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Christi Homeschool Ink Slingers Motherhood Parenting Vocations

Diary of a Homeschool Mum part 3

homeschool diarySeptember 6th, 2016- My first two posts in the Diary of a Homeschool Mum have been set in the past as I shared the beginnings of why we started homeschooling, the when, and the how. I am deviating this month from writing about the past and am focusing on the now, as well as my future, as a homeschool mum of what is now only a few.

This has been the toughest beginning of a homeschool semester ever. For years I was adding to my homeschool registry. Many school years saw the addition of a nursling who was traveling from arm to arm in the school room  whilst we were also accommodating a preschooler or toddler who created his or her own commotion to the schooling scene in our home.

Then in 2001 we reached a stage where we maintained a status quo in classroom numbers because as one child would spread their wings and leave home, another joined the family. So for years the number of children at home hovered around 10. Finally back in 2008, the year our 13th entered the world, we actually dropped to nine children at home when one flew the coop and another returned to college after taking a year off to help with the family business. We held steady at nine until we dropped to eight in 2012 but, with the youngest just barely a preschooler and several children still in the single digits, I wasn’t fazed. At.All.

Then this summer happened.

Two left home for college. 

going going gone2

We organized a good bye party for the two leaving for college and gifts began to arrive in the mail for them from family out of country. It was so much fun watching for boxes as the postman drove up. But then it was time to actually pack all of that stuff into the back of our mini-van since our big van is nearing retirement and decided to loll about the yard this summer. This meant not all of us could go so I got to take the pictures of them leaving and then have a good cry every time I walked by the piano the 18 year old was always playing.         Yes.         Every. Single.Time.       All day!

But then a few belated boxes arrived and I had an excuse to go visit…

bearing gifts

That was mid August and we were down to six children still at home.

Lonely, only, six.

When was the last time I had  ONLY SIX? That was in May of 1995 just before I gave birth to our seventh child, third son… That’s a long, long time ago – though I remember it like yesterday.

And then today….. today we dropped to five! When were we ever only five?  Twenty three years ago – that’s when. And ironically it is our fifth beautiful child who left today to begin the biggest journey I think a person can ever begin – the giving of oneself entirely to God through a religious vocation.

“Thou hast made us for thyself, O Lord, and our heart is restless until it finds its rest in thee.”
— St. Augustine

That was the quote from the source of daily readings that I use. I actually couldn’t read it aloud as it caught in my throat because truly – could I have asked for better reassurance of what my child is doing? Finding her heart’s rest within the heart of Jesus for whom she will live the rest of her life? My 13 yr old daughter, Emma, had to read it aloud, along with today’s Mass readings to our small group gathered at the breakfast table. 

So once more we loaded the back of the mini-van but with far less belongings then when we moved our two children to college this August. An hour later we arrived at the airport where we dropped off our precious daughter, and much loved older sibling and said our hurried goodbyes before having to leave and make room for other harried travelers. The tears began to drop as we pulled away from the curb while Gabby wheeled her two suit cases towards the revolving doors.

I have known this was coming for such a long, long time – this drop in numbers. These huge changes have been looming in front of me for the past couple of years. As the big 5 0 crept up on me and no more new babies joined the classroom, I faced the inevitable truth- our family had reached its zenith. We are still growing, but in a different way. This summer we watched as our ninth grandchild was welcomed into the church in the same gown many of our children and other grandchildren had been baptized in.

baptismal gownWhile there are still children at home, I have found myself longing for the past as I began to count down instead of up. In addition I have had to face the truth that my youngest child’s firsts are my lasts- last first tooth, last first bike ride, last first Holy Communion… I have been filled with dread over this. Absolute dread. I’m experiencing empty nest syndrome before the nest is empty. I’ve been almost paralyzed by it.

My challenge now is to accept that “I’m entering a new season in my life.” I find myself grimacing as I type that because I do not like that expression. Most likely because I have loved so intensely THIS season of new babies, new personalities developing, talents explored and found. Being a mother of a large and growing family has been my vocation and my complete and total identity for thirty plus years.

 And now, as I help the last five of my beautiful children find their wings and watch them prepare to leave the nest, I too need to find new wings so that I can fly with the future. After all, next year the only adult child still at home while he studies locally for a year will be leaving for his college of choice and I will be down to four and I don’t even want to think how long it’s been since I only had four.

I need to find a new me.

Over the next year when I pop into Catholic Sista’s every few months to keep up my “Diary of a Homeschool Mum” I will continue to share the memories of over two decades of homeschooling while I enter into my last decade of teaching children at home. But I will also begin to include where I see my future taking me. I will share as I explore my talents that got left in the dust while I changed diapers, chased toddlers and helped teens and tweens find pencils so they could do their math. I am already tackling an even bigger challenge – rebuilding my body that has been ravaged by 13 births and hypothyroidism, among other health issues.

Until next time – God Bless!

Christi

PicMonkey Collage

Categories
Allison Ink Slingers

Peace in Pain

You know how Paul wrote, “Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake and in my flesh I complete what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions for the sake of his body; that is, the Church (Colossians 1:24).”?

And you know how the Catechism says, “By his passion and death on the cross, Christ has given a new meaning to suffering; it can henceforth configure us to him and unite us with his redemptive passion #1505).”?

I have to do this, dear Sistas. Don’t worry; my children with cystic fibrosis are fine, no turns for the worse; I’ve not received dreadful diagnosis. But I do have a situation with zero answers. I’ve had many punctures and pictures and proddings and prescriptions the past few months and have been finally told, “We do not know why your knee swells up like a grapefruit every ten days. Everything looks perfect. Sorry no anti-inflammatories work. Do you want to take immunosuppressants and see if they help? By the way, most of them take four to six months to begin working.”

I’ve been bare-knuckling through four-day spans of crippling pain only to begin the process again ten days later, over and over for months (Years, actually, but the pain is new). And now the final test has returned with perfect numbers so this past week was time for me to come to grips with myself. I hate to admit such weakness. I have to offer up this pain and immovability as a prayer. It is real and raw.

I’m trying to make more of a plan, other than hissing through a rosary in the middle of the night because I’m distraught; other than crying to the kids to eat cherios for supper because I can’t get up; other than hyperventilating to my husband that we’ll never go hiking again. I need to regularly pray whether I’m down or not. I need to put food in the freezer when I’m up to cover when I’m down. I need to head to the mountains with everyone when I’m strong and enjoy listening to their stories when they return home after going without me.

I’d like to think I will live on my sofa with a glowing, holy aura about me as I read stories and play board games with the children while offering heavenly advice and encouraging conversation, but I’ll probably struggle with my anger, cry a lot, and skip a few rosaries. I’ll keep my plan before me, though, and take baby steps forward.

This is where our Holy Faith meets the road, isn’t it? Do I believe it? Can I rejoice in this and get closer to Christ? I find my answer with Paul in Philippians 4:8.

“Whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is gracious, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, do; and the God of peace will be with you.”

Jesus is all of these things. I can be at peace.

a.h. photo

Categories
Domestic Church Fatherhood Ink Slingers Marriage Michelle Motherhood Parenting Vocations

Love Begins at Home

Love begins at home

There are some days I wonder how I am going to make it through. The kids are fighting, the house is a mess, the bills need to be paid but there isn’t enough money for everyone, and we have appointments and obligations that keep us on the move with no time to rest. Someone may have cut me off in traffic, at the store they don’t have what I need, and I’ve been on hold on an important call for an hour with no end in sight. On days like this I tend to get cranky. I snap at the kids, I snap at my husband, and sometimes I just give up altogether and hide out in my bedroom, ignoring everyone and everything.

It’s not a pretty sight.

washing clothesAnd then there are times that my day is going great but one of the kids spills his/her drink everywhere right after we have cleaned the kitchen and put a new tablecloth on the table. Or maybe several can’t find their shoes (again!) and it’s time head out the door to an appointment or perhaps even church. There are tears and fighting about who lost what and who should be in trouble because of it. Then again, maybe it’s that my husband needs me to stop what I am doing to help him find something that, had he put away yesterday, wouldn’t be lost today. At those times I am bound to lose my cool… ok, let’s be honest, it’s enough to drive me to yell or to say some rather not nice things.

Maybe you are like me and when you are irritated or perhaps the weight of the world is on your shoulders, the first people you take your frustrations out on is your family.

Why do we do that? Why do we often treat strangers better than those we love and those we are closest too? We would never think to yell and lose our minds at friends or even strangers and yet we easily snap at our little ones or our spouse who simply want to love us. It makes no sense.

I think we do this because we know they will continue to love us despite our failings and so we are willing to take our anger and frustration out on them. Our friends may leave us and strangers certainly won’t care if they ever see us again, but our family wants us to be close to us and because of this they are willing to endure our crazy ups and downs.

But should they have to endure this type of treatment?

Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta said, “Sometimes it is harder for us to smile at those who live with us, the immediate members of our families, than it is to smile at those who are not so close to us. Let us never forget: love begins at home.”

Love begins at home.

It sounds so simple.

It sounds so simple because it is so simple.

Mama and carolineGod blesses us with the people in our families for a reason. The spouse that is beside us- he or she is there to help us become a better person. The children He has given us, well, they are the greatest treasure we could ever hope to find. They also help mold us into the people He calls us to be. Our paths did not cross by chance. God knows what and who we need to help us become the best versions of ourselves. He knows the trials we need to face, the battles we need to fight, and He makes sure we are surrounded with just the right people to help us through it all.

When we think of our spouses and our children in this manner- God given gifts who are here to perfect us- it’s easy to see how our families deserve more than we often give them. They deserve our very best.

When we treat our families as second best, we are saying to God that we don’t appreciate the gifts He has given us. If we love others, but don’t love the most important people God has placed in our lives, how can we say we truly love? We can’t. If we want to love God, we must love our families.

Love must begin at home.

When we give our best to our families, we are able to love God more completely. When we love those whom God has given us, we also teach them to love. That love will multiply in ways we can never imagine. When love begins in our homes we not only affect our children and our spouses, we affect those outside of our homes too. When love is present in our homes it can’t help but to spill over into the rest of our lives and to everyone we encounter.

By loving our children and our spouses well we in turn can’t help but love others.

Love must begin at home. It must be nurtured and tended and treated with care. When we are tempted to take our frustrations out on our families we have to stop and think about the consequences of those actions. When we decide to love instead of yell, we all benefit.

We reap what we sow and if we sow anger, we will raise angry children. If we sow anger, our marriages will suffer. However, if we sow love, we will raise loving children and our marriages will flourish. The fruit of the harvest will be bountiful! When our homes overflow with love it is next to impossible not to want to share that love and joy with others!

Love begins at home but it doesn’t end there. The love that we nurture within our families has the power to change the world. If we could all fill our homes with love the world would never be the same.

love changes the world

 

Categories
Ink Slingers Mary P.

Four Reasons I’m Welcoming a Fourth Baby

Four Reasons I’m Welcoming a Fourth Baby

 

I came out on Facebook last week. Came out as practically-a-Duggar, that is.  More specifically, I revealed that I am having a fourth baby by posting my 20 week ultrasound picture. In my real-life social circle, four children does not a large family make. In fact, families with “just” four or fewer are in the minority. However, out there in the greater society (and in Facebook land), it’s a whole different story. Even having three, my husband has received many comments at work about his “many” children. Four definitely seems to be past the line in the sand between “sane” and “insane” these days. There are many out there who just can’t understand why on earth anyone would want that many children.  Some days I even ask myself why. Children are needy, and loud, and messy, and they interrupt my grand plans for my day, and my life. Children require sacrifice. Why would anyone want to sacrifice so much?

Truthfully, I don’t want to sacrifice. I think if I were holier, I would. But as it stands, the sacrifices are carried out begrudgingly most days. So, then, why am I having another child who is going to demand so much of me, and seemingly give back so little? It’s not because I’m insane (although I might be). And it’s certainly not because I enjoy being pregnant. Here are some of the real reasons:

  1. Children actually “give back” a lot more than we give them credit for. Sure, there are days when I feel like all they are doing is taking from me, but those are just feelings, unreflective of reality. My children give me so much. They give me kisses and hugs when I’m sad or not feeling well. They give me countless reasons to smile and laugh with their adorableness, and even their maddening antics. They give me perspective on what really matters in life. They give me lessons in how to get to Heaven, with their innocence, purity-of-heart, and quickly-offered forgiveness. They give me unconditional love. (Seriously, who else on earth loves as purely and unconditionally as children do?!) Perhaps most importantly, they give me opportunities to die to myself and become more like Christ. All those sacrifices they require of me? Those are—paradoxically—gifts, when looked at the right way. A life of comfort and self-indulgence is not a life that would bring me closer to Jesus and Heaven.
  2. Each of our children is unique and non-repeatable. Some people think that once you have a boy and a girl, any other children would be redundant. But, having four children is not like having four televisions. They are not objects, which can render one another superfluous. Each child brings his or her own unique personality and gifts to the family and the world. Each has an individual purpose and calling, and every life —no matter how short-lived— has a ripple effect. Our hope and goal is that each of our children will make the world a better place, while winning souls for Christ. So far, each of them certainly has made our home a better place. 
  3. Siblings are a gift. I have six brothers and sisters. Growing up in a large family was not always easy or enjoyable. But I was always grateful for my siblings. They were my built-in friends, and they taught me about life and love. They still do. Siblings fight and make mischief together, teaming up to make their parents’ lives difficult at times. But the love among them is stronger than all of that. My children are so excited for another sibling. It’s rare to hear of any children among the families we know who aren’t excited when their mothers are going to have another baby. A new child multiplies the love in the home, rather than taking love from other children. 
  4. God called us to. I know this sounds silly to the non-believers out there, but hopefully fellow Christians can understand this point. My husband and I don’t believe that our lives are our own, to live strictly according to our own wills; we believe in seeking God’s will in all we do. Sometimes His will seems to align with what we want, what makes us comfortable. But more often than not, God calls us to go outside our comfort zones and do something that doesn’t necessarily make practical sense. On matters of family planning (and really, in all matters), we know that God is much better equipped to be the final decider than we are. He’s the only one who can see the whole picture. When all we may see are the “costs” of each baby, God sees the blessings and the provisions that will come with each new life. He sees the whole future laid out in front of Him –the purpose of each soul within human history– whereas our view is so myopic. My husband and I live in awe of that fact, and so we don’t believe that our fertility is meant to be carefully controlled according to our own desires, or cost-benefit analyses. We sought God’s will about a fourth baby, and he answered us with a pregnancy. It’s as simple as that. No other reasons even matter.

I was nervous about letting the cat out of the bag about this pregnancy. Some of my friends have received less-than-kind responses when announcing their own fourth babies. I know there are people in our life who just do not understand or think positively of our lifestyle (although, thankfully, every single person who commented on the ultrasound picture was gracious and kind). I don’t know what certain people are saying behind our backs, but I realized that it doesn’t matter. I shouldn’t be embarrassed or secretive about our children. Each of their lives is infinitely valuable and worthy of celebration, because each is created in God’s image and through God’s love. If pressed to draw one, my own line between “sane” and “insane” would be between those who see the value of every human life and those who don’t.  

 How can there be too many children? That is like saying there are too many flowers! (attributed to Mother Teresa)

Categories
Ink Slingers Karen Pro-Life Issues

Lighting a Fire in a Blizzard: Ten Ways to Be Pro-Life All Year Long

I really don’t like winter.

And I really, really don’t like the cold.

Born and raised in Southern California, I was used to mild temperatures and glorious warm, sunny weather year round. At 13, my family relocated to Michigan, where I experienced my first snowfall. And that winter turned out to be one of the largest snowfalls that Southeast Michigan had seen in years. At first, I was elated. I had never been around falling snow before. I didn’t even know what to do with it! It was a mini-adventure discovering snowballs and that, for the life of me, I could not properly build a snowman. But the romance died quickly as I grew to loathe shoveling walkways and cleaning off cars while my face was freezing and my body overheated under a warm coat from the effort.Pro-Life: Defend the Sanctity of All Life

I really, really don’t like winter.

So when I heard that a blizzard would hit Washington, D.C. and the surrounding areas during the March for Life, I could not understand why people would knowingly put themselves in those conditions to march down a street.

Don’t get me wrong, I think the March for Life is an excellent ingredient in the fight to end abortion. We need folks willing to be on the front lines, sharing the truth that abortion is and always will be, a moral evil that victimizes humanity, mother, and child.

News reports swirled that the March for Life may be cancelled. Rumors of permits being pulled resulted in countless groups cancelled their trip in light of the poor forecast. And yet, so many still travelled by bus to rally together!

The snow came, but it did not conquer.  The March for Life went on, to fight for the unborn, as so many people, including many high school and college aged students, came together as one voice.

And after the March, countless busses and cars have been stranded on the highways, waiting for an accident to clear, only for snow to have piled up blocking their path once the accident was gone. Traffic at a standstill. Among the many stranded buses were young people from all around the Lighting a Fire in A Blizzardcountry, including several Catholic youth and school groups.

But among one of the groups was a priest who celebrated Mass right there on the highway, building an altar from snow. Pictures of this beautiful display of faith and love of Jesus amidst the snow has spread like wildfire on Facebook. 

With seeing the enthusiasm and zeal that all these people had to share faith and love, and fight for the unborn, it can feel strange to watch from a distance. Local communities organize marches of their own in solidarity with those who are in Washington, D.C. But, in the end, it isn’t quite the same. Nonetheless, there is great potential for us to keep stoking the fire that the Marchers have lit.

Let us follow the example of those who went on this March for Life despite the awful weather conditions by exhibiting our own zeal and love of the unborn and the value and sanctity of life. The following is a short list of things we can do to continue sharing the value of life from conception to natural death, and thereby extend the virtue of the sacrifice our fellow Marchers offered in Washington, D.C.

Ten Ways to Be Pro-Life All Year Long

  1. Go to Mass and offer that Mass for the unborn. Remember those who celebrated Mass in a blizzard with an altar made of snow.
  2. Pray for the unborn, the elderly, the terminally ill, the disabled, and the homeless.
  3. Reflect on and cherish the blessings God has given you, and how you might be able to in turn bless others. The homeless in D.C. have experienced the same blizzard with only overcrowded shelters to find warmth in, if they are able to get to them at all. Imagining their experience can help us to see more distinctly just how richly we are blessed.
  4. Spend time with your family. Value them and show them love.
  5. Donate your time, talents, or treasures to a pregnancy resource center, homeless shelter, or domestic violence shelter.
  6. Congratulate any pregnant woman you meet, regardless of the circumstances she is in. A baby is a blessing and that blessed status does not depend on the circumstances of their conception. Offer support and love. It makes a tremendous impact.
  7. Consider going to the March for Life next year!
  8. Pray for women who contemplate abortion, that they may choose life for their child, whether that means creating a parenting plan or an adoption plan.
  9. Pray for women who have had an abortion and are in desperate need of God’s healing grace.
  10. Visit a senior center or volunteer at a hospital to keep elderly patients company. So many are alone and rarely visited. They are in need of friendship and kindness and so often are forgotten.

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