (yes, endure, but that's a discussion for another post).

This Gospel is the hardest teaching Jesus ever gave. Loving your enemies, leaving your father and mother, and giving away your worldly wealth are nothing compared to "Eat My Flesh." Even today, it is the primary division between the Catholic faith and all other Christian churches (although there are many others, of course). Those who do research on the early Church and her belief in the Eucharist are often led to the full understanding of this passage.

Jesus is ALIVE in the Eucharist. He is there. He longs for me to go to Him, to be united to Him so intimately that I consume His Body and Blood. Transubstantiation is a miracle. Every Mass is a call to each of us to draw near to Our Lord, witness the miracle, and receive Him. How do I respond to that call?

Do I work to ensure that our Sunday Mass experience (before, during, and after) is blessed and holy? We discovered that playing chant while we are getting ready Sunday mornings helps put us in the right mood for Mass - joyful, reverent, content.

At Mass, do I model for my children awe at the beauty before me? I find my children behave best when I focus on the Mass, especially during the Consecration, using only my touch to redirect them (not even taking my eyes from the altar to look at them).

Do I find the time to attend daily Mass even once a week? This is my new goal for the school year. In a new city, it has been hard for me to find a way we can do this. The only mid-day Masses, which I am used to attending with children, are quite a drive. I think it is time to wake the children up early once a week and go to the 8AM Mass.

Am I making a weekly Holy Hour before the Blessed Sacrament in Adoration? Over the summer, I fell out of this habit and need to get back to it. There is nothing more refreshing than an early-morning hour of peace and quiet before the Lord to soothe my soul.

Lord, help me to properly worship you in the Eucharist. Give me the grace I need to overcome myself and focus entirely on You. "Most Holy Trinity, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, I adore You profoundly and I offer You the Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity of Jesus Christ, present in all the tabernacles of the world, in reparation for the outrages, sacrileges and indifferences whereby He is offended. And through the infinite merits of His Most Sacred Heart and the Immaculate Heart of Mary, I beg of You the conversion of poor sinners."

Homeschool Moms Bible Study Online Update!

If you have not already heard about our upcoming Bible Study for moms online, go check it out on my previous post or on the Homeschool Connections website! We are VERY excited about this opportunity for mothers to enjoy fellowship and study in a super-convenient format over the Internet!

The update is that my dear co-leader, Emily, had a baby on Wednesday (hooray! praise God! Mom and baby are doing great!), so we have postponed our Meet & Greet webinar scheduled for last night (since she was a bit busy) to next Thursday, August 20. So, there is still time to sign up to join us and learn more about the study and ask any questions you might have!

The basic plan is to meet every other Thursday evening from September 3 through November 12. The cost is a $10 donation, and you have to buy your own copy of the book, Chosen and Cherished: Biblical Wisdom for Your Marriage by Kimberly Han.

Go here to sign up for the Meet & Greet webinar if you haven't already! We already have some women signed up for the actual study, too, so you can head right on over there if you know you don't want to miss this opportunity!

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Prayerfully Planning Day 3 ~ Schedule Writes Itself!

I know, this sounds surreal, but it is true. I had run out of time yesterday to get my daily school schedule drafted and spent this morning working on our home business and some Little Flowers things. I sat down this afternoon to draft the schedule, and it just happened!

Once again, I have been inspired by a fellow blogger. Jennifer writes about her day being broken into blocks of time. When I revised that old mother's rule, the first part of our day looked like this, with our learning blocks already divided:

7:30 ~ Breakfast
8:00 ~ Chores/Hygiene
8:30 ~ Exercise and/or Nature Exploration
9:00 ~ Morning Basket
10:00 ~ Learning Block 1
10:30 ~ Morning Recess
11:00 ~ Learning Block 2
11:30 ~ Circle Time
12:00 ~ Learning Block 3
12:30 ~ Lunch
1:00 ~ Read Aloud

Just to explain, Circle Time includes the subjects both of my children will do together. It just seemed like a nice way to break up the morning. They will work mostly separately during the Learning Blocks either with my assistance or independently, depending on the task.

So, all I had to do just now was to fill in what subject areas I wanted covered during those learning blocks. Here is what I decided...

Morning Basket = Prayers/Saints/Seasons x5, Bible Stories x2, Art Appreciation x2, Music Appreciation x2, Poetry x3, Singing x2, Nature Reading x2, Virtue Study x2
Learning Block 1 = Math x5
Learning Block 2 = Reading/Literature: Five in a Row x5, Narration x2, Shared Reading
x3, etc...
Circle Time = History x3, Geography x2, Science x3
Learning Block 3 = Writing & Religion: Handwriting x2, Composition x2, Catechism x4

I left a message for the gymnastics coach and decided to pretend the classes are on Tuesdays, which I was told is one option. That made Tuesdays and Fridays (due to Little Flowers and catch-up time) our light days, so I filled in the blocks for the days of the week with the above subject areas and...

Sweet! I'm done with the schedule and the morning basket decisions! Time to move to number five and finish number six...

5. Get my liturgical and catechetical plans in order. This includes planning my daughter's First Communion notebook contents and creating my monthly folders (not weekly like Dawn's, although inspired by her - I might work up to that) to hold all the relevant ideas. I also need to figure out my plans to use Who Am I? with my son.

6. Plan what will be a part of my Morning Basket, inspired by Jennifer's. Once I finalize what we will do during that time, I need to plan for the time. My thoughts are revolving around liturgical year, prayers, songs, hymns, art and music appreciation, poetry, and nature...maybe. I want to focus on BEAUTY here.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Prayerfully Planning Day 2 ~ Binders!

I chose this image to put on the front of my planbook. It is a painting by Rebecca Pearl of St. Elizabeth Ann Seton titled "All of This and Heaven Too!" St. Elizabeth is attributed to making this quote shortly after her conversion, acknowledging the true generosity of God. Since I have always referred to our homeschool informally as St. Elizabeth Ann Seton School, I thought this was appropriate, especially since this beautiful painting depicts the gentle art of learning, as is my educational philosophy.

The toughest part of assembling my planbook was pulling together all of the parts. I did not want the binder to only include our lesson plans, but I wanted it to have a few booklists and articles to which I often refer. Organizing paper is not easy for me, so I am sure I will continue to find things to add as I plan and go through the year.

So, this involved creating a planbook and re-examining my personal binder. I also used to have a Control Journal, which I named a Surrender Journal to remind me to give back my daily work to God, that was based on FlyLady's material, so I updated that and am still debating if I really need three binders to run my life. :)

While organizing paper, I had to create my monthly liturgical file folders to file away a few coloring pages and such. For now, I just have one folder for each month of the year, because I discovered that my Surrender Journal has a page for each month, which lists all important family celebrations. I am not yet sure where I will put secular holiday material.

Fortunately, my planner arrived today from Family-Centered Press! I finally ordered one last week after putting it off for too long. Now, I have another tool to help me get (and stay) organized and remind me every day why I do what I do!

That's the notebook project - mostly done! Next is to draft my lesson schedule, but I think that might have to wait until tomorrow. Organizing this mess of paper took longer than I expected!

Calling all DFW readers (on behalf of Waltzing Matilda)

Since I'm from DFW (mostly), I had to post this from Charlotte at Waltzing Matilda. Click over to her blog to contact her if you can help...

We know of a family in need. Their tiny baby was born a few weeks ago, has already undergone surgery and is needing to stay in the hospital for a longer than expected time. If you can offer any kind of assistance, please send me an email for more details. Anyone who lives outside of the DFW area who would like to contribute in a monetary way, please email me as well.Your prayers are most important for baby Cecilia! Thank you!

Prayerfully Planning Day 2 ~ Results

Okay! I am making progress. The goals have been written for each child and myself. The Rule has been drafted (but still missing the nitty-gritty details). That is what I had hoped to accomplish last night, so hooray! Here are some of my goals...

  • I pray that our daily lives are full of joy and gentleness, peace and beauty.

  • I pray that our family develops a rhythm of prayer throughout each day.

  • I pray that our children develop the virtue of obedience and the habit of attention.

  • I pray that I can be consistent with my routines of prayer, housework, and homeschooling.

  • I pray that I can lead my children to greater knowledge and love of God.

  • I pray that we continue to enjoy our family's love of learning and books.

I have a few more specific goals for both behavior and academics for each child, as well, of course.

Next, it is time to create my notebook and draft our lesson schedule. I had to get groceries this morning, and I have a commitment tonight. So, this will be my afternoon project, but I might not post about it until tomorrow...


In early February (the 9th, I think) I spoke on the phone with one of those long-lost friends I was mentioning yesterday. She was nine months pregnant with her third child and had always had early babies. This one was much later than she expected. We talked and caught up and had a great conversation. I assured her I would pray for baby to come soon. The next morning she woke up in labor and Max was born soon afterwards.

On Monday night, I spoke on the phone with another long-lost friend. She was nine months pregnant with her third child and had always had early babies. This one was much later than she expected. We talked and caught up and had a great conversation. I assured her I would pray for baby to come soon. The next morning she woke up in labor and Abigail has either been born or is coming soon (I haven't heard more than that they went to the hospital yesterday).

So, what do you think? Is it my prayers that cause this, or, more likely, my rambling phone conversations which are enjoyable but tiring and perhaps inspire some of the relaxation needed to begin labor? I'm not sure it is either one, actually, but I still think it is pretty ironic that this has happened twice in one year.

If you're nine months pregnant, expecting your third, and have always had early babies, call me! You never know! :)

Meanwhile, pray for Baby Abigail and Mom, please! SO exciting!!!

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Prayerfully Planning Day 1 - To Do List

I have this Excel file that is titled "My Endless To Do List." I have everything imaginable on it, prioritized based on Stephen Covey's four quadrants: I - urgent and important, II - important but not urgent, III - urgent but not important, and IV - not urgent and not important. I print it out, keep it in my household binder, and update it about once a month. Of course, I add to it by hand throughout the month.

This To Do List, though, is specifically for the next few days, for planning our homeschooling for at least the next several months. Let's see...

  1. Prayerfully write down some goals and priorities for myself, for each of the children, and for our family. Make a list of what I want our daily life to be like, clearly noting the positive elements towards which all of my planning should be directed.

  2. Revise that old Mother's Rule of Life and accompanying charts, schedules, and lists to make new drafts to refer to while planning the learning parts of our days. This will need to be adjusted, as I go, but I do better when I have a draft to which to refer.

  3. Put my draft lesson planning calendars in a notebook that will become my lesson planning notebook (can you believe I do not have one?) and mark in any holidays, feasts, or family celebrations. Make this notebook beautiful by either covering in fabric or adding a lovely graphic and/or quote. This way, as I get each of the following items done, there will be one place to put them all!

  4. Make a very rough draft daily and weekly schedule. This will include calling the gymnastic coach and narrowing down when we can start classes there, and writing in our other outside obligations, which are really only Little Flowers and park with our homeschool group. Again, as I proceed through each of the following items, I can adjust our schedule as needed.

  5. Get my liturgical and catechetical plans in order. This includes planning my daughter's First Communion notebook contents and creating my monthly folders (not weekly like Dawn's, although inspired by her - I might work up to that) to hold all the relevant ideas. I also need to figure out my plans to use Who Am I? with my son.

  6. Plan what will be a part of my Morning Basket, inspired by Jennifer's. Once I finalize what we will do during that time, I need to plan for the time. My thoughts are revolving around liturgical year, prayers, songs, hymns, art and music appreciation, poetry, and nature...maybe. I want to focus on BEAUTY here.

  7. Pull together the other essentials - reading, writing, and math. I have the materials. I just need to figure out what I want to accomplish with each child.

  8. Get out the Alphabet Path lesson plans from Elizabeth to see where we left off in June and how to fit that into our learning days. Also decide if I am going to try to finish the last few weeks of Little Saints with my son or just let it go.

  9. Then, I want to look at my plans for history, geography, and science. I cannot start history right away, because a dear friend is lending me her set of Story of a World Volume 1 book and activity manual and does not return from a trip until September sometime. So, we may leave these three subjects until she returns, so we can first get established with everything else.

  10. Finally, of course, I need to pull all of this together and cut out whatever will not work or will not fit. I anticipate that I have too much stuff to do!

Wow! Lots to do! Off I go! I'll update periodically. I think I can get numbers one and two done tonight, so I hope to post more tomorrow...

Prayerfully Planning Day 1 - Thoughts

I have realized the past few days that there is one good thing about bouncing around endless ideas in your mind for weeks and weeks. You come to some basic conclusions about your life. Basically, I was able to expand upon my Prayerfully Reflecting on Last Year thoughts and discover a bit more about myself. My brain has finally been making some connections that make sense of scattered thoughts. I'll share a few of these realizations here:

  1. Homeschooling is a need for me, now, not just a want. Prior to moving here last September, we had some options for schooling our children in ways that were appropriate for their spiritual lives. Here, there are no such options, for a variety of reasons. Plus, I did not realize until moving how one of my children would not outgrow some tendencies which would make a traditional school setting difficult to be successful. For this child, our homeschool life is ideal. So, my mindset on homeschooling is changing due to this mental switch from doing it because I want it, to doing it because my family needs it.

  2. Spending a year focusing on my marriage has been fruitful for us but has resulted in neglecting other friendships. My husband was in law school for the previous three years, beginning when our children were three and two months old. We joked that I was a single mother for those years, but in all practical realms, that was entirely true. We were lucky to see him for occasional dinners and Mass on Sundays. Don't get me wrong; I am not complaining. I went into the experience fully knowing the sacrifices required, and I do not regret any of it. This year of him having a "real job" has been amazing for us as a family! We are learning how to function with him as a part of our daily lives again, and that has taken quite a bit of time, emotional energy, and attention on my part (and we are still working on it!). Thus, I cannot tell you the last time I called my dearest friends. There are three women in particular, whom I think of often and regret not keeping in better contact with this year. Terri, Katie, and Lauren, I am truly sorry, and I do love you! Plus, to make matters more challenging for me, due to the attention I gave to my marriage, it was very difficult for me to begin to establish true friendships here in our new city. It usually takes me quite a while to connect with other women on a personal level, anyway. In this situation, I have not even attempted to get close to anyone. I believe the energy I poured into my marriage was much-needed but that to do so to the exclusion of much-needed friendships was a poor choice.

  3. My standards/expectations for my children, both behaviorally and academically, need to be higher. I am such a pushover! They are truly capable of so much more. I feel I am finally getting a handle on being more consistent with discipline. My struggle to implement a chore chart this summer has resulted in several different versions and no success, however. Additionally, we toddled our way through first grade, but now my oldest is technically in second grade, and I feel the need to take the academics more seriously. Of course, my youngest, now four, has been begging to learn to read for about a year now. I have simply been putting off working with him seriously, but I do feel he is capable. So, a little more time spent would probably yield great results! In the end, the minimum is not enough; I have always believed that philosophically but to implement it is a challenge to me.

  4. My brain cannot hold meaningless information. This has been true all of my life, but it is only now becoming evident to me. The fact has several repercussions. One is that I do not know such facts as the qualifications of a fish versus a mammal, which country is currently at war with which, or the saints with feast days this month/week unless I look them up AND write them in a meaningful place. Another is that I need to strive to make learning meaningful for my children, in case they suffer similar brain-sieve. Furthermore, I do not remember things if they are not written down. It simply does not exist if it is not on one of my many lists. I often feel scatter-brained or dumb when someone asks me a simple fact, but I am coming to terms with the fact that my brain holds the information that is important to me.

  5. The Lord knows what He is doing with my life even though I do not. Just when I think I have things all figured out, I realize I am not supposed to figure things out completely. I am simply supposed to be open to His will this day, whatever that might be. For me, to look into the future, is not a profitable thing. Throughout my life, I have been blessed by God in unexpected and remarkable ways that reassure me He is indeed working in my life. Some of these are those God-incidences (what my husband and I call coincidences that are too uncanny to not have His hand in them), and some are simply the ways God has guided the large decisions in my life - my vocation, whom to marry, having children, moving to far away places, etc...

That is enough to share, so that I think you can get the idea of what I am thinking. There are a few other points I could list, but it is probably time to move on. I need to go pay a few bills, and I'll be back!

Prayerfully Planning Day 1 - Quotes

First some new quotes to inspire and encourage me, from some of my favorite saints and this site...

You learn to speak by speaking, to study by studying, to run by running, to work by working; and just so, you learn to love by loving. All those who think to learn in any other way deceive themselves. ~ St. Francis de Sales

Pray as though everything depended on God. Work as though everything depended on you. ~ St. Augustine

If anyone comes to me, I want to lead them to Him. ~ Edith Stein

Be gentle to all and stern with yourself. ~ St. Teresa of Avila

Love takes up where knowledge leaves off. ~ St. Thomas Aquinas

In the first place God made idiots. That was for practice. Then he made school boards.~ Mark Twain

I am beginning to suspect all elaborate and special systems of education. They seem to me to be built upon the supposition that every child is a kind of idiot who must be taught to think.~ Anne Sullivan

Of all the joyous motives of school life, the love of knowledge is the only abiding one; the only one which determines the scale, so to speak, upon which the person will hereafter live.~ Charlotte Mason

When I examine myself and my method of thought, I come to the conclusion that the gift of fantasy has meant more to me than my talent for absorbing knowledge.~ Albert Einstein

The truly educated person has only had many doors opened. He knows that life will not be long enough to follow everything through fully. ~ Susan Schaeffer Macauley

Thank goodness my education was neglected.~ Beatrix Potter

There isn't any known way to bulk-educate; it's all custom work. ~ John Taylor Gatto

Education is not the filling of a pail, but the lighting of a fire. ~ William Butler Yeats.

No education seems to be worth the name which has not made children at home in the world of books, and so related to them, mind to mind, with thinkers who have dealt with knowledge. ~ Charlotte Mason

The way you help heal the world is you start with your own family. ~ Mother Teresa

To be Queen Elizabeth within a certain area, deciding sales, banquets, labors, and holidays; to be Whitely within a certain area, providing toys, books, sheets, cakes, and books; to be Aristotle within a certain area, teaching morals, manners, theology, and hygiene. I can understand how this might exhaust the mind, but I cannot imagine how it could narrow it. How can it be a large career to tell other people's children about the Rule of Three and a small career to tell one's own children about the universe? How can it be broad to be the same thing to everyone, and narrow to be everything to someone? No: A woman's function is laborious because it is gigantic, not because it is minute. ~ G. K. Chesterton

Start by doing what's necessary; then do what's possible; and suddenly you are doing the impossible. ~ St. Francis Assisi

Okay, I'm motivated! Off to make lunch! Be back soon!

My brain runs faster than my life.

Anyone else have that problem? I have a million great ideas, great intentions, great plans, but I have a very difficult time accomplishing them, much less (these days) writing them down (which usually, at least, keeps my sanity intact). I have come to the conclusion that this is a mental block that I have created for myself - so much to write and plan and do that I am like a deer in headlights, frozen with indecision (maybe some fear, but I won't psychoanalyze myself here, for your benefit).

Now that I have admitted I have a problem, the hard part is over, right?! Thanks to my beloved husband's wise words and a conversation with a dear friend last night, it's time to get down to business. Instead of lamenting and worrying that I'm not ready for the school year to start (and that I never thought it would end, originally hoping to do much more school in the summer than we did) and that I am not staying true to other commitments, like this blog, you are going to have the benefit of watching my brain work (scary, eh?).

I think I will get to work today by posting these plans, all in the same attitude that I presented my Prayerfully Planning for Next Year webinar. To my dismay, I have not actually done what I recommended all of you do. Well, I did do some of it, actually. I have books and ideas, just no precise plans with what to do with them!

So, I will begin in prayer, as my children joyfully play together some game involving red balloons from yesterday (which have lost their helium) as small dogs for whom they are caring. There are seven or eight of these "dogs," and last I heard, they were all named Clifford. :)

Lord, please help me! Actually, please let me get my ego and worry out of the way, so I can receive the help you offer all of the time. Give me the graces to care for myself and my family, especially these next several days, so that I will be able to prayerfully plan our learning adventures for the year. Bless my children, as I work. Allow me to accept all of the inevitable interruptions with peace. And, let your will be done. May all of my work and planning glorify you and enable my family to grow closer to you each day. St. Clare, pray for me to be humble and happy, as you were, knowing that in the isolation of my domestic church, as in your convent, the Lord is ever near.