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

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!


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."



...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.


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:


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.


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!)


...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.


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.


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.