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Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Already a Word...the Word for 2012!

I can hardly believe it, as lately I have been unable to make decisions or proper plans in advance. In fact, it has been a theme for 2011 for me. It took me all of January to settle on my word for 2011.

Nevertheless, I have chosen a word for 2012, or rather, He chose me.

Jesus

It hit me during Christmas Mass that this is the Word I need for myself and for my family. He needs to be more present in our minds and our actions, especially mine, and I want to call upon Him name more often and worship His name more fervently.

My youngest, 18 months, can say maybe two dozen words. Jesus is one of his favorites, as he shouts His Name upon seeing a crucifix or nativity scene! I am so excited to see how God can lead me closer to His Son in the new year, especially through my sweet children.

What ideas do you have for making Jesus more present during our daily, busy lives? Thank you for your suggestions!

Blessings,

Monday, December 26, 2011

Play Imitates Life

We are taking a holiday break from school, so what do the children do? They play school! My two oldest are covering a variety of subjects when I hear my daughter (9 yo) collecting little "Johnny's" paper (6 yo) and say, "Wow, Johnny! This is really good. Your handwriting is nice. I like the story. Your spelling is...well...(pauses, searching for the right word)...interesting."

Do I say that? ;) LOL!

Blessings,

Mom Achievement Award - MH

These awards were conceived after my husband received an achievement award at work, I shared my pride with my best friend, and she responded by emailing me the first Mom Achievement Award.

We are mothers. We do not see recognition for changing diapers, washing laundry, or mopping floors. Our achievements, such as getting dinner on the table and settling a dispute between irate siblings, are significant only to our immediate family. But, they are still significant.

Yes, God has called us to this vocation. It is impossible to have children without His hand, and He has sent us the perfect number, ages, genders, and personalities to bring out the best in ourselves. Of course, that means many, many character building days, as He chisels away our undesirable attributes and leads us to holiness. The only reward we truly seek is our eternal reward.

So, my dear friend, as publicly as I can, I want to recognize you for your achievements as a mother. For even if no one else sees your hard work and dedication, God sees, and I know from being your friend, that He is pleased.

MH, I hereby declare that your loving sensitivity to the needs of your children has been noticed. You never fail in seeking what is best for each one of their minds, bodies, and souls, and that is to be applauded. And, of course, your unconditional love for your children, demonstrated by the continual pesronal sacrifices you make on their behalf, is officially recognized in this declaration. May our Lord bless your family and your vocation as a mother!



Blessings,

Friday, December 23, 2011

Merry Christmas!

As some of you figured out and some of you were recently informed by email, I have begun blogging again. This month's posts have been very random. Some are good (imho), but some are not. I have not been following the blogger's rule of including pictures with every post. Perhaps I will get there soon. I simply wanted to begin sharing my mother's heart again with you all.

If you have never been here before, I write about whatever is on my heart, from football to suffering, but mostly about my vocation as a Catholic wife and homeschooling mother. Please consider following me by email or in your reader. You can find links on the right to sign up. ------------->

I cannot promise you will always find something meaningful to you or specifically helpful here, but I am a firm believer that God calls us to certain things even if only for the benefit of one person. He has blessed me with a love for words and (some say) a gift for writing, so it is my hope...

If I can stop one heart from breaking,
I shall not live in vain;
If I can ease one life the aching,
Or cool one pain,
Or help one fainting robin
Unto his nest again,
I shall not live in vain.
~ Emily Dickinson


Thank you for visiting me here, and may your Christmas Season be blessed with joyful celebration for the Incarnation and quiet adoration of the tiny Baby Jesus.


Blessings,

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Asking for God's Will

Lately, I am having difficulty being specific with my prayers. I know the Lord wants to hear my needs and the cries of my heart, but it all sounds so selfish when I ask Him for what I think I need. Really, I have no idea what will best lead me to holiness, lead me to Him. Only He knows.

I can ask for healing for a friend's mother if it be His will, but I fail to ask God to help me not to yell and to help my sweet son sleep through the night. I am pretty sure I over analyze my requests. Part of me feels the yelling is up to me to stop, but, of course, I can do nothing without Christ, which is probably why I still holler orders across the house at my children! What if, right now, lack of sleep will lead me to holiness faster than a good night's sleep? It certainly gives me more opportunity to choose virtue in challenging situations (not that I choose it more often, just that the opportunity is there).

I am also constantly working on being grateful for my many blessings and content in the present moment. So, to pray for things to be different seems somehow to contradict this goal in my feeble mind. Yet, I cannot deny that being content with my own faults is contrary to unity with God. Being grateful for gifts and sufferings while asking for aid in overcoming faults and sufferings surely is a balanced prayer life.

Often I do not feel I know how to pray anymore, knowing that God knows what is best for me. My favorite prayer of late is simply repeating, "Jesus, I trust in you." He knows my heart; he knows me better than I know myself and knows what will lead each one of us to our salvation. I let Him lead.

But, I also must follow. I cannot sit idly by expecting Him to drag me along. That is the temptation, I think, of nonspecific prayer. Instead of decidedly walking in Christ's path, I wander aimlessly around, expecting to be guided as a blind woman. I am blind if I cannot see the way to Christ.

He cherishes each one of us and rejoices when we give Him our hearts, not one time, but daily over and over, exposing the vulnerability in making requests for what will delight us. True, He knows what is in our hearts, but the action of supplication unites us more closely to Him. For even Jesus asked Our Heavenly Father to let the cup pass from Him.

Is it as simple as ending each prayer with "thy will be done?" Perhaps. I believe it is more, though, about the disposition of our hearts. I simply am not at peace asking God for little things when there is so much need in this world. Obviously, He is asking me to grow in this way.

Lord, please help me to muster the courage within me to ask you for the desires of my heart. Just as I teach my children to make wish lists for their birthdays and Christmas without expecting to receive everything (or anything) on these lists, send your Holy Spirit to move my tongue to tell you my wishes. Even though you already know the list, I want to offer you the act of love of sharing it with you. I want to love you more!

Have you learned to make requests of God without feeling like you are rattling off a shopping list? If so, please share your wisdom!

Blessings,

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

His Will Be Done in Everything

Speaking this week of God’s will, I am beside myself with excitement about the San Antonio Catholic Homeschooling Conference I am co-chairing this May! We hope this conference will be the “First Annual” and will start official publicity soon. So, this little post is unofficial publicity.

The whole thing started with a casual conversation. My co-chair and I were just acquaintances, and a small group of moms was chatting at our Catholic homeschooling co-op about the upcoming conference season. We all agreed there really should be a conference in San Antonio, as there are ones in Dallas, Houston, and Austin. The only question remained who would initiate such an undertaking?

Well, the conversation just kept going from there, and we agreed to pray about taking on the project. In fact, we very specifically agreed to pray that God’s will be done. We were (and continue to be) confident from the beginning that the Lord will lead us if we trust in Him.

Through prayer, we both felt that the timing was right, and after discussing it with our families, decided to begin researching how to put on a Catholic homeschooling conference. We put out a survey to as many local Catholic homeschoolers as we could to ask them if they would support a conference and to share ideas for our planning. The response was very positive with over 80 individuals saying they would like to attend!

Pretty soon, the Lord inspired a friend to mention the idea to a friend who mentioned she had just spoken with the principal of a local Catholic high school who was interested in collaborating in some way with homeschoolers. Still believing that God would open doors if we were on the right track, I contacted the principal who promptly offered us the entire school for free any weekend of our choosing for our conference. This was an absolute confirmation to us to proceed, and so we chose a date and began to assemble a leadership team.

Those who responded to the survey were asked if they would like to be on the leadership team, and so our team began with a few of our friends and some remarkable new friends, all very talented, motivated, and devoted to the vision and success of the conference. In fact, as we continued to pray for God’s will, each person that stepped forward to join our team perfectly filled a needed role from website design to hospitality needs.

Soon we had chairs for the vendor, speaker, and registration committees and a volunteer to chair a fundraising committee, which we had originally not planned to have. We had additional volunteers serving with these chairs and only lacked chairs for the publicity and hospitality committees.

Meanwhile, my love of books urged me to put together a used Catholic homeschooling curriculum sale to benefit the conference and give us a little seed money. It was a remarkable sale where many families donated books for us to sell and others allowed us to keep a commission of their books that sold. Once the sale was over, I posted the unsold donated books online, and in the end, we made almost $1000 to benefit the conference. Another confirmation we were on the right track!

At this point, we felt it prudent to seek approval from the archdiocese, given that we are a Catholic organization operating within the archdiocese. Again, our entire team prayed fervently for God’s will. Although the prospect of the meeting was intimidating, we had a very fruitful discussion with a Bishop, and he approved our plans, promising to share them with the Archbishop and wishing to continue our relationship.

With a still very limited budget our first year, we knew we would have to invite almost exclusively local speakers or those willing to waive their speaker fees. Another casual conversation among mothers at co-op about this limitation resulted in one mom stepping forward and offering to donate the speaker fee if we could get someone really well known. She invited us to dream big and within a few weeks we had confirmed Dr. Ray Guarendi to be our keynote speaker thanks to her anonymous generosity!

God continues to surprise us as we move forward. We have one family donating hotel rooms for speakers and two other families donating frequent flier miles to fly in speakers. A couple stepped forward to chair our publicity committee, and a dear friend accepted our invitation to chair our hospitality committee. Our meetings are always professional, and our team has been outstanding in completing the tasks assigned. We recently gained the support of a holy young priest to say our closing Mass and give an inspiring talk. We have been truly, remarkably blessed!

I share this lengthy story to point out that even in such practical matters, if we continually seek God’s will and give Him our fiat, He will provide. When we officially announce the conference, I will be sure to post it here! Please pray for our efforts and pray that God’s will be done! Our primary goal is to glorify Him.


Blessings,

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Fiat

Mary said, "Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord.
May it be done to me according to your word."
Then the angel departed from her. (Luke 1: 38)



How are you preparing for Christmas this last week? Is it hectic baking, shopping, preparing for guests? Take a few minutes with me and think of Mary.

I only caught bits and pieces of our beloved priest's homily on the above Scripture this past Sunday, but one comment has truly stuck with me.  He was speaking to a gathering of young adults, most specifically, about choosing a vocation. I presume most of my readers have already committed themselves to a vocation, but the spiritual advice he offered can be applicable to us all at some point.

Father invited us to think of the greatest desire of our heart and then to think of the opposite thing. He asked if we are prepared to give our true Fiat to God as Mary did by saying yes to the opposite of our heart's desire. Yes is easy when it is something we approach with confidence after much discernment, but God asks for our Fiat even in uncertainty and doubt.

There have been two distinct times in my life when I have struggled to give my Fiat but been rewarded miraculously for my doubtful yes. When I was nearing the end of my senior year in college, I felt with confidence the Lord was asking me to discern seriously a call to religious life. I felt drawn closer and closer to the vocation and further and further from marriage. But, then, I went on a Nun Run and was challenged to see the vocation of marriage in a different way. The Lord was asking me if I was open to the opposite of what I desired at that time. (I keep thinking I have written a post on this story already, but I cannot find it to link. I guess I need to write it!)

He continued to require my unconditional Fiat as he introduced me to the idea of dating a young man I barely knew, which led to discussing marriage with him less than a month later, getting engaged after only three months of dating (we actually met with our pastor after two months to discuss marriage preparation), and marrying a year later (based on our pastor's advice to do so). It was a crazy time, but once I was open to both vocations with all of my heart, the Lord led me to His will for my life, my beloved husband.

Only two short years ago, I had a very early miscarriage. It was after three frustrating years of trying to conceive and was heartbreaking. Through it all, I just felt called to accept God's will. If that meant the desire of my heart to have more children would never be fulfilled, I would praise Him. No matter what. It was a different kind of Fiat, but again, the Lord blessed. A month after we lost Anna, incredulously, we conceived our sweet little boy, who is now 18 months old!

The power of complete surrender to God's will cannot be underestimated. Giving ourselves to Him utterly and completely, knowing that His will is better than anything we could ever imagine is essential to progress in the spiritual life. Ponder this these last few days in preparation for Christmas, just as Mary did. Ultimately what God asked of her is more challenging than anything we will ever face. May Our Blessed Mother pray for us and lead us to her Son by the holy example of her Yes!

Blessings,

Monday, December 19, 2011

True Confessions

One of the greatest lessons this recovering-perfectionist has learned since becoming a mother is to cut myself some slack. Have you learned that yet? It is a work in progress over here, but I think I am doing pretty well. If you know me, and you doubt me, I will post photos to prove it! (once my Internet cooperates!)

Last week, my husband was out of town, and I night-weaned my little guy (well, I use past tense, but...). I barely cleaned. I napped daily. We ate off of paper plates at every meal. "Meal" is a term I use loosely, since my children are happy with cheese and crackers or deli turkey rolled in tortillas most days. Dishes sat in the sink for a couple of days; I did manage to rinse them most days. There was a pile of clean laundry on my living room floor all week (see photo proof), but I was at least getting things washed! We sorted through it when we wanted to find something.

Our schoolwork was light; just the basics got done. We are technically behind, but I figured out a way to rearrange my school calendar that just has us finishing up a few things before Christmas. I had planned very few outings and invited a few people over for various meals (some of which got cancelled when I thought my daughter was coming down with the flu). And, worst of all, I did not shower every day. Two of the times I did shower, I had to scurry out, barely rinsed and dripping wet, to fetch the baby who had woken up at that very moment.

As a new mom, nine years ago, this would have horrified me. I am orderly. I am organized. I do not like cleaning and laundry, but I cannot stand a messy house. But, you know what? I love my kids and know that mommy's sanity requires cutting myself some slack when I am tired and playing single mom for a week!

Are you a recovering-perfectionist who has learned to cut yourself some slack? Or are you one to naturally let things go and struggling to create order?

Blessings,

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Everything Changes

except the talent of Marie Bellet! I purchased her newest CD as a birthday present for myself. What a wealth of wisdom for Catholic mothers.


If you are not familiar with her music, Marie Bellet is a Catholic mom of nine who lives in Nashville and writes her own music about being a mother and a wife. I am an addict. I have been to two concerts and own all four CDs. Her songs keenly share the joys and struggles of our vocation.

Her latest, titled Everything Changes, includes "This House Is the Place to Be" which ends with:

On the glider, on the front stoop with my tension tamer tea

and the very next song, the title track, begins with:

Whenever I think that I know what I'm doing, everything changes


But my very favorite words come in "How Do I Look to You?":

No I'm not qualified for my own life
Much less a mother and a wife
They all need more than I can give


It's all wonderful. Check out her music! Be inspired!

(I get nothing for my thoughts here from Marie Bellet, Elm Street Records, or any other entity or person)

Blessings,

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

The Birthday Post Part 3

I began this list Monday...continued it yesterday...

And, so, for my 35th birthday, I rejoice in these 35 gifts from a generous God. My cup overflows.

  1. BCS Homeschoolers ~ The C & K families let me visit their homeschools and showed me how possible homeschooling is!
  1. AA Friends ~ While my husband was in law school, I relied on my fellow “law school widows” to get by. Their friendships, and others I found, were a source of support and inspiration during a time that greatly tested my faith and my marriage. Thanks especially to AD, KA, CP, CK, and latecomer LM!
  1. M Friends ~ Friends in another city helped me get through two of the darkest times in my personal and spiritual life. These are true friends who stick by you no matter what. Thanks CO, MP, TR, CB, and others!
  1. SA Friends ~ It was so easy to make friends here! I am blessed to be surrounded by positive, faith-filled women devoted to their families. Thank you for welcoming us with open arms!
  1. Holy Priests ~ The Body of Christ is amazing. In addition to always providing dear friends for me, every new city included the discovery of remarkable, holy priests to guide our family. Praise be to Jesus for the vocations of Frs. MS, DK, KG, JV, GG, OH, CM, JM and MoJ!
  1. My Organizational & Leadership Skills ~ These things come naturally to me, and they have opened up so many wonderful opportunities to work and serve in my life. It is through such experiences I have encountered wonderful friends and mentors.
  1. My Health & That of My Family’s ~ With the exception of my father’s miraculous perseverance through heart disease, everyone in my family has been remarkably healthy without serious health issues.
  1. Books ~ I truly enjoy good books. There is nothing better than these fonts of knowledge and inspiration. Whether fiction or nonfiction, I truly savor the opportunity to dive into a good book.
  1. Internet ~ The world wide web is certainly not without its challenges to virtuous living, but I love having information at my fingertips! I enjoy the opportunity to answer my children’s difficult questions (and my own) and connect with friends around the country.
  1. Chocolate ~ God is good. All the time!
  1. the Eucharist ~ Eucharisteo = Thanksgiving. I cannot imagine a gift more substantial than the Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity of Jesus Christ available to us every day. The Real Presence of Our Lord in the Eucharist has been a font of grace in my life, and I simply would not be who I am without it.
My prayer for the next howevermanyyears echoes Ann’s:

I speak it to God: I don’t really want more time; I just want enough time. Time to breathe deep and time to see real and time to laugh long, time to give You glory and rest deep and sign joy and just enough time in a day not to feel hounded, pressed, driven, or wild to get it all done – yesterday…I just want time to do my one life well.

That is my birthday wish.

Blessings,

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

The Birthday Post Part 2

I began this list yesterday...

And, so, for my 35th birthday, I rejoice in these 35 gifts from a generous God. My cup overflows.

  1. The Catholic Church ~ Without Her, I would be nothing. I give thanks to my parents for raising me in the Truth and…
  2. St. Mary’s Catholic Center ~ No time in my life was as influential as when I was a student at Texas A&M University and attended St. Mary’s. The people there taught me the faith and how to be open to God and then challenged me to use my talents and skills to glorify Him. I am especially grateful to NP for inviting me to Mass with her my freshman year after the They Might Be Giants concert!
  3. Pope Paul VI Institute ~ I simply cannot give thanks for my children without giving thanks to Dr. Hilgers and his staff. The treatment I received there for my infertility issues over the years has made me a healthier, happier, mommy!
  4. These United States of America ~ I am a patriot. I love this country and its foundation, and I cannot imagine living anywhere else in the world. And, since freedom is not free, I give thanks for our troops, as well.
  5. Texas ~ There is a bumper sticker that says, “I am not a Native Texan, but I got here as fast as I could!” Having lived in PA, IN, and CT as a child and MI and FL as an adult, I can truly say I hope to never leave this great state!
  6. WF my HS BFF ~ She is the only friend who has stuck with me since high school, and while our lives have been very different thus far, we still stay in touch and pray for one another!
  7. GM my College Roommate ~ She was truly my friend and not just my roommate. We had fun together and went to church together (at St. Mary’s, of course). She was an engineer, and I was an English major, but we loved each other just the same.
  8. TG my College BFF ~ We jokingly tell people that we were college roommates and are still best friends a dozen years later, but it is true! I am blessed to finally live in the same city with her after over ten years apart, and even more blessed that we can still count on each other for anything, despite how difficult it is for us to get together these days!
  9. That Sister Who Asked Me “Have you ever considered religious life?” ~ What a journey she initiated! My discernment that followed was so instrumental to my spiritual life and, of course, to finding my dear husband!
  10. KC Who Asked Me “Would you ever consider dating him?” about my future husband ~ While the thought had never crossed my mind before, her question started a great journey towards marriage to this man I barely knew.
  11. The Nun Run ~ 25 college girls visiting a dozen convents in 9 days sounds crazy, but we did it! That trip led me to such a greater understanding of both the vocations of religious life and marriage. God spoke clearly there, “Go home and marry that guy you barely know!” Now, that’s crazy faith!
  12. BCS Married Couples ~ C&L, Z&E, J&J, D&M, R&M, and more taught me how to have a successful marriage. Thanks for your friendships and your model of faith-filled married life!
  13. KISD & CSISD ~ The teaching positions I held in these districts were fun and challenging. These experiences convinced me of my love for learning and teaching and of my desire to stay home and teach my own children.
  14. Bethany House ~ My extraordinary opportunity to be an assistant to the director of a Catholic youth retreat center proved to be a grace-filled year of joy. I treasure the confidence and faith I gained that year, my last before-children year.
More tomorrow! Thanks for rejoicing with me.

Blessings,

Monday, December 12, 2011

The Birthday Post Part 1

This weekend I turned 35. I am absolutely delighted! There is no time in my life I can recall being more in love with and at peace with my life.

Grateful does not even begin to describe how blessed I feel! The graces that God has poured out on my life are too many to count, and yet, as Ann Voskamp points out in her beautiful book, One Thousand Gifts:

If all these were gifts that God gives – then wasn’t my writing down the list like…receiving. Like taking with thanks.

And, so, for my 35th birthday, I rejoice in these 35 gifts from a generous God. My cup overflows.

  1. Jesus’s Love & Mercy ~ There is no other way to begin this list. I am entirely unworthy of my own life and yet because of His love, I am infinitely blessed.
  1. My husband ~ My beloved, my best friend ever has a heart of gold! We are an amazing team, the two of us become one, and the love and fun we share continues to surprise me. Of course, as he wrote about a year ago, the best part is still just being in the same room together!
  1. Mom ~ Her loving hands are tireless in care of me (and now my children), and I am only now beginning to understand the personal sacrifices she made to be such an extraordinarily gentle and encouraging mother. She is the epitome of unconditional love.
  1. Dad ~ He gave me my drive for life, and I am so grateful for his constant praise and unending support. His optimism in any situation has been a huge motivator to me to persevere through tough times, and in these most recent years his zeal for life sustains me.
  1. My only brother ~ While my brother and I are six and a half years apart, I treasure the bond we share despite our distinct personalities and seasons of life. We are family, and he always honors that with his heart of compassion!
  1. My firstborn daughter (9 yo) ~ She has changed my life and given me my vocation. Her passionate love for life reminds me daily to seize the moment, and her attention to detail challenges me to be faithful through and through!
  1. My firstborn son (6 yo) ~ He makes me smile just by being near. His energy and positive attitude are contagious, and he never fails to amaze me with his creativity. Bringing balance to our busy days, he challenges me to slow down and play ball!
  1. One in Heaven ~ Yes, I am grateful, too, for the loss of our little Anna and the suffering that followed. She gave me faith I did not know I could have.
  1. My baby (18 mo) ~ I simply delight in his life! He teaches me to love the little things and savor every stage of babyhood. His joy and loving heart engage me and challenge me to laugh more and hug more!
  1. My In-laws ~ It is a great blessing to have supportive in-laws and a relaxed, uncomplicated relationship with them!
More tomorrow! Thanks for rejoicing with me.

Blessings,

Friday, December 9, 2011

Smiley Boxes

You do know that the smile on the end of these boxes is intended to remind parents to let their children play with them?! Hours of happy fun with an empty box and packing paper! Great for all ages! We even had a Juan Diego tilma! You can't beat the simple toys! This one is number 2 on the 5 Best Toys of All Time!


Blessings,

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Mary's Stories

I am trying to keep Advent simpler this year. We are narrating the stories of Christmas, and the children truly do capture the simplicity of the story. Here are two to honor Our Lady on this Feast Day:

The Annunciation
by 6 yo ds



There’s Mary. A angel goes to her and tells her that she’s going to have a baby and she should call him Jesus. The end.

The Visitation
by 9 yo dd

Once Mary heard the news, she went to Elizabeth’s house and when John the Baptist, who was in Elizabeth’s tummy, heard that Mary was going to have a baby called Jesus, he jumped for joy. The end.

May your Advent be filled with the simple truth and beauty of the stories of Christmas!



Blessings,

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Mom Achievement Award --- TG

Recently, my husband received an award at work. I was so proud of him that I immediately emailed my very best friend, because I knew she would understand. And, I was pretty sure my husband wasn't going to tell anyone at all, since he is far from the bragging type.

In response, she wrote this:

Consider this email your "[Antonina] achievement award." Your friends know how fabulous you are because you stick by us and love us unconditionally. Your family knows how amazing you are for being so loving and committed. We just hope YOU know how great you are. God loves you and so do we!!!

Her words made me grin from ear to ear. We are mothers. We do not seek recognition for changing diapers, washing laundry, or mopping floors. Our achievements, such as getting dinner on the table and settling a dispute between irate siblings, are significant only to our immediate family. But, they are still significant.

Yes, God has called us to this vocation. It is impossible to have children without His hand, and He has sent us the perfect number, ages, genders, and personalities to bring out the best in ourselves. Of course, that means many, many character building days, as He chisels away our undesirable attributes and leads us to holiness. The only reward we truly seek is our eternal reward.

So, my dear friend, as publicly as I can, I want to recognize you (and hopefully others in the future) for your achievements as a mother. For even if no one else sees your hard work and dedication, God sees, and I know from being your friend, that He is pleased.

TG, I hereby declare that your admirable determination to bless your children with profound faith in God and noble spirit of service to others has been noticed. You consistently maintain the priorities of prayer and selflessness in your family, and that is to be applauded. And, of course, your unconditional love for your children, demonstrated by the continual personal sacrifices you make on their behalf, is officially recognized in this declaration. May our Lord bless your family and your vocation as a mother!

Who deserves a Mom Achievement Award from you today?

Blessings,

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Talents

We all know the story of the talents in the Gospel. God blesses each of us with various talents, and we are called to multiply those talents to glorify Him. (Matthew 25: 14-30)

God has given me the people and responsibilities AND talents that will enable me to best glorify Him everyday. I am a wife, a mother, and a homeschooler. I have three remarkable children and a devoted husband. Each of these personalities and relationships are specially designed by the Lord to lead me to Him.

What is my greatest talent? What unique attribute has God chosen for me to give back to Him in service? What does He want to multiply in me to profound effect in my life and the lives of those around me?

I have often been the subject of jokes praise about my gift of organization. At my wedding, to begin the homily, our pastor shared with everyone that the morning of my wedding, when most brides are hurrying and scurrying about with last-minute preparations, I took the time to change my old hotmail email address from my maiden name to my married name. (I really didn’t have anything else to do!)

In college, I held numerous leadership positions where organizing a large number of people (i.e. 300+) and/or organizations (50+) was crucial. After college, I continued to take on leadership roles that required complex organizational skills with scheduling, personnel, and activity coordination. Even after having children, I continue to take on volunteer roles, intending to use this God-given talent of organization.

I enjoy organizing things, actually. It comes naturally, and I take pleasure in seeing beautifully mapped out schedules and orderly systems. Lists and charts are my friends, and I create them constantly.

This is my fifth official year of homeschooling, and I realized this summer that I have not utilized my talent of organization to its potential to allow the Lord to work as mightily as He could. I recognize that I was stopping short of giving my very best. I was doing a good job but wanted to challenge myself to do more.

Part of my fallen nature must block the part of my brain that says it makes sense to give my all to those closest to me. We do this all of the time, speaking more kindly to strangers than to our family, saying yes to those outside of our home while too many things inside are undone.

So, I have this talent, and if I use it as God intends in my family, it follows that we should be even more blessed than we already are! What gift is God asking you to use more effectively in your daily life?

Blessings,

Monday, December 5, 2011

May the Force Be With You

Just a quick fun post for a cold Monday! I was at a friend's house this morning watching her little ones while our big kids went on a field trip. Her four-year-old remembered from visiting my house once last year that we have pool noodle light sabers!



These have been one of the most fabulous toys ever! Our home is not opposed to toy weapons, per se, but we definitely want them to look like toys and not injure anyone. Enter my daughter's request for a Star Wars birthday party one year and a quick Google search finding these instructions! Pool noodles and black duct tape? Even this non-crafty mom can do that!

Yes, I have been corrected for making a yellow light saber. According to Wiki, they are only in certain video games. And, I was also chastised for not finding a purple or red noodle (the only ones that were close to red were pink). The party was in September, so I really was lucky to find any pool noodles left at WalMart!

If you have any pool noodles left from the summer and any Star Wars fans, this is a great way to burn off some energy indoors on these cold winter days. Even my 18 month old participates in light saber fights here and often will bring me a light saber, holding one himself, to request a battle!

Blessings,

Friday, December 2, 2011

My Quest for Quiet

How can a busy wife and homeschooling mom find quiet? It seems next to impossible. On Thanksgiving Day, after cooking all day and feeding my family, I put the baby in the stroller and took a short walk around the neighborhood. The quiet was so alluring that it was difficult to go back home.

In that quiet, I could really talk to God, honestly. I knew He was with me, near me, could truly feel his presence.

Late at night when I am up with my wakeful toddler, I try to pray. I can get through one or two decades of a Rosary with a sincere heart. Then, I either get too tired or too frustrated to pray meaningfully. My words are empty.

In the morning, if I remember to stay in my nursing chair for just a few extra minutes to pray an offering, I am already being pulled in several directions by the needs of my family. Breakfast, schoolwork, laundry, and more beg my attention. Two minutes is something but not enough.

We periodically have quiet time in the middle of the day, but when the toddler is ready for his nap, my older two children are still finishing schoolwork, often needing my assistance. Taking time away from them for prayer escapes me. Most often I just escape online, an easier way to “get away.”

Several times in my life as a mother I have made early morning quiet time work for me, before anyone else is up. That time has been like precious gold and fed me in miraculous ways. It has not worked, however, in quite a while. I am generally trying to keep the wakeful toddler quiet long enough for everyone else to sleep.

And, so this Advent, I am begging God to show me the quiet. I want to be with Him and talk with Him, to share my joys and struggles, to open myself to His love and His mercy, both of which I so desperately need. I know He is all around me; I pray for my eyes to see and my ears to hear.

I have all confidence that God will give me opportunities for quiet. He wants me to be with Him even more than I desire to be with Him (but I am the one who *needs* Him). My greater prayer is for the self-discipline to accept these gifts of quiet, to allow myself moments with my Lord.

I pray for you, my friend, that in ways and times that suit our seasons in life, we may both embrace the quiet we are given to be with the Lord in peaceful anticipation of the Birth of His Son.

Blessings,

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Why I Love Homeschooling

Because yesterday morning we began reading this book, which we picked up from our local library system a few days ago...



at the recommendation of the Serendipity American History Trails.

And yesterday afternoon at the playground we met Baxter, a five-year-old, 116 pound, Newfoundland dog that looked like this...


Our family calls these circumstances God-incidences (instead of coincidences). It was so awesome to see up close and personal the kind of dog that accompanied Lewis on his adventures!

Why do you love homeschooling?

Blessings,

In God's Hands

I was sharing with my parents last night something that has been bouncing about in my mind the past few months. As parents, we make millions of decisions about raising our children over the course of their childhoods. Some decisions are small and seemingly unimportant (can she wear mismatched clothes to the party? should they eat McDonald's franken-nuggets?), and some are important life-defining choices (when should they receive sacraments? where should they go to school?). We try to discern God's will and do the best thing in each circumstance.

To put it simply, I am amazed that my parents did this same thing for me (and my brother, of course). As a child, even as an adult, I was not aware of the conversations they must have had about what was best for me. It is clear to me that they had these conversations, because I know they are intentional people who do things deliberately, not randomly.

And, because I was completely unaware of this master-planning of my upbringing, it is stunning to me the responsibility parents have for their children. (well, parents who intentionally set out to raise responsible adults, that is) In fact, I often feel my husband and I are orchestrating some grand symphony whose many parts are dizzying as we try to juggle them all!

The reality is that we can steer our children one way or another. We can attempt to instill in them the same priorities that we decide are most important in life. Yet, they will, in the end, be in God's hands. They will do whatever they want (like get engaged to a guy they have only dated for three months and move across the country a few times with him to chase dreams even taking your grandchildren thousands of miles away from you...) and as parents we have to embrace it all.

Yes, we can try to be the conductor of our children's lives and dreams. We can hope to lead them towards the best path, especially the road to sanctification. But we also just need to love them and trust that God is truly the master planner of their lives. Because at some point, they will leave us, and I can only hope and pray that they will not leave God.

Thanks, Mom and Dad, for all your careful decisions in raising me. I think I turned out okay! As I parent my own children, now, I beg God's guidance in leading them to be what He created them to be, and I pray for their faith so that when I am far away, they will follow God's will, not mine, not theirs.

Blessings,

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

God's Unique Will for Each of Us

Being in the public eye is something I never wish to encounter personally. I am happy to live my quiet unknown life as a wife and homeschooling mom! Three times this week I have noticed public criticism of Christians who I sincerely believe are trying to follow God's unique will for their lives that made me want to jump up on my soap box and shout. (yes, two involve football!)

Tim Tebow - I read his autobiography, Through My Eyes, and while I will not say it was especially well written by his co-writer, I found it compelling. Mostly I was fascinated how a homeschooled kid found success in the highly secularized world of college football. I learned that he was taught and still believes that his football talent is God's way of providing him a platform through which to share the Good News. He loves football with a passion and has been successful, because he is always seeking to glorify God.

The sports pundits will tell you that he is not a good NFL quarterback. They are only partly right, IMHO. Yes, Tebow has some room for growth in his skill and development as a professional player, but the bottom line is he is winning games. I fully believe, and I am guessing he does, too, that this is God's way of making sure he continues to have a platform to share Jesus Christ with as many people as possible. Of course, there is the continued criticism that he always mentions his faith when in public, and doing is is "getting old." To me, this is merely the persecution we can all expect when being openly religious in a God-less culture.

Urban Meyer - Sorry. I cannot help it. I absolutely love football. And, my mother was born and raised in the Buckeye State! Most media has been positive about Meyer's decision, but there have been a few hints of skepticism about his ability to coach successfully after his personal near-collapse a year ago. The most blatant criticism I read was on a friend's Facebook status, which read (and I imagine was dripping with sarcasm) "I guess Urban Meyer has had enough time with his family." Really?

Why are we second-guessing someone's personal decision about his career? His family is supportive of his decision to take the head coaching job at Ohio State. He made no secret in press conferences about their family meeting and the tough scrutiny his wife and children gave him before agreeing to the position. He even shared the details of the "contract" his daughter wrote, explaining her requirements for supporting the decision. They have prayerfully chosen to go home to Ohio as a family. Enough already.

Danielle Bean - The most egregious criticism...Elizabeth Foss beautifully articulated my soapbox points already on Mrs. Bean's new position as editor in chief of Catholic Digest. For faithful Catholics to judge her decision to take on this job while homeschooling her eight children is appalling. How dare they suggest she is neglecting her family by taking on this role? Do they know her personally to determine her capabilities?

I do not, but I can imagine that she also prayerfully made this choice with her family's support. Clearly she is an amazing woman of God, evidenced by her writing and leadership skills, but I am certain she is also dedicated to her family and the education of her children. The Bean family has discerned that she is capable of handling both the work at home and professional work. Perhaps they have help from family and friends to succeed in their homeschooling. Perhaps she has simply been gifted with an efficiency and generous heart that knows no limits. Only God knows all.

Homeschooling? - My point in sharing these three examples is that it is easy to love the life you have chosen for your family, but we should never claim to know God's will for another. Because I have embraced homeschooling, I do believe that it is the most wonderful vocation there is, and I do believe it is the best way to educate my children. But, your children are yours. You choose to educate them according to God's will for your family.

Whether you work out of the home or stay at home, a mother's heart is her own, and knowing the path that will lead your family to eternal life is between you and God. Accordingly, let us be very careful not to question the decisions of others, especially when we do not know them personally. Let us simply pray for God's will to be done and that they will accept His graces to fulfill His will, not our own.

Thy will be done on earth as it is in Heaven.

Blessings,

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Outward Appearances

My daughter asked me this morning how she can prove to me she has improved her attitude. You see, I had to exact a certain punishment for some mouthiness and noticing that I have had to do so numerous times in the past two days, I decided the punishment was in effect indefinitely until I could see her attitude improved. (that brought on quite the scowl!) We discussed how she needs to stop blurting out whatever complaint is on her mind and strive to be more positive.

But, how will Mom know she kept the negative thought to herself? (she and I already agree I cannot read minds, generally speaking) I pondered her excellent question for a moment before explaining that the only way I can tell her attitude is appropriate is through her voice and body language. Her responses to me and her expression have to be pleasant, and she should appear peaceful if not outwardly joyful. Easier said than done, of course, as we all struggle with self-control on a regular basis.

And yet, how many times do I internally remind myself that I am doing this motherhood thing for all the right reasons and yet not externally prove that to the people around me? My mind is constantly racing with many things throughout the day, and so my expression is often anything but pleasant while my attitude may be positive (or at least neutral). Once again, the Lord uses my children to teach me.

After all, it has become a habit for me to deliberately force a relaxed smile once my little guy has fallen asleep in my arms before putting him down, because that simple smile relaxes my entire body and increases the likelihood that he will stay asleep once his body touches the mattress! So, I guess that in order to receive a pleasant attitude from my daughter, I should force a few more of those smiles.

Per my own advice, my inner disposition is only proven by my outward appearance, and something tells me that a little more effort on my part will radiate to my little girl and make it easier for her to grow in virtue. Win-win! (Duh, Mom!)

Take notice of the impression you make on others with your body language today and see what attitude you convey.

Blessings,

Monday, November 28, 2011

Advent Change

Yes, the words of the Mass changed yesterday, and everyone is talking about it. But, did you change?

Did you go to Mass in need and come away fulfilled? Did you allow Christ in the Eucharist to transform your life? Did hearing the words of the Mass elevate you just a little higher towards God? Isn't this what we should pray for every time we encounter Him?

I have been asking myself: What good is it to meet God on Sunday and be the same on Monday as you were on Saturday? And, what good is a morning offering, a noon Angelus, or an evening Rosary if there is no substantial change after each?

The Church's liturgical seasons are opportunities for change. Lent is especially seen as a chance to better ourselves through sacrifice. But, I typically think of Advent as preparing myself to receive Jesus, getting myself ready for Christmas Day, not necessarily doing the hard work of change.

This year, however, I am approaching Advent not as four weeks before Christ's birth, but as today and tomorrow and the next day. I want to embrace the opportunities to encounter God each day and strive to be open to the stirrings in my heart that beg me to more closely imitate Jesus. I pray I will allow Him to transform me a little more each moment I visit Him in prayer and service to others.

Because every encounter with God is an opportunity for change. He is coming. I want to be there to meet Him. Will you join me?

Blessings,

Monday, May 2, 2011

Bye for Now

Friends,

Christ Is Risen, Alleluia! He Is Risen Indeed, Alleluia!

I did not intend to take a blogging break for Lent. In fact, I had hoped to discipline myself to write more regularly. Alas, clearly, that did not happen.

So, even though I want to write and have a million ideas swimming in my head to share with you, it is evident to me that I need to let this blog go for now. Who knows when or if I'll be back someday.

I just wanted you to know not to expect new posts anytime soon. Thanks for reading! Please pray for me.

Blessings,
Antonina

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Keeping Track of Sacrifices



Lent begins tomorrow. Are you ready? In some ways I feel Lent is overdue this year. I started some practical resolutions last week to get my days in order, knowing I could not begin to make spiritual progress without such simple rules. Last week, I strived to:
  • wake up at 6AM every morning, shower and pray by 7AM whether the baby is asleep or not
  • begin school at 9AM on school days
  • give my children only one warning before a consequence (stop nagging)
  • pray the Angelus before lunch daily
  • take my children outside at least 30 minutes each day
  • get out my old chore lists and check them off
The week was quite successful, even though John Bosco had the flu. I did not do all these things every day, but I did do most things pretty closely every day and at the end of the week, I was pleased with my progress. This week, I wanted to add a few more things before settling in to prayer, fasting, and almsgiving. So I came up with this list to add to the above items:
  • write a meal plan for all 3 meals for the week and mostly stick to it
  • use fewer words to communicate more clearly, especially with my children
  • engage my children in preparing for and beginning Lenten practices
  • spend 30 minutes a day writing
As of now, this week is about the same as last week, insofar as keeping these resolutions goes. I share these details to tell you the two things that have motivated my success. Perhaps they will aid your success in keeping your Lenten resolutions. Perhaps you don't need them during Lent but can file away these ideas on personal  growth for another time.
1. I found a friend with the same vocation and a similar family situation. We both are Catholic homeschoolers whose husbands are rarely home during the week and whose children are not yet old enough to do a lot of work independently. We decided to be accountability partners. Each Sunday we email the other our list of goals for the week. We also text each other every morning upon waking (since we both chose the same wake up time) to ensure the other is up. Finally, on Fridays, we touch base to see how the week went.

This has been very helpful! It is a relief to know there is someone else out there struggling with self-discipline like I am. One benefit of homeschooling is that you make all the decisions and are entirely in charge - no school bell to beat, any teaching philosophy you choose. But, one challenge of homeschooling is that you make all the decisions and are entirely in charge - sleep in late, no paycheck to earn for a job well done. Plus, just the discipline of writing these things down and having to evaluate myself has been motivating.

Thanks, Friend!


2. Inspired by The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin, I have created a chart to check off my goals daily. (more thoughts on the book later) My chart for Lent can be printed from my Scribd account here if you want a copy. Across the top, I simply wrote each goal, and I check them off each day I am successful. I have used a handwritten chart for the past two weeks, but I look forward to using the simple typed chart for the 40 days of Lent.

Having a chart like this has required me to be honest with whether or not I am fulfilling the basic responsibilities of my days and my weekly goals. I have tied some things to simple rewards, such as unless I do x, I cannot get on the computer. But, mostly, the chart merely brings to mind daily (several times a day, actually) my goals and has helped me to stay focused and motivated.

Thanks, Gretchen!

These two simple things have unstuck me from my deer in headlights indecisiveness about what to do each day or what personal changes to make first. I have a long way to go on my path to holiness, but these little helps might just make it a little easier for me to get a little closer a little sooner.

May this Lent be life-giving to you!


Monday, March 7, 2011

Monday...Again

In the quiet dark, save for the hum of the dryer, I scoop up scattered rattles and stacking cups from the living room floor, my throat sore from the exertion of the day called yelling. Monday. The hardest day of the week. And yet it always catches me off guard, no matter how optimistically I prepare for it.

The children were not giddy over completing math, reading, writing lessons. Why does this surprise me? Their dawdling tried my patience, and the teething baby whined. I am pulled in all directions at once, and I open the window to welcome spring breezes, hoping to change the air.

It does not work. They grumble and complain. Hours later we finish the short lessons, break for lunch, the oldest and I finish spelling, which drags, punctuated by my middle child's interruptions for attention, his feet conveniently getting in his sister's way one too many times.

That's okay. We have a playdate scheduled for the afternoon. A chance for children to play carefree and mothers to encourage one another. Yet, they cancel. We are home alone, and I collapse on the floor with the whining baby, dumping a toy bin of rattles and stacking cups to occupy him.

As I doze in and out of sleep, the older children are busy. My daughter approaches with coupons for a hug, a game, a tickle. My son bounces his silly putty about. They play carefree, and I try to recall I am not alone. The UPS man calls through the open window so as not to startle me as he approaches, and I cheerfully accept the package.

For, there are millions of mothers out there having the same day as me. Motherhood is not easy. More importantly, holiness is not easy, and this is the path God has chosen for me to grow in holiness. I am weak, and I beg Him for mercy to cover my faults.

Today was not a good day, but fortunately, several good days are still fresh in my mind from last week. We will start again tomorrow. I end the day with an extra-long squeeze for each big kid, looking them in the eyes and reminding them that tomorrow is a fresh beginning for us, encouraging them to sleep peacefully and reminding them of my love and His.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Dearest Texas,

I love you. I really, really do! For five years, I suffered Michigan winters and then the foreign land of Miami, always pining to move back to my home, sweet, home. The joy I have had since moving back and finding kindred spirits, friendly neighbors, and a new connection for my children with their grandparents is incomparable. My heart has been glorying in the ambitious plans my husband and I have concocted to finally buy land (at least 10 acres) and create a home for our children with space, privacy, safety, and above all lots of nature! BUT...

We have never been as sick as we have been this winter. Among the five of us, we have had: migraines, several cold viruses, a sinus infection, the stomach flu, random coughs, an ear infection, croup, and most recently, the common flu, culminating with another bout of gastroenteritis. Please stop the madness!

I realize this has been a hard winter for many families, partly due to the incredible cold weather across the country, but we are generally very healthy people. I think we get maybe one or two cold viruses each winter. This season has really made it difficult for me to stay on top of anything at all.

So, pretty, please! Out with the germs! In with the bluebonnets already!


Sincerely,
A Devoted Fan

Thursday, February 10, 2011

My Word for 2011 - Little Part 1

As I said before, I have found a word for 2011. I am writing about it a bit late, because I don't know about you, but our family has been hit with every sick bug around this winter. We are usually really healthy, so this season has thrown me completely off.


(insert photo when blogger cooperates)

Without further ado, here is the first of four reasons I am trying to focus on the word    little    this year.

1. I must decrease. He must increase.

Some days I see how much bigger I think I am than I really am. Ann so sincerely shared my thoughts a few weeks ago much better than . While my job is incredibly important, I cannot allow my ways to get in the way of God's ways.

I recently shared with a friend that I find myself caught between two truths. First, God will not give me more than I can handle. Second, I cannot do anything without God. These truths require faith to blend them together seamlessly, and I have been doing a lousy job. Typically, I teeter between believing I can do so much more than is humanly possible and desperately begging God to help me fix everything.

Instead, I need to become little and allow Him to take over and be bigger than me. My controlling nature struggles with this in the small moments of everyday life, although I think I have a decent handle on submitting to God's authority on the big stuff.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Sometimes He Just Needs My Words

(blogger is not letting me post photos again, sorry)

I have a love affair with words. I like to speak them. I like to read them. I like to write them. I like to hear them. But, it occurred to me today when I was rocking the baby that my prayer life as of late has been without my own words.

Now, that is not always wrong. Different seasons in our lives require different methods of prayer. The Lord will lead us to pray the Rosary when He feels we need the meditation. He will lead us to pray in silence when our spiritual life needs such food. And, He will invite us to share the depths of our hearts with him, too.

My prayer life used to be full of my words. For many years, I spent most of my prayer time pouring out my heart to God, and it was good. At some point, however, I noticed that my words ceased being words of faith and praise but merely words of worry and whine. So, I stopped.

I turned to spiritual reading and meditating on Scripture and the Rosary, all very good things. Of course, with a new baby, I lost my rhythm of these prayers. My mother's hear merely exhaled aspirations throughout my days...and sleepless nights, also good. About a month ago, however, I began longing for more.

And, in keeping with my realization that it took me about a month to get started in this new year of 2011, today, I hear the Lord ask for my words again. My own words formed in this mother's heart and spoken in the voice of my soul while I rock a fussy baby to sleep once again. After all, I had become frustrated unable to hold a Bible or book without little hands grabbing fistfuls of delicate pages.

He needs to hear my words. In fact, He longs for them like I long to be close to Him. Sometimes nothing else will work to bring us closer together but the words that I conceive in my heart. Lord, help me to speak words of faith and praise in prayer today.

What season of prayer are you called to these days?

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Reader Readers...

I finally made some long overdue design updates to the blog, which included changing the feed settings for you. I know I am more likely to read a post in my reader than click over to the actual blog, so I wanted to make that easier for you. As you know, my goal is not how many hits but how many hearts. :) So, click on over and tell me what you think. Disclaimer: my eye for beauty in graphic design is quite underdeveloped.

A few reads that made me smile this week...

Who Is Praying for Snow? by Marcel at Aggie Catholics
The Magic Hairbrush and Other Tales by Elizabeth at In the Heart of My Home
The Big, Black Boot...Risk, Trust, & Love by Kate at Momopoly
M&M Math by Charlotte at Waltzing Matilda

We are expecting snow here in Texas tonight which cancelled our homeschool co-op classes, so I will probably get some blogging done!

Blessings,

Review: My First Prayers for Christmas - Catholic Board Book!

So untimely of me! Through the generosity of TiberRiver.com, I received a copy of My First Prayers for Christmas by Maite Roche. Part of my delay in posting this review is that I wanted to be sure to include my children’s responses, and the book ended up being the perfect Christmas present for the baby.


To me, it is so rare to find quality Catholic children’s literature, much less in board book format. Most religious board books I find are beautifully Christian but not authentically Catholic. This book is just that, and I am thrilled to see there are three other board books in the series put out by Magnificat and Ignatius Press: My First Prayers with Mary, My First Bedtime Prayers, and My First Prayers for My Family.


In this title, there are seven unique prayers, and each one can play a special role in a child’s preparations for and celebration of Christmas. The first prayer is a prayer of anticipation, and it echoes the joy children have in preparing their homes and hearts for Christmas. The next two prayers are of rejoicing and thanksgiving for the birth of Christ. The fourth prayer is appropriate for Christmas Eve, while the fifth is in thanks for the happiness of Christmas Day. Finally, there is a prayer to honor the three wise men, appropriate for the Epiphany, and another to honor the Holy Family on the Feast of the Holy Family.


Such a subtle yet meaningful touch to this book is that each page begins with “In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. The words are simple and clear, printed in a text that is both bold and clean, spaced and sized perfectly for little eyes. A beginning reader could certainly read the book with only a little help from mom or dad.


The illustrations are done in bright colors, often depicting a family of five with wonderful detail, such as wedding rings and cross necklaces. There is great joy and peace on the faces of everyone depicted, whether it be Mary and Joseph or a cat playing with an ornament. These pictures are delightful to study as you pray the corresponding words for both young and old.


The baby is not quite old enough to fully appreciate board books yet, but he did seem to enjoy looking at the colorful pages. My older children read the prayers together and were inspired by the ease with which they could pray together with the book. My son, an emerging reader, mostly enjoyed looking through the illustrations and seemed to spend quite a bit of time before bedtime one night really soaking in the scenes.


Overall, I am thrilled to find such a quality series for my littlest children! I look forward to bringing this book out next year during Advent to read with my youngest, who will be a toddler more capable of understanding the prayers. I will definitely look for the other titles in the series, as I think they would make wonderful gifts for Easter and Baptism Day! I really do not think you will be disappointed in these treasures, as the care and thought put into them show through in the sincerity of each page.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Review: Little Acts of Grace 2

If you have the first volume of this set, Little Acts of Grace, and love it (which I know you do if you own it), you will also love the second book. These slim little gems are nearly perfect in sharing sometimes overlooked and/or underemphasized elements of our faith to our children. These books are affordable, too, and might just be the perfect thing for your family's upcoming Lenten journey!


Little Acts of Grace 2 is every bit as wonderful as the first volume! We received the original Little Acts of Grace as a gift from godparents several years ago. The Catholic Company was gracious enough to send me a copy of the sequel to review for you and my family. Rosemarie Gortler and Donna Piscitelli have once again put together a gem of a volume on small ways our children can show their love for and faith in God.

The book’s focus, in fact, is how we can show our love for God in little ways. Each section speaks eloquently of common ways to honor God. The first section reminds me of St. Therese’s Little Way, as children are invited to “Seeing the Lord in the Little Things.” The suggestions in this section, and throughout the book really, are quite simple and easy things for children to do, giving them an immediate sense of accomplishment and connection to God.

Subsequent sections introduce children to the ideas of choosing to attend Mass, participating in the Mass, noticing the candles and incense, loving others through service and forgiveness, and loving Jesus by spending time with Him in prayer. Each section has numerous suggestions for children of all ages, from lighting a candle to celebrating birthdays with family and friends.

My children have truly enjoyed the first volume of this series. My daughter, in particular, often struggles with how hard it is to remember to do everything in love for God, but she finds these books comforting. The simple actions done with sincere and loving hearts can easily lead our children towards greater virtue and charity.

As before, Mimi Sternhagen has created pictures that illustrate the ideas in the book beautifully. The drawings are soft but use bold colors and depict children doing the many things suggested in the book. I am again impressed at how she is able to combine several different “acts of grace” into one drawing, so children have a visual reminder of almost all of the little things in the book and not just a few chosen ones.


Whether you have the original Little Acts of Grace or not, Little Acts of Grace 2 would be an excellent addition to any Catholic home! The books can stand alone; you do not need the first book to appreciate the second one. But, they both do offer different ideas for living our lives in love for God. In fact, they are a wonderful inspiration for me, as well, since once I read a section with my children, I, too, am motivated to put forth the effort to remember these small steps to holiness.


This review was written as part of the Catholic book reviewer program from The Catholic Company. Visit The Catholic Company to find more information on Little Acts of Grace 2 . They are also a great source for serenity prayer and baptism gifts.