Posts filed under Family Life

How We Easter {Alleluia!}

Full disclosure about our Easter: If you're looking for perfection in liturgical living inspiration, there are far better resources out there. If you're looking for a blogger you probably exceed in that department but who is trying her hardest to keep up... well, maybe you've found the right blog!

I love to share my successes but my failures are copious. And that is what is so marvelous about Easter...

It's all about Him. He is risen as He said. And His grace covers all. Alleluia! 

Come Easter Monday, regardless of how well I have managed to pull together the celebratory details of our earthly Easter, He is always victorious. Thanks be to God! 

For your enjoyment or curiosity (and for my own pleasure), here's a little bit of our Easter....

EGGS

Last year was the first year of my mothering life that we didn't color eggs. It was my fault... I just didn't have an ounce of energy left in me. So this year I was bound and determined to get it done. Chess nerds, artists, and toddlers represented. The pretty egg wrappers are one of my favorite easy ways to decorate and can be found on Amazon. (affiliate link) 

GIVING

I have a crafting habit that I just can't seem to shake and like to augment the Easter table with pretty little gifts for each attendee. Some years that means elaborate, time-consuming items and other years it means candy in cellophane. This year, we managed to put together some faith-oriented items including St. Benedict tenner cord rosaries (pictured above) and Miraculous Medal bookmarks (thank you, Andrea Singarella!) packaged with little rice krispee nests.

Examples from past years:

  • Individual baskets made out of chocolate cookie dough and filled with treats
  • Fabric covered gratitude booklets filled with personalized notes from all the children
  • Blown eggs painted and personalized for each attendee... and stuffed with a Scripture quote chosen for each
  • Large decorated sugar cookies with guest names
  • Dyed cord rosaries
  • Blown eggs sanitized, painted, and filled with M & M's

LITURGY...

Barring major illness, you can always find us at the Easter Vigil Mass. It is not an easy endeavor but always worth it. From the Paschal Fire to the new Catholics and party afterward, we manage to not only survive but to ignite. For the kids, it is always one of the big highlights of the year. There is nothing like the feeling of falling exhausted into bed with an Alleluia on the lips and the smell of incense in your hair!

CLOTHING...

Because of the Vigil Mass and certain limitations of large family life, you won't find us super put-together-matchy-matchy like we sometimes pulled off when the kids were younger. For the most part, we are just trying to get to church on time! We generally drive separately to provide for schola members, altar servers, and toddler needs. And I can't recall the last time we were able to get a family picture of all of the living, dynamic, joyful beauty of the night that soon becomes morning. But those memories are emblazoned in our minds and hearts. It is sufficient.

I didn't get any church pics this year but I snapped the one above of the party afterward in the church basement and my oldest dressed to the nines in his tux. Why the tails? Because it's Easter! He can't think of a better reason. :)

When the kids were younger, I enjoyed sewing dresses for the girls or ordering special matching outfits. (My last Easter sewing project was in 2011.) I would certainly enjoy doing those things again but am forced to be more frugal with time and resources. In the end, I have found that I miss certain sensual aspects of creating and coordinating, but that no joy is lost when the heart is properly oriented.

EASTER MORNING...

Sleeping in. (Super late)

Easter music. (Always including the Easter Song... Original by Keith Green and beautiful cover by Glad... plus all the alleluia music we couldn't listen to during Lent)

Slow and happy breakfast. (Sometimes elaborate, sometimes simple, always orange juice)

Divine Office. (Led by Dad)

Baskets. (These vary greatly in size and content according to means each year)

The full truth about Easter morning this year is that everyone was tired and no one wanted a photo taken. So I snuck this one behind the flowers (above). Four of my people are represented... pretty much only recognizable to me. 

Okay... well almost no one wanted their picture taken...

FOOD...

Dietary needs are a stinker on feast days. Can't go around it... gotta go through it! We are very blessed to have family members who are considerate of the needs of adults and children. The day before Easter this year, my toddler had a significant flare-up of painful symptoms that are greatly compounded by sugar. The Chief and I knew that we had to find a way to keep her away from one of the sources of childhood Easter delight... Easter candy.

It was tough... especially when the age of awareness does not correspond to the age of reason! But again, we are blessed to have a strong support system and people who love her enough to help us soften the hard things. 

For the rest of us, it's business as usual. Sticking to the basics but also splurging and regretting it. ;)

SPIRITUAL RENEWAL... 

There are so many little "New Years" within the context of Catholic life, New Year's Day being the least of them. The most significant for me is Easter Sunday, when the opportunity for new life and regeneration seems optimal and the soil of the soul so fertile.

Today (Easter Tuesday), I will begin a renewal of Total Consecration to Jesus through Mary. I have done it before and it was life-changing. This one will be timed to end on May 1st, the Feast of the Queen of Heaven and the beginning of my due date week. I cannot think of a more fitting way to prepare for the birth of my son. 

If you are interested in doing a Consecration, I recommend the book Totus Tuus: A Contemplative Approach to Total Consecration to Jesus Through Mary by Fr. Nathan Cromley. It can be purchased on the Eagle Eye Ministries website where you can also find supplemental materials and video. 

To all of my readers.... A very blessed and happy Easter to you! He is risen indeed! Alleluia! Alleluia!

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Posted on March 29, 2016 and filed under Family Life, Liturgical Year, Easter.

Homeschool Milestones: Our First Graduate!

Wow. So that came up quickly. Change their diapers, teach them their alphabet and... BOOM... they're driving to the post office to mail their transcripts to colleges. It's a little like sitting in the front car of a roller coaster waiting to roll over that first giant hill.

No... wait... it's a lot more like being on a perpetual roller coaster. The coaster tunnels are like the fleeting respite of sleep; dark, but not quite long or quiet enough.

But the journey, fast and furious though it has been, has been amazing. I wouldn't change it for the world. And very little worth doing comes without a challenge...

Don't you even tell me how homeschooling is too hard, overwhelming, or stressful for you. I am living it. It's all those things, I know. And don't forget that I'm perpetually inadequate, worrying, catching up, and falling down. I am not impressed by your failures because mine are looming so big that they're blocking yours out. My biggest homeschooling success is that I simply have been too stubborn to quit.

And yet... somehow we got one through. 

Homeschooling is not about short term success. If that were the case, I'd have checked out long ago. Homeschooling is an investment of long, bloody days that somehow form a complex and incredibly rich tapestry of joy... for the sake of individual souls and the glory of God.

I like to make things particularly hard on myself by not following a particular method. I don't really know how to answer people when they ask "What kind of homeschooler are you?" The first thing that comes to mind is usually something like...

"I have no idea."
"A confused homeschooler."
"A tired homeschooler."
"I dabble in a little of this and that with a load of laundry on the side (otherwise know as 'eclectic')" 
Or...
"I try to teach my kids stuff and sometimes it works."

But if you were to ask me what the key to sticking it out through the years is, I wouldn't hesitate to tell you:

Heavy doses of God's grace along with a fierce commitment to first principles.
In my house, that first principle echoes that of St. Ignatius whose First Principle and Foundation begins like this:

The human person is created to praise, reverence, and serve God Our Lord, and by doing so, to save his or her soul.
All other things on the face of the earth are created for human beings in order to help them pursue the end for which they are created.
It follows from this that one must use other created things, in so far as they help towards one's end, and free oneself from them, in so far as they are obstacles to one's end.

So at the risk of sounding like a Catholic hippie homeschooler... the foundation of our homeschool is Love. Of Jesus Christ. Of each soul. How we get to the goal is a marvelously messy affair and I can't quite even say how we managed it with this child. But we have reached this one big milestone and are prepared to now support him through the bigger ones that will follow.

The irony is that even though he will make most choices independent of my oversight now, I will still feel the sting of defeat and the thrill of victory in his life keenly. I suppose that isn't really a homeschooling thing... but more of a mom thing. And come to think of it...

That's really what homeschooling is... just parents and kids making messes and memories together.

There's a popular (but erroneous) idea floating around out there that homeschooling moms have a special "calling" to do what we do. And I'm telling you plainly that it isn't true. There's no magic dust and no special graces outside of those sacramental graces every mom gets the day she is married. In fact, I wouldn't say that my temperament is particularly suited to this. Or that I wouldn't shine a whole lot brighter in another work. But that's not what this is about... 

Homeschooling is a prudential choice within the vocation of marriage. Nothing more. We are here to raise kids and to give glory to God. If we speak of it as anything more or less, it either undermines the herculean effort of homeschooling parents... or confers honors where they don't belong. 

We think it's good for our kids. We think the effort is worth it. We roll up our sleeves and we pray and work and give thanks without ceasing.

The photo below was my kid at the beginning of our homeschooling journey. The pic at the top of this post is of that same kid toward the end. Everything in between... well... that's just life. Call it homeschooling if you want. 

I know some of you will have questions about the nitty gritty and I know that I am not great at answering them to anyone's satisfaction. But here are some details to satisfy the curious:

  • I made this kid color a map when he was 6 years old. The directions said to color it and so I instructed him to do it. He moaned and groaned and disliked schoolwork for the first time. I never made him color another worksheet again. He made X's and labeled but never colored. He has thanked me for that multiple times over the years. 
     
  • For every hour that he pretended to do his math and did not, he spent 3 hours studying liturgical theology and playing Wii with his brother. I am not going to stress about the ultimate outcome of those choices. I'll leave that to his bishop or his wife.
     
  • He is graduating slightly early. It was always my hope that my departing teens would not have to spend the remaining days within the fold of their family in a flurry of frantic study and stress. There will always, always be work left to do. At a certain point, I believe it is okay to just say, "Let's enjoy the time together."
     
  • It is his intention to head to college seminary in the Fall. Paperwork and interviews need to be completed yet but that is the general hope and direction. He has decided to give God the opportunity to use him in the Church first... and will continue discernment in that direction until either ordination or marriage. (I will not be answering questions about his destination at this time since we have a few months before all paperwork is signed. Besides, it is not my journey... treading respectfully.)
     
  • No, his siblings are not like he is. And yes, they are very much like he is. Same family, unique souls. I have no idea how they will all turn out. I am still on the roller coaster and I've got a good 20 years left. I often wish I drank coffee. Or had a one-way ticket to Hawaii where I wouldn't ever be tempted to throw anyone's belonging onto the front lawn... Or neglect to plan meals and consequently serve eggs for 3 dinners in a row.... Or say stupid things to people out of fear or anger...

But that's okay. I've said it before and I'll say it a million more times...

It's okay to fall sometimesIt's the rising that ultimately counts. 

I'm incredibly proud of my boy. I pray that he remembers the joy and the goodness in our home more than he remembers the times of our failure. And that the most important lessons have not come from his books, but from the love of his family and his God. 

To conclude this rambling reflection on the graduation of my firstborn, I have to say:

I love homeschooling. It is the hardest thing I've ever done. But God never promised that the good things would come easily. And I love my kid. In the interest of full disclosure and charity, you should know... that his greatest accomplishments came through his desire, his commitment, and his hard work... not mine. 

Posted on February 7, 2016 and filed under Family Life, high school, homeschooling, motherhood.

The Year I Quit the World

It's astonishing the things I find scribbled in notebooks throughout the house. Like little pieces of memory that fell out of my brain and attached themselves to paper, waiting to be recovered again at a later date. I found an old journal entry today that reminded me of some things. Big, big things. Like how powerful the love of a mother is... and how making a Consecration to our Blessed Mother has saved my neck more than once. 

The entry I recently found was dated right before my family "quit the world" and all of the opportunity for fanatical sport-loving families that frenetic American suburbia has to offer. Our minds, bodies, and souls were heavily burdened by the race. My children were staggering under the weight of victory medals and cracking under the pressure of simultaneously maintaining worldly success and Catholic identity. And it didn't matter that we tried to keep praying and believing and storing up the sacramental graces. Sometimes, we have to recognize that we have placed our kids on a battlefield for which they are not equipped. And sometimes, we have to swallow our pride and just quit.

Although I knew deep down that quitting was the answer, I didn't want to do it. I wanted to say no. Instead of saying no, I renewed my Consecration to Mary, knowing that she would move any mountain with that small step of faith. I had forgotten that hard time just a few years ago now and that rediscovered notebook reminded me. Those of you who have followed me through that journey know about the miracle of our eventual yes. You know how we coached and trained and competed and traveled and stretched... and you also know how God rescued us from ourselves through the intercession of Blessed Mother. 

My little journal entry brings it all back to me. The darkness and the struggle. How many years ago now? Three? Four? I don't even know. But this is what I wrote just before the dawn...


This feeling of never being settled. Never realizing my dreams. Always slipping down the fast and furious slope of mediocrity and failure. I am not a plastic saint. I am not even a blood, sweat and tears saint. I am nothing at all like a saint. Just a miserable failure who can't even remember to pray during my despair. I squeak out a little "Lord, have mercy" once in awhile and then just pick up miserably where I left off.

I once wanted to have chickens. And children. I wanted children who raised chickens. Then I just had children who ate chicken shaped into little nuggets before I drove them to a sporting event. I once thought I would sew for my children and wear aprons and paint with them in the glow of the afternoon sun. What came of that dream? Yoga pants and movie nights happened. I wore the yoga pants and went into another room while they watched the movie. For a little comfort. A little silence.

Why have I failed? Why is it so hard to capture a beautiful and slow life in reality? Can it really be done or is it a deception? A movie script that has us questioning why we have missed all the romance while everyone else finds it? 

I've been intentionally quitting the world repeatedly for years but I have never made it for more than a day or so. The world and worldly things have a thorough grip on my heart like a hooked fish. I can try to shake it off but it tears and causes pain. I either swim away, exhausted and shredded, or give up peacefully to be eaten. The world is my home. I am the world. The world is me. What am I willing to give up to find out where it ends and I begin? I'm looking it in the eye and I see what it is thinking: you will fail. Because I always do.

I look straight back and with a sigh of resignation I say: Yes. I believe that you are right. So I suppose I shall lose nothing in trying.

Today is the day that I pick up my Consecration and ask blessed Mother to change my life. She has done it before and I trust she will do it again. My job, as I understand it, is to step aside and let love lead. I'm okay with that today. Let's do this.


And for those of you who don't know the the end of the story... We did. She did. She shook things up. We stepped aside and let her... and quit the world. It was around that time when I changed the name of my blog to Blossoming Joy. It fits. And I've never looked back.

Posted on November 3, 2015 and filed under culture, Family Life, Spiritual Life, parenting.