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

Saturday, March 5, 2016

Saturday Morning Reflection (25): When My Tired is Tired

For weeks now I have been tired. It's natural for a mom to be tired, right? But, this kind of tired is so much more than the normal tired moms face every day. I haven't had a spell like this since last summer. Maybe it was brought on by that "light" bug that kept going round our house. Maybe not. It doesn't really matter. I - we - have to deal with it.

What does one do when all day it is hard to get out of bed, and it is hard to focus? I don't know. I'm still learning and adapting.


Outside My Window... The skies are dull and gray. A little snow remains of the four inches that fell the other day. My kids enjoyed playing in it. That's definitely a positive for homeschooling (as most of the snow melted before school let out). The temps are hovering around 30 and this next week is supposed to get into the 50s and 60s!

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School Time... We are nearly done with quarter 3, thank goodness. This time of year is always so rough in the school room (even if it isn't, it feels like it). Exhaustion and homeschooling don't seem to go together, but it can (it has - we've survived).

My tips on surviving such spells...

  • Take advantage of better days to tackle a needed something but don't overdo it.
  • DRINK WATER! So many times, lack of water worsens physical ailments.
  • Stay home. An occasional time out with moms or homeschool friends or whatnot can be a very good thing, but when you physically can't do much, that running around really takes a toll. My husband is kind and hits the grocery store after karate twice a week. We might not save as much - or eat as well - but it saves me from losing a day to grocery shopping.
  • Cut back to basics. For chores, that means, for me, keeping the kitchen and bathroom clean and doing the laundry as needed, even if it means you have piles of clean clothes everywhere. My kids are old enough to help so that is a wonderful help. They take out bathroom trash, put away dishes, vacuum, wipe down tables, pick-up, help with laundry (older boys do towels and karate uniforms; they all can lay out dry clothes to ready for folding and can all put away or help put away).
  • Basics for school - If it's a really bad day, they might work on some independent work that I check off from their quarter goals. On days I can do a little more, I have schooled in bed or off the couch where we read (kids to me or me to them), watch a documentary, and helped with math. Keeping organized and having quarter goals helps tremendously for me so I don't have to think much when my brain isn't working.
  • Eat as well as you can. It's hard because energy spent in preparing food is tough, but eating junk does you no kindness and probably hinders your healing.
  • Be honest. Tell people you can't do something. I hate doing this because in general it seems as if people get annoyed when you say you are tired for the thousandth time. Thankfully, I have some people in my life who are understanding and a few that get it because they experience it first-hand.
  • Be mindful of thankfuls - all those little, and big, things in your day that make it special. When I'm tired, I confess I have a hard time praying. My mind usually blanks out. Even with writing prayers down, mornings are such a haze that I end up forgetting that I wrote it out.
  • Go to confession. For me, an extended time of physical trial becomes a spiritual trial, and if I don't go to confession, it can spiral.
In other school news... 

Mr. A has enjoyed some new books this quarter: finished the Harry Potter series, Owls in the Family by Farley Mowat, Homer Price by Robert McCloskey, Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain (audio book), and a few others. He's currently reading There's an Owl in the Shower by Jean Craighead George. Obviously, I never have to encourage him to read.


Mr. D is enjoying science (using CHC's Behold & See 3). I decided to have the kids use CHC after Christmas as I was burnt out on science - school - in general. So far, I have liked it. We read and do it together but if I take small chunks at a time it is doable for me. The experiments have been fairly easy to just pick up and go with them, which is great. Another positive thing, is that I have seen better retention across the board with the kids using CHC. Is it the individual attention?

Now that Miss L's reading is a bit stronger, I started using Memoria Press's StoryTime Treasures with her, and I really like it. We do one lesson a week. The first day we do some prep work (reading words and defining them) before reading the book, or selection from the book. Then, there are 2-3 days using the workbook with reading/writing practice, reading comprehension (I write in the answers for now), and a fun page. As my daughter really likes reading, handwriting, and drawing, this is a good fit for her.

As for Miss Z, she is still working on her ABC notebook. The fact that she is, and that we are about to start letter O, means we have hit on something that works for both her and me. I think I need to do a quick photo update though as I have only blogged through the letter E. :)

For me, I'm struggling through some choices right now. This is my goal:

"I am not a teacher, but an awakener."

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Prayers...

...for physical healing and for this "little" bug to leave us for good.

...for a prayer of thanks - that Miss Z never got any sicker than she did. We are so glad we never had to hospitalize her!

...for families worldwide.

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Health News... A month ago I was doing great and here I am now. That's how it seems to go and is the part I dislike the most - the uncertainty. Yet, it reminds me once again that I truly am not in control overall, and brings to mind:


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Today... Eat something. Take a shower. Do the dishes. Try to plan a menu.

This Week... Wrapping up more quarter 3 work. Confession. Cleaning out the girls' room. Grocery shopping. Mr. A's birthday. We are going to let him get a gerbil. He's wanted one for over two years, and has saved to buy some supplies already. I have never had a rodent as a pet so this should be an education.

A Final Thought...


God bless.

Saturday, February 13, 2016

Saturday Morning Reflection (24): THAT time of year again

I really should be cleaning or painting the last coat of paint on the next set of walls, but I'm feeling a little under the weather this morning so here I am, on the computer instead. I haven't written a Saturday post since the fall, which is a little sad, as I think these posts are nice (for me anyway).

As everyone knows, we're into Lent. Unlike last year, where illness really made our Lent, this one is starting off fairly "normal." All the kids seem to like having their Lent Lapbooks to use as a countdown and prayer resource. And, I know they like the good deeds on the back as one child came up to me and whispered, "I'm playing with '...' It's a sacrifice."

Yep. It's that time of year. My kids are no exception - nor am I. Is it harder for homeschooling moms in particular or is it just as hard for moms who send their kids away for hours each day? I'm guessing it's not easy for any of us.

Let's get going with this reflection...

School Time... Just like with kid (and mom) attitude, this is the time of year I question everything I do as a homeschooling mom teacher. This time last year I seriously considered whether I should be teaching or not. This year, it's not so bad, but I still feel as if we're missing the joy of homeschooling. Is it having four kids to teach? Is it because this is my 7th year? Or does something really need to change? I don't know. These questions go round and round. I do know NOT to do anything about them until I taste spring, start to work on portfolios for the year, and start to think of next year.

This upcoming week in school, we are studying a bit of U.S. government, reading some more American Tall Tales (hilarious book - the kids are loving it), and doing our basic kind of school week.

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Outside My Window... The sun is shining brilliantly, but don't let that fool you. I think it's around 1 degree, with the wind chills making it even colder. Some light snow covers the ground, but I can still see grass poking through. My kids are missing the snow this year. (I'm not. It's been great having a milder winter!)


Prayers...

...for my brother and his family as they begin to prepare for another leg of their life journey.

...for a personal intention.

...for the Sacrament of Marriage and for all married couples.

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Health News... I have been doing well! (Ok, other than this light cold that just keeps going round and round our house.)

I am on round #3 of the autoimmune protocol and I think this third time's a charm. I am only a few weeks in and have lost 12 pounds, have way more energy (don't need coffee), and my body just feels better than it did. I still have a long way to go, but it really is amazing the changes I've experienced eliminating inflammatory foods.

A local library has been providing free pilates classes (just a dvd), but it's been nice going. I guess I really do need to make exercise "appointments." One of my goals this month is to start a local Zumba class - I heard good things about the instructor and it's very affordable.

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Today... I sure hope to feel better as I really do need to clean, paint (I hope), and go grocery shopping with the family, and out to eat with my in-laws after. Tonight I may work on my upcoming plan's for next week's CCD class (the Sacrament of Reconciliation for 5th grade if anyone has something fun to recommend. I have a big class of 24 with 1/3 that have a hard time following directions for anything, even a fun game).

This Week... Just another week of the same.

A Final Thought...


God bless.

Friday, February 5, 2016

Name of Jesus Study

One of the best things I changed about this school year was a morning "circle" time to begin our day. Sure, before, we would pray together and be on our way to study, but this year I wanted the time to have more meaning and to set aside time to do something together to start off the day. 

Ideas I use: feast days, seasons/holidays, something I think we need to focus on, etc.

For January, I decided to focus on the name of Jesus. As time allowed, we did a variety of activities to learn about the name of Jesus. At the end, I put any paperwork into a "book" for the kids'.

This is a basic outline of what we did...

Intro & Cover Page



The kids used their new "smelly" markers from Epiphany. Colored pencils, crayons, watercolors, etc. would work well or you could also make your own cover. The kids really liked these coloring pages. You know it's good if all four are eager to do it.

As we colored, we talked about how names are important - names tell us who we are talking about. Names also have meaning. I looked up the meaning for each of the kids' names before we talked about the roots of Jesus' name.

(From the Greek Iesosus which comes from the Aramaic, Yeshu, which means "Yahweh is salvation.")

Treating Jesus' Name with Respect and Honor

This section took more time and days to finish up...

We talked about how people today seem to use God's name (in any form) without respect and many times, unknowingly. (This was a habit of mine for years before coming into the Church - you can change!)

I shared with them the prayer that can be said when one hears His name being said without respect or knowledge:
O Jesus, my Savior and Redeemer, Son of the living God, behold, we kneel before Thee and offer Thee our reparation; we would make amends for all the blasphemies uttered against Thy holy name, for all the injuries done to Thee in the Blessed Sacrament, for all the irreverence shown toward Thine immaculate Virgin Mother, for all the calumnies and slanders spoken against Thy spouse, the holy Catholic and Roman Church. O Jesus, who has said: "If you ask the Father anything in My name, He will give it to you," we pray and beseech Thee for all our brethren who are in danger of sin; shield them from every temptation to fall away from the true faith; save those who are even now standing on the brink of the abyss; to all of them give light and knowledge of the truth, courage and strength for the conflict with evil, perseverance in faith and active charity! For this do we pray, most merciful Jesus, in Thy name, unto God the Father, with whom Thou livest and reignest in the unity of the Holy Spirit world without end. Amen. (source)
A simple apology to our Lord and asking forgiveness will also do, I told them. :)

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On the other hand, speaking Jesus' name is a prayer in itself. We took time to make a multi-media art project:



The name itself doesn't hold power (after all, there are others named Jesus in this world), but the One who holds the name does have power, and we believe that.

In fact, invoking the name of Jesus brings four special rewards:
  1. Helps us with physical needs. Mark 16:17-19
  2. Gives us help in spiritual trials. Acts 2:21
  3. Protects us from Satan and his temptations. Matthew 6:13
  4. We receive grace and blessing through His name. John 16:23-24
I created a notebook page with each of these rewards, along with a Bible verse to go along with. (Download Here) Alternatively, you could also have the kids make their own notebook page and copy out the Bible verses.



(4 rewards of invoking Jesus' name /// how we can honor His name)

Another color, cut, and paste notebook project we did was how we can honor Jesus' name. First, we came up with our own ideas, and then we did the notebook activity. Optional write-in: 
"So that at Jesus' name every knee must bend in the heavens, on the earth and under the earth, and every tongue proclaim to the glory of God the Father: Jesus Christ is Lord." Philippians 2:10-11
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Many saints through the years have been proponents of the devotion to His Most Holy Name, but we studied three in particular: St. Bernard of Clairvaux, St. Bernardine of Siena, and St. John of Capistrano. I copied off info for each (see links above) as well as simple notebook page I made with saint quotes.


These saints recommended that the monogram of Jesus (letters IHS with rays of the sun coming from it) be placed upon every gate in every city and above the doors of faithful followers. Originally, I wanted to make a different project - wooden, clay, or soap - but we ran out of time and ended up drawing on paper, which the kids are into lately anyway:


Jesus' Nicknames

Sometimes people have nicknames. Jesus is no exception. In fact, He had many nicknames. There are over 200 in the Bible!

First, we made a list of all the names of Jesus we could think of, and then we added to that list:


To learn more names, the girls painted the picture of Jesus (below) that I made with some common names of Jesus. The boys chose to do a word search (there is a puzzle as well).


The last thing we did to learn about more names was this Advent Name of Jesus "Game." It really isn't a game. I printed the cards, and split into even groups. We followed the chain of names, adding to our list as we went. 

(Don't tell your kids it is a game! I kept getting grumbling from one child because it very obviously was NOT a game even though the post title says it is.)

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To finish the study, I had the kids pick a nickname that spoke to them. They then copied out the appropriate scripture and drew a picture:


And we of course prayed the Litany of the Holy Name of Jesus:
V. Lord, have mercy on us.
R. Christ, have mercy on us.V. Lord, have mercy on us. Jesus, hear us.
R. Jesus, graciously hear us.V. God the Father of Heaven
R. Have mercy on us.
V. God the Son, Redeemer of the world,
R. Have mercy on us.V. God the Holy Spirit,
R. Have mercy on us.V. Holy Trinity, one God,
R. Have mercy on us.V. Jesus, Son of the living God, R. Have mercy on us.
Jesus, splendor of the Father, [etc.]
Jesus, brightness of eternal light.
Jesus, King of glory.
Jesus, sun of justice.
Jesus, Son of the Virgin Mary.
Jesus, most amiable.
Jesus, most admirable.
Jesus, the mighty God.
Jesus, Father of the world to come.
Jesus, angel of great counsel.
Jesus, most powerful.
Jesus, most patient.
Jesus, most obedient.
Jesus, meek and humble of heart.
Jesus, lover of chastity.
Jesus, lover of us.
Jesus, God of peace.
Jesus, author of life.
Jesus, example of virtues.
Jesus, zealous lover of souls.
Jesus, our God.
Jesus, our refuge.
Jesus, father of the poor.
Jesus, treasure of the faithful.
Jesus, good Shepherd.
Jesus, true light.
Jesus, eternal wisdom.
Jesus, infinite goodness.
Jesus, our way and our life.
Jesus, joy of Angels.
Jesus, King of the Patriarchs.
Jesus, Master of the Apostles.
Jesus, teacher of the Evangelists.
Jesus, strength of Martyrs.
Jesus, light of Confessors.
Jesus, purity of Virgins.
Jesus, crown of Saints.
V. Be merciful, R. spare us, O Jesus.V. Be merciful, R. graciously hear us, O Jesus.V. From all evil, R. deliver us, O Jesus.From all sin, deliver us, O Jesus.From Your wrath, [etc.]
From the snares of the devil.
From the spirit of fornication.
From everlasting death.
From the neglect of Your inspirations.
By the mystery of Your holy Incarnation.
By Your Nativity.
By Your Infancy.
By Your most divine Life.
By Your labors.
By Your agony and passion.
By Your cross and dereliction.
By Your sufferings.
By Your death and burial.
By Your Resurrection.
By Your Ascension.
By Your institution of the most Holy Eucharist.
By Your joys.
By Your glory.
V. Lamb of God, who takest away the sins of the world,
R. spare us, O Jesus.V. Lamb of God, who takest away the sins of the world,
R. graciously hear us, O Jesus.V. Lamb of God, who takest away the sins of the world,
R. have mercy on us, O Jesus.V. Jesus, hear us.
R. Jesus, graciously hear us.Let us pray.
O Lord Jesus Christ, You have said, "Ask and you shall receive, seek, and you shall find, knock, and it shall be opened to you." Grant, we beg of You, to us who ask it, the gift of Your most divine love, that we may ever love You with our whole heart, in word and deed, and never cease praising You.
Give us, O Lord, as much a lasting fear as a lasting love of Your Holy Name, for You, who live and are King for ever and ever, never fail to govern those whom You have solidly established in Your love. R. Amen. (source
 May this bless you...