Thursday, December 11, 2014

Birthday Wish

I do not remember if one is supposed to share their birthday wish or not, but I am going to do it anyway. Today I turned 38. It is a little close to 40 for my comfort. In fact, I can barely believe I am this far into my life. It seems only yesterday that I was holding my little newborn girl, adoring the rare moments she was peaceful. That little baby is 12. Time flies when you're having fun.

It hasn't all been fun and games, of course. I battle with a mighty temper, so there have been plenty of ugly days. Since the birth of my little girl, we have moved across the country three times, four if you count our current little expedition. I have delivered three amazing sons and suffered three early miscarriages.

But, as I gazed at the shining faces gathered around our breakfast nook table tonight, when they were finished singing Happy Birthday and I studied the one white candle in the middle of the frosted brownies I had baked (from a mix, don't judge) for my "cake," I had one wish:

Lord, give me more of this.

I want more of the laughing and singing. I want more of the shining eyes and the giggles. I want more of us together as a family at the dinner table. I want to enjoy the deep questions they ask. I want to savor the demands for hugs. I want to hear them beg, Mommy, Mommy, Mommy, Mommy, Mommy over and over. I want snuggles and stories and schooltime. And I want my husband to keep looking into my eyes, to keep repeating I love you, to keep pulling me close at random times. Please, God, give me many, many more years of this.

My parents call me every year and sing Happy Birthday, no matter where I am and no matter where they are. They have only missed one year to my recollection, and it was because my Dad had open heart surgery that day (excuses, excuses!). I asked them tonight after they were done singing if they would keep on singing until I was 60. Dad answered, if we're still around! It feels a little silly to be 38 and have my parents singing to me over the phone, but you know what? If they didn't sing, I would miss it. A lot. I look forward to that call, and I want more of those calls, many more.

This life that I have is so richly blessed. I find these days that it is easier to think gratitude than grumbling, and that is my prayer for all of you. I pray that you are able to slow down long enough to look around you and revel in the gift of your unique mother's life.

Bless Your Heart!

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Stillness and Joy

It has been a wild and crazy fall, my friends! My husband is taking some coursework for a few months at the University of Virginia, so we have rented a house and are here as a family for a bit. What a tremendous blessing it has been to cancel all of our obligations for a few months, load up the van with clothes and books, and drive halfway across the country for a new adventure! If we were not homeschooling, if I was not a stay-at-home mom, this would not be possible. But, it is!

And, joy! Joy is permeating everything, which is exactly as it should be during Advent, right? Actually, that's not entirely true. I am seeped in joy, a deep settled peace that isn't really wavering with the tween drama, toddler meltdowns, and brotherly battles that have accompanied me these past few months. So, I wonder if perhaps I am the only person in my family who feels this deep down wonder at it all. Truly, it is a gift.

You see, I do not have all of my stuff. I do not know a single soul IRL here in Charlottesville, and I have absolutely no obligations other than to love these people, these precious, perfect people that God has given me! I cook. I clean. I shop. I teach. I bathe. I read. I change. I pray. It is remarkable how every moment has felt like a gift, even on our challenging road trip, which I had to make on my own after dh had already arrived in VA.

There is a lot of talk on these interwebs the past few weeks about finding inner peace and joy and about what it is all supposed to look like on the outside, but I am finally discovering that Advent has nothing to do with what is on the outside. Duh! We do not have our gorgeous nativity set. We do not have our Christmas tree or ornaments. We do have each other. So, I am forced to make the most out of the traditions I was able to bring, and they are not really that important. Being together. Being truly present in the moment to one another is.

If you are feeling overwhelmed by what you have not done (yet) this season, please stop and breathe. Go read the wise, soothing counsel of Elizabeth Foss (she is offering an incredibly inspiring Advent workshop for free titled Comfort & Joy; it is not too late to hop on over and exhale with her) or the poetic, faith-filled words of Ann Voskamp and remember again what this waiting is all about. Focus inward on yourself and the people around you. Just do one thing each day to embrace Advent with your children. Let go of your dreams of doing it all: Advent wreath with prayer and signing, Jesse tree with homemade ornaments, picture books wrapped for each day, etc... and just let it happen.

We are lighting our Advent wreath at dinner but not saying any special prayers. We are reading Ann's gorgeous new book but not making the ornaments. We are reading our picture books, unwrapped, sometimes a few at a time, as we miss days. And Christmas is STILL coming! Jesus is waiting for us to be still with Him, over the kitchen sink as we do dishes, on the floor as we tie a shoe, in bed as we snuggle with our tired, worn-out husbands.

My prayer for each of you is that you can find the stillness and the joy that comes from embracing God's will each moment, even if that moment is not at all how you planned or pictured it to be. Each of you remains in my prayers during this Holy season, and I hope to write more as the days and weeks pass.

Bless Your Heart!

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Week in My Life - Friday Success

So, today I think I’ll try to do what this whole thing was designed to be in the first place, a glimpse into our days, a snapshot of a typical, average, nothing special but oh-so-beautiful time in our ever-changing lives. Here goes…

6am – I actually got out of bed before the little boys woke me up, y’all! This is huge! I showered and made breakfast by myself before they came down. This involves so much prep the night before, because my brain truly does not function for about an hour after I first get up, regardless of caffeine. I have to lay out clothes, ingredients for breakfast, etc.. Success.

7am – We are all eating breakfast, everyone dressed to shoes except my daughter. I tried a new breakfast cookie recipe this morning. My oldest son has been grumbling about breakfast foods lately, almost never eating what I fix and resorting to cereal without milk. Hello? He needs protein. Enter peanut butter, honey, oatmeal breakfast cookies. They were good but not great. He ate one. I also tried to make hot chocolate with a new all-natural mix I bought, because it is so ridiculously cold here for south Texas. Nobody but me liked the new mix. Even when I add extra sugar. Sigh. Partial success/partial failure.

8am – Mass. We try to make it to daily Mass once a week, because one of our homeschool groups meets right after this Mass. (yes, we are blessed to have more than one homeschool group) I am pleased we were on time, and we managed to all remain in the pew the entire Mass. Although, I was doubtful for a while when the four-year-old got the wiggles. Success.
 9am – Our homeschool group had a celebration for St. Martin de Tours. About once a month, some of the moms lead a craft/activity session for a saint. I didn’t know much about St. Martin, but the children made lanterns out of parchment paper rolled up, decorated with cut-out tissue paper shapes. Since my children are craft-deprived, they were thrilled. Even my oldest son, who tends to be really shy at these gatherings since he hasn’t quite clicked with any of the boys there, enjoyed the project (and the hot cocoa). Success.

12pm – We actually decided to do our Morning Basket before lunch even though it was late in the day. I can honestly say this is the first week that we have done our memory work every single day, and it paid off, y’all! Usually, I spend two weeks on one “week” of material to ensure they retain at least some of it, but this week, they mastered most of it. So, we get to move on next Monday! Success.

2pm – After a later lunch and getting the toddler down for his nap, we went back to the school room. Since it’s Friday, we really didn’t have that much to finish up on their new weekly checklists. We corrected some math pages, did some spelling dictation, worked together on a few other things, and I read the story of Macbeth from Nesbit’s book for our history studies. At first, they expressed amazement and dismay that I would read them such a terrible story, but then, inspired by Deconstructing Penguins, I pressed them to explain why the story was even written. An inspiring conversation ensued about Macbeth’s greed for power and unfortunate reliance on witchcraft. My degree is in English, so this just made my heart soar! Success.

3pm – I had previously planned and explained to the children that after naptime, we needed to go to the library and stop for a few groceries. When the time finally came, my daughter dropped her head and declared she felt too tired and blah to go. My four-year-old declared he wanted to go to sleep, and my nine-year-old flat out wanted to stay home. Being a wiser mommy than I used to be and not looking forward to going out in the unusually cold weather, I declared we were staying home, although I was dismayed to cancel my plan. Partial failure/partial success.
My Miami friends have assured me it is beautiful there!
 5pm – After folding some laundry with me while watching Pioneer Woman again, my daughter decided she wanted to make dinner. The plan was potato soup, so I peeled and diced the potatoes and let her do the rest. That gave me a delightful 30 minutes to answer some email and mostly finish up my blog post from yesterday. Plus, the soup was super yummy! Success.

7pm – When it was chore time, the children ended up playing more than cleaning, to the point that there was some running around the kitchen and up the stairs where the toddler tried to follow and fell (just on the first step, thanks to his Guardian Angel). So, after a few verbal warnings, I got a little drill sergeant on them when they didn’t settle down and issued some significant consequences for tomorrow. I think it sometimes makes me more sad than it makes them when I take away privileges, though.  Everyone finished chores without further incident and all three boys fell asleep as soon as their heads hit the pillows. Partial success/partial failure.

10pm – Here I sit, writing blog posts, cruising Facebook, catching up on my TV crime dramas for the week (How to Get Away with Murder, Bones, and Castle) as I unwind from a full but wonderful week. I had an earlier snack of chips and guacamole, enjoying these fabulous single serving cups of guacamole I discovered at Costco. They are going to turn out to be dangerous! And, I might have made 5 fresh chocolate chip cookies with some dough I had in the fridge. I ate three, so I probably will have to eat the other two in order for the children not to discover them and fight over them tomorrow! Junk food overload. Partial success/partial failure.

And this. 
This is my first week of blogging, where I totally understand why bloggers almost always post the good stuff. It’s the first time that I have had to examine my days and what I should share. Historically, my posts are not a scrapbook or chronicle of any sort. Noticing the successes, what’s working, the things that touched my heart, the fun moments, and the gifts I found in each day meant that I had to be more aware of these things. And I finally get it. The complaint that bloggers only post the positive and hide the negative is constant, but the reality is that writing a blog helps you see the positive and allow it to overshadow the negative. Kind of like childbirth, maybe?

What successes did you have today?

Read more Week in My Life posts at Team Whitaker here.


Bless Your Heart!

Friday, November 14, 2014

Week in My Life - Changing School Plans...Again!

This post took a long time to get up, because I had to go back and add all the links!

Today I want to focus on our school time and report on how that’s going this particular week. It is actually going really well this year overall, and I feel that we have a good, manageable plan again. After we were sick for two weeks, I decided that I needed to rework our checklists, and the inspiration was to focus on the basics and give the big kids more independence. To make that happen, I changed from daily checklists to weekly checklists. I think that is probably a natural progression as the children get older and gain independence.

I am a firm believer that we have to change up our plans periodically to adapt to the changing seasons of homeschooling. Sometimes that means we can change things once or twice a year; often that means we need to evaluate monthly. That’s why we generally school for 6-8 weeks and then take a week off. It gives me an opportunity to assess where we are and freshen our plans for the next term. Taking two weeks off for sickness was certainly unplanned, and I have yet to figure out how it will affect our entire year. But it gave me  impetus to examine our lessons and tweak my expectations.

Here is what things looks like this week.

My 12 year old, 6th grade daughter does the following independently four days a week (except I do teach the new math lesson when she starts a new concept):

ü  Math U See page

ü  Xtra Math session

ü  Read a Book to a Little Brother (alternating which one)

ü  Play Outside for 30 minutes – yes, I finally put this on their school charts about a month ago, because it’s the bare minimum for me, and I got tired of forcing them outside

ü  Literature Reading – she has a list of novels she’s reading this year, some with study questions

ü  Catechism lesson – usually reading from a book, as we prepare for Confirmation this year!

My 9 year old, 4th grade son does almost the same exact stuff, except he does not do the Writing & Rhetoric on his own. For Literature Reading, he is currently working through The Father Brown Reader and CHC study guide and then will move to his list of literature titles.

Then, they each have to work through the following each week, and I am giving them a lot of freedom as to what they do on which days, as long as they do the prescribed number of lessons/pages/chapters/et al:

ü  Science lesson (3x a week) – currently Exploring Creation Through Land Animals with the Notebooking Journal

ü  World History (on own, 3x a week) – whatever independent reading they are doing for our current Connecting with History unit

ü  Life of Fred chapter (3x a week) – I discovered these only last year, so we are going through the elementary series as a review

ü  Elective lesson (2x a week)– different for each

ü  Spelling dictation (2x a week) – we love Spelling Wisdom

ü  Book of Centuries (1x a week) – they are required to put 5 things in their book each week

ü  Catechism (with Mom, 2x a week) – Confirmation preparation

ü  World History (with Mom, 3x a week) – our Connecting with History read alouds, maps, projects, etc…

ü  Memory Work (with Mom, 3x a week) – we do this in the context of our Morning Basket

My daughter adds to this list a session of the current Online Class she is taking through Homeschool Connections Recorded Courses Unlimited Access (2x a week) and All Things Girl reading (with Mom, 2x a week). My son adds to the above Writing & Rhetoric (with Mom, 3x a week). Her electives are Texas History, Art Appreciation, American History Living Books, and History of Science. His electives are Texas History, Virtue Study (PACE), and History of Science. They choose the order in which they do their electives and follow a checklist of reading and assignments for each.

Our Morning Basket still happens in the morning, but it might be before or after they start their independent work, depending on the little boys. We pray, read the saint of the day, write in our gratitude journals, study our current Scripture verse from Ann Voskamp’s series, practice our Shakespeare passage from How to Teach Your Children Shakespeare (I knew I would love this, but I am thrilled the kids do, too!), and review our Classically Catholic Memory work. Sometimes I will move right into the work we do together, but sometimes I need to tend to the little boys, relegating it to later in the day. Oh, and it is our intention to do a Poetry Teatime each Tuesday and an Art/Craft Project each Thursday, but that, quite honestly, is hit or miss.

The four-year-old has taken a keen interest in school. I fill our 10-drawer cart with ten things he can work on each week, and he picks what we do each day. Some days he does nothing. Most days he is working right beside me as I supervise the big kids’ work and is still asking to “do school” long after we are done for the day. I am loosely following a letter of the week plan with some ideas from Twenty Six Letters to Heaven, and he uses a variety of materials. Those include My First School Book (Handwriting Without Tears), Who Am I? (Image of God series), CHC’s I Can Find Numbers and Shapes, CHC’s I Can Find Letter Sounds, Making Music Praying Twice, and Child-Sized Masterpieces.

With this new plan, we have accomplished more learning with more positive attitudes this week than we did for much of October, so I am pleased with the changes. Of course, I am fully aware that I will need to change the plans again, probably for our January start, because that’s how I find we are the most successful. We learn when we are happy, and we are happy when we do what works!

How often do you modify your school plans? What is working right now?


Thursday, November 13, 2014

Week In My Life - This Mother's Heart


Here are a few things from Wednesday that touched this mother’s heart:

©     My daughter has rarely allowed me to fix her hair. Even from the age of two or three when she finally had enough hair to fix, she was not interested. She has always been ultra-sensitive to things and told me it hurts to fix and feels weird when it’s done. So, when she came to me in the morning fresh out of the shower, while I was scrambling to get little boys dressed and myself ready for the day, and asked me to do a fishtail braid, I immediately said yes. Never mind that I have never done a fishtail braid in my life. Never mind that her father got hooked on Cute Girl Hairstyles a while back and is the master of the house at these things. I’m a quick study, so she told me how to do it. It’s something small, but as she gets older, I will treasure that time.

©     Later in the day, my four-year-old came up to me with a sheet of paper on which he had written various large letters. “For you, Mommy!” I have a special place in my heart for this little guy. He is tiny for his age, not due to any health issues that we’ve found, so I always forget that he is smarter and more mature than he looks. He is so stinkin’ cute that it’s unbearable sometimes, especially when his anger gets the best of him! Anyway, the piece of paper had a couple of letters from his name and two Ms. Right away, I knew he had “written” his name and Mom. Be still my heart.

©     I am in the midst of making some decisions about how I want to give to those outside of my home, including what to do about the San Antonio Catholic Homeschool Conference. This afternoon was full of phone calls regarding the conference, trying to discern what will best serve our local homeschooling community this year, while not overtaxing me or my fellow volunteers. Quite honestly, I was really struggling with what God seems to be asking me to do, and I called a good friend for advice. She knows me, and said exactly the right things to change my heart. It was stunning, actually, how she could help me mentally frame the decisions to temper my passionate emotional attachment to the conference.

©     In the evening, my Mom called. She was wanting to discuss some plans for our Thanksgiving visit, hoping to plan some special things to make memories with the grandchildren. Watching my parents love my children has got to be one of the greatest privileges in life, probably close behind actually loving your own grandchildren. Growing up, Mom and I didn’t see eye to eye very often. My personality type is much more like my father’s, so Mom and I weren’t especially close. But, she’s my mom. And as I get older, gain perspective on what motherhood is and isn’t, and see her treasure my kids, I adore her more and more.
©     I had a bit too much Sonic sweet tea with pomegranate blueberry flavoring late in the day yesterday, so I was up very late. In fact, I was able to finish Downton Abbey Season 5 online, which was a nice diversion after a mentally exhausting day. But, the reality is that my husband wasn’t home last night, and it’s hard for me to sleep when he’s not here. I want to hear his breathing and feel his warmth beside me. More than that, I revel being in the presence of someone who accepts me and loves me despite myself. Approaching our 15th wedding anniversary has made me reflect on how amazing our relationship is, given our many differences and challenges. There is no explanation for it except the grace of the Sacrament of Holy Matrimony. I am not sure where we would be without that grace! 

Read more Wednesdays over here at Kathryn’s!


Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Week in My Life - In I-don't-own-a-real-camera Pics

My day in lousy (but fun?) iPhone photos:

First Breakfast for the little boys, usually leftovers

My big kids fold their own laundry, but today I feel like giving them a gift.

I am invited to a private Mass.

Youngest altar server ever

Today I allow recess before school, and some sort of army game ensues.

It's 50 degrees outside? Why, yes, we can have hot chocolate!

I get distracted and come back to find them looking through their baby books.

My sweet baby with his thumb

The washer and dryer boxes are reaching the end.
The four-year-old takes some photos while we do our lessons.

And, he takes this entirely unflattering video clip.

Homeschool Connections Unlimited Access class

Play-d'oh class

I love his awkward position!

We decide to head to Costco late in the day.

But I notice a box on the porch before we leave!

The quintessential American/Costco/Texas excess only $189.99

Bubble bath time

My beautiful helper

My late dinner - BBQ Coleslaw sandwich from Costco & Cheer!

 Read more Week in My Life posts over at Kathryn's place!

Bless Your Heart!

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Week in My Life - Let's Try This

It was a Monday, y'all, no photos. I'll try to do better tomorrow. I'm not sure about this series, but I trust Kathryn when she says it's a good thing!

15 Gifts from Monday:

Lazy Morning - I am not a morning person. When I stay up until 2am to prepare lessons for the week, I'm really not a morning person. But, I managed to make banana bread with the little boys and sneak some z's on the couch for a couple more hours until the big kids woke up. Seriously, my little boys are up at 6am, but the big kids sleep until 8am. Someday, I'll use this time more wisely, but I've always been Jenny-Bear in the mornings, so for now, the couch time is best.

Speedy Facebook - Having been sick for two weeks, I have been feeling really lonely and a little too attached to my FB feed. This morning, I resolve to just look for Messages and Notifications and leave the scrolling for when I take my mid-day break or at night. This is so hard for me, to focus on the people around me instead of knowing it all and not missing a thing.

Divine Office Podcast - I love the rhythm of the prayers of the Church, and I have been using the apps and websites to try to do Morning Prayer and Night Prayer the majority of days for a few months. Since I discovered the podcast, though, it's happening a lot more regularly. Today, with such a late start, I decide to listen to Morning Prayer while getting dressed and sit down for a few minutes afterwards for my offering.

My Children's Complaints - This is a funny one, but honestly, I realized how firstworldproblems their complaints are. And that makes me happy. Of course, we practice not complaining, which is why I'm on a gratitude kick this month, but here's a sampling. My tween daughter's morning fit was that her shirt didn't fit right around the collar, so she eventually changed shirts. One son is out of undies? Throw a load in my brand new washer and dryer! Another boy must have asked me a dozen times throughout the day if he could watch a show, play on my phone, or play on the computer. We played learning games and painted until I sent him outside. We are so blessed.

Homeschooling - Love it! After two weeks of barely doing much school, I revamped our checklists to eliminate extras and get us back on track. Our Morning Basket prayers and memory work evoke wonderful conversations, and even my daughter's difficult math lesson resulted in a victory when I stayed patient and she finally understood. The pre-Kindergartener was begging to do more school at 4:30pm.

Our Faith - This year we are preparing the two big kids for Confirmation, and I love the discussions we are having. Sacramental prep years are such special times to dive deeper into the faith we try to live on a daily basis. Of course, attending a "Mass" said by a four-year-old in our pajamas was probably the highlight of my day. You still haven't made one of those Mass kits for your kids to play Mass? I finally managed it last Easter and highly suggest it, even if it's not Pinterest-pretty.

My Baby - He's 20 months now, so I probably need to stop calling him that. His little personality is so special, fussing frustrated one minute and crawling into my lap sucking his thumb for a cuddle the next minute. He is also my only baby who prefers to be put down to sleep and left alone rather than rocked or carried or bounced. It's a little sad, but it's so sweet when he reaches for his crib.

My Husband - We were supposed to enjoy a little getaway this weekend, but with everyone being sick for so long, we decided to cancel the trip. I'm sad as I click around canceling hotel rooms and plane tickets, but I'm grateful for our marriage. See yesterday's post for more.

A Mommy Nap - While the big kids wrap up school, I get a nap. Most days, I am able to rest if I want/need. As long as I find something to occupy the four-year-old, I can nap while the baby naps. I have found that my mommy attitude is so much better when I rest for a bit, especially when it's time for the dreaded bedtime rituals. I don't fall apart at 5:00! This probably means that if I went to bed a lot earlier, I could skip the naps, but then when would I watch my adult shows and eat my ice cream and Godiva chocolates?

Homeschool Conferences - We are in the midst of having to make some decisions about our San Antonio Catholic Homeschool Conference, so we are scheduling conference calls for later in the week. I am so grateful for these resources! Not only have I had so much fun and learned so much at the conferences I have attended, now I am making all sorts of new friends and being challenged in fun, new ways by leading and speaking at conferences. If you have one nearby and have never been, do go!

Folding Laundry - When I put on a Pioneer Woman show while I fold laundry, the kids will usually hang out with me. They help me fold, and we decide which of the yummy dishes we want to try. It's really fun to share this time, late in the day, and chat about fun stuff. It's part of my resolve to do more things I enjoy.

Freezer Meals - Y'all, this is my first time to try this idea of freezer cooking, and we are almost halfway through our stash. I bought a Costco freezer meal plan from the $5 Dinner lady, and it's working pretty well, so far. I'll write up a longer post sometime about it, but today I defrosted some chicken for tacos and tortillas and whipped up some frozen veggies. Easy. Just what I need. And when hubby's not home, it lasts two meals, so tomorrow is done, too!

Read Aloud - Inspired by Sarah McKenzie's Read Aloud Revival and Alice Ozma's book, the big kids and I are trying a 100-day read aloud streak. We will hit our halfway mark next week. So far, we have read Tom Sawyer and are currently reading The Wonderful Wizard of Oz in preparation for a book club we're hosting next week. Currently, after the little boys are in bed and everyone's chores are done, we sit on the couch and read for ten minutes then pray a decade together. It's a special bond.

The Internet - For all of the awful things about it, I do think there is so much goodness. I usually click on a bunch of links in my Facebook feed throughout the day and keep them open for when I have time to sit down and read lengthier articles. Today, I found good news, sad news, interesting ideas, and challenging thoughts. Finally, I watch that viral video of Garth Brooks stopping a concert to honor a woman battling cancer. Yes, I cried. My husband proposed to me sixteen years ago after a Garth Brooks concert, and I suddenly want to put his music on an endless loop and sing along at the top of my lungs (but the kids are in bed). I think it's amazing to learn all about this wonderful world and the other people in it.

This Blog - I'm not sure how much I like this Week in My Life stuff, since I don't really see myself using this space to document our lives like some mommy bloggers. I do know, though, that when I take the time to write what I want to write, I am inspired. Yes, silly and selfish as it sounds, I inspire myself with my writing. Plenty of bloggers (like Hallie) admit that writing helps them process things and embrace life, and I feel the same way. When I think of something to write and take the time to actually start writing, I actually work through the idea, rather than cast it aside and rush off to the next big thing. Good stuff.

For what are you thankful today? What was your Monday like?

For more Week in My Life 2014 Posts, check out Kathryn's link-up:

Bless Your Heart!

Monday, November 10, 2014

Personality and Marriage

Sometimes you disappoint your spouse just by being you, and there is nothing you can do about it. We are unique individuals, and while our differences can beautifully sync together to create a symbiotic relationship, sometimes they don't.

We are about to celebrate 15 years of marriage next week. I have always been an extrovert, gaining energy and enthusiasm by being around others. My husband, on the other hand, is a natural introvert. Sometimes more than others he has forced himself out of his comfort zone to participate in social gatherings and large events, but he's more inclined, as he puts it, to be a homebody.

The result is that he brings an amazing peace to our household that I do not. He has taught me over the years to enjoy being at home with just my family. I have learned not to make plans for the weekends. Sure, sometimes I suggest possible outings, but we do not make many commitments anymore. His example shows me that I do not always have to be doing something somewhere else to have a fulfilling life, and I think, has therefore, helped me temper my own propensity to overdo it. I certainly have more peace about focusing on my current season of mothering young children and the limitations of that. Children thrive on routines, too, so I know they benefit from our laid back, comfortable leisure time.

But, I still need to get out and be around other people. I am still a natural leader who gains energy and joy from working with a team to accomplish something. So, sometimes I have to tell him that I feel called to get involved in something, and he's less than thrilled about the investment. A few times we have found things we can do together, because he is a skilled leader, as well. For the most part, though, I'm always leading something.

I try my best to get my extrovert fix on weekdays when he is at work, but sometimes my activities encroach on my evenings and weekends. And, the bottom line is that he doesn't like that. He accepts my desire to be involved in such things a bit begrudgingly, but he knows the joy it brings me. So, his love for me conquers his own desires.

There have been seasons where I have tried to be less out-of-the-house, and it works, for a while. It never lasts long, because this is the way God made me. Over the years, we have sacrificed for one another in a variety of ways, but today I am thankful for a husband who "gets me" and sees my joy in being the way God made me!

In what ways has your personality challenged your marriage?

Bless Your Heart!

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Can Anyone Hear Me?

Everybody wants to be heard, right? I mostly lost my voice this week. We have all been fighting the mega-virus these past two weeks. My first thought on Monday when it felt kind of scratchy was: "Moms should not ever lose their voices." It's not like I have a choice whether or not to speak. I have four children, and charades isn't just going to get it done. So, I managed to get through it with my hoarse, painful loud-whispering.

When they didn't listen or I had to repeat myself, I'll admit, my blood started to churn a bit. I just wanted them to hear me! The first time!

And I started thinking about that. My toddler throws tantrums occasionally (don't you love that subjective term?). He wishes more than anything that he could communicate to me exactly why he should get whatever it is he wants, so that is his way. My tween throws tantrums, too, fortunately not as often, and she shouts as she stomps to her room: Why don't you listen to me? What she really means is: Why don't I always get my way?

Yesterday was a great election day. I'm a nerd. I stayed up late, by myself, watching election returns, eating popcorn and Junior Mints. I was trolling the Facebook pages of some friends who were doing the same, and I felt like we were watching together. Voting is about our voice being heard. We want the government to listen to us, because the United States of America has a "government [that is supposed to be] of the people, for the people, [and] by the people." (Gettysburg Address) Right?

But, what about God? Does His blood (work with me on the comparison here) boil when He has to repeat Himself to us over and over again? Does He throw tantrums and yell: Why don't those humans always do it My Way? For He is "the Way, and the Truth and the Life." (John 14:6) And daily, over and over, we don't do it His way.

So, as I am forced to keep my mouth shut more than I would like, I can at least share with you the thoughts in my head. I think the only way to truly be heard is to listen more.

I need to listen to my toddler and anticipate his needs as best as I can, so he feels connected to me. That means ensuring he has the right amount of food, sleep, cuddles, and my focused attention. My tween daughter needs me to stop what I am doing and listen when she shares random musings. She needs me to pat her on the back and grab her for a quick hug more than I do.

God, I really need to make space in my day for the peace and silence needed to hear Him. Since I stopped nursing this summer, there aren't those silent, sitting moments that force me to pause and rest with the Lord. The other morning, I sat in my room and listened to the divine office podcast for Morning Prayer. Kids were in and out. The toddler was up in my lap and down again, running out to fetch a ball and coming back to play catch with me. But, my body was still and my voice was quiet (except for the time I whisper-yelled at the other boys to stop fighting), and I knew I was with God.

If you want to be heard, listen to the Word was God. Find Scripture. Find quiet. Listen. Because He hears our hearts before we even speak a word.

How can your listening skills improve?

Bless Your Heart!

Monday, November 3, 2014

Are you beautiful?

I have the honor of hosting monthly gatherings of Catholic homeschooling moms in my home. We share fellowship and encouragement, and I take notes to send out to those unable to join us that particular month. These are my October notes. We are all sick here, so I'm not able to include photos this time around. Enjoy the thoughts shared!

In October, we talked about the feminine strength from chapter 2 of Momnipotent: "We appreciate beauty." This is a conglomerate of the discussions at our dessert and our breakfast.

We watched the introduction to this session’s discussion on the DVD. Basically, a camera crew walked up to women, clearly mothers, out in a public place and asked each one of them, “Are you beautiful?” The responses ranged from “I’m not comfortable answering that question” to “I think I’m average” to “Uh…um…eh…” and two women acknowledged their beauty, one pointing out that her mother and sister next to her are also beautiful while the other described her inner beauty as a kind person.

Then, we launched into our discussion, where I posed the same difficult question to the moms attending:
·       I realized in my 20s I will never be a size 4 but also that God doesn’t make mistakes.
·       I associate beauty on the inside, not the outside.
·       I notice that super vain people doesn’t have anything to talk about. They are not fun, because they are too self-conscious.
·       This is a struggle during pregnancy, because doctors are always focused on if we are gaining too much weight.
·       Our souls count more than our bodies. We should train our souls to show God’s beauty.
·       Mother Teresa was one of the most beautiful people ever.
·       Being around my mother-in-law, who is very focused on her outward beauty, brings me down. She counts calories and always comments on exercise, so I feel self-conscious.
·       When I look in the mirror, I can tear myself down and blame myself for the way I look.
·       I have struggled with my body since being a teenager, and when I became a mom I lost the body I worked so hard to get.
·       I realized that make-up covers up a woman’s natural beauty and had to stop wearing it.
·       Women who can’t say I am beautiful are only looking at the secular definition of beautiful.
·       Say yes to the question, and it’s not being vain. Just point out others’ beauty, too.

How do we teach the balance of beauty and confidence to our daughters/children?
·       Tell girls they are beautiful. Some say we shouldn’t, because it puts too much focus on physical appearance. But, they need to hear it from their moms and especially their fathers.
·       Compliment our girls’ appearances when they take appropriate care.
·       Porn addictions are rampant. We can counter it for our boys by putting up sacred art. We are naturally drawn to true beauty.
·       When honest children say mom is squishy and soft, accept it as a positive, because that’s how they see it.
·       Sexy is different than beautiful. Explain that the term sexy is degrading and disrespectful, noticing only the outside not the inside.
·       Every child thinks their mother is beautiful.
·       Don’t talk about weight. Talk about being healthy.
·       Your insides are more beautiful than your outsides.
·       Down syndrome children are beautiful.
·       Explain why we dress up for certain things. When we look put together, we show respect for others.
·       Modesty is different for all families, but it is a way to show respect.
·       Appreciate their own sense of style. Balance your guidelines based on their style and respect for others.

How do you enhance your own natural beauty in healthy ways?
·       Take a shower daily. Walk regularly. Eat healthy. Get adequate sleep.
·       I exercise to take care of the body God gave me.
·       For me, eating in front of others, especially my family is tough.
·       Eating healthy helps one feel better, though. Junk food makes me feel like junk.
·       Those who obsess over their weight might actually be seeking affirmation and to be told they are beautiful.
·       We need to break the mold of our Catholic homeschooling stereotype: no jean jumpers.
·       Taking care in one’s appearance is a way to evangelize as moms. We teach our kids to be good examples, and we can do the same.
·       Going to the grocery store with kids means you will be noticed. Smile and keep your sense of humor to show the beauty of motherhood.
·       Be a testimony to motherhood.
·       A smile is a beautiful thing.
·       I feel more beautiful when I am not grouchy. It matters to take care of ourselves.
·       I keep track of my menstrual cycles and my hormone levels to be aware of my emotions and understand my feelings.
·       When we take care of our appearances, we feel better; we act better; and we treat our families better
·       Some people comment that I don’t need to exercise, because I am skinny. But we all need to exercise to be healthy, for our heart and our lungs.
·       Make-up can be an accessory, like shoes or a scarf. It’s not necessary, but it can help one look more polished.

How do you create beauty around you?
·       When my husband comes home I try to act peaceful in the chaos rather than focus on appearances.
·       Develop a solid prayer life.
·       I try to put out a few pretty, little touches, flowers and candles.
·       Accept this season of life, but also teach my children the value of tidiness.
·       Decorate for holidays with the children. It might not look like Pinterest, but it IS beautiful. Let go of the control if you want it to be a certain way, because you will miss them when they are gone.
·       When one area of the house is neat and tidy, the children are attracted to it naturally.

How do you avoid materialism and be at peace with your house and your stuff? And your beauty?
·       Danielle Bean says the key is detachment.
·       Mother Teresa once said:
o   “Every day we have to say yes. To be where he [God, the Universe, Source etc] wants you to be. Total surrender: If he puts you in the street—if everything is taken from you and suddenly you find yourself in the street—to accept to be put in the street at that moment. Not for you to put yourself in the street, but to accept to be put there. This is the difference, to accept. If God wants you to be in the Palace, well then to accept to be in the Palace – so long as you are not choosing to be in the Palace. … This is what makes the difference, total surrender. To accept whatever he gives and to give whatever he takes with a big smile. This is the surrender to God.”
·       We should put relationships before things.
·       My parents had a small house with ten kids. My house is bigger, and we have fewer kids. But I want more. What about those who have more?
·       We should make a habit of denying ourselves to temper our desires.
·       The key is to be okay with having and having not.
·       Does the negative self-talk every go away? Perhaps as we get closer and closer to what really matters, it decreases.
·       Be sure to do a morning offering and an end of day examen at the minimum, so you can let go of where you fall short.
·       Remember that all I can do is all I can do and all I can do is enough.
·       Be happy with what I have, not look at what it could be.
·       Neatness is a personality trait. It comes naturally to some, not to others.
·       My husband expects a clean house. How can I balance his expectations with reality?
·       Teach children that it is an act of service to tidy for Dad.
·       Take a day to do nothing so he sees that you do so much.
·       Know what his pet peeves are, so you can focus on those things, prioritize them.
·       Change and greet him joyfully most days, regardless of the mess, so he sees your effort.
·       When you feel like you want more things, count your blessings. Be content.
·       Clutter is tough. Storage is a challenge. Constantly declutter. If it doesn’t fit in your space, get rid of it.
·       Keep toys only in certain rooms, so they don’t overtake the house.
·       Stop storing so much. If you’re not using it now, someone else might need it now.
·       Remember that everything is from God. Don’t compare to others.

Are you beautiful?

Bless Your Heart!