Sunday, November 20, 2016

Christ is My King

Lord GodYou gave the peoples of the worldas the inheritance of your only Son;you crowned him as King of Zion, your holy city,and gave him your Church to be his Bride.As he proclaims the law of your eternal kingdom,may we serve him faithfully,and so share his royal power forever.

Psalm Cycle, Sunday Week One (Divine Office Psalm Prayer)

On the Menu

Spirit Glazed Ham
Scalloped Potatoes
"King" Cake
Sparkling Juice / Wine

In our first home, today was a small feast for my little growing family before we traveled to our hometown for Thanksgiving. After a few years, it was a nice meal to eat without worry before traveling and the ensuing drama that inevitably took place - as much as I love my family. Now, the tradition remains, though we no longer need to travel.

I love that the Feast of Christ is the last Sunday of the Liturgical Year, right before the start of Advent. How fitting that the day comes as winter draws near, and we prepare to celebrate the birth of Christ. In the midst of preparations and of darkness, we are reminded that a great light shines, a hope remains undiminished with time, and a great yearning for our true King fills us.

May Christ keep us always close to Him.

(Craft Note: the "lanterns" are made with stiff black paper with windows cut out for printed images of Christ the King, and with three panels taped together. Battery-operated candles are in each lantern.)

Sunday, November 13, 2016

2016 Advent Calendar for Kids

It's a gorgeous fall day in my neck of the woods, but in two weeks Advent begins. Can you believe it?! Just like last year, I want to share a simple kids countdown for the Advent season. I tried to make it completely kid-doable so that busy (sick, tired, well-intentioned, etc.) parents can print and go with it very easily.

I'm having ups and downs here, but mostly ups thanks to modern medicine. I know what it's like to keep life simple and as easy as possible to get through a day, a week, a season. It's been a few years since I have looked forward eagerly to Advent and Christmas, and it feels refreshing to do so. Hopefully this little bit helps you and your kids no matter what's going on in your life.

2016 Advent Calendar for Kids

**Update** It has been kindly brought to my attention that I goofed and put the Feast of St. Nicholas on the 5th instead of the 6th. I'm sorry about that! Thank goodness we can perform secret acts of kindness any day!

Blank Page for Creative Kids

Monday, September 5, 2016

Back to School and Back to the Blog

My last blog post back in April feels almost like yesterday and yet, years ago. Isn't life like that though?

I often wonder why I keep this blog up for all to see, but then I think, it is a piece of me, a little snippet of time, and I do like to share homeschool and faith resources, even if it is sporadically done. Plus, personally, even if no one reads my blog any more, I find it therapeutic (except uploading pictures - I dislike that with our very slow Internet access).

So what's been happening these last months?

The kids and I have spent much of our summer at the community pool. It has been a HOT and DRY summer in my corner of Ohio. I love swimming. It is an activity I can do almost no matter how I feel (really bad days aside).

Mr. A is settling into his diabetes diagnosis like a champ. He and his brother just had a fun weekend at diabetes camp a few weeks ago, and eagerly look forward to next summer. He really is doing well.

All the kids are growing, eating, learning, fighting, playing, and just being kids.

My husband is busier than usual with work and dealing with gallbladder issues. Thankfully, we seem to miss each other for our worst moments so we can help each other. Plus, the kids have really stepped up helping with meals, cleaning, and keeping each other occupied.

As for me, let's just say that my body crashed this summer. I was glad though, as my annual thyroid tests finally came back "normal high" but with positive Hashimoto's antibodies. This means another autoimmune disease and confirms what I thought was going on but tests were always "normal" for the past three years. The doctor is willing to treat me according to symptoms and not just lab work. Hopefully he keeps his word. It also means, now that I'm regaining some energy thanks to a tiny little pill that I take each morning, that I can look to the autoimmune diet again. Please pray that I can stick with it. (In the past, I would do fine, have a long crash and be unable to cook.)

With my summer crash, I questioned this homeschooling business. Could I do it? Could I do another year feeling as I did? The fatigue didn't come out of the blue. I have dealt with it for years now. But did I want to battle through another year of homeschooling? Last year was tough. There was no joy. It seemed as if we were working all the time and still we were behind (or so it seemed). We had no time for "fun" schooling. Faith studies was reduced to a prayer and reading from Faith and Life. Daily Mass was out of the question. I was unable to even make Sunday Masses at times due to headaches, the inability to wake up, or being in enough pain that I couldn't drive. What was I going to do?

Well, after as much thought and prayer as I could summon, I still felt homeschooling was the best option, at least for the boys. I really questioned sending the girls to school (second grade and pre-k) but in the end thought that keeping to a school schedule (and homework) might be more stressful on me than keeping them home. I also really looked at what the kids were doing in school, and reminded myself - again - what this journey was all about, and it's not just academics. (Thank you, friend, for helping with this. You know who you are.)

We are about a month in, and I have to say I really like our schedule this year. And that's with starting out school still feeling like a zombie.

So what are the kids doing?

Miss Z (Preschool)
  • Finishing her ABC book with numbers, shapes, and colors. I still have empty pages so we may add to it yet.
  • Reading - Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Lessons. She does about a page a day of this. FYI, this is her doing, not mine. She asked to learn. I read to her, she "reads" to me, and she listens in to read alouds to the other kids.
  • Writing - again, her doing. We do sounds from the reading book onto a notebook. She also uses any paper or workbook ABC page she can.
  • Any kind of preschool workbook or coloring book. This girl is a machine. I let her do as much or as little as she wants or I can handle.
  • Preschool Co-Op: I'm sharing hosting with a homeschool mom for a once-a-month preschool co-op. Miss Z is so social I really wanted to do something, This is part of that "fun schooling" for us. The big kids will get a chance to relax and play with other older siblings while preschool goes on.
  • Mini themes that I'm using file folders to create "books" of info for her as she learns. We just started this with an "All About Me" folder.
Miss L (2nd)
  • Faith and Life, grade 2 (book and activity book)
  • First Confession and Holy Communion Notebook
  • First Communion Catechism handwriting (using the Saint Joseph Baltimore Catechism)
  • Horizons 2 Math (though she's wrapping up #1 as she needs more practice)
  • Faith and Freedom Readers (Seton)
  • More Story Time Treasures (Memoria Press)
  • Writing with Ease 1
  • Cursive handwriting
  • Apples and Pears Spelling (this is new and so far, it's a great fit for my two spellers)
  • History: American Girl Study
Mr. D (4th)
  • Faith and Life, grade 4 (book and activity book)
  • Study Guide for the Mass (with his brother)
  • Saint Joseph Baltimore Catechism #0
  • Horizons 4 Math
  • Faith and Freedom Readers (Seton)
  • File Folder book reports - 1 per quarter
  • Writing with Ease 2/3
  • Apples and Pears Spelling (he is loving this and time will tell if the lessons stick)
  • Daily Grams 4
  • Journal
  • History: American History (with his brother) using living books and notebook work from Homeschool in the Woods
Mr. A (6th)
  • Faith and Life, grade 6 (book and activity book)
  • Study Guide for the Mass (with his brother)
  • Saint Joseph Baltimore Catechism #1
  • Math-U-See
  • Faith and Freedom Readers (Seton)
  • King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table matchbook report
  • Writing with Skill 1
  • Junior Analytical Grammar
  • Vocab notebook
  • Journal
  • History: American History (with his brother) using living books and notebook work from Homeschool in the Woods
Science is altogether using Apologia's Exploring Creation with Anatomy. I purchased the journals that go with it and it's worked well for us. We also take time to watch faith videos from Formed. Our current watch is Steve Ray's Footprints of God.

Please note that though I list a pile of resources, not all are used every day. Our day is generally a piece of faith and math, some kind of reading, some kind of grammar and/or writing work. I had to shelve history and science a bit as I recovered from the latest thyroiditis flare but I hope to bring that back in shortly, possibly using Saturday for science. Like any other homeschooling year, plans constantly change, but somehow, come end of year, the kids move on and up.

Finally, and I am so excited about this. Even in my misery, this forming group inspired me and gave me something to look forward to, I (God) brought together some Catholic moms and daughters to form a Little Flowers Group. There are ten girls and just enough moms so that each can take the lead one month out of the wreath year. I want to blog more about this for sure, but blogging is not in my top priorities so we'll see.

Most of all, this year, I want to reconnect, to appreciate each day, to accept each day - good and bad, and to enjoy my family.

Friday, April 8, 2016

Giving Thanks Among Life's Lemons

If my last post's gloom and doom didn't scare you off, I should share with you that my world has been shifting toward a new path recently, which just may have tipped the scale a bit more towards the melancholy.

For one, our homeschool has felt out of whack for awhile now (and not just the winter blues). A good talk with a friend helped in "letting go" of current frustrations to find joy again.

A second thing has been a huge feeling of stress and unrest with our home. I'm still sorting and praying on this one.

Third, while we made it through most of the winter in good health, we more than made up for it during Lent. I was exhausted. Miss Z was super sick with some form of tonsilitis. She was nearly admitted to the hospital for breathing issues due to grossly swollen tonsils. My husband and I took turns holding her upright to sleep for multiple nights, staying awake to make sure she was breathing. She's doing great now, but that illness spread and we stayed sick from then on.

One of the colds went into my chest, which was just miserable. If you get bronchitis and laryngitis routinely, you know what I mean. I still have a hoarse voice and I lost it nearly a month ago!

Finally, as I was scrambling to pack for vacation and get medicine for myself, Mr. A landed himself in the ER with onset Type 1 diabetes. We were supposed to leave for vacation the following day in the wee hours. Instead, we found ourselves transported to a pediatric hospital to learn all about taking care of our son.

The good news is that Mr. A is doing fabulous. I had known the signs and caught it early. He is taking ownership of the disease and we are trying to sort out all we knew about food and fitting into this new lifestyle.

So many blessings among all this unrest...

...Our health is steadily improving (we did catch colds on our way home from vacation!).

...Vacation was wonderfully relaxing - it felt so nice to be in the sun and walk everywhere.

Ok. Not sunny here but we're on the beach!

The ocean was cold but that didn't stop the kids.

...We were so blessed with nearly all the hospital staff and our pharmacy. They have been wonderful in helping us with Mr. A's diabetes.

...I am so thankful this happened before and not while on vacation.

...I am thankful for less stress in our homeschool which helps to slow me down and calm me.

...Mr. A's diagnosis really hit home the fragility of life and how blessed we are to wake each day in each other's company, no matter if cranky or smiling.

In the ER at diagnosis. (I can make a new post on type 1 if anyone is interested.)

About two weeks post-diagnosis. He had gained back 6 pounds!

...I am thankful for sleep. We still need to do middle of the night blood sugar checks. I can never go back to sleep after so when I do sleep, it is great.

...Also, with taming blood sugars, the mood around this house is more calm and focused. Much needed!!! Let's just say two of my children are like oil and water. I'll leave it to you to guess which two.

...And spring is coming! It may not seem like it with gray skies and "thunder snow" in tonight's forecast, but it will be here, sooner rather than later.

So, really, I am not all gloom and doom. I certainly had that emotion swirling inside me, but writing about it helped ease the burden. I truly feel uplifted at the moment, and that is certainly by God's grace, and not my own.

And I am most definitely trying to follow this advice:

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

On Daily Struggles

We all struggle. Rich or poor, healthy or not, young or old... We all struggle in some way or another. At times, it seems one has it worse than another. We make snap judgments all the time over this, even if all we see is the surface of another.

In the overall scheme of things, I have been so very blessed, and I know this, but in the daily struggle, it is easy to overlook all my many blessings. It is simple to see the pain and the ugliness, the lies the devil puts in my path.

Why in the world are you homeschooling? Wouldn't the kids do better in a school - with order and consistency? Oh, you're keeping them home... Well then, shouldn't you fill up their day with tons of work to make sure you're covering everything?

Why can't my child be "normal?" Is it fair that he struggles time and again, and just as soon as he gets into a good pattern, something else happens to start the process over again?

With time, I see patterns in these thoughts, and I am better able to fight. But they never go away.

Oh, poor you. If only you could exercise every day like everyone else seems to be able to do, maybe you would actually lose weight and start to feel better. Why don't you spend your time focusing on all the things that might make you well again? Forget about keeping it simple or just enjoying what you do have.

Sometimes - usually - even with knowledge, I fail - time and again. I fail to trust. I fail to listen. I fail to have faith.

"He said to them, 'Why are you terrified, O you of little faith?' Then he got up, rebuked the winds and the sea, and there was great calm." Matthew 8:26

How is it one day I pray and talk to God as usual, and the next, I feel utterly alone. Is it a test? Is it a lesson in faith and perseverance? If so, I have failed horribly.

This is the Year of Mercy. Why do I believe the lie that God's mercy is for others but not for me?

Why is it that I continue to struggle with what seems a very basic tenet of faith - that God loves all of us, that He wants us to love Him and follow Him? Why can't I seem to grasp that His mercy is not just for my children, my family, and my friends, but for me too?

"He gives strength to the weary, and to him who lacks might He increases power. Though youths grow weary and tired, and vigorous young men stumble badly, yet those who wait for the Lord will gain new strength; they will mount up with wings like eagles, they will run and not get tired, they will walk and not become weary." Isaiah 40:29-31

Looking back, I can see how I have grown in faith and daily habits, but in the daily to-dos, I lose sight of this. Once upon a time, I wouldn't have cared if there was a God or not. Once upon a time, I would never have turned to prayer (I still struggle with this outwardly with others). Once upon a time, I wouldn't have cared if I was growing in faith or not.

But I do care, and I do know. And that makes all the difference. Why I continue to pray with no response. Why I continue to thank God and to ask for His help to go to Mass or to Confession, when my weak flesh and even weaker spirit say no. Why I continue to fight to have faith in our seemingly faithless world and among even my own family where faith is lacking. I hold tight to that small mustard seed of truth, trying to plant it in good soil, and hoping against hope I haven't chosen a poor spot to garden.

"May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that you may abound in hope by the power of the holy Spirit." Romans 15:13