How I Stumbled into Receiving the Eucharist on the Tongue

When I went through RCIA in 2013-2014, we were taught how to receive the Eucharist and had to go through practicing it several times. I remember that during one class, someone mentioned that it is possible to receive the Sacrament on the tongue, but no one described how to do this or demonstrated it. It seemed to just be an obligatory mention of something that almost no one in our entire parish ever does.

So, I naturally began my days as a Catholic by receiving Communion in my hands. To be honest, receiving it on the tongue seemed weird. I was so awed by the simple fact of being able to receive Communion at all, I just went along with how everyone else did it and never thought twice about it.

Then one day, very early in my days as a Catholic, I received the Blessed Sacrament while holding Sis. She would have been two at the time, and I was holding her in the crook of my left arm so that I could reach around her, receive the host in my left hand, with my right hand underneath, as you’re supposed to, and then take the host with my right hand and place it in my mouth. I had done this successfully before. No big deal.

Except this time, after the priest (or extraordinary minister, I can’t remember which) placed the host in my hand, she quickly reached out and smacked her hand on top of mine, breaking the host and knocking it in two pieces onto the floor. I was horrified, and immediately knelt down, picked up the host, and consumed it off the floor. I felt sick that this had happened, and vowed to never again receive Communion while holding a child in my arms.

At that time, since Sis was two and easily mobile, it seemed like a reasonable thing to assert. I could just put her down before holding my hands out for communion. I could even hold her in place with my mommy knee vice (see here) if necessary.

What I didn’t count on at the time was that I would someday have another little one to hold while receiving communion, one whom I would not be able to just set down so I could receive the Body of Jesus.

About a year after the Eucharist-on-the-Floor incident, I read this blog post by Kendra at Catholic All Year. It contains her assertion that the best way to receive Communion while holding a baby is on the tongue, and her statement that she always receives it that way even when not holding a baby, and that the rest of her family does too.

I remember finding the post interesting, particularly the fact that even her children receive the Eucharist on the tongue, and always have. But I didn’t pay much more attention to it. The Communion-while-holding -a-baby issue still was not relevant for me, and I was not interested in receiving Communion that way just as a regular practice.

Fast forward to my first Mass after Bubba was born. He was a super easygoing baby, but he was never one of those newborns who would sleep in his carseat through Mass. As soon as the music started, he was wide awake and wanted out of his seat. So, the first time I received Communion after he was born, I was holding him, and I knew I had to receive on the tongue. I don’t think I really thought about it ahead of time, I just did it. I was nervous, and I kind of messed up (I opened my mouth and received the Eucharist without remembering to say “Amen”). But it wasn’t as weird as I thought it would be. In fact, after doing it a few times, I began to really like it. I realized that it felt more reverent to me to receive Jesus that way. My husband was intrigued when I told him this, but still a bit uncertain about trying it himself. So each time we would come to the part of the Mass when it was time to receive the Eucharist, if he had been holding Bubba he’d hand him over to me for Communion.

After many months of this, he finally decided to try receiving on the tongue, so he made sure to be holding the baby at the appropriate time and went for it (at the time it made it feel less odd to receive on the tongue while holding the baby, as if the baby-in-arms was a good excuse for the otherwise strange behavior).

DSC_0104

Since I wasn’t holding him, I found myself going up to receive communion with my hands free for the first time in about nine months. I reverted to receiving in my hands.

I didn’t like it at. all.

I found that I did not have the same sense of reverence when receiving the Body of Jesus in my hands as I did when receiving on the tongue. Frankly, it didn’t feel right to go back to receiving the Eucharist in my hands.

From that point forward, I have received communion only on the tongue, whether I am holding Bubba or not.

When it was time for my oldest daughter to receive her First Holy Communion, we discussed with her that her Dad and I receive on the tongue and why, but we let her decide how she wanted to receive. The people in charge of First Communion at our parish did not even mention receiving the Eucharist on the tongue in any of the kids’ classes, the retreat, or the rehearsal. I was quite disappointed by this (and afterwards requested that they correct this omission, which they have said they will do for next year’s class), but I taught Miss how to receive on the tongue, using some unconsecrated hosts that we were able to get from the parish for practice at home. Miss was concerned that she would feel weird and be embarrassed about being different from the other children if she chose to receive on the tongue. She ended up deciding to do it anyway, though.

DSC_0103 2

It was an incredible moment that I will never forget (and I don’t think she will either).

DSC_0079

I would like to point out that I do think it is possible to receive the Eucharist reverently in the hands. I have done it, and I have seen other people do it. I know people who do it. However, in my experience, it feels even more reverent and adoring to receive the Body of Christ on the tongue, and I think it is nearly impossible to receive it irreverently in this manner, as it forces one to recognize just Whom we are receiving (here’s some more info about receiving this way, with a quote from St. Thomas Aquinas that states that only consecrated hands should be allowed to touch the Sacrament). That’s why I do it.

I kind of stumbled unintentionally into the practice of receiving the Eucharist on my tongue. But now, it has become standard practice for my family, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

For My Dad – A Photo Post

Today was my Dad’s birthday. When I called him to tell him happy birthday, he not-so-subtly commented on how I haven’t been blogging much anymore and he has missed seeing pictures of my kids. So here is a post full of summer photos, just for him (and anyone else who cares to see what we’ve been up to this summer).

Bubba loves the pool:

IMG_8129

We’ve spent time at our friends’ lake cottage:

IMG_8130

IMG_8131

IMG_8133

Bubba is cute:

IMG_8162

I tried to teach the girls how to blow bubbles with bubble gum:

IMG_8205

IMG_8207

IMG_8210

We went to the farm for a week and did lots of fun stuff:

IMG_8219

IMG_8251

IMG_8275

IMG_8270

IMG_8286

IMG_8262

My girls started taekwondo:

IMG_8300

Bubba is still cute:

IMG_8353

I realized when looking through my photos that I have not taken nearly as many photos lately as I used to. And I almost never get out my big camera anymore, so the photos I have are not as good. I will need to try to do better. Sorry Dad. Happy Birthday!

Three Big Things

I have not done a very good job lately keeping up with blogging. I used to write about and share pictures of all the big events in our lives, and plenty of the not-so-big happenings too. I haven’t managed to keep up with this very well in the past year (or two?).

Following this trend, I have failed to write about a few really big things in the past few months that I don’t want to miss. Three things. Big things that probably each deserve their own post. That’s not likely to happen, so I’m putting them in one post here. They aren’t any less important for having to share a title. See for yourself:

BIG THING #1 – Our eldest, sweet Miss, had her First Holy Communion.

DSC_0103

IMG_7884

It was really beautiful and special, and I was so happy to see how excited she was to receive Jesus for the first time in the Eucharist.

We had a wonderful day, with some family visiting and a great party afterwards with plenty of friends as well. She cried at the end of the day because it was over.

BIG THING #2 – Bubba turned one!

DSC_0172

He turned one on the first, which made this his golden birthday, so the girls and I had fun getting him some gold decorations, and I ordered him a golden cake.

DSC_0185

DSC_0193

DSC_0196

He was a bit unsure at first…

DSC_0204

DSC_0209

IMG_8006

But that didn’t last long. This may have been the most major cake destruction of any of my kids thus far. I think he liked it.

DSC_0224

On his birthday, he was starting out with very new walking skills, taking only 2-3 steps at a time. About a week later, he was walking much more confidently, and is now walking everywhere. He’ll be running soon, which means I’m in trouble, especially considering the next big thing.

BIG THING #3 – Or maybe I should say #5

IMG_8049

Arriving in late December (or more likely early January). This is a really poor photo of a handheld ultrasound image, but you get the idea.

Remember when I was pregnant with Bubba and shortly after he was born when I was writing about how he was most likely my last baby? God had other plans for us!

This is why, even though I am 41, and we struggled for almost three years to get pregnant with Bubba, whenever someone asked me if we were “done” after Bubba was born, I always said something like, “I doubt we’ll have more because of my age, but we’ll accept however many God decides to give us!”

We are surprised and thrilled. And I must admit I’m slightly terrified to have two littles under two again. But terrified in a good way. In the best possible way.

God is so good, and we are so very blessed.

Yes, I AM Blessed (and That is a Correct Use of the Word)

A few weeks ago, someone I know posted a link to an article titled “I Used to Say ‘I’m Blessed,’ Until I Asked These Two Questions.”

Although this wasn’t the first time I’d read something with this idea that saying, “I’m Blessed” is somehow a bad thing, it was the first time I had read something that seemed to have the intent of shaming and ridiculing people who utter this, or similar phrases.

You can read the article here.

When I first read it, I was angry. I was shocked and appalled that anyone would feel the need to write something so hateful, to put down those who choose to express their joy by sharing their blessings. I was also frustrated, because I could see that the author of the article, and most of the people commenting on and sharing it, truly do not understand what it means when someone says they are “blessed.” I immediately began formulating a scathing response in my mind, debunking, one by one, the incorrect statements and assumptions made by the author of this article.

But then I stopped and remembered that writing responses in anger is not generally a good idea. So I waited for a while, and thought about the article, and decided that, while my response needn’t be angry, it still needed to be.

It needed to be, because there are so many misconceptions about Christian people. About what we believe or don’t believe. About how we act or should act and why. The article linked to above is a good example of how Christian belief and action can be twisted through misunderstanding. How something with intentions and origins that are true and beautiful and good can be misrepresented and turned into something worthy of scorn or ridicule or disgust.

The author of the article I linked to says that people who say they are blessed are basically saying they are lucky, but adding an emphasis on the idea that God had something to do with their situation. And so, when someone says he is blessed, he is saying God has helped him more than others, which is arrogant and disgusting. This argument is based on the idea that when someone says he is blessed, he is making a comparison to others and saying he is better, and that if there were no others to compare with, saying one is blessed would be pointless. He suggests just dropping the God reference and just using the word “lucky” in order to be more accurate, humble, and inclusive.

However, there are several significant errors in this line of thinking. Namely, when a Christian person says she is blessed, it has absolutely nothing to do with saying she is lucky, and she is making no assumptions about or comparisons with another person at all. Even if she were the only person on earth, it would still be completely appropriate for her to proclaim, “I’m blessed.”

IMG_7937

^^A couple of my many blessings^^

Saying that one is blessed is not a way of rubbing one’s specialness in others’ faces. It is not arrogant or egotistical (both of these are words used by the author to describe the act of saying, “I’m blessed.”). It is a way of sharing one’s joy and awe and wonder at the awesomeness of God and the many ways God can work in one’s life. It is giving credit where credit is due. It is the ultimate humility in saying, “I am not worthy of this. I do not deserve this. I am not so special. And yet… look at the many ways God has showered me with blessings.” Note that this does not imply that in saying that God has showered me with blessings, He must like me better than you. It is not a comparison. It is an acknowledgement of the goodness of God. Period. It is, in part, an expression of intense gratitude.

However, this takes me to the author’s second main point, which seems to be that when people say they’re blessed, what they really mean is that they’re grateful. Further, the author suggests that “grateful” is the better word because, “Saying you’re blessed doesn’t clearly describe the context of what you’re feeling.”

Think of this. If I say, “I’m blessed,” and someone says to me, “No, you’re not. What you really mean to say is you’re grateful. That’s a better description of what you’re feeling,” who is being arrogant? Am I not a better judge of what I am feeling than the author of this article or any other person? The author writes, “You’re not stupid, you chose the word ‘blessed’ rather than ‘grateful’ for a reason. Why?” In this statement he is absolutely correct, though he doesn’t seem to actually be interested in the “why” of the matter.

True, I am not stupid. Nor are the other people who choose to use the word “blessed” rather than “grateful.” The reason for this is that the word “blessed” actually does more clearly describe the context of what I’m feeling. To say I’m grateful for something is fine. I tell my husband I’m grateful that he did the dishes. I tell my children I’m grateful for the dandelions they bring me. And yes, I tell God on a regular basis that I am grateful for all that He has given me. But that does not encompass the fullness of the term “blessed.” To say one is blessed includes gratitude, but also joy, awe, wonder, humility, and more, all in reference to the greatness of God.

IMG_8025

^^More of my beautiful blessings^^

At another point in the article, the author expresses doubt about the sincerity, or intelligence, of some who say they are blessed because he happens to know that these people have experienced recent inconveniences and/or hardships. He seems to be saying that it is not possible for people to experience difficulty and feel blessed at the same time. He fails to understand that, because of knowledge of the goodness and mercy of God, Christians can often find blessings even in suffering. Many are even able to see suffering itself as a blessing. This is part of the beauty of the teachings of the Catholic Faith, though for the sake of not making this post into a novel, I won’t get into this particular issue more here.

I do want to give an example though. I know an amazing woman who lost her oldest daughter this past year after a painful struggle with cancer. In spite of, or maybe even because of, this tragic loss, my friend’s faith is still rock solid and is a beautiful example of God’s grace in action. Every time I speak to her, either in person or in an email, or even just to see a Facebook status update from her, she is radiant and humble with her love of and trust in God. She expresses gratitude and describes the many blessings she is able to see in the aftermath of her daughter’s death. She almost always expresses herself in part by using the word “blessed.”

Can you imagine someone telling her that she can’t really mean that because she has experienced tragedy? That her statements of being blessed are insincere because she has suffered?

I cannot.

The thing is, when one has faith in God, one can find true, deep, abiding joy, in good times and in bad times. This is different from feeling good in the world. It is not dependent on moment-to-moment surface happiness. This joy is what it means to be “blessed.”

IMG_7943

 

I want to clarify that, in writing this post, my goal is not to ridicule the author of the other I linked to. It is simply to point out the errors that occur when one assumes that they know another’s heart on matters that they just do not understand.

It is very common in our world these days for people to attribute all sorts of ugly intentions to Christians, to mock and deride beliefs, behaviors, and traditions that they do not take the time or the care to learn about. Calling it “arrogant” and “egotistical” and “disgusting” for someone to simply say, “I’m blessed,” is a pretty good example of this.

My hope is that people will just ask if they do not understand. If you don’t get why someone says, “I’m blessed,” ask her. Or don’t, that’s fine too. But if you choose not to seek to understand, at least please do not shame and disregard her as ignorant just because you cannot grasp her meaning or intent.

I hope that this will go beyond this one example and extend to other areas of misunderstanding as well. More specifically, I offer a gentle challenge those who mock and dismiss Christianity in general, and Catholicism in particular (including many who attend Catholic parishes), to actually learn about what you are rejecting **

DSC_0119

I have been so truly blessed (yes, blessed) to have been led to the Catholic Faith. I know that God led me and my family here. At times we experienced suffering on our way to conversion/reversion, but we now see these difficulties as the beautiful blessings they were, as they brought us to the true Faith. I want to share this blessing with anyone I can. I pray that you are open to experiencing God’s blessings in your life too.

 

**I have stated this in previous posts, but I will reiterate it here: if you have a question about the Catholic Faith, if there is something you disagree with or even hate about the Catholic Church, feel free to ask me about it. If I don’t know the answer, I will find it for you.

A Lesson on Charity from my Kids

For quite some time now, I have been thinking about taking my kids to visit some elderly folks in a nursing home. I thought this would be a wonderful way to practice the works of mercy together and to nourish a spirit of charity and service.

However, each time I have considered doing this, I have fairly quickly talked myself out of it, because of thoughts about how my girls will think the home smells funny, or they won’t feel comfortable talking to the residents, or they’ll mumble and no one will be able to hear them. This has always quickly led to imaginings of myself, in such a situation, being forced to try to make small talk while shushing complaining kids, and the idea would just shrivel and die, right there. My little introverted self does not like small talk.

So, I have resisted doing this good deed. Repeatedly.

About two weeks ago, I got an email from coordinator of pastor ministry at our parish, asking for volunteers to take flowers and Easter gifts to elderly and home bound individuals in a local nursing home. I decided that this was my chance to just get over myself and do something with my kids to serve others, and I quickly replied to the email, before I could talk myself out of it.

I’m so, so glad I did.

When I told them that we were going to visit a nursing home to take gifts to some of the residents, they immediately began to cheer happily. I thought they might be nervous and/or reluctant. Instead they were excited and eager.

unnamed

Before we went to the nursing home, I talked to the girls about what to expect and coached them on how to behave. I warned them that the home might smell funny and told them not to complain, or pinch their noses, or otherwise draw attention to it. I reminded them to speak clearly and not too fast (one of my girls is a super speed talker!), and that some of the people might not hear very well so they might have to speak a bit loudly. They said, “Like we do with Grandpa?” Yes. They know the drill. We talked about things they might bring up in conversation. I was pretty sure that they would be tongue-tied, and all the conversation would be left to me.

When we go to the home, they were poised, polite, and articulate, and so kind and loving towards the people we met.

I was humbled by their unselfconsciousness and their easy manner with the residents we spoke to. They weren’t uncomfortable at all. They weren’t tongue-tied, or mumbling, or complaining in the slightest.

In fact, they wanted to keep meeting and giving to more people. On the first day we visited, we were only able to deliver the gifts we had brought to two of the four residents we were assigned. The other two did not answer our knocking. I was fully prepared to take the two gifts we had left back to the coordinator of the project, tell her we weren’t able to make contact, and be done with it.

The girls wanted to go back the next day and try again.

So we did. And we got a few extra names in case we still weren’t able to deliver the gifts to those on our list. We managed to deliver both of our remaining gifts and when the coordinator asked us if we wanted to make one more visit, my girls excitedly exclaimed that they did.

Five encounters. Six elderly people (we delivered one gift to a married couple). The smiles on the faces of the residents and the care that my girls showed toward them just warmed my heart.

The girls felt a special affinity for one elderly lady we met, and asked if we could go back and visit her again. I told them that we didn’t want to just keep going to someone’s home without being invited, but that we could write a letter to the lady, and maybe visit her again if she invites us. They have been talking about her daily since we met her last week, and they are so excited about the idea of potentially going back to see her again.

IMG_7852

^^ This was their excitement after we finished delivering the gifts ^^

I learned a lot about my kids (and myself) during this experience. A few of the high points:

Small talk isn’t quite as horrible as I make it out to be in my mind in anticipation of it. I’m not good at it, but I can manage, and when it’s in service to someone else who is lonely, I need to just get over myself.

Also, my kids are so much more capable, caring, and giving than I sometimes give them credit for. I know that they are these things, but sometimes I forget how mature they’re getting. And maybe I underestimate them. I certainly did in this situation.

The biggest take away from this experience was for me to remember not to put my own insecurities onto my kids. I’m self-conscious in situations where I need to make small talk with strangers. They are not. I’m nervous about cold calling at someone’s door, even if it is to deliver a gift to him or her. They are not.

They are confident. They are well-spoken. They are kind. They seem to have become even more of all of these qualities as a result of this experience.

I need to just get out of their way.

Surrender

Sometimes, I am awful. There are days when I yell at my kids. Days when I snap at them for small mistakes. Days when I even make them cry.

I’m sure I don’t need to tell you how horrifying I find this. How much I hate this about myself. How hard it is to even type these words.

I was never an angry person before having kids. I almost never yelled. Which makes it all the more puzzling and frustrating to me that I do it now.

I understand some of the triggers for this anger and ugly behavior. Sleep deprivation. Hunger. Being hurried. I have made some progress and improvement by trying to manage these triggers. Getting more sleep (sometimes, though this is really, really hard for me), eating well, making sure that we have plenty of time to get ready to go somewhere, etc.

But still, I fail.

IMG_7760

So. At the beginning of this year, I decided to really focus on this as an area of improvement for myself. I wanted to do the “word of the year” thing, with this as my focus. I was trying my best to come up with a word that I could try to think about each day, especially in tense times, that would remind me to chill out, slow down, and not be a jerk. I thought of a few words that seemed promising, but noting that really seemed to be just right.

One morning during prayer time in early January I was wondering about why in the world I get so angry with my sweet kiddos, when I was never a person to get super fired up about stuff before having kids. I was praying that God would help me to have some insight on this. Then, literally the next day, I got an email that gave me what I asked for.

Haley Stewart is one of my favorite Catholic bloggers. She writes Carrots for Michaelmas and she is just a lovely person. I signed up for her blog newsletter some time ago (you can sign up for it here, or on the right sidebar of her blog, and I highly recommend that you do). In January, I received her newsletter email with the title “What My Priest Taught Me at Confession This Week.” I got the chills as I read Haley’s words about discussing the very same question with her priest that I had just discussed with God the previous morning in prayer. Why do I lose it with my kids??

Her priest gave her the most amazing answer (it’s moments like these that you just know these men are filled with the Holy Spirit). He told her that she gets angry because she is afraid, and that her fear comes from a lack of control (which can be terrifying for us moms). The idea of anger being the external manifestation of fear immediately rang a bell in the part of my brain that stores all the info I used to use when I was working as a professional psychologist (it’s a bit rusty these days).

“Of course!” I thought, mentally smacking my forehead. I realized in a rush that I definitely try way too hard to control all the things. That I stress out about my kids behavior because of fears of what might happen if I don’t make sure they learn everything perfectly now.

My subconscious thoughts most likely go something like this, “If my kids don’t have good manners now, they will turn out to be slovenly, ill-mannered adults!!” or “If my kids are disrespectful or break a rule today, they might end up being rebellious or even criminal someday!!” or “If they forget or don’t do a good job on chores as kids, they might grow up to be lazy and unable to take care of themselves!!!”

I don’t necessarily think these things consciously, and when I type them out here, of course they sound ridiculous, but at the same time, they resonate with fears that I hold deep down. They strike a chord in my mama heart where I just want everything to go right now, so they will be okay later.

Anyway, that was my first big realization after reading what Haley’s priest told her. Then I read on to what he told her to DO about this.

Pray for surrender.

He told her to stop struggling in all the situations where she cannot control everything and just surrender that control to God.

I’m pretty sure my jaw must have hit the floor at this point. Because all that control-freakishness up there? That is a lack of faith. And it was like God was speaking directly to me, giving me an answer to a question I had just asked Him, through Haley’s priest, through Haley, straight to my inbox. Whoa.

I had my word for the year. Surrender.

IMG_7786

Then, I began doing what the priest told Haley to do, asking God to help me surrender control. At first I was just praying that I would let go of the need to be so in control of all the things in my life, the stuff my kids do, the possible outcomes twenty years down the road of all the little things my kids do today, etcetera, etcetera.

But that wasn’t all. God gave me another insight into just how far my surrender needs to go. I had to surrender control of my own anger too.

I realized that I have tried many, many times to make myself stop being angry and stop losing my temper with my kids. I’ve prayed for God to help me do things differently. This time, through the act of sitting silently in prayer and asking God what I should do about this (instead of pleading with Him to do what I thought I needed to do), He let me know that I needed to give up my anger completely to Him. He helped me to see that controlling my anger, or changing any sinful behavior, is not fully within my power to do by myself. I need Him.

So, instead of praying, “God, help me to stop getting mad,” I now pray something more like, “God, please take this anger from my heart, and fill it with Your love and mercy. I surrender all of my anger to You, for without Your grace, I can do nothing.” It may seem like a subtle change, but it was huge for me, and the benefits of this have been many.

All of this occurred before Lent began, and I decided that my main resolution for Lent this year would be to give up all yelling at my kids. I was amazed at how the change in my prayer and thinking was helping me with this. I have certainly not been perfect (just a few days ago, I snapped at Sis about something), but I feel much more peaceful in general and have experienced great improvement.

IMG_7817

Amazingly, my insights with this issue did not stop there.

About two weeks ago, I listened to a podcast of a conversation between Elizabeth Foss and Sarah Mackenzie that is part of the Repent and Restore program for Lent that Elizabeth offers. It was the first podcast from the program that I listened to, and I chose it because I really like Sarah Mackenzie. The podcast turned out to be the perfect complement to what I had already been learning and practicing through the idea of surrender.

First of all, in the podcast, Sarah and Elizabeth talked about the idea of surrendering to God’s will (it’s probably not a coincidence that I chose this particular podcast to listen to!). As part of this conversation, Sarah revealed that she needed to learn about letting go of her carefully laid plans and schedules for everything and realizing that, if these perfect plans get interrupted by something during her day, that she needs to understand that the interruption is where God wants her to be. And as such, she needs to remember to just be in the moment, surrender to what He is asking of her right then, and make the best of it, instead of getting all upset that things didn’t go the way she planned them to.

I absolutely love (and very much need) this perspective. The day after I listened to the podcast, I took all the kids to Mass by myself. As I struggled to keep Bubba in the pew as he squiggled in my arms or tried to crawl under the pew and up the steps to the altar (we were sitting in the front row), I was feeling distracted and frazzled and struggling to feel connected to the beauty of the Mass. Then out of the blue, the words from the podcast came back to me, and I realized that I could be so perfectly connected to God if I just realized that the beauty of that moment, of having my four beautiful kids in Mass to worship Him, of managing my 10-month-old who has been such a precious gift in my life, THAT was what I was supposed to be doing. That was what God wanted me to embrace, to accept, and to offer up to Him. So I did, and I had one of the most beautiful moments I have ever experienced in a Mass.

All because I let myself be where He wanted me instead of lamenting the fact that I was not having a calm, reverent, peaceful worship experience (which I’m not likely to have very often for the next few years!).

IMG_7826

All of this, everything I have written about today, has come about, I believe, as the fruits of spending time a bit differently in prayer most mornings. I have been trying to spend at least a little bit of time just being silent and trying to listen to what God wants for and from me. Though I don’t always get an answer immediately, I do always get an answer. And the benefits of asking and listening have been incredible.

I am excited for Holy Week. This is the most intense and beautiful week of the year. Every year I learn and grow so much during this final week of Lent. I’m leaning into it with eager anticipation tonight and prayers for even greater union with my God. And I’m looking forward to continuing these practices and reaping the benefits long after the Easter celebrations.

A Peek Inside Our Homeschool Day – 2017 Version

Last year, I wrote a post about a day in our homeschooling life. I just went back and reread it, and it was fun to look back on where we were a year ago. Things are a little different this year. Different curriculum, different daily system, a new baby, etc. So here’s the 2017 version of our homeschool day-in-the-life, containing what we did on a pretty typical Tuesday earlier this week.

***********

5:30 – My alarm goes off. I press snooze twice. One of my Lenten commitments is to begin getting up early again. I used to be a faithful 5:30-am-riser, until I got pregnant with Bubba, and I haven’t done well with this since. But Lent is a good time to begin or renew fruitful practices, so I’m back to getting up early.

6-ish – I’m downstairs getting coffee and I hear Bubba starting to stir. He’s just chattering a bit, so I let him stay in his crib, and I start my prayers.

6:15 – Bubba is getting loud and fussy, so I go up to get him. I finish my prayers while nursing him and then put him in his playpen so I can pray the rosary and do my Lenten journal.

IMG_7742

7:00 – By this time, Lass and Sis are up. I chat with them and play with Bubba for a bit.

7:45 – My husband has left for work and Miss is up now. I put Bubba in his high chair with some Cheerios and have the girls start to get themselves some cereal while I make strawberry smoothies for them and myself (from the Trim Healthy Mama cookbook). We all sit down to eat (drink) and I read Jan Brett’s “The Turnip” over breakfast. We are going on a field trip on Friday to a Jan Brett exhibit at a local museum, so I’m reading lots of her stuff this week.

8:20 – Breakfast is done. I start to clean up and get a phone call from a friend. We chat for a bit while the girls go upstairs to get ready for the day. Their morning routine is still the same as last year – get dressed, brush teeth, brush hair (or have me help them do hair), make bed, clean room.

8:45 – I’m off the phone and putting a French braid in Sis’s hair at her request.

9:00 – This is our goal start time for school. I put on our “get-thyself-to-the-schoolroom-pronto” song for the morning, which today is “I Wanna Dance in the Dark” (by Rhianna, I think??). We all dance around for the duration of the song, and land in the schoolroom by its end. Bubba goes into his jumper and we start with the beginning of our morning time routine which consists of singing the Doxology, selecting an old Christmas card from a big box of them we have received over the past several years, saying prayers, including an intention for the family or person the Christmas card is from, finishing with the Anima Christi (I love this prayer!), and then doing the Pledge of Allegiance. We do a super quick calendar time in which one of the girls comes to our calendar, says the date in full, leads her sisters in saying the date all together, and then another girl observes the weather for the day. Then we move to our memory work, which right now is John 3:16-18. This is a pretty standard start to our morning time every day.

9:10-ish – We move into the next part of our morning time, which can vary. Right now we’re using the Lenten Morning Time Plans from Pam Barnhill, with a few added items that we like to use as well. A brand new addition to morning time is Bedtime Math. I read an entry in the book and each of the girls answers a question (there are three levels of question which are pretty well matched to the levels of the girls’ learning). We quickly review the latin we are learning this week. I put on our Song School Latin CD (another new addition to the routine) and we sing and dance to help us memorize how to say “What is your name?” and “My name is…” in latin. We do our map work relating to the history chapter we listened to in the car on Monday.

IMG_7697

9:20 – Bubba is getting fussy and tired, so I have the girls go to their desks to begin their individual work while I take him upstairs to put him down for a nap. Interrupting morning time to put him down for a nap is pretty common, so they’re used to this.

9:30 – We are back at the table to continue with morning time. We read Proverbs 31 and talk about the virtue of orderliness, we listen to and try to sing along with the current hymn we’re working on “Lord, Who Through These Forty Days,” we read a fairy tale (The Princess and the Pea), and we do music appreciation. On Monday we read the poem “The Donkey” by G.K. Chesterton, and we’re studying Entry Into Jerusalem by Fra Angelico for picture study, so we also read some picture books with a donkey theme (“The Donkey of Gallipoli” and “Humphrey’s First Palm Sunday,” which is actually about a camel, but kind of fits with the theme anyway) and then read a chapter from our current read-aloud “Girl in a Cage.” The girls do narration for the chapter and then morning time is over for the day.

10:25 – The girls are back to their desks doing their individual work. Instead of the workbox system we used last year, I’m now using notebooks to indicate to them what they need to complete each day. Their work is still in the rolling carts with drawers labeled by subject, but they can do their assignments in whichever order they choose, and they just check them off as they go.

IMG_7696

In her notebook that day, Miss had a spelling test, a math test, and the conclusion of a report on Madagascar. She has been working through the beatitudes for her copywork, but Tuesday she was excited because I let her also choose a page out of a Draw Write Now book for drawing and additional copywork. She had to read through and talk with me about the sections in two of her religion books about the last supper and the institution of the Eucharist and the part of Mass when the consecration occurs (She knows all these things, but we are spending some time talking about it more in depth in preparation for her First Holy Communion in April). She also had piano practice, a lesson from First Language Lessons for the Well-Trained Mind (FLL), and a chapter to read in her current assigned book (which she usually reads  at bedtime).

IMG_7695

Lass had a few pages of math in her Star Wars workbook, some work on her spelling list and a couple of handwriting exercises. She had piano practice, a lesson from FLL, and a reading lesson, which consisted of reading and discussing a story with me.

IMG_7699

Sis had two pages of math from a new Miquon math book, a page of handwriting and some practice on her handwriting slate, a few phonics pages, and some ABC practice in a new sticker book I got for her.

11:35 – Bubba wakes up while I’m doing Miss’s math test with her (Shiller math tests are administered by the teacher). I try to keep going to get through the test before getting him.

11:45 – We’re still working on the test, but the baby is getting mad, so I go get him and bring him down to nurse while I finish the math test with Miss.

11:55 – We’re finished with the math test. All the girls’ schoolwork is done except for Miss’s religion. We go and begin to make turnip pancakes for lunch (to go with our book from breakfast), and Miss and I read and discuss her religion pages while we grate turnips together.

IMG_7706

1:00 – We finally sit down to eat lunch.

IMG_7707

The turnip pancakes turned out great, except that they are far too salty. The girls and Bubba still eat some, so I’m feeling good about them having turnips for lunch. After they eat, I suggest to the girls that we should check the recipe again and see if we made a mistake of adding 2 Tbsp of salt instead of 2 tsp. I explain why this would be an easy mistake to make, but when we check, we find that we did read the recipe correctly, and it just called for too much salt. I discuss with them how it is possible to change a recipe if we make it and decide we don’t like something about it. Miss says next time we make these we should only add 1 Tbsp of salt.

IMG_7710

1:25 – The girls go outside to play. It is crazy windy here, and I’m fairly certain they are freezing, because they insisted on wearing their light jackets when I suggested their winter coats, but they seem to be having fun anyway. I start cleaning up the kitchen.

IMG_7728

IMG_7720

2:05 – The kitchen is nearly clean, I have chicken in the oven for dinner, and I put Bubba down for his afternoon nap.

2:15 – The girls come inside. I send them to the basement to clean up their toys.

IMG_7731

I spend the next half hour or so kind of wandering about from task to task, getting distracted and having a hard time actually finishing anything. I’m cleaning the kitchen a bit more, getting distracted by our seeds on the counter and deciding to spray some water on them, cleaning a bit more, remembering that my vacuum isn’t working right and looking for the manual so I can figure out how to clean the filter, etc.

IMG_7730

I got a box with a few new books in it and I really, really want to sit down and start reading one of them, but I don’t.

IMG_7736

2:45 – This kitchen is finally clean. Bubba wakes up after taking a really crummy (short) nap. I bring him down and nurse him, which gives me a few minutes to read one of my books.

3:15- I go downstairs to exercise. My husband and I are working our way through the P90X3 workouts. I was never interested in going P90X because I do not care to spend an hour plus working out every day, but these workouts are only 30 minutes, and they’re mostly pretty fun so we’re enjoying them. The workout for Tuesday was my least favorite though (Agility X), so I have to really talk myself into doing it.

4:00 – My workout is done, the girls have had a snack, and I realize that I forgot to put tinfoil over the chicken that is slowly cooking in my oven. I figure it’s probably too late, but put some on it anyway. I take the girls downstairs for some gym time. We practice basketball skills (which is kind of comical if you know how much basketball “skill” I possess), and then we play dodgeball/pickle and line tag.

5:00 – We go back upstairs so I can finish making dinner.

5:30 – Dinner (the chicken turned out okay, in spite of my failure to cover it)

7:00-ish – Everyone has had a shower or bath, I’m getting Bubba ready for bed, we say family prayers.

7:45 – I’ve gotten the baby to bed and come down to have the girls head upstairs and get in bed. They have made lots of paper dolls and are melting down because Lass “lost” Jessie, who apparently is Miss’s favorite paper doll. There are many tears. I tell them I will find Jessie while they go upstair and finish getting ready for bed. I find the paper doll (of course) and take it upstairs to relieved/happy girls.

IMG_7737

8:10 – The girls are all tucked in and I come down to make myself a cup of coffee.

8:15 – I sit down with my coffee and one of the girls comes out and asks me to come up and snuggle with her.

8:25 – I again sit down with my coffee and my husband on the couch. We spend some time discussing and making a few purchases we have been putting off.

9:45 – Ben and I are done. He goes to bed. I get myself a snack and then go to bed too. I didn’t get my school prep done for the next day, but decide to finish it in the morning, and I’m pretty happy that I’ve managed to get myself into bed by a little after 10, which will make it a lot easier to get up at 5:30 the next day.

The End

Jamie of Simple Homeschool is doing a link up again this year, so if you’d like to see more “Day in the Life” posts from homeschoolers, go check it our here.

 

On Reading to My Baby

A couple of days ago, I had a moment of mom-panic. I realized in a rush, while looking at my son playing with the books I had placed in his playpen with him, that I had hardly read any books to him in his short life. He has books in his little area that he likes to chew on, but I had not sat down with him and actually cracked the cover to read said books to him.

I promptly pulled him onto my lap and read Where is Baby’s Bellybutton?Brown Bear, Brown Bear, and The Ear Book to him. Then I took him up to his room to grab some more books.

My son is almost nine months old. Yesterday I read Goodnight Moon to him for the first time.

IMG_7619

IMG_7607

Yes. You read that right. I was kind of horrified to realize my neglect of such an important thing.

We read aloud a lot here. Really. A. Lot.

Every day, I am reading aloud books to the girls for school. I sometimes read books over breakfast and/or lunch. We listen to audiobooks in the car. We have a family read aloud we do a chapter from almost every night before bed (currently working our way through the Chronicles of Narnia).

IMG_7439

My dear little boy has heard many, many books read aloud. But until yesterday, I didn’t even realize that I wasn’t sitting down and reading just to him, the sweet board books that I read over, and over, and over to his sisters. They are all neatly lined up on his shelf in his bedroom. I hadn’t read any of them with him. My girls have read him a few, but not me.

IMG_7648

I was recently feeling a little guilty because of thinking that my youngest daughter might be getting cheated a bit on picture books, since most of our read alouds these days are chapter books. We do still read picture books, just maybe not quite as much as we did when they were all littler, and none were quite ready for books like Redwall or Where the Mountain Meets the Moon.

DSC_0064

So I’ve been trying to bring in some more picture books for her benefit.

But her baby brother, bless his little heart, has really been neglected as far as reading goes.

And of course, he wasn’t the only one missing out. When I picked up Goodnight Moon yesterday and sat down to rock him while reading it before his nap, I felt like I had come home to the sweetest, most comfortable place… That old book, as annoying as it sometimes got after the tenth time in one night, brings back so many precious memories. Of course, I can still recite it by heart. Of course I still have the same tempo and inflection to my voice that I used every time before. Of course he grabbed the pages and tried to eat them, and I still powered through to the end.

IMG_7609

“Goodnight noises everywhere.”

How many times have I read that? I had forgotten about the rip on the binding that makes the pages open funny on the “Goodnight Room” page. But I still knew every word and every illustration like the back of my hand. I think I could be eighty and still recite those favorite words.

And there are so many more favorite books that I haven’t read in years: I Love You Stinkyface. The Napping House. Dr. Seuss’s ABC.

IMG_7655

Reading to my babies was always one of my very favorite things to do. It still is.

IMG_7635

I have a lot of catching up to do.

Our Homeschool Plan – Halfway Through the Year

We are a little more than halfway through our homeschool year. In August, I wrote this post about my plans and excitement for the year. Here’s an update of how it’s going, what we’re still doing and what has changed:

Our day starts with morning time, usually. I have had to learn to be flexible about this, since Bubba doesn’t always go down for a nap at the same time every morning. If he’s awake and happy when we start school, he’ll play in his playpen area or in his jumper while we get started. But sometimes I have to tell the girls to go straight to their desk work while I put him down for a nap. And sometimes we start morning time, and then I send them to their desks halfway through so I can put him down… it all depends on him, and the girls do a great job of just rolling with it.

IMG_7458

Other than that, morning time does look pretty similar to what I planned it to be at the start of the year. We begin by singing a song together. We started the year working on the Gloria and some of the other songs we sing in Mass each week, just to make sure my girls have those down. Now we sing the Doxology. After our song we pray. A new thing we have started is to choose a Christmas card from a big box of them that I have saved for the past three or four years, and whomever the card belongs to, we pray for them during our morning prayer. The girls love this and it’s a great way to pray for lots of our family and friends by name, whom we might not think to pray for on a regular basis. Then we do the Pledge of Allegiance and a quick calendar time and our memory work, which has been highly varied this year but right now is a fairly lengthy Shakespeare passage and a Psalm. Then we move into our read alouds.

IMG_7344

^ The girls asked to be allowed to illustrate their Shakespeare passage (“I know a bank where the wild thyme blows…”) while we listened to A Midsummer Night’s Dream ^

As I mentioned in the other post, I switched from Sonlight to Build Your Library for our main science/history/literature curriculum this year. I like BYL much better. I do all of the scheduled reading in the BYL plans with the girls during morning time each day. This usually consists of history (Story of the World or Usborne Encyclopedia of World History, or a fun book that focuses on something we’re reading about, like Knight: A Noble Guide for Young Squires or The Adventures of Marco Polo), science, which right now consists of the First Earth Encyclopedia and The Geography Book, and our literature read aloud, which is Girl in a Cage at the moment. At least once a week we read some poetry, and usually there is one day of the week when we include a fairy tale or a medieval legend. I also read aloud our chapter from Jesus Our Life and any other religious studies we are doing for the week during morning time.

One thing that I wasn’t sticking to very consistently is including nature study, Bedtime Math, art projects, and music appreciation each week. I have kept up poetry tea time every couple of weeks, but the other things have generally been forgotten or just bypassed for lack of time. For this reason, I added in the Winter Morning Time Plans from Pam Barnhill to help me stick to these things a bit more. This has been great, because now I have a lesson plan page in my binder prompting me to do a hymn/music appreciation and a picture study each week. We have art projects each week (though I’ve skipped one or two of them and one was a total flop) and nature study, too. Some of the nature study projects have been a bit tough because, even though they are winter nature study activities, they seem a little more like early winter activities than late winter, at least for our super cold climate. But we have gotten outside, in the snow, to do nature study, so that’s pretty awesome.

IMG_7416

^ When we were outside, we found these perfect snow flakes in a rotten hollow in a piece of wood ^

Even though some things haven’t worked out the way I wanted them to, the girls seem to be enjoying these fun additions to our morning time (and I am too).

After we finish with the winter plans, I’m going to do a few weeks of nursery rhymes and fairy/folk tales. I have a huge stack of picture books and lots of fun activities ready to go to add this to our morning time next. After a few weeks of these, when spring has actually arrived, we’ll be using the new Spring Morning Time plans that I just purchased (which are on sale until Friday, if you’re interested).

As for our desk work, this has stayed pretty much the same as what I thought it would too. For Math, we do Shiller or IXL or work in the Star Wars math workbooks, or Life of Fred for Miss. I like Shiller, but find it to be lacking in some skills practice, so we supplement with the other things. I have recently added some math games from Math Geek Mama, which are a nice change of pace and fun for the girls. We have also started playing board games like Sum Swamp and Money Bags during school time as well.

IMG_7388

^ A little break to learn about tessellation with magnet blocks ^

For phonics/reading we still use All About Reading. I just love this reading curriculum. Miss is cruising through Level 3 and Lass is moving right along in Level 2. I recently started Sis on Level 1, and she is so excited and proud of herself that she is starting to read real words and whole stories. Miss has additional books assigned to her for daily reading. I assigned “Understood Betsy” as her first book, and she hated it (how is this true of my child??), so I let her pick her books now from a stack I have approved for “school reading” (she has tons more books she can, and does, read on her own in addition to these). Lass is starting to read chapter books, too.

IMG_7059

^ Sis’s first whole book she read ^

Language Arts is exactly what I thought it would be – First Language Lessons for the Well-Trained Mind for Miss and Lass, and an occasional page from Language of God for Little Folks for Miss. First Language Lessons has short lessons that I go through with them, and the Language of God book is a workbook that Miss can do to reinforce some of the FLL concepts we talk about.

The girls are doing their CHC spelling workbooks, but I haven’t added in any All About Spelling as I had intended to. I think All About Spelling is probably actually a better method, so I’m considering switching to it soon.

I changed up handwriting a bit. Miss is now using the Writing Our Catholic Faith Grade 2 cursive book, while still working on her printing with copy work. She is so excited to be doing cursive writing. Lass is still using the same Catholic Heritage Curriculum book, and Sis is mostly using the preschool version of Writing Our Catholic Faith.

We are still using the Faith and Life books for religion, and Miss has started working through the Little Catechism on the Eucharist and The New St. Joseph First Communion Catechism to prepare for her First Holy Communion in April.

We made a few changes with extracurriculars this semester too. The girls are still doing piano and ice skating, but we have added gymnastics in again and dropped their homeschool gym class at the YMCA. This class was starting to feel like such a time suck, since the girls had it twice a week at an awkward time of the day for us. Now we are trying to do various gym time activities at home more, and I don’t think we’ll miss it.

Happily, since I chose curricula that I’m enjoying this year and have added in a few things to liven it up, I’m not feeling the February homeschool mom burnout right now that I hear lots of people talking about. I’m still enjoying (most of) our school days and love learning so much stuff with the girls every day (the more I homeschool, the more I realize how limited my own education was!).

IMG_7450

^ A recent field trip ^

A big change that I’m already starting to plan for for next year is that we will be joining our local Classical Conversations group. I have been intrigued by this for years, and have looked into it briefly a few times, but never too seriously. Recently, I spoke with a friend whose daughter is in the group, and she shared with me how much they enjoy it and benefit from it, and then I got an invitation to attend an open house. We went on Tuesday and it was so wonderful. The girls loved it and begged to go back. After looking into it a bit more and discussing it with my husband, I decided to go for it, and we will be adding this to our curriculum for next year, most Tuesday mornings. We are all pretty excited about this one.

You know there will be a full, overly-detailed post some time in the future about all the plans for next year, when I get to that point.

For now, we’re enjoying this year. For me, each day presents challenges that I’m trying to use as a way to grow in virtue as I push myself to do better for my kids, and I try to help them to think of it this way too. We are working on growing in faith and love in the small moments of each day, and we’re doing it together. That’s pretty cool.

I’m looking forward to the rest of the year and the fun things we have coming up.

 

From the Mouths of Babes

Yesterday, in honor of the March for Life, I started working with my girls on Pro Life Prints. We continued today. We talked about the sanctity of life, particularly the wonder and fragility of preborn babies and how we need to pray for their protection, all while doing artwork. Kids listen better when there’s paint involved, I think.

IMG_7427

I didn’t plan to talk to my girls about abortion. We have been praying for the March for Life and for an end to abortion during family prayers, but I don’t ever use the word “abortion,” and they are not familiar with the term or the concept. We simply pray for all unborn babies and their moms.

Yesterday, however, when we were talking about protecting unborn babies, Miss said that one of her friends had told her that “the lady who also wanted to be president” thinks that it’s okay to kill unborn babies. Then she asked, “Mom, how could that even happen?”

This was not a discussion I wanted to have. But that’s really the question isn’t it? How could that even happen?

IMG_7429

My stance on discussing grown-up issues with my kids is that I will answer all questions truthfully, but in an age-appropriate way and only as much as they ask for. So I started by explaining that some people do not understand that preborn babies are precious and should be protected. Then I said that there are doctors who sometimes cause babies to be born too early. So early that they aren’t able to live outside their moms’ tummies.

IMG_7426

The girls didn’t ask much more about it, but a little bit later I did talk to them about how important it is for us to keep doing the things we do, like praying for babies and moms and giving to the local crisis pregnancy center, because we have to help moms and dads as part of helping babies. They seemed to like that idea. They asked me if I had needed help from a crisis pregnancy center when I was pregnant with them, and I told them I hadn’t, because I have their dad, who is so wonderful, and their grandparents, and aunts and uncles and lots of friends. So many people supporting me. I told them that some moms don’t have that and so they get scared. (We have talked about this to some degree before because they have many friends who are adopted and so we’ve addressed why their birth parents might not have been able to care for them, and what a brave and loving choice it was for them to allow someone more able to be the parents of their babies.)

I think it’s important to include the support for parents, particularly moms, in the discussion of why and how we are pro-life.

IMG_7433

Through doing this project and hearing a lot about the marches of the past week, I found myself thinking about the way that unplanned pregnancy is typically talked about in this culture. It got me thinking about how I want to teach my little part of the next generation about life and parenthood and unplanned pregnancy.

I don’t want them to ever see a new life as a tragedy or an inescapable problem. I don’t ever want them (or anyone) to think that if they do experience an unplanned pregnancy, that they have no choice but abortion. I have found that this small art project we’ve worked on for the past two days is one small way of opening up some age-appropriate discussion and starting to shape their thoughts on the topic.

Naturally, my husband and I will have discussions with our kids about making good choices, being responsible, and why it is better to wait until they are married to have children (that’s a whole ‘nother ball game that I won’t go into here!), but it will never include,”Your life will be ruined if you get pregnant (or get someone pregnant) before you’re married.” We have family members who have faced unplanned pregnancies and have chosen life, with beautiful results. They will know those stories.

For now, we will keep working on our Pro-Life Prints. We will keep talking about the miracle of new life and how to help protect it. We will keep talking about the beauty of God’s creation.

IMG_7431

I will continue to pray that we will all keep asking the question, “How can this even happen?” and working to make it stop.