Wednesday, May 16, 2012

San Antonio Catholic Homeschooling Conference

Please pray for the 2012 San Antonio Catholic Homeschooling Conference to be held this weekend. This is the first year in a long time there has been a Catholic homeschooling conference in San Antonio! It started as a dream between two friends and has become grander than even we had hoped. God's generosity is overwhelming. Thank you for praying for the success of the conference, for the speakers (who are mostly volunteers), and for the planning committee to make it through these last few days (including me)! Thank you.


The Survey Explained

It is that time of year when readers are searching for my old webinars and the sort-of-famous Personal Reflection Survey! I wanted to pop in here to put up something I have been intending to do for quite a while. This is a basic explanation of the survey for anyone who cannot watch the full webinars or did long ago and just wants a refresher. The link to the survey is at the bottom and here. Please, as always, let me know if you have any trouble accessing the webinars and/or survey. May they bless you and your homeschool!

Prayerfully Reflecting on Last Year

This reflection is meant to be used in an atmosphere of prayer. Please take it to your quiet time or Holy Hour if possible. If your season of life insists your prayer be done while toddlers are in the tub or children play outside, bring along this reflection! As mothers our work should be a constant prayer, because our interior attitude of prayer is much more important than external appearance.

Jesus frequently spent time in prayer when He was not teaching. From this prayer He received the grace to be an effective educator.

Take a moment to think about the life of Jesus. He frequently spent time in prayer when He was not teaching. From this prayer He received the grace to be an effective educator. The same is true for homeschooling mothers. We need the graces that time with God provides, so let me suggest we pause, right now, and pray.

When was the last time you took time to evaluate yourself, your home, and your homeschool?

So often, as mothers, we keep going full speed ahead without stopping to see if we are on the right path. We fall into the temptation of trying new things constantly without taking the time to identify the true source of the problem.

Are you settling for survival or actively seeking an abundant life?

There are seasons of a mother’s life that must focus on basic survival skills: when a new baby arrives or a pregnancy has complications; when there is illness or significant strife in family life; during a move or after a death in the family.

Nevertheless, there is certainly more to life than simply surviving. God desires to bless us abundantly and draw us closer to himself, not only through struggles, but also through daily serving Him in our vocation as wives, mothers, and homeschooling teachers.

What we did with our local group

Several remarkable women and I put together a three step process to help Catholic homeschooling mothers in Miami step aside from the daily grind to prepare and plan for the following academic year.

  1. Personal Reflection & Self-Evaluation Survey: First, we created this survey and had each mother fill it out on her own prior to our first group gathering.
  1. Day of Reflection: Next, we met to share and pray about what we had learned through the survey, focusing on what we felt God was telling us through the questions.
  1. Planning Day: Finally, we met again to give one another practical help, only giving advice once we had prepared to receive it.

Planning: Curriculum, Materials, & Lesson Plans, Oh My!

Some days homeschooling can be overwhelming…at least once a week, right? So, preparing for the next academic year can be daunting. Especially for those of us who modify existing curriculum to suit our family’s needs, it can seem impossible to know where to start with our planning. This process is an attempt to help you sort through that difficult process.

The Personal Reflection & Self-Evaluation Survey

The survey itself is 61 questions long and divided into four sections. It is not a test, and you will not turn it in. This survey is meant to be a tool to help you evaluate how things are going in your homeschool. It is for your personal reflection over the course of several weeks. Please print it out and take it to your quiet time on several separate occasions, perhaps to Adoration, responding to the questions carefully and honestly. Be sure to reread it all the way through several times before considering it complete. The survey is lengthy and detailed, deliberately redundant at times. This is by design to provoke thought in a variety of areas. It is fine, if after considerable reflection, you leave a question blank. Attach additional pages as necessary. Begin in prayer.

The Four Sections

  1. Personal spirituality: This section of the survey is mostly about Mom.
  2. Struggles and challenges: Here you examine the tough stuff that needs solutions.
  3. Successes and blessings: These questions echo the previous section but celebrate the positive.
  4. Goal-setting: At the end you figure out where to go from here.

Prayer and Fasting: A Challenge

My challenge to you is to take one day before you begin planning for next year (but after you finish this survey) to pray and fast amidst your daily duties, however you choose, for the intentions of your homeschool. Scripture teaches us the power of prayer and fasting, and I believe our homeschooling can benefit from this practice.

Prayer and Support: A Promise

With this survey, I send my prayers that every mother who prayerfully completes the evaluation will receive the graces she needs to truly enjoy the spiritual journey of homeschooling and treasure her children more every day.

I also offer my support to you. My homeschooling journey is not long, but what I lack in experience, I certainly have replaced with extensive research and reading. If I do not know the answer, I will try to point you to those who do.

Feel free to email me at antonina31 at gmail dot com whenever you need.


Thursday, April 19, 2012

Divine Mercy for Our Children

I am not putting up any links today. Instead I want to share a gift of understanding the Lord gave me at Mass on Divine Mercy Sunday. I was appropriately pondering the mercy of God and how He continues to embrace us despite our weaknesses. My reflection focused on how I continue to fall short in the same areas over and over again.

Whoever approaches the Fountain of Life on this day will be granted complete forgiveness of sins and punishment. (Diary,300)

Just then, my toddler needed redirecting. Mission accomplished, I refocused on the homily. Jesus' mercy is open to us all at all times. It is a free gift given generously, not begrudgingly to us. He looks upon us with love when we accept His mercy despite our numerous failings.

Souls that make an appeal to My mercy DELIGHT me. To such souls I grant even more graces than they ask. I cannot punish even the greatest sinner if he makes an appeal to My compassion (Diary, 1146).

Just then, my toddler needed redirecting. He was a little more indignant this time, wishing to do it "his way." When he settled down, I began to listen again. Jesus' love for us is tender and ever-patient. We cannot imagine the magnitude of His mercy. It is waiting for us to submit to His love.

O my Jesus, the life, the way and the truth, I beg You to keep me close to You as a mother holds a baby to her bosom, for I am not only a helpless child, but an accumulation of misery and nothingness.(Diary, 298)

Just then, my toddler needed redirecting. I started to feel frustrated. I could feel the heat inside. Why won't he just sit still? Right. He's a toddler. In Mass. But, I have to correct him over and over again in the same way. It gets old. Right. I am his mother. It is so challenging to repeat the same redirection over and over with such little change in his behavior. I love him, so I must persevere. And, here is where the 2x4 hit me in the head.

I demand from you deeds of mercy, which are to arise out of love for Me. You are to show mercy to your neighbors always and everywhere. You must not shrink from this or try to excuse or absolve yourself from it. (Diary, 1317)

This is how Jesus must feel when I repeatedly sin. He is the perfect parent and looks upon me not with frustration or scorn but with pure love. Perfect love from the Father is merciful love. I am called to share that mercy with my children, but most importantly, I must first accept it from Him Who loves me perfectly. Every day, no matter my inadequacies, He offers His mercy to me.

My Heart overflows with great mercy for souls, and especially for poor sinners…[I]t is for them that the Blood and Water flowed from My Heart as from a fount overflowing with mercy. For them I dwell in the tabernacle as King of Mercy. (Diary, 367)

If I can accept His mercy every day, He will enable me to pass His mercy on to my children. I can pass on His gift of mercy to others only when I allow it to pour over me on a daily basis. I simply must acknowledge that I need His perfect mercy every single day of my life and will continue to need it until the day I die.

Holy God, Holy Mighty One, Holy Immortal One, have mercy on us and on the whole world.


Thursday, April 12, 2012

What I Needed to Hear This Week

Contraception Opposed Me First by Tom at
"I still remember the day I found out that I, the third child in three years, was never meant to exist at all. And I wouldn't exist, at all, if pharmacies in Tuscon kept later hours on Saturdays in the 1960s."
His testimony is gnawing at this mother's heart.

In 2008, Who Could’ve Predicted This? by Matthew at National Catholic Register

"This wasn't supposed to be a fight that Obama could lose. It wasn't supposed to happen this way. And the Church is just getting started."

And this one has such an inspiring tone that I am ready to keep fighting!


Thursday, April 5, 2012

What I Needed to Hear This Week

I am going to try a new thing in order to post more frequently. Every Thursday I hope to post a list of links to  a few favorite posts or articles I read that week (this doesn't necessarily mean they were published that week, of course). Due to my family's current schedule, I often do not read blogs Friday through Sunday, so Thursday is a good stopping point for me. So, here it is for today, some true gems here!

Perceived Deficits at bearing blog
"The essence of homeschooling is not academic excellence...preparation for a job..."special" education...that it can set its own schedule...its freedom... The essence of homeschooling is simply that it happens within the family."
Yes! That's why I do this!

Craft a Divine Mercy Novena Counter for Kids by Lacy at Catholic Icing
"Crafting this Divine Mercy Novena counter is a great way to get children involved in the novena process...I'm thinking ahead to use this same counter for different novenas."
I am not a big craft mama, but this is useful!

An Active Love by Elizabeth at Mom Heart
"I'm loving them at the dinner table, I thought to myself...I'm loving these little girls as I bubble up their hair...I'm loving I snuggle them to sleep."
Pure genius!

How I Memorized My Favorite Prayer in Sixty Seconds by Jen at National Catholic Register
"I'd been trying to memorize the prayer for a few days, but I wasn't having much luck. Then I remembered Dr. Kevin Vost's book Memorize the Faith! (and Most Anything Else)."
I have read this book; it is awesome!

What a Good Wife Does... by Patrick at National Catholic Register
"The good wife doesn't contradict you in front of your friends, unless you're wrong...Usually, if she can help it...The good wife does a million things you don't notice and she is totally ok with that."
Funny, real, and true.


Monday, March 26, 2012

My First Prayers for Christmas & My First Prayers with Mary

Oops. It looks like I wrote a review for Tiber River over a year ago but never clicked the "Submit" button. I blame baby brain (aka lack of sleep). It was floating around in cyberspace until today. So, since I finally submitted it, it is time to post it here. The catch is that the book is a Christmas book, but the series also has a similar title called My First Prayers with Mary, so today (the transferred Feast of the Annunciation) seems like a good day to share!

So untimely of me! Through the generosity of, 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.

I wrote this review of My First Prayers for Christmas for the free Catholic Book review program, created by Aquinas and More Catholic Goods.

Tiber River is the first Catholic book review site, started in 2000 to help you make informed decisions about Catholic book purchases.

I receive free product samples as compensation for writing reviews for Tiber River.


Monday, March 12, 2012

His Delight

I simply adore the Marie Bellet song, "It Was His Delight." My daughter and I love to belt it out when it plays, and at random other times, too! The message of the song is that Christ delights in us with the refrain "It was His delight to walk among men." How often do we think of this?

Yesterday, I was privileged to hear an inspiring homily on the Gospel of John 2: 13-25 where Jesus drives the moneychangers and merchants out of the temple declaring:

 "Take these out of here, and stop making my Father's house a marketplace."
His disciples recalled the words of Scripture, Zeal for your house will consume me.

Our priest keyed in on two parts of these lines. First, Jesus calls the temple "my Father's house," a very intimate description for a building. Also, the zeal Jesus demonstrates in protecting the house is consuming. I hope you can follow me, because I certainly cannot explain this as eloquently as Father did.

We are told elsewhere in Scripture (1 Cor. 6:19) that our bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, thus houses of God. When we eat His body and drink His blood, He comes to dwell in us. And, Jesus is consumed with protecting us when we embrace Him within. Yes, He delights in coming to us in the Eucharist and will never fail to defend our honor when we accept this gift.

I am humbled reflecting on this Truth. Father mentioned that God does not turn up his nose at the filth in our souls. He does not reluctantly take up residence when we invite Him. He delights in our invitation and our acceptance whenever and however we choose to welcome Him.

My Lent has been full of ups and downs here, mostly small things but things that nevertheless can chip away at my focus in this holy season. I have been consciously striving to remember Christ is among us. To realize that truly He resides within us and is overjoyed when we acknowledge Him despite our inadequacies, knocks my socks off!

Not only was it Christ's delight to walk among men on this Earth, but also it is His delight to daily enter the temples that are our bodies and defend our quest for holiness with zeal. Amidst so many distractions and temptations, it is so motivating for me to imagine Christ's delight every time I recall His presence.

I pray, dear friends, that your Lenten journey is continuing with perseverance and that you, too, may find joy in such remarkable love!


Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Our Story

Warning: This is really long, but I have always wanted to write this story. Today seems an appropriate day, and my children are being unexpectedly cooperative. So, here goes...

I was a senior in college when I went on what was called a Busy Students Retreat. St. Mary's Catholic Center brings in spiritual directors every year to host this retreat, which involves personal prayer, evening reflections, and several meetings with a spiritual director. And, yes, I was the epitome of the busy student.

My spiritual director was a religious sister. I cannot recall her name, nor which order she belongs, but I remember vividly the meditations she asked me to do and the day she asked if I had considered discerning entering religious life. I answered no, but I was certainly open to it.

Thus, my journey began. There is this postcard you can fill out to get on the list of religious orders, and that spring I filled a box with brochures from around the country, just as I did when seeking a college five years previously. I swore off men, seemingly always attracted to the more challenging ones anyway, and found freedom in offering God my entire life if He wanted it.

My family was skeptical. They had paid for my entire college education to become a teacher, even though there were times we both admitted I could certainly excel in a more academic field. As I discerned, I felt led to some of the teaching orders, like the Dominicans, and reasoned that I would indeed be using my college education. To appease my father, I agreed to a summer internship at his corporation in the training department, where I would earn more money than being a school teacher but still use my degree.

Before the internship started, I was asked to speak at a summer retreat back at St. Mary's, and a few weeks before the retreat, all the speakers for the retreat gathered for a speaker retreat to share our outlines and pray together for one another. The retreat began with Mass and afterwards, a few of us were standing on the steps outside. I mentioned to another speaker that I really needed to hear his talk; his topic was Discernment. We chatted for a while and then the one speaker I did not know personally pulled me aside.

He asked why I needed to hear that particular topic, and I shared that I was actively discerning a call to religious life. It just so happened that he was volunteering his time to help one of our campus ministers plan a Nun Run trip to visit various convents at the end of the summer. Was I interested? Oh yes! He told me all about the plans, and I resolved to consult Mom and Dad about this unique opportunity.

As the speaker retreat progressed, I got to know the young man a little more. He was a cowboy, or at least he dressed like one and seemed to fit the label "Catechism-thumping convert," so excited about his new-found faith and so convinced in its absolute Truth that he had to tell everyone how great Catholicism is. He was a smooth-talker and a deep thinker with a winning smile but otherwise seemingly shallow. At the same time, he had labeled me a kind of cute "stuck-up, anal, bossy engineering type" but was intrigued by my simple faith.

Skip ahead a few weeks to the actual retreat weekend, and I found myself chatting with him about the Nun Run. My parents had agreed it was a good idea that I should go and see for myself what religious life is like. He, too, was discerning religious life, feeling called to be a monk, having spent some time in prayer at Subiaco  Abbey with the Benedictines in Arkansas. I found myself enjoying conversing with him; his sense of humor was adorable. We were fast becoming friends, promising to pray for one another's discernment.

Saturday night, the retreaters put on entertaining skits and staff members spread out blankets to sit and watch. While his partner fetched a blanket, he spread himself out spread-eagle on the floor to save a spot for his "family." When I asked what he was doing, he said he was a blanket. Couldn't I see? So, I sat on him. I knew it was crossing the line from friend to flirting, but I didn't really care. He responded through choked breaths, "Ugh! What is this feather that has alighted upon me?"

Later that night, I was pretty delirious from lack of sleep. Part of this was the retreat, but I had been suffering from mild insomnia for weeks as a result of my intense prayers and cluelessness as to God's will. I was finishing my preparations for the last day of the retreat and laughing at pretty much everything everybody said to me. Instead of interrupting my revelry to say good night, he wrote me a note and left it with my things. I found it while putting everything away and saved it to read until after I had prepared for bed. I completely forget what it said, but I remember clearly, sitting under the Texas stars on that warm summer night, that God told me this man was going to be important in my discernment. I thanked the Lord for a companion on this journey and promised to maintain the friendship.

Remember how God doesn't give us the whole story to get us to agree? We only see a part of the picture.

About a week after the retreat, I had a startling moment in prayer where I felt God was insisting that I stay friends with this man. So, I wrote him a letter, telling him God says we have to be friends. Then, we began emailing. I hated my internship, stuck in a cubicle all day, and we would email back and forth all day long, nothing serious or deep, just entertaining discussions.

When I arrived back in College Station to move into my apartment before leaving for the Nun Run, he met me there. One funny memory was when I gave him directions and could not remember what to call a traffic circle. "You go kind of right, then kind of left, then kind of right but really straight" is what I said. LOL! Before unloading my station wagon (nicknamed the stag wag since high school, since I often attended events stag), we went to Mass. He helped me unload and promised to cook me dinner on Tuesday before the Nun Run left early Wednesday morning. He claimed he was a great cook. By now, he was wooing me. I was still clueless.

Monday, I was volunteering up at church, and he brought me lunch. That night a group of about half a dozen friends went miniature golfing; he came along. Then, we all stopped for ice cream. As everyone was leaving, he asked where I was headed. I acknowledged that I was heading home but had to stay up late to wait for a friend who was getting into town that night who agreed to watch my guinea pig while I was away; she wouldn't be around the following day to drop him off. He asked if I wanted to go to a coffee shop; I agreed.

After chatting for about an hour, a group of about a dozen women, including our campus minister leading the Nun Run, came into the same coffee shop. We waived them over. "Come sit with us!" "Are you sure? We don't want to intrude." We enjoyed their company for a few hours, having great spiritual discussions. When they left, we stayed longer. I'm sure it was after 12P. When the place closed, we ended up on their porch. Neither of us wanted the conversation to end. We knew we wouldn't see one another for over a week after dinner that night. Neither of us wanted to check our watches; we were giddy.

Eventually, we parted ways. I think it was four or five in the morning. I didn't see him all the next day, and he called to cancel that dinner. He forgot he had a mandatory meeting at work. I focused on preparing for the Nun Run. I was so excited to see the convents and meet the sisters and decide, hopefully, if this life was for me.

Early Wednesday morning, I unloaded my bags from the "stag wag" and started towards one of the white vans in the church parking lot. At least a dozen of the girls came jogging towards me, giggling. "Here's a note for you! He wrote you a note! It was left on the van with the paper link rosary." So, I think this sweet guy who has helped plan our trip for months took the time to write each girl a short note to encourage her and promise prayers for us. It wasn't until after I read the note and got in the van that I realized he had written one note to all of us and one note to me. Hm.

I get carsick, so I was a designated driver or navigator, having to sit in the front seat at all times. I was navigator the first shift and as the rest of the girls fell asleep, the driver and I began to chat. After a while, she says, "Can I ask you something?" "Sure." "Are you and he dating?" "No! What? Of course not!" I replied with gusto, completely denying anything other than a platonic relationship. Her next words haunted me the entire week of the trip. We visited nine convents in seven days, and all I could hear in my head was her potent question: "Are you open to that?"

Golly, God! Am I open to that? Well, gee! I am totally open to being a religious sister. Isn't that enough? This trip is about nuns not boys. But, in my head, I finally admit what my heart has known for days, maybe weeks, "Yes, I guess so."

A few days later, I was listening to a vocations talk in Illinois by a wise Franciscan sister. She was not the liveliest of her congregation, but she spoke of holiness and how everyone, regardless of our vocation is called to holiness. I had heard that before, but something hit me like a rock, and I started scribbling furiously in my journal. The girls around me started to stare and wonder what could possibly have possessed me to write down every dry word this sweet sister was saying so frantically.

That wasn't it at all. I wish I had saved that journal, and maybe I did somewhere, but basically, it said something like...

"Holiness. In. Every. Vocation. Really? But, isn't being a sister holier than being a wife? No? It's not? You can be a holy wife? That's possible? Really? In fact, it might be a better path to holiness for some women? Even though religious life seems like the more challenging path, marriage might be more challenging? The opportunities to grow in holiness for me might be greater in marriage than in religious life? No wonder I have felt so distant on this trip, like I don't belong, like these women are all full of some spirit I do not have! Perhaps I am called to be a wife. A holy wife. The holiest wife ever. Okay, maybe not, but at least holy enough to get to Heaven. And a husband will help me get to Heaven? Really? Help me? I can't get there by myself? What are you saying, God!!???"

The rest of the trip was full of confirmations from God that marriage could indeed glorify Him and could be a greater path to holiness for me. Religious life was seeming like the "easy choice," believe it or not, and, being highly competitive, I knew I wanted to challenge myself with the hard choice. The Nun Run opened my eyes to the beauty of religious life and the reality of its challenges, but it also reminded me that the only way to be holier is to fulfill God's will, not mine.

So, I finally became truly open to both religious life and marriage and saw that I was probably called to marriage, but I really did not like the whole dating scene! No worries! God had an answer for that. We were told in Nashville the day before the show that we had been invited to appear on Life on the Rock with Jeff Cavins on EWTN. They didn't want to tell us in advance, so the anticipation would not take away from our prayerful journey. In fact, they had not even told the young man who planned our trip about it, so the campus minister quickly sent me and another girl to one of the vans to use the car phone (this was before common cell phones) to call him and let him know. I was sent, because I knew his number by heart.

As we climbed in the van, we discussed our trip and discernment. This girl shared her feelings and asked mine. I revealed how I was beginning to think God was calling me to marriage. She reminded me of something I had said almost a year previously. I was organizing a retreat, and she complimented me for my orderliness and organizational skills. At the time, being frustrated with men, I told her, "I know. It's awful! My poor husband is going to have to appreciate organization as much as me, or he'll be miserable!" As she said this, she handed me the binder that my future husband had compiled with our itinerary, complete with maps, contact information, and schedule with restroom breaks built in and mapped accordingly. Hahahahaha, God!

I ended up leaving him a message to let him know about Life on the Rock, but I started asking God to help me. I had gone through this incredible transformation in one week's time and was soon heading back to this man, who I was beginning to believe might end up being my husband. Was I supposed to walk up to him and say, "Hi, I think God wants me to marry you"? That would be sure to chase him away!

God, of course, calmed my anxieties. I trusted Him to help me figure it all out one step at a time. There was no plan for how this was going to work. I got home, and he finally cooked me dinner. It was truly gourmet! I shared that I was pretty sure God was calling me to marriage, as my heart did flip flops. His did, too, but he didn't tell me.

We went to a friend's house to watch a football game, and he put his arm around me. He says he only dared to do so, because when I had gone to the restroom, I had fixed my hair. He noticed and thought I was doing it for him. I guess I was. When he dropped me off that night, I think I asked point blank if we were officially dating or not. I reminded him that the St. Mary's gossip chain would have us married by morning for snuggling on the couch, and we agreed to finally admit we were dating exclusively.

A few weeks later we traveled to a wedding in west Texas. It was a long road trip, and it involved some fabulous conversations about our hopes for the future. We were each sharing ideas about what type of wedding each of us imagined when he says, "Wait. We actually are talking about our wedding, right?" "Yes." The rest of the trip we had great conversations about our future together. I cried at the wedding of a couple I barely knew, because I could see clearly my path ahead.

There were times he struggled with the decision, because he had never fully let go of his desire to become a monk. And, at the time, he was a law enforcement officer, so I had to discern being a cop's wife. But, within a month of that night we agreed to date, we were sitting before our pastor, asking him to marry us before we were formally engaged. It had only been three months, since our friendship earnestly began, so he wisely advised us to set a date after we had been together for one full year. He believed we needed to experience one another as the seasons changed, and we agreed that was wise. We were in no rush to be married, just to begin planning our lives together. He was very supportive, though, even given our whirlwind courtship.

And, that is our story. The formal engagement is a story for another time. I have written of our wedding week before. Our fertility journey followed, including our sweet children, who each somehow hold my entire heart even though that heart belongs fully and truly to their daddy. Our marriage has survived multiple cross-country moves, three career changes (for him), illnesses, law school, fears and anxiety, and a couple breakdowns, but through the grace of our sacrament, we have survived.

To my dear husband: I am so grateful that God insisted we be friends and lovers and that we both accepted this vocation of marriage, despite our insecurities. You are a treasure to me. You love me the way I am, but challenge me to greater perfection on a daily basis. I never doubt your love, and I pray you never doubt mine. Happy Valentine's Day, my love!


Monday, February 13, 2012

Mondays Make Saints of Us

I cannot remember the last Monday I enjoyed. Sigh! Wait. No. Yes. It was Monday, January 17th. Otherwise known as Martin Luther King, Jr. Day. Otherwise known as a day off from work for my husband. Yes, that was a nice Monday, but it was not a "normal" Monday, whatever that is.

When I was a classroom teacher, I do not think the impact was quite as severe as it is as a homeschooling mother. You see, the kids that go to "away school" (that's what we call it to simplify including both public and private schools), have a set of expectations that go along with being in a school building. Even though they were away for two days, within an hour or two, they usually remember those expectations and settle in to their school day.

Fortunately for us, homeschooled kids are home all the time. They have a set of expectations on school days and a set of expectations on non-school days, but they do not have the change of a building to help their transition. Some, like my dear, sweet children, do not even have the benefit of a schoolroom at home and conduct school in the living and dining rooms. I say, "fortunately for us," because every challenge like this is an opportunity for us to grow in virtue.

I am not saying I take advantage of this opportunity regularly, but there it is.

I do have three simple suggestions for coping with Monday transitions as a homeschooling mom. Please know that these are new ideas, and I have not yet implemented them with any success. Nevertheless, I see no reason why they cannot help Mondays become more enjoyable, and the effort put into their implementation surely gains us at least a tiny bit of grace.

1. Be prepared. One thing that helps me, although not with any consistency, is to make breakfast the night before. Just serving cereal on Mondays does not give us all the lift that reheated breakfast tacos seem to give. Of course, I also have to make sure the children's lesson charts are filled in and that I have all the books and materials for our Morning Basket and Subject of the Day. And, oh yes, waking up on time helps, theoretically.

2. Start the day with something fun. Maybe go outside for a short time or put on some silly music to dance. Play an educational game or read something entertaining. Finding one thing that everyone enjoys and can start the week off on the right note, might make the difference between delight and disaster.

3. End the school day with something fun. Perhaps it would work better for your personality to plan an activity like the ones above for once the school work is done. Make it a tradition to have an afternoon tea, such as in Mondays With Mary, or head to a nearby playground or the library every Monday. What will motivate everyone to have a positive day?

When all of this fails, of course, caffeine, chocolate, and Christ are my stand-bys as I endure the storm. Should none of the above happen or help, just remember Mondays can lead us to holiness if we embrace the crosses and offer our struggles to God.

What are your ideas to make Mondays more tolerable or at least to enter them with the best attitude possible?


Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Getting By

I am still here, and I am getting by. Grief and recovery after a miscarriage involve highs and lows, but eventually, you have more highs than lows, more smiles than tears, and things get better. For several weeks, I was fully immersed in what a good friend called the "uncontrollable emotional upheaval" that the chaotic hormones and profound sadness of a pregnancy loss involve. If you have been there, I know you understand these words. I am coming out of that fog and, day by day, feeling more and more like part of the world again. (although, honestly, I am still content to stay at home and avoid heart-wrenching conversations)

As Karen Edmisten shares in the Acknowledgments of her inspiring new book, After Miscarriage: A Catholic Woman's Companion to Healing and Hope, it is impressive "how fiercely [I] love the babies [I] lost." (yes, I am only in the Introduction; it has been hard to face the book) To not ever see or touch your child and yet to love him or her with such profound passion is startling to me. This is why the pain is so real and so deep. This is why "Momma Bear" has roared more than she would like these days.

If you are taking the time to read this, please say another prayer for me and my family. Lent is coming, and I know the Lord will challenge us all to greater holiness in this sacred season. More soon.


Monday, January 30, 2012

After Miscarriage - New Book

Wow. Charlotte blessed me by posting this new book announcement on Friday.

Karen Edmisten, author of Through the Year With Mary: 365 Reflections, one of my daily companions last year and this year, and Catholic homeschooling mother has published After Miscarriage: A Catholic Woman's Companion to Healing and Hope. I cannot tell you how much I am looking forward to receiving this book by a woman from a Catholic perspective.

My Catholic faith has helped me through the cross of miscarriage significantly. Our faith teaches that miscarried babies go immediately to Heaven (through Baptism by intent) and become automatic saints, able to intercede for us before the throne of God! This has been enormously comforting to me these past few weeks and years.

This new book is sure to be beautiful (although I have not yet read it). Get a few copies now for those in your life who need healing and hope after suffering through miscarriage (disclaimer: if you do order, please use my links to Amazon above, as I get a very small percentage as an Amazon associate, thanks)!


Saturday, January 28, 2012

Saint Catherine, Pray for Us

I cannot count the number of friends who have shared their sorrowful miscarriages with me over the past week. It was truly shocking. This prayer is for all of us (thanks to a dear friend who gave it to me) and speaks almost perfectly for me. Miscarriage can be a silent suffering, but it should not be. A baby died, and the pain will stay with us forever. We mourn, but we are not alone.

prayer card available here

Dear Saint Catherine, patron of those who have suffered a miscarriage, you know the dangers that await unborn infants.

Please intercede for me that I may receive healing from the loss I have suffered. My soul has been deprived of peace and I have forgotten what true happiness is. As I mourn the loss of my child, I place myself in the hands of God and ask for strength to accept His will in all things, for consolation in my grief, and for peace in my sorrow.

Glorious Saint Catherine, hear my prayers and ask that God, in good time, grant me a healthy baby who will become a true child of God.



Friday, January 27, 2012

Six Babies

Once upon a time there was a boy and a girl. They fell in love, got married, and wanted to start their family. They wanted a “big family,” five or six children (not to be confused with a “big Catholic family,” which is more like nine or ten children, LOL!). The girl knew she had some reproductive issues and waited for them to resolve once stopping “the pill,” as her doctors said they would. After all, she took “the pill” at their advice to solve the irregularities, but rather than solve them, it merely covered the symptoms.

When the problems continued, she sought help from no fewer than five different doctors, and the varied responses they got drove the boy and the girl crazy. “Why not wait and see if you grow out of it?” “You’ll never have children.” “I don’t know what’s wrong, but take this medication and let’s see if anything changes.”

Finally, through the gift of Natural Family Planning, they found a solution and travelled hundreds of miles from Texas to Nebraska to a trusted physician for surgery. A year later they were blessed with a tiny baby who was born nine months later (despite trying to come early during a move from Michigan to Texas) a healthy little girl. When her body was ready, the same physician advised the girl on ways to maintain fertility, and they began TTC again.

Becoming weary of the expense and medications, here and there they would take months “off,” and one of those months one spring they conceived a little soul and lost him before a test could confirm he was there. Since a doctor didn’t confirm the pregnancy, it was almost as if the miscarriage hadn’t happened, but the boy and the girl ached.

After a long summer of wondering God’s will, they conceived a third baby who was born nine months later, a delightful baby boy. Upon moving back to Michigan from Texas, the comments in the store ranged from, “You have your boy and your girl now!” to “You have one of each, so you’re all done.” And, their hearts ached for another tiny soul.

Again, on and off with the medications and blood tests and nothing for many years. The girl, now a mommy, one summer allowed God to finally give her peace, whether she was able to cradle another newborn or not.

They conceived at the end of that summer. What a miracle! What a lesson! Relax. God’s timing, not ours. However, that baby was called home to Heaven one short week after the positive pregnancy test. Devastating. Depressing. Incomprehensible. She was precious and now awaits us in Heaven.

Determined to praise God no matter what, the boy, now a daddy, and the mommy mourned their loss and hugged “the big kids” a few more times a day and that very next month conceived again. Overjoyed. Humbled. Incomprehensible.

How they were anxious! Thankfully, nine months later another baby boy was born, and the family of five moved from Florida to Texas (are you seeing a pattern here?). Every moment of this little one’s life is treasured, as he might be the last baby. The mommy and the daddy both truly enjoy each milestone together for the first time. (Daddy worked nights during the baby girl’s first year and was in law school for baby boy’s first three.)

Yet, a few weeks ago, the mommy wondered. Could it be true? As a nursing mama, things were unpredictable, but three dollars would clear up any doubt. She fully expected the test to be negative. It wasn’t. Really? Another? Oh, yes! We are hoping to build a house this year. We must continue the moving + baby pattern.

How exciting! God is really going to let us have another baby? Oh my! What a gift! Two in diapers? We haven’t yet had that privilege. The mommy imagined the tiny fingers and toes with delicate pink skin. The daddy searched for floor plans with one more bedroom. The “big kids” danced and sang – “we’re having a baby!” over and over!

But, God’s will is incomprehensible. We lost that baby last week. He was our sixth child, and he now awaits us in Heaven with two siblings. Six babies. Our big family.

The mommy and daddy are sad. The “big kids” were sad but are already praying for another baby. They all know that these three little saints are praying for us. And life goes on, but the hurt is real. God’s will is unknown, but they trust Him anyway.

And in moments of exhaustion, I ask: Is this mother’s heart strong enough to endure this pain?

but he said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness." I will all the more gladly boast of my weaknesses, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. 2 Corinthians 12:9


Saturday, January 21, 2012

What on earth is He up to?

reposting this amazing quote Elizabeth pointed out on Jen's blog, just wow...

"Imagine yourself as a living house. God comes in to rebuild that house. At first, perhaps, you can understand what He is doing. He is getting the drains right and stopping the leaks in the roof and so on; you knew that those jobs needed doing and so you are not surprised. But presently He starts knocking the house about in a way that hurts abominably and does not seem to make any sense. What on earth is He up to? The explanation is that He is building quite a different house from the one you thought of - throwing out a new wing here, putting on an extra floor there, running up towers, making courtyards. You thought you were being made into a decent little cottage: but He is building a palace. He intends to come and live in it Himself." ~ C.S. Lewis - Mere Christianity


Thursday, January 12, 2012

Tim Tebow's Fire!

Sorry for the goofy way videos are embedding here. I'll figure it out eventually!

But I just cannot get over this...

"British musician John Parr re-recorded his smash-hit "St. Elmo's Fire," to pay homage to the young star."

What a blessing to have such a role model for our boys!


Tuesday, January 10, 2012

If You Love Books Like Me...

not only will you enjoy this video, you will envy the creator who spent hours upon hours making it happen!

HT Marcel

But, of course, I completely agree with Jennifer and cannot wait to finally get a Kindle (basic version)!


Monday, January 9, 2012

Only Three Came...But They Came

Our homily at Mass yesterday, Feast of the Epiphany, was wonderful! Father kept reminding us that only three wise men saw the star and had enough wisdom and prudence to follow it to Bethlehem. Surely others saw the star in the sky, but only these three had enough perseverance to figure out what it meant. They were THE three wise men! Well, not quite.

As Marcel points out, actually following the star led them to evil Herod. They were experts in astrology, which today has evolved into horoscopes and other maladies. It was only when the scribes recited Scripture that the wise men knew they were to go to Bethlehem to find the newborn king!

And, Matt hysterically reminds us that their visit to evil Herod actually caused the massacre of the Holy Innocents, and it took an angel's visit for them not to go back and report on the newborn king's exact location. Their wisdom was clearly in heeding the angel's caution.

But seriously, we honor these men, for one simple act. They bowed down and worshipped the Baby Jesus. They did not entirely understand who He was or what He was going to do, but they recognized His royalty. It is a daily reminder to us to bow down and worship, to submit ourselves to the authority of Christ the King, even when we are completely bewildered by Him and/or His plans for our lives.

Do you have the wisdom to spend 10 minutes a day with Jesus?


Friday, January 6, 2012

Women of Inspiration

Today was our monthly Catholic homeschooling group's First Friday Mass and lunch. I was completely overcome in Mass this morning by being surrounded by such awesome women and their families! Truly, it was humbling and inspiring to look from face to face and see the faith and devotion these ladies have. In my experience, Catholic homeschooling mothers are some of the most beautiful images of God I have ever seen.

While I know personally only about half of the families there, I know I could ask any one of them to pray for me or help me in some need, and they would provide in abundance. I know that they are all watching out for my children in the lunch hall and on the playground when my two eyes cannot catch all three little ones, because every one of them treasures every child as a miraculous gift from God. I know these women are the friends who will pray me to holiness, as we walk together in this vocation, teaching our children and leading them to Him.

And, amazingly, whether a large group or a small group, I have found such women in all three states in which we have homeschooled (Michigan, Florida, and Texas). The Body of Christ surrounds us, and to be together with like minded women who have similar days and nights helps me walk this walk better than anything I can do with my own power. With them and trust in God, I am confident I can not only survive this lifestyle but thrive amidst the gifts that are my children and the opportunity to teach them at home.

So, ladies, near and far, thank you for walking with me. Thank you for surrounding me with joy and love and peace and faith. Just your presence is enough to lift me up, whether I need lifting or not!

Do you know the women of whom I speak? Where can you find them in your town?


This Job Is Hard

Falling into the couch the other night after a long day, my husband says to me, "This is hard work!" He was referring to the complex task of raising three children that day. His simple comment stuck with me, as I realized I needed to be reminded of this fact.

So, here is your reminder, Friend. This job is hard. Motherhood. Homeschooling. They are not easy tasks, and we should not keep hoping for the day when it will get easier. Don't get me wrong. It does get easier. Different seasons of life result in different levels of difficulty. But, in the grand scheme of things, this job is hard. It is hard, because it is important.

Physically, by the end of the day (or the middle of the day) you want to fall to the ground and surrender. Of course, this may not apply if you are under the age of 30! You may ache from pregnancy, ache from a night with a toddler flopping all over you as he slept, ache from running to rescue dare devil children from certain injury, ache from rocking an infant for hours, ache from keeping up with children at a park or zoo, ache from standing all day long (the last time you sat was to go to the restroom, and that was yesterday), or other similar feats.

Then, there are the worries. Are they eating enough? Sleeping enough? Are they behind in math? Ahead in spelling? Do they know Jesus? Will they keep the faith? Who are their friends? Are they healthy? How do I keep them safe? Do they have kind hearts? Will they get to Heaven? These and more spin in our heads, as we try to do what's best for our babies. A mother's worries never end...unless she finds the peace in giving it all to God.

The heart of a mother is stretched like her bulging belly during pregnancy. We are forced to love harder than we ever thought possible, which makes loss that much more painful. Someday our children will "leave the nest." Even though my oldest is only nine, I am starting to see evidence that she will one day walk away from me and have "her own life." The years of my influence are waning, and so I feel called to love her ever more each day. I work harder to help her grow into the strong, delightful young lady I know God has created her to be. But, this mother's heart knows I am not in control. God will lead her. I just have to keep trying to steer her back towards Him over and over again.

To raise virtuous children, I must grow in virtue. I must control my reactions. I must never let my guard down. It is exhausting, as it should be. We are called to give our all to God to fulfill His will for us. His will for me is to raise these babies and give them back to Him, so if I do not give every ounce of myself every day to glorifying Him in this vocation, I fail. It is okay to be tired. I must acknowledge that I am working hard.

Note: I do not mean that if your sanity is compromised by your exhaustion, that is excusable. Sometimes we truly do need a helping hand, whether from another person or by giving ourselves a break and/or cutting something on our to-do list. I am speaking here about the general day-to-day weariness that comes from loving until it hurts but still knowing in your mother's heart that you can do it all over again tomorrow.

For God has designed motherhood. Our model of motherhood, the Blessed Virgin Mary, had the most difficult motherhood of any. She saw her son ridiculed and crucified, knowing that He was the Son of God. What a painful way to let go of your only child! In Mary's strength, we can find strength for this job. We can endure its struggles and be renewed in mind and spirit to carry on with a loving, gentle, mother's heart.

How do you cope with exhausting days? Have you found ways to stay consistent despite the weariness?


Thursday, January 5, 2012

A New Year's Gift

Happy New Year’s! I received a gift from Jesus on Sunday, and I want to share it with you.
We had a wonderful Christmas, enjoying intimate family time here at home before I took the children to visit the grandparents while Daddy went back to work. The time visiting was hectic but so blessed by love and laughter! Coming home was a great shock to my system, as my husband quickly noticed I needed a vacation from my vacation.
In fact, for a couple of days, all of the things I needed to accomplish before the new week could begin were swimming in circles in my head, not unlike those sugarplums dancing just a week prior. I thought about them, complained to myself how much there was to do, and did... Absolutely.Nothing!
I was overwhelmed, much like a deer in headlights, a character trait of mine I often lament. There was conference work to be done, homeschooling plans to make, bills to pay, laundry to do, email to answer, and football to watch. It was simply inconceivable to me how I survive on a daily basis with so many responsibilities.
Confession. I did not do absolutely nothing. I watched football, drank Shiner, and napped for a couple of days. And I did a few loads of laundry, so we all had clean necessities.
Then, it was Sunday. Sunday, of course, is a gift in and of itself, but all I could see was Mass, more football, more Shiner, and more napping! Hooray! The rest was way too much to face. If I ignored it, would it all go away?
As these thoughts were swimming in my head, I walked into Mass somewhere just before communion.
Explanation. Unfortunately, my youngest child has not yet mastered a good night’s sleep, and so if he falls asleep during the thirty-minute drive to Sunday Mass, we let him sleep. The alternative is waking him up, which results in a grumpy boy who will not stay quiet or still in Mass anyway and must be taken out.
Anyway, I say my Rosary in the van and try to pray while waiting for him to wake up. Usually, I get to hear at least half of the homily, because he naps about 45 minutes total. On the Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God, however, he slept longer. So, we walk in, stay at the back, and I try to enter into worship for the last few minutes of Mass.
I try to shed all the moaning I just did in the van, telling God I just have no motivation to get started on any of the daunting tasks in front of me in the days to come. Jesus, please help me, I beg. With that slight opening of my heart, He enters. An angelic voice from the choir begins singing the Ave, and it hits me.
None of my concerns have anything to do with this.
I am before God Almighty working out my salvation, and nothing else is nearly as important.
At all.
This gift, this realization, gave me new life. It was just a moment, but on my knees, snuggling a still groggy toddler, gazing upon His Body and Blood in the Eucharist, I knew I could do it all for Him. I could do it all with Jesus.
That night, after a day of naps, Shiner, and football (and some giggly family time), I made a to-do list, and I dove in head first. A few days later, I have still not made a sizable dent in that list, but these tasks will not defeat me. One thing at a time, He will see me through.
Is your list too long? How do you maintain the proper perspective while dealing with the day to day? Jesus, I trust in You!