Monday, December 26, 2016

Hello again!

Merry Christmas! By now, if you have read my blog for more than a few months, you know that periodically, I stop posting. Eventually, I come back, and I am finally okay with that lack of consistency after years of feeling guilty for not being here during those gaps. Life happens, and this tiny ministry is less a priority than many other things.

These are a few titles of posts I could have written over the past six months or so:

  1. One Federal Employee Changes Payroll Policy and I Cry
  2. Having an Attorney for a Husband Comes in Handy
  3. How to Begin Looking for a House in a Giant Geographic Area
  4. When Life is so Insane You Don't Touch Your Bullet Journal until Thursday, 2 Weeks in a Row
  5. Why People Who Upgrade Older Homes Should Actually Do It Right
  6. Buying a House Without Your Husband (or 12 Steps through the Worst Anxiety of My Life)
  7. The Epitome of Unconditional Support (or Who My Parents Are)
  8. The Perils of Binge Watching Amazon Prime for Stress Relief
  9. Hitting My Head Against a Wall When God Was in Control All Along
  10. Surviving the Holidays by Lowering Expectations

But somehow those do not all seem to go with the focus of my audience here! So, I am planning to polish and publish a few drafts from the summer and then to continue, from time to time, to post about the joys and challenges of being a devoted wife and Catholic homeschooling mother.

Studies for Moms'; Groups

Starting a Moms' Group? If you're not already a part of one, you really should start your own! Just to recap: Here is why you should start one. Here is how to start oneHere are the easiest topic ideas. Here are some inspiring books to read and discuss.

But sometimes mothers really need some meat, more content to take home and chew on. In one city, I found that after leading a group of ladies for a couple of years, we had covered all the basic topics. While repeating them would have been fantastic, we elected to dive into a deeper study. Group studies are a good way to get a new group going strong or to refresh a tired group. Here are the studies I have led or participated in with fellow moms over the years:
  • Momnipotent: The Not-So-Perfect Woman's Guide to Catholic Motherhood by Danielle Bean --- The book is fantastic, and the DVD really adds a lot of practical experience from a diverse group of moms. We found the DVDs were a bit long for our two-hour sessions, so I often played only a segment of the video to give us more time to discuss the ideas. Our group chose not to use the journal, but I referred to it for conversation starters. All of the materials are well created, but we found it worked well for our group to pick and choose elements.
  • Catholic Conference 4 Moms --- This was a fantastic resource for our group last spring, and it's being offered for free one weekend this month! I signed up to host the Faces of Mercy Conference to purchase the rights to download the presentations. Then we watched one or two presentations each meeting. These are top notch speakers with excellent fodder for discussion! I highly recommend liking their Facebook page to learn about future conferences.
  • Endow Catholic Women Studies --- Their study on John Paul II's Letter to Women is quite inspiring. If you need a very structured, carefully planned study group that focuses on Church documents, this is for you. They even have a feature on their website where you can find an existing group in your diocese.
  • Ignatius Catholic Bible Study Series by Scott Hahn & Curtis Mitch --- One group of women wanted to delve into Scripture more, so we picked one of the paperback single-biblical-book volumes from this series. I think we took a semester to study the Letters of St. Paul to the Corinthians with the outstanding footnotes of these Catholic scholars.
  • Blessed is She lectio divina Bible studies --- This group of writers is amazing! Their main ministry is to publish daily Biblical reflections for fellow Catholic women, so sign up there for daily inspiration. But the authors there also have a few short Bible studies, such as Waiting in the Word: Our Vows on marriage and recently released A Couple's Journey on fertility and family planning. These are short studies but are perfect for a small group to discuss with a focus on Scripture and Catholic teaching in a relatable way.
  • Courageous Series Bible Studies for Women by Stacy Mitch --- I believe there are four in this series, now: Love, Women, Virtue, and Generosity. These books do not require a separate study guide, as the questions with space to fill in your answers are already in the books. Again, these are a great way to study Scripture as a group, so you can discuss the passages, the study questions, and personal experiences.
This academic year, my goal includes working through these studies on my own as much as possible to evaluate them for future use.
And then, of course, there are other great studies at these trusted sites:
If you have suggestions on others I should consider, please drop them in the combox below!

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Home School Plans 2016 (Year 10)

I had to suspend my blogging routine to get ready for our first day of school, but I am back! Many of my friends IRL ask me each year what materials we are using, so I thought I would post that information here for their benefit. If that is not your thing, just scroll on past this lengthy post!

NOTE: I am too tired for links, but I will come back and insert links for all of the materials listed below soon!

This is our 10th official year of homeschooling. My oldest is beginning 8th grade. We started homeschooling her in Michigan where the cutoff date for school is September 30, and then we moved to Florida and then Texas where the cutoff dates are both August 31. Since she has a September birthday, we chose to have her do a supplemental 3rd grade year in order to be on par with her peers in extracurricular activities and when she heads to college. I went to college at age 17 and feel like that had some disadvantages to my moral compass. So, counting Kindergarten and her repeat of 3rd grade (although we did completely different material), this is our 10th year of homeschooling. Wow.

I feel like that should make me some sort of expert, but it doesn't. At all. So, if you are here to find all the answers, you won't find them here. That's above my pay grade. I just do the best I can to research every single possible material I could use with my kids and choose the ones that best suit us. We have not (yet) followed a set curriculum or enrolled with any full program. We have supplemented with co-ops and recorded online classes, so far.

This is the first year I will be using lesson planning and tracking software to help me stay focused. I decided that with next year being high school we needed to practice tracking lessons and grades. Plus with my husband deployed, any way to make my job easier is worth it. I am using a friend's program called My School Year, and I LOVE it! This is an incredibly affordable tool and is full of so many wonderful options. I was always jealous of my MODG friends who print out their students' lesson plans for the week with a few clicks of the mouse. Now I get to do that, too!

Our primary focus areas for the year are writing and religion, so you will see a heavy emphasis on these subjects. The three boys will attend an enrichment co-op twice a month at a nearby parish to make friends and enjoy a laid-back classroom setting. My daughter will be taking one class at a weekly academic co-op for her to make friends and experience a more formal school environment with high expectations and external deadlines.

My youngest is three. He is tagging along with my first grader for stories and music, for now. I will probably add some preschool materials for him as the year goes on and I determine his interests and abilities. I have used and love Little Saints and 26 Letters from Heaven among other materials. The enrichment co-op class he will attend will study the alphabet, and he already absorbed the song from Starfall. So, I'm not worried about him at all. He's a sponge.

Next is my six-year-old 1st grader. This one needs to keep busy but fights me when I challenge him, so it will be an interesting year. I just read an article where statistically six-year-olds have the hardest time with behavior and academics when a parent is deployed, which is consistent with what I have seen so far. My goals for him are to shower him with love and praise as much as possible to shatter those statistics and set him up for success! I should note that he mostly stopped any formal schooling while we were prepping the house for sale and moving, so some of his work will be finishing what was planned for his Kindergarten year. The materials he will be using (but definitely not all at once) include:

  • Alphabet Path (finishing from last year but in an accelerated/abbreviated format)
  • Five in a Row
  • Catholic Schoolhouse Year 1 (older siblings will teach the art & science)
  • Making Music Praying Twice
  • Handwriting Without Tears
  • Math U See
  • Little Stories for Little Folks Phonics Program
  • Chats with God's Little Ones
  • Upward Sports (soccer fall and spring)
  • Lots of Great Read Alouds
My 6th grader is now 11 and has become quite capable with his schoolwork. I am so excited to see him excel this year! He is definitely my most studious child, and I hope to encourage him to pursue some rabbit trails this year, specifically in his areas of interest. His current lesson plans include:

  • Exploring Creation with Astronomy (minus the whole Young Earth bit)
  • American History: Civil War to Present (literature-based from a variety of sources)
  • Math U See
  • Spelling Wisdom
  • Writing & Rhetoric
  • Teach Catholic Schoolhouse Science/Participate in the Art
  • Homeschool Connections Recorded Courses (writing, history, etc.)
  • Upward Sports (flag football, basketball, and soccer)
  • Lots of Great Literature
As long as my soon to be fourteen year old 8th grader can get out of bed before 10am, she will be thriving this year! I am very excited about what I have selected for her, and we will be spending some time looking at various high school curricula to determine what will be a good fit for her abilities and interests next year. This will be the first year we/she will participate in a live online class and an academic co-op class, so she will have other teachers besides me. Other than that, her plan looks a lot like the 6th grader's:
  • Physical Science (at the co-op, since neither of us are good at science)
  • World History: Civil War to Present (literature-based from a variety of sources)
  • Math U See
  • Spelling Wisdom
  • Writing & Rhetoric
  • Teach Catholic Schoolhouse Art
  • Homeschool Connections Recorded Courses (health, 
  • Landry Academy Live Online Class - Creative Writing
  • Analytical Grammar
  • Apologetics
  • Piano Lessons
  • Electives: Life Works, Thinking Toolbox, etc.
  • Lots of Great Literature
Finally, there's the stuff we are attempting to do all together. Due to planning a week off for house-hunting and another for moving this fall, I am starting our year with a half-term and will not be starting most of these things until our first full term in September. Most will be attached to our Morning Basket time, and we will not be doing all at once:
  • The Bible Tells Me So
  • Friendly Defenders
  • Year of Mercy activities
  • Government & Elections unit studies
  • How to Teach Your Children Shakespeare
  • Bravewriter activities
  • Story of the Bible: Old & New Testaments
  • St. Thomas Aquinas for Everyone
Disclaimer: Of course, we won't do all of the above. It just never works out that way, does it? But I do love that we have a great plan and had a fantastic first day! My theory is that if I set our sights high, we will soar.

Have you heard of all of these materials? Are there any you would like to know more about? I am happy to answer any questions!

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

First Day of Home School Traditions

We survived! Yesterday was our first day, and despite being unexpectedly rainy (it rains in August in Texas?!?!), I was so pleased with the fun and diligence we enjoyed. Honestly, our first day of school is full of so many traditions that we don't actually get in a full day of academics, but I am okay with that when I see the smiles on my children's faces. Those first day smiles stick in my mind for the many times later in the year when they declare, "I hate school!"

The past several years, at least four years according to my Facebook memory from today, we have started our home school year on the Feast of the Assumption. It is usually a Holy Day of Obligation and therefore forces me to get us to Mass on the first day of school and gives me the chance to beg Our Blessed Mother to ask the Lord to fill in the gaps where I am inadequate to homeschool my children. Today it was not obligatory for us, but we went anyway. I had to meet some ladies from my daughter's co-op at the Cathedral this afternoon, so we chose Mass there. There is no narthex, and it was raining outside. But I hid at the back near the doors for most of the Mass, trying to keep my two youngest boys from making too much noise, enjoying my little purgatory.

But before Mass, we began our day with a run to the local donut shop for a first or second breakfast, depending on age, as is traditional for us. The kids inhaled their sugar and a few sausage rolls for protein and jammed to the upbeat (but occasionally inappropriate) music playing. Unfortunately for me, the sweet lady who worked there kept giving us free donuts and donut holes as we ate. Sigh.

When we arrived back home, I gave the children their schultutes, which I lovingly throw together around 1am the night before each first day of school. These cones from the German tradition (on my dad's side) include treats, school supplies, and small toys. It is always fun to shop all summer long for special gifts to tuck inside. For example, my daughter's favorite gift was a huge set of colored Sharpies. My youngest son loved his Melissa and Doug Water Wow book! I did manage to make adorable Pinterest-worthy candy pencils, but my motivation was to steal my kids' Rolos later (as in after I publish this post!).

This year I only took a group photo before they dove into their cones, although I typically try to get individual shots. Also in their schultutes were the First Day of School interviews I asked them to complete (I used these this year). I interviewed the younger two and asked the older two to fill in their own. A few of my favorite answers:

  • When I grow up I want to: play (3-year-old)
  • My favorite book: Aggie football (3-year-old)
  • Something I want to do this year: flip upside down (6-year-old)
  • My favorite thing about myself: playing with [my younger brother] (6-year-old)
  • When I grow up, I want to: work at an ice cream shop (11-year-old)
  • Something I really don't like: school (11-year-old)
  • My favorite book: too many to list (13-year-old)
  • My favorite thing about myself: I'm irrational (13-year-old)
Our school day almost always begins with Morning Basket. Today's basket only included prayer and read aloud, because I knew we had to get to Mass at noon. I keep prayers with my kids relatively short, so we prayed one decade of the Chaplet. We are now reading aloud our chosen books both in morning basket and after our evening Rosary decade, because we want to finish more quickly. I keep those readings short, too. There will be more Morning Basket on other days, of course!

Then each child went through their new schoolbooks with me and heard a bit about how to complete and submit assignments. This year was super simple thanks to the My School Year reports I had waiting in their crates. The oldest two were eager to get started and dove right in despite some grimaces, and I pulled out some stories to read with the younger two.

We had a pleasant surprise on our way home from Mass when I picked up the mail and discovered that one of the stories my husband had read and recorded a few weeks ago at the USO where he is stationed as a part of the United Through Reading Military Program had arrived. So, Dad read There's a Wocket in My Pocket! by Dr. Seuss to everyone via DVD as an afternoon read aloud.

That last photo in the collage above could be a summary of our first day today, full of fun and grace and kid chaos. Taking inspiration from a dear friend, I decided to buy a small chalkboard and attempt to post a new inspirational quote each week. Not knowing we would enjoy a Seuss story this afternoon, late last night I wrote:
You are off to great places, today is your day, your mountain is waiting, so get on your way! ~ Dr. Seuss
Sometime this morning, my daughter snuck over and added a line to the bottom:
I don't want to climb a mountain today.

If you are a homeschooler, when do you start this year and what are your first day traditions?

Friday, August 5, 2016

Purgatory in the Narthex

Today I managed, via some excellent peer pressure, to get to daily Mass with my four children. As we arrived barely on time for the 9am Mass, I could see something was different. The church was quite crowded with professionally-dressed, broadly smiling women, and it did not seem anyone was at all ready to begin Mass on time. Then I remembered and leaned over to whisper to my daughter, "Didn't they say something last Sunday about the Mass time being different today due to the teachers' Mass?" She nodded, and it all came back to me: Mass at 9:30, back to school Mass for teachers of the diocese, the bishop. Yikes!

I had a quick mental conversation with God:
Me: Do I really need to be here?
God: Yes.
Me: But I have to keep these kids happy for 30 more minutes before Mass and then they have to sit still and be quiet for what will be a longer-than-usual, barely any kids here daily Mass.
God: But when is the last time you came to daily Mass to be with me? Don't you need my grace?
Me: Yes. Sigh.
Needless to say, after a short walk to discover the line for the ladies' room was at least twenty teachers long, we stayed for Mass, and shortly after the sign of the cross, I had to take my (loudly-spitting) three-year-old to the narthex, towing the (plugging-his-ears-from-the-loud-organ) six-year-old along. And we didn't get to go back due to what might have been more spitting, some brotherly kicking, and general flopping about from both boys. I was disappointed and eventually joined by five other parents with wiggly kids, possibly the only other adults who brought children.

I kept reminding myself that the grace was there and that it was a special grace to be at a Mass said by a bishop, but I was feeling kind of sad. I wanted to be able to at least see the altar! I gave thanks my two older children were mature enough to stay in the church and fully experience the liturgy. Between the distractions of the boys not able to sit still (since they couldn't see anything either) and the frustration at my expectations for a relatively quick and quiet daily Mass being crushed, I was grumbling inside.

But as I sank down on my knees near the pew against the narthex wall to pray during the consecration, I glanced through the floor to ceiling, wall to wall windows separating the narthex from the nave. I was separated from God by this wall. I could not quite see Him, but I knew He was truly present in the Eucharist just a few feet away, but at the moment, unattainable.

And I recalled that someone once shared with me that it is possible the most intense pain in purgatory is caused by knowing you are so close to going to Heaven, to be in God's almighty presence, but not able to get there just yet.

For a few minutes, I gave thanks that I was living that purgatory there (with wiggly boys climbing all over me and battling for lap space), because with the suffering of purgatory comes the guarantee of eternal life with God. I remembered that there would be crazy-wonderful grace later in addition to the grace of the moment.

Mamas, we have all been there. Our bodies often deflate as we make that seemingly long walk to the narthex, cry room, or outside with a wiggly, loud, or crying child. The next time it happens to you, look at that wall, window, or door separating you from the rest of the congregation and give thanks. God is there, just a bit out of reach, and someday we will be closer to Him than we can even imagine!

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

Inspiring Books for Catholic Moms' Group Discussions

If you want to start a moms' group but your group wants something a little meatier than my simple suggestions from a few days ago, I thought I would list my ten favorite books to discuss with fellow Catholic mothers. The first two are specifically homeschooling titles, and the last two are fairly secular, but all are fantastic!

1. Teaching from Rest: A Homeschooler's Guide to Unshakeable Peace by Sarah Mackenzie --- Those who know me personally know that I share this book every chance I get. There is so much to ponder in this slim volume. It is like slipping into a warm bath and letting the wise words soak into your skin. This book could be discussed in 3-4 sittings or split into a dozen. And, there's a companion journal with reflection questions already written! (not specifically Catholic)

2. Seasons of a Mother's Heart: Heart to Heart Encouragement for Homeschool Moms by Sally Clarkson --- With a gentle, motherly tone, this author helps us reflect on the seasons of mothering and homeschooling we all face by sharing intimate details of her joys and struggles as a homeschooling mom. This is another book I reread periodically to refocus my goals to be in line with God's goals for my vocation and provides a wonderful discussion starter for all homeschooling mothers, regardless of which season each currently enjoys. (not Catholic)

3. The Mission of Motherhood: Touching Your Child's Heart for Eternity by Sally Clarkson --- This book focuses on the relationship each mother has with her child and the ways we are called to form their hearts for Christ. Conversations about our relationships with our God, our children, our home, and eternity cover all aspects of motherhood in inspiring and specific ways, making this title a fantastic reflection for all mothers. (not Catholic)

4. Kimberly Hahn's Life-Nurturing Love series on Proverbs 31 --- Now a series of four titles, these guides to the historical and spiritual meaning of becoming a Proverbs 31 woman are beautiful. Step by step they take readers through the Scripture and expound on how wives and mothers are called to serve God and our families. Reading these books inspires moms to recognize our unique role in the world and what our vocation asks of us in the modern world.

5. Any Scott Hahn book --- I especially like First Comes Love and Hail Holy Queen for moms' group discussions, but many others would be suitable. The key about these books in groups is to take them slowly and pause frequently to discuss and ponder aloud the material. And while discussions about our beliefs as Catholics are important, be sure to talk about how to connect the teachings to our daily lives as mothers.

6. Holiness for Housewives and Other Working Women by Hubert van Zeller --- Another short read, this one is full of depth. Reading a short passage can provide incredible discussions about how to carry on the repetitive work of running a household and allowing that work to be our sanctification rather than a stumbling block to our holiness.

7. A Mother's Rule of Life: How to Bring Order to Your Home and Peace to Your Soul by Holly Pierlot --- I actually think this book is best read when you can discuss it with other mothers. The ideas in this book are incredibly practical, but because of my type A personality, I found them too idealistic and enjoyed bouncing ideas off other mothers to be sure my plans are realistic for my family's season of life. But the spiritual guidance in this is invaluable to making sure that, as in the above title, our daily life is a path to Christ.

8. The Woman's Guide to the Catechism of the Catholic Church by Susan Muta and Fr. Van Kaam --- Again, this is one best read and discussed with others. Each chapter even includes discussion questions, and you can bring along a Catechism to look up various points. This is a special way to walk through the new Catechism focusing on areas of special interest to family life.

9. The 7 Habits of Highly Effective Families: Building a Beautiful Family Culture in a Turbulent World by Stephen Covey --- There is a lot to cover with this book! If you are familiar with Covey's seven habits, you will especially enjoy how he applies them to family life, providing testimonials and practical steps to ensure that your family's relationships are being continually strengthened. We could never read an entire chapter in one meeting, but applying his principles to the domestic church was even more inspiring to me than applying them to my personal life.

10. The Proper Care and Feeding of Husbands by Dr. Laura Schlessinger --- I know you are laughing at me for putting this title here, but if your group can get past the drama (and sin) in the stories Dr. Laura tells to make her points, this book provided some of the best discussions I have had in a moms' group! There is so much practical advice here and fodder for wonderful conversations about how we serve our husbands. Just be sure you set some ground rules before beginning, like no husband-bashing and make sure your husband is comfortable with what you share. I found our discussions centered on the positive ways we enrich our marriages and sharing success stories about what has worked in our relationships.

Other suggestions I think would be fantastic by Catholic authors, but I have not personally tried in a group setting:

What other books (not full studies; I'll cover those soon) would you recommend for a moms' group to give a try?

Monday, August 1, 2016

The Easiest Moms' Group You'll Ever Lead

Our vocation of motherhood is a busy one. You want to socialize with other moms, but you barely have five minutes a day to give away to pursuits outside of your home. When you get those moms together for your first gathering, here are a few things that have worked for the groups I have led that require minimal effort and preparation.

When I was a new mother, the moms' group I joined at that time, would encourage the mothers in the group to take turns bringing various articles or excerpts from books to share with the group. Each mom could sign up to lead one of the gatherings, and she would make copies of the articles/excerpts she wanted to share, usually writing 3-5 discussion questions to go along with the material. At meetings, we read out loud, just going around in the circle, each reading a paragraph or a few. Then we discussed the questions. It was fairly simple, and the leader wasn't responsible for coming up with new material each week. I also felt it was a wonderful opportunity to explore a variety of topics, because each mom wanted to share something near and dear to her heart, often material I would not have read on my own and sometimes ideas with which I disagreed but still found fascinating to hear.

Another option that requires even less preparation is to simply reflect on the Sunday Gospel(s) for the upcoming week(s). The above group was founded with this practice and thrived on it. Everyone would bring a Bible, and the leader would look up the passages to be discussed. They read the Scripture aloud and paused to discuss in between each passage their thoughts and how to apply it to our lives as mothers. Sometimes the leader prepared questions or had a Bible study resource as supplement to the Gospels but not always.

If that still sounds like too much effort or might not fit the vibe of your particular group, consider gathering simply to pray a Rosary and then just chat. In a smaller group, opening up the discussion to any topic would work. In a larger group, you might have moms jot down a conversation starter on a note card as they walk in the door and pull those out after the Rosary to keep things flowing. Since one of the main purposes of gathering with like-minded women is to fulfill Matthew 18:20, and Our Lady is the perfect role model for mothers, praying the mysteries together can be extraordinarily fruitful.

Maybe your group needs to get to know one another in a more relaxed atmosphere over wine and margaritas! Moms' Nights Out are a fantastic way to either begin a moms' group or supplement a planned discussion group. Every time I have planned a Moms' Night Out, women come, and even when it's only one or two other women, we rejoice in one another and are refreshed by the night out. You can meet at a restaurant or plan a fun activity like painting or bowling. I guarantee you will have interest, and the Holy Spirit will guide your fellowship to provide each attendee with the graces they need if you allow Him.

Too tough to get together without kids? Several of the above options could certainly be done with children either in the room with you or in the next room. Put on a Catholic video during the Rosary to keep them quiet in the next room or hire some teens to help babysit while you have an uninterrupted discussion. But if you don't think those options work for your fellow moms, just meet at a park. Choose a time of day when the weather is best and get together with moms and kids! We can be nourished immensely by one another's company whether the setting be structured or informal. The point is that we need to get together.

I hope you can see that once you get women together, it is not that difficult to keep going if you choose a format that works for most moms. There are other options, like book studies and Bible studies that I will review soon, but if you are looking for simple, these ideas will get the job done!

Which of the above ideas most appeals to you and why?

Friday, July 29, 2016

Start a Moms' Group: 3 Easy Steps

You agree moms' groups are important. You might even agree that YOU need to be the one to get one started in your area. But you are skeptical on the amount of work involved, amiright? After all, we are all busy mamas with way too much on our plate to add one more thing!

I have found that getting a group started is the easiest part! And I believe that if the Holy Spirit is allowed to lead the group, keeping it going can be easy, too. Here is your homework assignment, if you feel called to lead your own group.

1. Choose a location.

2. Choose a date and time.

3. Invite women.

Yes, it is that simple. Do not overthink the location or date and time. Just pick something that works for you. After that initial gathering, you can change up both, because you will get plenty of feedback from mamas who want to come.

You do not have to plan a book study or schedule topics. You do not have to determine the format of your group or the rules or finances, if applicable. There will be plenty of time to do that after you have some invested women who will likely be willing to help make those decisions.

If you want some ideas on what locations, dates and times, and types of women have worked for the groups I have led in the past, I will share those soon. But your group is unique, and what worked for us might not work for you. So do not be afraid to take that leap of faith and send an email now to set up your first gathering. Say a prayer, click send, and let the Holy Spirit lead the rest!

Commit now to planning at least one gathering of moms and share your chosen location below!

Thursday, July 28, 2016

I Don't Have the [blank] to Start a Moms' Group

Excuses! I know you have them! You do not have time to do this. You do not know how to do this. You are not the right person to do this. A few days ago, I tried to convince you how important moms' groups are, especially for homeschooling moms. But if you need more convincing that YOU should be the one to get the ball rolling, listen carefully, and come back tomorrow for the 3 easy steps to make it happen!

1. Somebody has to do it. Really. We can all agree that moms need to get together and that we need each other, but unless we make the time and give the little bit of effort needed, it simply will not happen. We all have too much on our schedules for gatherings to happen magically or spontaneously. If we all act as if it is someone else's job, those moms who always do the leading will get burned out or it just won't happen.

2. It is an act of service to start a group. Many of us wish we could volunteer at our churches or soup kitchens and food pantries, but our primary vocation of mothers of small children often does not allow us the flexibility to do that. Being the one to pull moms together is a way for you to serve your neighbor and demonstrate to your children that it is important to always be a giver, not only a taker. (They do not see your service to them in the same way, although it IS service, of course!)

3. You will benefit personally. I always maintain that I host moms' groups, because I am selfish. When I am able to set the time, date, location, and format, I can choose what I know will benefit me rather than try to fit into someone else's plan. If there is a group near you that works for your family, be a supporter, but if not, even if there is a group right next door that does not fit your needs, start your own! My husband is grateful I lead these gatherings, because he sees a happier me after each one!

4. Starting a group is easier than you think. It does not have to be some formal, pre-set group. Just start getting moms together (I will tell you how tomorrow) and do not stop. A one time gathering is great, but for everyone to benefit the most, building relationship and community, you need to keep meeting. But all it takes is three things to start. It is not rocket science!

You, yes YOU, really need to prayerfully consider inviting some moms to meet. Be sure you have your husband's support and go for it! I bet you will find that as soon as you start, you will have more than enough support and additional help to keep it going.

What's your excuse for not attending and/or starting a moms' group in your area?

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Catholic Homeschooling Mothers Are...Just...Different.

I shared recently how important community is to me and why I think moms' groups are just about the best thing since sliced bread! But, I feel the need to speak directly to my colleagues for a few moments. Catholic homeschooling mothers are the women I consider to be my soul sisters. We are choosing not just "the road less traveled by" but "the road [least] traveled by" (based on pure statistics).

And that is why we need to get ourselves together and talk. We can meet for coffee or margaritas, in a home or at a park, with or without kids, but I firmly believe it needs to be a priority for us. The simple act of getting together will benefit our family, our children, and our personal growth every single time. I guarantee it!

This "road [least] traveled by" is not only counter-cultural, like many Catholic families who strive to live authentically the vision of the domestic church, but it is also a choice to turn away from the model of education embraced by most first world countries. While being Catholic with a strong faith is often isolating, homeschooling can stop a casual conversation or end a friendship in a flash. A parent is usually immediately labeled as odd (or worse things) as soon as we admit we homeschool. (I admit we are odd, of course, but I would prefer people get to know me before assuming that.)

We have undertaken this monumental work of not only raising saints but also raising lifelong learners. Our choice to educate our children at home and not hand that responsibility to "professionals" is a heavy weight on our shoulders. When we get together, our conversation is inevitably going to turn to curriculum or lesson planning, as it should, because these are significant aspects of our daily lives.

As we connect with other Catholic homeschooling families, we create communities of learners and have opportunities to help one another through co-ops, tutoring, loaning materials, bringing meals, swapping babysitting, sharing advice, and more. The bonds that we form over math test woes and catechism lessons are just different than those with our friends from our family, church, or community who do not homeschool. In my experience, these Catholic homeschooling relationships are the friendships that go deep through thick and thin, because we simply understand each other.

The reality is when you are home with your children all day and are trying to teach them spelling, discipline has to look differently. The cute Pinterest ideas have a place but most likely not before reading lessons and handwriting. Even mundane things like cleaning and cooking are different in a homeschooling family, and so we need to talk about these things with one another.

And as I said about all moms, we need to pray together. Lifting one another up in prayer is the single most important thing we can do to help each other homeschool successfully, according to God's plan for our families. Honestly, this is the one act that slips my mind the most. I am so excited to be with my people that I forget to suggest, or sometimes am embarrassed to ask, that we pray together (even at a park day or moms' night out)!

So, please help me make up for that and stop the one whose goal is to distract us from God. Get together with other Catholic homeschooling mothers. We will talk practical ideas next. Then when you get together, pray together. I will do the same, and we will all be better for it.

How often do you get to visit with other Catholic homeschooling moms? What is your favorite topic to discuss?

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Why YOU Should Start a Mom's Group!

Apologies to my friends pictured,
these were taken by my youngest child!

Yes, you. The one reading this saying you don't have enough time or space or skill. None of that matters. If you don't attend some sort of group for mothers to connect with one another IN PERSON, you need to just do it.

Why? I am so glad you asked. I have been leading various moms' groups on and off for over ten years in three different states, and nothing has been more encouraging and inspiring to me as a mother than sitting and sharing with other mothers who are in the trenches with me! Let me try to convince you why it should be you, and soon I will give you the practical how-to.

1. Catholic mothers, whether they work outside the home or not, are especially vulnerable to loneliness and isolation. Our neighbors' and family members' lives are often so far afield from our daily concerns that it can be difficult to even hold a conversation sometimes. We are changing diapers and teaching our kids how to make the sign of the cross, and to us, those are the most important parts of our days worthy of discussion, not the show on television or the latest neighborhood gossip. When we find our people, those striving for Heaven and trying to follow a similar vocation path, we realize we are not alone and that makes facing opposition just a little bit easier.

2. Mothering is a hard and never-ending job. The work is never done. There is always another meal to make and another load of laundry to run, until our children grow up and move away. It is crucial that we find ways to stop and refresh our weary spirits. Joining together with other moms for prayer, fellowship, study, and/or fun can be that pause in our repetitive days that allows us to recenter and remember the joy in all the drudgery!

3. Memes and viral videos abound on the internet about the Mommy Wars. We are constantly wondering if we are doing it right, whether that be cooking or disciplining or whatever. There is some truth to the African adage when spoken simply, "It takes a village to raise a child." We need each other and only recently in history have most mothers not had their mothers and/or mothers-in-law within walking distance to provide encouragement and practical support. Moms' groups foster unity despite our differences, just as the Body of Christ has many parts but is united in Christ Jesus.

4. Similarly, we need various points of view to properly reflect on our parenting and choose the paths best for our individual families. And reading those points of view on the internet only get us so far. Those opinions are not subject to our questions and personal circumstances like an in-person conversation might be. Most importantly, sometimes we need friends and even acquaintances with the same understanding of family life to challenge us and point out some flaw in our lives that we may not have eyes to see!

5. Most importantly, "For where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I in the midst of them." Matthew 18:20. We need Jesus. Therefore, we need to gather with one another as often as possible with like-minded women to pray and offer our thanksgiving and petition to the Lord, Who then will nourish our souls and draw us ever closer to Him. That is how we survive and thrive as busy moms on our way to Heaven.

There are many more reasons why to participate in or begin your own moms' group, but to me, these are the most significant. This topic is so dear to my heart that I will be writing more about what types of groups you might start, ideas to get things going, and troubleshooting common problems.

Are you a part of a moms' group? How has it benefited you?

Monday, July 25, 2016

What Will We Do Without You?

Moms' Night Out!

I like answering questions. Ask me a question, and 98% of the time, I will have an answer. I have no problem sharing my opinions or experiences when asked. In fact, like many, I enjoy speaking my mind. So you have been warned!

Last summer I responded here to How Do You Do It All? and more recently answered How Are You Doing? But the question I was asked by friends before moving across Texas about a month ago that has been on my heart lately is What Will We Do Without You?

At the time, I mostly shrugged off the question. It was a time of difficult goodbyes, and I knew people meant well. Inside, I honestly was bothered by the repetition of this question, though, and at one point I did try to articulate why. Since I am sure I did not communicate well in that moment, I thought I would revisit my answer.

For those of you that know me IRL, yes, I realize you probably asked that rhetorical question merely to express your appreciation for all of my contributions to our community. And I thank you for your kindnesses and friendship, but I do have a challenge for you. For those of you who do not know me, as you read the following response, I invite you to think about that homeschooling mom who serves your community. I have met these women and heard about these women, and I know some of them probably feel just like me.

When I feel called to serve outside of my family, my passion is to provide support for, connect, and encourage Catholic homeschooling moms. So, my answer to What Will We Do Without You? is to encourage (or beg?) you to provide support for, connect, and encourage other Catholic homeschooling moms.

It can be very simple to reach out to new homeschooling mothers. If you have been homeschooling at least one year, being present to another mom, in my experience, can mean the difference between peace and anxiety over her daily choices. Listen to her. Share your experiences, the good and the bad. Loan her books and answer her questions. Give her a call, send her a text, or invite her for tea!

If you are in a season of life where you are able to go a step further, I challenge you to get homeschooling moms together. This can be easier than it sounds and building personal relationships is crucially important to our Christian walk. A park day, a moms' night out, coffee, breakfast, whatever! It doesn't have to be a large event, strategically planned, or a long-term commitment. Just pick a date, time, and location and invite a few other moms, or your whole homeschool email group! (If you want a more formal event to nourish mamas, I highly recommend putting together a Grace Day!)

And if you feel like access to support and encouragement is as key to a homeschool family's success as I do, then volunteer as a leader for your local homeschool group, conference, or co-op. None of us have the time, but all those wonderful gatherings do not happen without time and talent. Many hands make light work. Etc. Etc. Please help! It might just be your turn to say yes.

Please remember one more thing about those mamas who seem essential to the cohesiveness and success of your homeschool group and community. They may do a lot and serve on boards or committees, and you have no idea how they do it all (most of us don't). But if they are anything like me, they do what they do because they need support and encouragement, too. Just like you, they regularly feel the weight of this homeschooling journey and are bolstered by their connections with you!

So, what can you do to reach out and fill the void this year? How can you serve your homeschooling community in some small or big way?

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Please Can I Plan Now?!

Those who know me personally know how much I love order and organization. Thus, I simply love homeschool curriculum planning season. And yet, this year, I have had more urgent responsibilities to address first. I feel as if the season is almost over, and I am just about to begin.

These are the things I cannot wait to do next…

1.       Read all the good stuff. --- I always try to go back and read something to re-center my homeschooling compass before I begin planning. It’s premature to start looking at curriculum until I remember things like why I homeschool, my beliefs about homeschooling, and encouraging words from more seasoned homeschoolers. My all-time favorites are: Sarah Mackenzie’s Teaching from Rest: A Homeschooler's Guide to Unshakeable Peace, Real Learning: Education in the Heart of the Home by Elizabeth Foss, Seasons of a Mother’s Heart by Sally Clarkson, and Susan Schaeffer Macaulay's For the Children's Sake: Foundations of Education for Home and School.

2.       Print all the pretty things. --- I love using Pam Barnhill’s Plan Your Year: Homeschool Planning for Purpose and Peace guide and forms. They’re the perfect mix of beautiful and orderly. And I recently discovered which is an online planning and tracking system, so I look forward to using this incredible resources this year to prepare for my high school record keeping needs. I also like the free forms at the Homeschool Connections resource page.

3.       Think about each of my kids individually. --- I find that I rarely take the time to consider each child’s gifts and challenges. Using a tool such as my Prayerfully Reflecting on Last Year helps force me to remember that each of my children is a unique person of dignity created in the image and likeness of God. It’s too easy to repeat my plans for each child, but it’s essential that I assess whether I need to tweak existing plans for the educational needs of the next child at that grade level.

4.       Be honest with myself. --- I can read all the good stuff, but I need to reflect on how to implement those ideals within the limitations of our family. I can print a ton of great forms, but unless those forms have a realistic amount of white space and flexibility, I know I will fail. And, I can think about the needs of each child, but sometimes the needs of one child trump the needs of another for a season. Most importantly, I am human and have my own weaknesses. If I do not set boundaries for my own needs, we will not get through one week of school without a complete toddler meltdown…from me.

5.       Make booklists. --- I get giddy when I think about all. the. books! When I did a cursory look of my homeschooling materials before I packed them into boxes for our move, I was dismayed to see that I have most of the books I will need for next school year. I will have to work very hard to plan to use the materials I know work for us instead of buying all. the. new. books! But there will still be some consumables to buy and things for the first grader that I didn’t save from the older children, and I will have to make a list of library books to put on hold throughout the year, and etc…

6.       Pray. --- There’s nothing better for my salvation than a situation where it is inexcusable to pray, and planning a year of education for my four children demands prayer. So I will be taking hard stops at each planning step to check in with God. It’s difficult for me to sit down for a few moments, but I look forward to the motivation to just do it.

Then, I will Prayerfully Plan for Next Year. If you haven’t yet done that for your family, please let me know, so I feel like I’m not behind the curve as much? Thanks! Here we go!

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

How Are You Doing?

Everyone keeps asking how I am doing, and I am honestly not sure how to respond. They ask on playgrounds and during play dates, in text messages and phone calls. But I just cannot settle on a short answer to this question. If I am going to be genuine with others, a one word summary just does not seem to work for me.

I am tired. The emotional burden of caring for four children who are sad and/or angry their daddy is gone and sad we are moving away is draining. The physical work of feeding, clothing, preparing to move, finishing our schoolwork, and keeping a reasonably clean house is exhausting. And I don't sleep as well without my husband when I finally do force myself to shut down my brain and turn out the light.

I am joyful. The challenges listed above are giving me new opportunities to connect with my children and serve them. It's only natural that when I see the lovely people I have grown to know and love all around me here in this city that I feel grateful for their presence in my life. I have no doubt that the Lord is guiding us through all of this, and His love is such a comfort and a joy.

I am humbled. This week alone four friends have asked to throw me going away parties, and while I would prefer to not make a big deal of me, I know it's because they care. When I resigned from the board of our local homeschool conference last week, it was overwhelming to think that I started it all with a dear friend and a vision five years ago. Clearly the ministry God had for me here was bigger than I could have imagined, and to see in hindsight the many ways He used me to connect others is simply embarrassing.

I am excited. The longest I have ever lived anywhere in my entire life has been the six years we have been here. It's home and a lovely place, but my personality likes change. I like the challenge of meeting new people and learning new things. Our reason for moving is to be closer to my family, and I will be so glad to see them regularly and watch my children enjoy their grandparents and uncle. Starting over is fun for me, and I look forward to organizing our new home and daily lives.

I am sad. Because my children are sad and I have to leave these fantastic friends. My heart almost stops each time I think of not seeing my husband for 9-10-11-12 months. So I hold back those tears and try not to think, so I can breathe. He is not here, and that hurts. I also often find myself thinking about our broken world and all the people who are so lost, and that makes me sad. I guess I keep coming back to the fact that I am so grateful for my faith to get me through these tough times, but too many are without God in their lives.

So, how am I? I'm tired, joyful, humbled, excited, sad, and taking things one day, one hour, one plate, one moment at a time. And if I stumble through an answer, sweet friends, that's what I really wanted to say when you asked.

Friday, May 20, 2016

For when I doubt...

We spent a month getting our house ready to sell. The uncertainty of the crazy market had us doubting we could come out with any kind of profit on selling our four-year-old home. So we scoured and staged from top to bottom. If there was something we could do with minimal expense to increase the likelihood of a sale, we did it. Half of my garage was filled floor to ceiling with "excess." My house was immaculate, appealing, and spacious, and I dreaded keeping it that way as long as would be necessary with four children and no husband to help. My anxiety was tangible.

You see, amidst that hard work, we also prepared to send my husband off for training and deployment. He's a reservist, and he's been activated. We bought what he needed and wanted, and he packed his gear three separate times (no kidding). He managed one-on-one dates with each of our children and took me out every Saturday night for a month. We rewrote our wills and prepared powers of attorney and sold his car. I took fresh pictures of each of the kids with their dad and bought frames that could record his voice. There were tears.

And then, the next time I doubt the Lord's generosity, I want to remember this particular week...

Day 0 - After a day of last things, we stuck the for-sale sign in the front yard and fell into bed exhausted. The house was officially listed for sale that evening. We were packed to leave the next morning to drop off my husband for pre-deployment training.

Day 1 - Having vacuumed our pretty carpet lines and set out the fancy towels, we left home and drove four hours to deliver things to the armory, his new civilian office, and ultimately my parents' house while the first house showing occurred. I received an email with feedback that night from that first showing that said, "Clients liked it and are submitting offer." Boom.

Day 2 - I dropped my husband off at the armory at sunrise. More on that goodbye another time. Around lunch we received an offer from the first showing; it was low and unacceptable. Meanwhile another showing was scheduled. Feedback from that one asked if we would accept a much higher cash offer to close in two weeks. (I will not write about my mental response to having to get out of my house in two weeks, because it involved cursing.) We were glad people like our house; we like it, too.

Day 3 - Realizing we may be moving sooner than expected, my daughter and I toured the only two apartment complexes within 15 miles of my parents' home that have four-bedroom units available in the next two months. (I had planned to get a more affordable three-bedroom, but my generous parents are upgrading our temporary accommodations.) We learned the second showing guy was a realtor who wanted to flip the house, so we told him to submit an official offer if he wanted us to consider it. Meanwhile, our realtor discussed a more appropriate offer with the first showing family of five (yes, I googled them).

Day 4 - By the end of day four, we had a signed contract for our full asking price with a bit of closing cost assistance and had decided to apply for the gorgeous first apartment we visited, partly because my daughter loved the pool. It would be ready the week of our closing date, the same week my brother had already planned to fly to our house for a visit. As one friend said when I told her about these dates all aligning, "God is just showing off, now." For a moment that night, we had second thoughts about the expense of the apartment. Maybe we could get a house for that much?

Day 5 - I spent a few hours researching rental houses in the area and nearby on-base housing. I even visited a rental house with a landlord willing to do a short-term lease, but none were in an area I felt safe alone with the kids. So that afternoon I completed the online application for that first apartment.

Day 6 - We were approved for the apartment, and spent most of the day visiting and playing with dear friends who live only a couple of miles away from our soon-to-be apartment home. My kindred-spirit friend listened and loved on me while our children played; we even had margaritas with our Taco Tuesday lunch! Afterwards, I took all the kids to see the apartment complex, and my oldest son, of course, noticed the stock of candy at the coffee bar in the clubhouse!

Day 7 - The children and I drove home to our "under contract" house without the stress of keeping it pristine at every moment. It was odd to walk in the door, knowing my husband wouldn't set foot in the house again. At the end of day seven, I fell into bed exhausted.

Yes, because God can move mountains when he wants, we are selling our house to the first buyers to view it on the first day it was available and moving into the first apartment we viewed. Throughout all of this, my husband and I were able to text regularly (which was a pleasant surprise), so he could weigh in on each decision. But in the end, it's absolutely clear that God is in control, and we are not.

Friends, family, and readers, feel free to direct me to this post the next time I freak out!

Monday, April 11, 2016

One Plate at a Time

I'm juggling a few too many plates these days. Usually, I do that by choice, but currently it's all just being thrust upon me. The books on my nightstand are a testimony to the chaos of life these days. For a while I was stuck like a deer in headlights again, not knowing where to turn or which task to tackle next.

I'm trying to pass off all of my volunteer roles as quickly as possible, since we will be moving as soon as our house sells. I am preparing to list our house for sale as soon as my husband leaves for his pre-deployment training in about a month. And of course, I'm trying to wrap my head around the whole concept of deployment on a practical and emotional level, so I can be present to my children who will need me more than ever this coming year. Those children also need to eat and do chores and continue their homeschool studies, and ideally have a mom who finds some joy and not just sorrow in our coming year. It's a lot.

In fact, all of my friends keep asking me how I'm doing, and I really don't know. I'm keeping my head above water. I'm crying at least once a day. I know that God is with me, and I feel the comfort of His love. I'm definitely not sleeping well. The kids are enjoying that I'm saying "yes" to a lot of their requests for Easter candy and screen time. I'm pouring every ounce of energy into my husband when he is home. My to-do lists are pages and pages long, so there are many moments of recognizing my inadequacy to do it all.

But I have settled upon a daily goal that seems to be working, for now, to keep myself moving forward and not melting in a puddle of irrational emotions like a teenage girl (It probably helps that I witness this regularly to understand how ridiculous it can be!).

My goal: Each day I try to spend time with each of my plates. Some days I spend more time on one than another, but if I at least do one thing from each area, I feel like I am doing more than just surviving.

I might email about a Moms' Night Out, pre-pack one room, listen to a podcast about deployment, check that my name is on all financial accounts, read aloud to my kids, order a Walmart grocery pick up for the next day, make clean up more fun by bribing kids with jellybeans, write out lesson plans for the next month, get on the treadmill while watching an episode of The Good Wife (hooked, I admit it) or Lark Rise to Candleford (finally back on Amazon Prime!), and spend some time reading a novel before bed. And it's a full day.

There is one key element that I think is making this work. I'm anchoring my days in prayer. In the morning, even though I'm back to my old pre-Lenten habit of waking up when my little ones wake up, after feeding them breakfast I sit on the couch with my tea for morning prayers. Because I'm so exhausted, I find myself lying down in the middle of the afternoon, the perfect time to pick up my nightstand rosary and pray a Chaplet. And I'm often falling asleep with my rosary in my hands, usually not completing an entire rosary, but finding peace in the prayers.

What do you do when your plates are spinning out of control? If you don't have a strategy that works for you, try to choose one task from each plate, big or small, each day. I'd love to hear if this works for you or not! (Disclaimer: it might not; God made us all different!)

Thursday, March 24, 2016

A Profound Act of Mercy

My friends and I have been talking a lot this Lenten season about this Year of Mercy, thanks to the 2016 Faces of Mercy Catholic Conference 4 Moms. We began by understanding that mercy is twofold. It is both forgiveness and relieving the misery of others.

Tonight in Catholic churches all around the world, priests will wash others' feet during Mass. It seems an odd thing to do, to wash someone's feet. It's very intimate and kind of stinky. Yet, this is exactly what Jesus did at the Last Supper. The Gospel of John describes it:

1Now before the feast of the Passover, when Jesus knew that his hour had come to depart out of this world to the Father, having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end.
2And during supper, when the devil had already put it into the heart of Judas Iscariot, Simon's son, to betray him,
3Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands, and that he had come from God and was going to God,
4rose from supper, laid aside his garments, and girded himself with a towel.
5Then he poured water into a basin, and began to wash the disciples' feet, and to wipe them with the towel with which he was girded.
6He came to Simon Peter; and Peter said to him, "Lord, do you wash my feet?"
7Jesus answered him, "What I am doing you do not know now, but afterward you will understand."
8Peter said to him, "You shall never wash my feet." Jesus answered him, "If I do not wash you, you have no part in me."
9Simon Peter said to him, "Lord, not my feet only but also my hands and my head!"
10Jesus said to him, "He who has bathed does not need to wash, except for his feet, but he is clean all over; and you are clean, but not every one of you."
11For he knew who was to betray him; that was why he said, "You are not all clean."
12When he had washed their feet, and taken his garments, and resumed his place, he said to them, "Do you know what I have done to you?
13You call me Teacher and Lord; and you are right, for so I am.
14If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another's feet.
15For I have given you an example, that you also should do as I have done to you.

I have been pondering how Jesus' act of washing the feet of his disciples was an act of mercy. They wore sandals, all the time, in the hot, dry desert. History tells us their feet were caked in sweat and dirt, and they walked many miles in a single day. So I imagine that washing their feet in cool, clean water was a relief from the sticky, smelly, achy feeling of unclean feet. Jesus relieved their misery when he washed their feet.

And He insisted upon it. Jesus did not allow Peter to excuse himself from receiving this mercy and still be in His good favor. It was through this act of relieving their misery that He taught them about humility. He needed the disciples to see that true Christians extend mercy to others, even when it's dirty and stinky and requires us to stoop below our position.

To me, that sounds a lot like motherhood. We do dirty, stinky work. We change diapers and wipe noses. We listen to the anger pour out of our teenagers. But that work relieves the misery of our children. Mothers humble themselves to do the menial tasks of daily life to keep our children healthy in mind, body, and soul.

When I go to Mass this evening and observe the merciful act of feet washing, I will try to reflect on how I extend mercy to others, in my family and in my community, by doing the dirty work and bowing down. And I will pray that we will all, like Peter, openly accept the way God's mercy comes to us in our hearts and through the acts of others.

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Judas' and Our Betrayals

Lent is coming to a close, and we now enter into the most sacred days of the Church year! Most of us cannot stop our daily lives and focus entirely on the great Triduum celebrations. The laundry, diapers, cooking, and cleaning does not simply pause for the next several days.

But that is the beauty of praying as we work, and I have found that turning my thoughts repeatedly back to the last events in the life of Christ help me to still my heart. When I center my mind on the most beautiful sacrifice of the Holy Cross and the Glorious Resurrection, the daily events of bombings in Brussels abroad and preparations for deployment and moving at home are put into perspective.

With me, consider seeing yourself in today's Gospel from Matthew chapter 26:

14Then one of the twelve, who was called Judas Iscariot, went to the chief priests
15and said, "What will you give me if I deliver him to you?" And they paid him thirty pieces of silver.
16And from that moment he sought an opportunity to betray him.
17Now on the first day of Unleavened Bread the disciples came to Jesus, saying, "Where will you have us prepare for you to eat the passover?"
18He said, "Go into the city to a certain one, and say to him, `The Teacher says, My time is at hand; I will keep the passover at your house with my disciples.'"
19And the disciples did as Jesus had directed them, and they prepared the passover.
20When it was evening, he sat at table with the twelve disciples;
21and as they were eating, he said, "Truly, I say to you, one of you will betray me."
22And they were very sorrowful, and began to say to him one after another, "Is it I, Lord?"
23He answered, "He who has dipped his hand in the dish with me, will betray me.
24The Son of man goes as it is written of him, but woe to that man by whom the Son of man is betrayed! It would have been better for that man if he had not been born."
25Judas, who betrayed him, said, "Is it I, Master?" He said to him, "You have said so."

When do we betray Christ? I betray Him when I don't look at my children as precious gifts but as irritating inconveniences. When I choose losing myself in Facebook and Amazon Prime videos instead of turning to Him in prayer. When I neglect to trust in His will and try to control too much, clutching the illusion of to-do lists and schedules. We don't necessarily seek to betray Him, but each of us has the sin of Judas on our hearts when we trade the challenge of His love (the cross) for the easier, earthly way.

Jesus provides for us, just as He provided a place for the disciples to celebrate passover. And yet. Our trust in Him is so fragile, so fleeting. Some worry how all the bills will get paid this month. Some wonder if the timing is right for a new job or a new baby. Rather than accept what the Lord puts in our path, in anxiety we doubt and question. We lack faith.

Then, even knowing the betrayal that Judas has chosen, the Lord accepts the fulfillment of the prophecies. He is sorrowful for Judas! He loves Him, loves us, so much that he is sad when we even think of betraying Him or refuse to believe in His providence. The love of the cross is for everyone, and when that love is rejected, Christ is sorrowful.

Today I will not be perfect. I will betray Jesus and I will doubt God. But I will keep turning back to Him, and I will accept His perfect love. Join me?