Preparing

Baby Boy is due to arrive in seven days. If he doesn’t, he is due to be evicted in eight days.

That means I have no more than eight days left to be pregnant.

Since I feel like I’m ninety months pregnant, rather than nine, and I’m so eager to meet my little boy, I’m naturally very excited to know that he will be born soon. But, I’m also feeling a little bit like I want to freeze time (only a little bit!!), because I know this is very likely the last time I will ever get to experience pregnancy.

At this point, I’m enormous, and my back hurts, and I can’t get more than two hours of uninterrupted sleep because hip pain wakes me, and going up the stairs feels like climbing Mt. Everest, and my feet and ankles and legs are ridiculously swollen.

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But I’m still trying to savor these last days, and I’m trying hard to smile and laugh about these things instead of being grumpy about them or bursting into tears (because yeah, I’m that tired and emotional and pregnant!!). I mean, check out that picture of my feet! I do look kind of funny:

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And on a more serious note, I remember very vividly the many months that I prayed for this very cross, this beautiful cross that I’m currently so blessed to carry. So every time I’m tempted to be upset about these discomforts, I try to think about those months and those prayers and realize what a true and amazing blessing these small aches and pains are. That’s not to say I don’t have moments of self-pity or complaining. I do! But I try (really hard) to remember to offer them up for my friends who are suffering the pain of miscarriage and/or infertility, or those who are struggling with even more difficult pregnancy symptoms and sickness. They are never far from my mind.

In these last few days I’m trying to prepare for labor too.

My bag is packed and double checked. I got a pedicure. I have written out babysitter instructions and done tons of crazy grocery shopping for all the things we might need while I’m at the hospital for a few days. I’m reviewing and revising my old labor playlist. My Kindle is charged.

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And I’m also preparing for an experience that is different in many ways than my other labors, because this time I recognize the hand of God in the creation of this little life and the beautiful process that is labor and delivery. I’m creating a list of prayer intentions and thinking a lot about redemptive suffering.

Before my conversion, I never thought of suffering as anything but suffering. I always just thought it pretty much sucked, period. Though of course I’ve always recognized that the suffering that happens during the labor and delivery of a baby is different from other situations, in that you know the whole time that it is for an awesome purpose. But still, always before it was just something to get through to get to the real prize.

Now I understand that the suffering in itself can be beautiful and purposeful. Both in that it leads to the obvious and most amazing outcome of holding a sweet little miracle at the end, but also that the suffering itself can be a way of growing closer to Jesus, if I look at it that way and offer it to Him. I love knowing now that I can embrace and offer this suffering, uniting it with the Passion of Christ, for the good of others.

This is both still a little bit confusing and something that makes perfect sense to me.

So, as I’m trying to prepare for labor and meeting my son, I’m praying a lot (this often just takes the form of a frequently repeated “Jesus, I trust in you”), and I’m trying to picture what it will be like this time. I honestly don’t know. I suspect there will be plenty of prayer, and also that it will be much less elegant than what I have in my mind now. I imagine there will be plenty of cursing and yelling just like before, even if I like to think I’ll be peacefully thanking God for each contraction (insert laughter here). I don’t really know.

What I am sure of is that I will feel God’s presence as I bring His newest little miracle into the world.

It won’t be long now!

Thoughts on Mother’s Day

On Mother’s Day…

I’m thinking of my Mom. A woman who sacrificed so much for me, and worked so hard to raise me well. I often made it very (very, very) difficult for her, and yet she loved me fiercely no matter what (even though I know I sometimes wasn’t very likable). She taught me so much of what I now know myself about being a mother. It’s true what they say about not really understanding your own mother in many ways until you have children of your own. I understand so much more (and man, I feel bad about being such a jerk in my adolescence and early adulthood!!). She is far away from me today and I miss her terribly, though I always keep her close in my heart.

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I’m thinking of myself as a mother. About how much I have changed over the past almost eight years, since learning that I was pregnant with Miss. About how motherhood has caused me to grow and stretch (in more ways than one). How this has sometimes been painful but has always been beautiful. I love so much more now. So much better, though far from perfectly. I know what it feels like to watch your own heart outside your body and to feel intense terror and pure joy about it at the same time.  I’m learning every day from these sweet little ones about joy, and sacrifice, and trying so, so hard to be better. And failing. And trying again.

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I’m thinking about all the amazing women who have taught me so much about how to be a good mom. Some of them have mothered me. Some of them have walked beside me through this journey. Some of them I know mostly from reading their words and interacting with them on this good old world wide web. They are members of my family, both near and far, friends, also near and far, kind women I’ve met at church, ladies who write great blogs, and others. We really aren’t meant to mother alone, and these women help me to feel lifted up in myriad ways.

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I’m also thinking about the women who struggle on Mother’s Day. Those who have lost children. Those who have lost babies before ever having a chance to see them or hold them. I think about those who are longing to have babies of their own but have been unable to conceive or have miscarried or are still waiting for the right person to come along to have babies with. I think of how painful it was to wait for this pregnancy and lose two babies over the past few years, and it breaks my heart to think of those who are still waiting, many of whom don’t have other children to hold while they wait. I always keep a special place in my prayers for these mamas, but especially today.

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To me, Mother’s Day really isn’t about cards and flowers. Heartfelt words of appreciation and love from my husband today nearly brought me to tears in a way Hallmark could never do. For me this is a day to reflect on this beautiful vocation, in my own life and in the amazing women I see all around me. It is a day to be so grateful for these women and for my precious children and for the blessing of this life.

Happy Mother’s Day.

Twin Cities Adventure – 7QT

Last week we went to Minneapolis/St. Paul. It was such a fun time. I wanted to get in one more road trip/field trip before the baby arrives, and this was a great low stress trip to take. Here’s a quick recap:

One

We stayed in a really good hotel, the Homewood Suites by the Mall of America. When I travel with the girls, I like to get a suite that has a separate bedroom for them, so I can stay up a little while after putting them to bed and not have to hide under covers with my Kindle or something. Super Friend recommended our hotel to me, and it was perfect for our purposes. It had a little kitchen area, a separate bedroom for the girls, free breakfast, free dinner, and a pool. It also had the most uncomfortable sofa bed ever. No hyperbole here. I literally felt every spring under my body as I slept. The second night we were there, I contemplated scootching one of the girls over and sharing a regular bed with one of them, but the beds were only full size, and well, I’m kind of full size at this point too. When you add in my pregnancy body pillow, there was no way I was going to fit into one of those beds with one of my kids. However, even with the horrid bed, the hotel was excellent, which makes a solo road trip with kids so much easier!

Two

I got to see Nell!! We went to Nell’s beautiful old house and had a wonderful time with her and her sweet kids, and we got to learn her big news when one of her littles spilled the beans for her. So much happy! She is seriously the best hostess. Some people just have a gift for making others feel special and welcome. Nell has that gift. And it is always a treat to spend time with another mom who gets me. Big highlight of the trip for me.

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Three

We visited the Minnesota Science Museum in the afternoon. They have a fantastic Mummies exhibit there right now, and my girls are very into ancient Egypt and mummies. It was a huge bonus that we got to learn about how they practiced mummification for thousands of years in Peru too (I had no idea it was a thing there). The Peruvian mummies were very different from the Egyptian ones, and it was an awesome history lesson. The girls all said that one of the highlights of their day was making Peruvian dolls.

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Four

They also really loved the dinosaur exhibit.

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Five

After we had a free spaghetti dinner at our hotel, I took the girls swimming in the hotel pool. None of my girls is a super strong swimmer yet, and the water in the pool, even at it shallowest point, was too deep for any of them to touch bottom easily. Combine that with the fact that I am pretty slow-moving these days (no speedy water rescues for me right now!), and it was a no brainer that all my kids would need to wear their floaties the whole time. They didn’t seem to care one bit though.

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Six

The aquarium at the Mall of America was amazing for such a small place. The girls were able to touch and feed stingrays, and also watch them chasing each other because they’re mating right now.

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 It was definitely one of the favorites from the trip.

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Seven

I don’t really have a seven. That was it for the trip. We got lunch in the mall after the aquarium and then drove home. It was the easiest drive of any of our trips so far. Chicago is closer, but has so much traffic, seemingly at all times of the day. This drive was smooth sailing and not too long.

I love these trips with my girls. Next time we take one I’ll be pushing a stroller again. It might be a while before I’m brave enough to do another trip with a little baby, and I’m not sure where we’d go next. A friend recommended going somewhere on an Amtrak train, which is definitely worth looking into. Someday. . .

For more Quick Takes posts, visit This Ain’t the Lyceum.

A Little Update – 7QT

Goodness, it’s been so long. My blogging has really lacked in the past several months. Sorry about that. It’s not that I don’t want to blog. It’s that I also want/need to do so much other stuff! And then when I do sit down to write, the words don’t seem to come out the way I want them to these days. So anyway, blah blah… Here’s a little post about what we’ve been up to, with lots of photos, in Seven Quick Takes form.

ONE

Easter was wonderful. We were able to take the girls to Mass on Holy Thursday, evening service on Good Friday, and Mass on Easter Sunday (after an Easter egg hunt and resurrection rolls for breakfast). My husband and I sponsored RCIA candidates again this year, so we went to the Easter Vigil but didn’t take the girls to that one. I just love Holy Week. Love. It. I was so exhausted after all the late evening services and staying up until almost 1am after the Vigil to hide Easter eggs and baskets and run yarn from girls’ bedroom doors to their Easter baskets (I hide each girl’s basket and eggs in a different room so they aren’t fighting each other over the eggs, and the yarn on their door handle leads them to their baskets) that I didn’t blog it, in spite of wanting to, but here are a few photos:

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^Family foot washing after the Holy Thursday Mass^

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^Holy Saturday egg dyeing^

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TWO

I also lost my bid for Mother of the Year by neglecting to blog my youngest’s fourth birthday. It was the day after Easter, so I’m going to stick with the “man-I-was-exhausted-after-all-that” excuse. It was really fun though. We had a few friends over and it was laid back and easy and she had a great time. She wanted a Star Wars-themed party, so I bought a few decorations at Party City, used up some leftover plates from Miss’s Star Wars birthday party, found some fun light up foam “light sabers” on Amazon, and it was good.

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^She got all goofy when we sang “Happy Birthday” to her^

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THREE

School has been going well. We’ve almost completely ditched the boxed curriculum that we purchased for the year (I’ll write a post soon about what we’re going to switch to for next year), but we seem to have found a good groove and we’re working it.

FOUR

We recently spent a week visiting my parents in Kentucky. The weather was kind of chilly there, but it was fabulous compared with the way-too-cold-for-April temps that were happening up here, along with snow. So we took advantage and had a great visit, complete with lots of antiquing and girls’ lunching.

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^At the Jefferson Davis Monument^

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FIVE

Baby Boy seems to be gestating quite well. He is measuring on the big side, and I seem to be on the large side too. The drop-jawed stares I get when I tell people I still have six weeks until my due date are kind of comical. This has been occurring for many weeks already, and I really don’t take offense. I know I look like I’m about to go into labor any minute. People don’t mean anything by it. Even my dear, wonderful husband lovingly informs me that I’m “freakishly big” on occasion.

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^At 30 weeks^

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I have been gradually getting things ready in the baby’s room. Since all my girls were born after their due dates, I think I’ve been mentally disregarding the possibility that this baby will be here before May 31st, but in the last few weeks I’ve started feeling like I really need to get going to finish the last few things that need to be done before he arrives. I have my fabric, washed and ready to make crib sheets with, and I’ve been getting his clothes washed and diapers ready to go. I’m almost there. I even started packing my hospital bag the other day. It’s a little surreal to think that we’ll have a newborn again in a few weeks!

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^Fabric for crib sheets^

SIX

We have been embracing our sudden and glorious spring for the past few days. Our new backyard has so much to do and explore. My husband has been cutting tons of wood, but I think we have convinced him to leave a few of these huge rounds from the tree he cut down for playing. I may have coached the girls on telling their daddy that they really like to play on them, and could he please not cut them up? This ain’t my first rodeo.

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SEVEN

There have been some great field trips lately in our little school. Most recently we went to a local art museum where the Godmother works. She is The One Who Knows All Things Art, and even though she wasn’t working on Friday when I planned to take the girls to see a watercolor exhibit, she came and met us there and it was so fantastic! I think the exhibit would have been great either way, but it was infinitely better with her there to tell us all her cool tidbits about the watercolor artist, the paintings, and the rest of the art throughout the historic museum. The girls were begging to do some watercolor painting, so I threw in a watercolor lesson yesterday morning.

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And coming very soon is the last of our girls’ road trip field trips for a while. We have been to Chicago and Louisville so far, and this week we’re going to Minneapolis. I’m so, so, so excited because we will be getting together with dear Nell and her littles, as well as going to the aquarium at the Mall of America, the science center, and possibly even making my very first ever trip to IKEA. Hopefully I’ll get in a quick post about it, but if not, I’m sure I’ll share at least a few pics on Instagram.

So, there you go. Seven Quick Takes, better late than never! Check out the rest over at Kelly’s.

The Fruits of Lent

I love Lent. I do. I am quite a novice Lenter, as this is only my third year observing the season, but I love how, so far, the 40 day period always seems to bear much, and different, fruit each year.

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The first year I observed Lent was when I was going through RCIA and looking forward to receiving the sacraments of Baptism, Confirmation, and First Communion at the Easter Vigil. That year I was pretty overwhelmed. There was just so much to know and learn. So much to try to teach to my kids. I was reading like crazy and soaking up so much. It was a very emotional time for me, and I cried at the drop of a hat (during Mass, when a certain song would come on in my car, as I pulled up to the church on Holy Saturday morning for my RCIA retreat, etc.). I felt like I was on fire with my faith, and it seemed every bit of me was growing and expanding. It was a whirlwind, interspersed with moments of amazing grace and peace like nothing I had every experienced before. I decided Lent was awesome.

Last year was different. I felt less on fire and less emotional. But I was still learning and growing in my faith. I gave up a lot of things – spending money (other than on food and gas), Facebook, reading books that are not spiritually focused, ice cream… I started to have a little bit of an understanding of fasting and self-deprivation. I increased my prayer time and made a point to spend time in adoration. I tried to help my kids understand the importance of fasting, prayer, and almsgiving. I struggled along with my kids as they had a hard time with the things they gave up for Lent (Miss in particular had a very hard time with giving up coloring). I decided to journal through Lent, and realized that keeping a daily journal is really not my thing (but I did it for the whole Lenten season anyway!).

My growth felt less intense, but perhaps more focused. I gained a little bit of a better understanding of the purpose of Lent. I loved seeing my kids’ growing appreciation as well, in their increased understanding of Jesus’s Passion, and the joy of the Resurrection. Last year’s Lent set the stage for some changes that we made as a family and have kept throughout the year, such as more frequent Confession and not eating meat on Fridays all year.

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This year feels different still. I decided not to give up so many different things, but to select one main thing to do from each of the three areas of focus for Lent, fasting, prayer, and almsgiving.

My fasting has consisted of giving up sweets, which has been even harder than I thought it would be. I mean, I like sweets, so I knew it would be a little hard, but I’m almost embarrassed by how hard it has been at some points. It’s amazing how many little opportunities there are for indulging in a treat, like going to visit family and having tons of homemade goodies on hand, giving up dessert at our parish’s fish fry each week, and even driving home and not stopping at the handy gas station where we often grab ice cream along the way. Being pregnant has made this even harder, Im sure.

BUT, this little sacrifice has borne great fruit. One thing I have gained this Lent is a greater ability to offer it up each time I resist the temptation to stuff my face with something sugary and delicious. “Offering it up” is a concept that is fairly new to me (as a new Catholic), and I have struggled with implementing it into the small moments of every day life. It just doesn’t usually occur to me. This Lent, I’m finally starting to get the hang of it, though. When I’m at a baby shower and the gorgeous little cupcakes seem to be just calling my name? Offer it up. When I’m walking down the aisle at the grocery store and feel a longing to stop and squirt a bottle of Hershey’s chocolate syrup straight into my mouth from that end-cap display? Offer it up! When I remember that I can’t escape for a moment during our homeschool day to my pantry to shove a handful of chocolate chips in my mouth? Yeah. Offer. It. Up.

I am so happily surprised with how freeing it is to do this. It’s an immediate smack down on temptation, and it serves the even better purpose of offering my small suffering as a prayer for someone else. Double win. AND, I’m starting to remember to do this more in other situations too. Yay Lent!

That in itself has really improved my praying-throughout-the-day experience this Lent, but I also have added in a commitment to a daily rosary and Examen prayer. For the last six months or so I have done a pretty good job of praying the rosary almost every day anyway, but I often squeeze it it when I’m doing something else, typically driving somewhere. This is fine, but I find it harder to really focus on the meditations of the rosary when I’m driving. So during this Lent, I have made a point to try to set aside quiet time every day to do nothing but pray the rosary. Usually this happens first thing in the morning, and I’ve found it to be a wonderful way to start my day. And a peaceful end my days this Lent has been the Examen, which also helps keep me focused on noticing God throughout my day.

We have also started doing a family rosary during this Lenten season. We haven’t done it every week, but it seems to be shaping up to be a new family tradition on Sundays, and I have been loving it. Last night we prayed a family rosary and then had game night. The perfect way to wrap up a Sunday.

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For almsgiving, this year I decided to put less focus on financial giving and donating of “stuff” (like to St. Vincent’s, for example), and more on giving of myself. In particular, I am working on being more giving to my family, my kids especially. I’m trying to be more generous with my time and attention. Saying “yes” more often, making a point to spend more one on one time with them, playing with them more, and so forth. As a homeschooling mom, I spend tons of time with my kids, but I don’t spend it doing things that they want to do nearly as often as I should, so I am really trying to do better about this for these forty days (and hopefully beyond), as well as just being less grouchy and making a point to give them my best in other ways. I’m experiencing so much peace through these efforts. And we’re still taking plenty of stuff to St. Vincent’s, too.

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So, again, this year Lent is different, but still wonderfully fruitful. I feel like I’m a little more mindful of my Lenten commitments throughout each day, and being mindful of these helps keep me focused on Jesus more, which of course, is the whole point of all of it. I’m looking forward to Holy Week and the culmination of the season, with Holy Thursday, Good Friday, the Easter Vigil on Holy Saturday, and of course, Easter!

I hope Lent has been fruitful for you, too.

A Homeschool Day in the Life

A few bloggers I enjoy reading (like Ana and Micaela) have recently participated in the Homeschool Day in the Life link up at Jamie’s Simple Homeschool blog. I love reading these kinds of posts, and they’re kind of fun to write too, so here’s my contribution with how our day ran yesterday, a pretty typical Monday:

6:45 – I wake up and get (decaffeinated) coffee. Proceed to office. Pray the rosary and do my Lenten reading : Rediscover Jesus by Matthew Kelly and the little black book for Lent from our parish (usually I read the Mass readings and daily devotions from Blessed is She, but this morning I got distracted before making it to these).

8:00 – Go upstairs to wake up all three of my kids. Usually at least one of them is up already, but not today (this is why I like springing forward better than falling back).

8:10-ish – Breakfast is on the table.

8:40-ish – The girls have finished eating and they go upstairs to get ready for the day. This consists of getting dressed, making their beds, cleaning their rooms, and brushing their teeth and hair.

8:50 – I have put away the cereal and I go up to hustle the girls into finishing and getting down to the school room. At this point Sis still doesn’t have a shirt on, but the older girls are done with everything except brushing teeth. I grab a shirt for Sis, and put pony tails in hers and Lass’s hair (Miss brushes her own). Lass helps Sis to make her bed, and I think we just might get the day started “on time” as I change my clothes, brush my own hair, and brush my teeth.

9:04 – Everyone is in the school room and ready to go around our old dining room table. We try to start at 9:00 every day, so I’m calling this close enough. We do our morning prayers, say the Pledge of Allegiance, and talk about the date and the weather a bit.

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9:10-ish – We start our work together at the table. I don’t really have a name for this part of our day, though the girls usually call it our “reading,” and it might be like what some people call “circle time.” We do all of our read-alouds from our curriculum (Sonlight plus some Catholic add-ons, plus a late addition of Five in a Row). This usually contains some elements of religion, history/social studies, poetry, and science, with our FIAR book and activities added at the end. This week’s new FIAR book is They Were Strong and Good by Robert Lawson, and I love it!

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10:00 – At this point I’d usually send the girls downstairs for some running and “recess,” but we don’t do this on Mondays because we have to be done more quickly to get lunch in before piano lessons. So I go ahead and send the girls to their desks for their independent work.

Each girl has a desk and a rolling cart with drawers. I think some people call this a “workbox” setup. Each drawer for each girl has an assignment in it that needs to be completed that day. As each element is finished, the girls return their completed work to the drawer it came from and move down to the next.

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They have a mixture of things they can do on their own and things they need my help with. I try to stagger the items in their drawers so they don’t all need my help at the same time. This sometimes works, and sometimes fails miserably with me saying repeatedly, “I’ll be with you in a minute,” or “Please be patient,” or “Go on to the next thing in your drawer until I can help you.”

Mondays are a little light, and Miss, in first grade, has science questions, a math workbook, spelling words to copy, a handwriting/copywork exercise, a word list and some stories to do in her reader, a piano theory test, and piano practice in her drawers today (I always include their piano practice in our school day, or it will never get done). Lass in kindergarten has a Star Wars math workbook, handwriting, exercises from Learning Success, some addition and subtraction, some worksheets with word family/spelling practice on them, and piano practice. Lass has her pre reading curriculum, which includes some cutting and pasting, some prewriting tracing, and coloring.

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10:05 – Sis gets my attention first with her All About Reading Pre-Reading curriculum work. She is nearly finished with this entire program (only Y and Z in the last section are left). As I’m sitting down with her to do Letter X, Lass starts complaining that she doesn’t know how to do her math workbook. I tell her what to do (counting sets of Star Wars characters from 11-20 and drawing a line from each set to the correct number). She starts wailing that she doesn’t remember those numbers. I tell her that’s why she’s doing the exercise, for practice, and help her demonstrate that she does in fact know these numbers better than she thinks. She wails some more, and then I snap at her to quit complaining and get to work. After a few minutes, she begins complaining loudly again, so I keep my cool a little better this time and send her to sit on the bottom step outside the school room until she can get herself in a better frame of mind and do her work without disrupting everyone. I manage to do this without freaking out, and she complies in kind, which feels like a small victory. I proceed with Sis and Lass sits out for about 2-3 minutes before returning to do her work without further complaint.

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10:15 – After I finish with Sis, there is a period where no one needs my help, so I go to our book stack and my curriculum binder and get the books ready that we will need for tomorrow. I give direction as needed for the next 45 minutes or so.

10:30 – In between periods of helping the girls, I go to start lunch. We eat early on Mondays, so I’m getting some crescent-roll-wrapped hot dogs ready to put in the oven.

10:45 – Lunch is in the oven.

10:55 – Sis and Miss are done with their drawers. Lass is complaining that she is the last one done. I remind her that her negative attitude at the beginning of the morning and her messing around with her little sister at other times is the reason that she is not done. I let her know that we will be having lunch when the baking timer goes off and that whatever she hasn’t finished will need to be done when we get home from our afternoon classes.

11:00-ish – The timer goes off. The girls start lunch while I read our book study book to them. This month our homeschool group is doing Redwall.

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11:20 – I start telling the girls to hustle up so we can leave for piano. I hate this about Mondays, that I have to rush their lunch a bit.

11:30 – I’m rushing everyone into socks, shoes, and jackets, filling up water bottles, and gathering piano binders so we can go.

11:39 – We’re pulling out of the driveway on our way to piano, with just barely enough time to get there on time.

12:00 – Piano lessons start. Lass goes in with the teacher first, while I let Sis and Miss play on iPads and I read my book The Second Greatest Story Ever Told, by Fr. Michael Gaitley. I also take the time to read my BIS email with the day’s Mass readings and commentary.

12:30-ish – Lass comes out and Miss goes in for her lesson. I get lots of instructions from the piano teacher about Miss’s “audition” this weekend for the Wisconsin Music Teacher’s Association. She’s not actually auditioning for anything, but will be playing some pieces in front of a judge and taking a written music test to accumulate points. Her teacher makes sure I know where to go and what to do because this is Miss’s first time participating.

1:15 – Miss comes out of her lesson and her teacher gives more instructions about what she needs to practice for the week to be ready for her audition. We leave piano and head to the YMCA for the girls’ homeschool gym class.

1:25 – I drop off the two older girls for gym and take Sis to Target for a few things.

2:00 – Still happily wandering around Target.

2:25 – I’m back at the Y to pick up the older girls, and we head home.

2:45 – I set Miss and Sis free to go play, while Lass goes to the school room to finish the work she didn’t complete for the morning. It only takes her a few minutes, and then she’s off to play with her sisters. I avoid doing anything productive, and instead spend about an hour and a half messing around on the computer and starting to type this post.

4:30-ish – My husband comes home and goes downstairs to play with the girls. He likes to do more gym class with them in the afternoons before dinner.

5:30 – We sit down to dinner. The girls animatedly tell my husband about the book we’re reading, Redwall.

6:00 – Our babysitter comes so my husband and I can go to our RCIA meeting (we are both sponsors this year).

8:15 – I come home (my husband got called to work). My babysitter tells me that the girls requested early/extra reading time before bed, and they read three more chapters of Redwall. I pay her, clean the kitchen from dinner, and go into the school room to get the girls’ drawers set up for the next day.

9:00 – My husband comes home and we talk and talk about some new things that happened at RCIA.

11:00 – I go to bed.

So there you go. That’s a pretty typical Monday around here. Our other days are pretty similar except we do a little more work. I usually will have All About Reading for the older girls (Miss is in Level 3 and Lass is in Level 2), and they have more recess time to break up the morning. On Tuesdays and Thursdays I sometimes add in an art lesson or a craft. Fridays we usually do less work in the school room and more other stuff, like chores or field trips. That’s it!

Head over to the link up if you want to read others’ “Day in the Life” posts.

My Girls

You probably think from the title that this post is going to be about these little cuties:

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But not this time.

Today, I want to write about my grown-up peeps. The ladies who have my back, make me laugh, and help me stay sane by just being available, whether in person, via text, phone, or even FB.

I’ve been really blessed lately to have the opportunity to spend some quality time with some of my “girls” recently. Here are some highlights:

In early February, I got to take a trip to Florida with two fabulous friends.

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Our equally fabulous husbands watched the kids (all 12 of them!). We got on a plane and flew to Naples for two and a half days (DAYS!) of amazing relaxation, laughter, food, and conversation. For good measure I made sure we started the trip off right with a pregnancy-related trip to the ER. This could be a whole post in and of itself (if I ever get around to writing it), so I won’t go into details here, but:

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We managed to have a pretty great time in spite of the awful ER (it was really bad) and the disruption to our plans. That’s Super Friend on the right. And though she and her family have appeared in other posts you haven’t been formally introduced yet to our other dear friend on the left, whom I’ll call “The Extrovert” for blog purposes (I’m the introvert, and Super Friend falls somewhere in between, so we make a great team and have lots of laughs about our personality differences). Yes, she was sitting on a portable hospital toilet. Good sports, these ladies. Look how great they were, after 5+ hours at the first ER, while waiting to get in at our second hospital of the day:

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(And BTW, everything is fine with Baby Boy and me).

The hospital trip didn’t stop us from having tons of other fun.

It did however prevent us from going to the beach in the afternoon, so after we had dinner we grabbed coffee and some macaroons (a first for me) and hit the beach at night.

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The next day we made up for lost time with a yummy breakfast, a fun meander around downtown Naples, a long walk on the beach, a lovely Mass, and delicious dinner.

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There’s just something about time away with great friends that really helps to recharge my soul. These ladies just get me. Even when it’s just for a few hours, it’s so, so important. But for two-and-a-half days!! I talked so much, and laughed so hard, and it. was. awesome.

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And as if that wast enough, last weekend, I traveled with my kids to spend some time with some of my family “girls,” my Mom, my Auntie, and my cousin. We were all together for my cousin’s baby shower (some boys were around too, whom I should give some love to as they were wonderful to see as well: my Dad, my Unka, and another cousin).

We stayed up way too late talking. We swapped baby and pregnancy and other stories and “ooh-ed” and “aah-ed” over the cute stuff my cousin received for her baby girl.

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^^ My aunt and cousin included my kids in the shower, and they were enthralled ^^

And after my cousin’s shower was over, the other guests were gone, and most everything from the shower was cleaned up, they sat me down and surprised me with tons of gifts of mostly baby boy clothing (which we are sorely lacking). It was my own little surprise mini-shower, and it was so sweet it almost made me cry.

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I am humbled by how blessed I am to be surrounded by amazing women. My family, my friends, my tribe. There are more than the ladies mentioned here, some even whom I have never met in person, and I am so grateful for each and every one.

I hope I am modeling to my daughters how to be a part of a community. Our community consists of both wonderful men and women, of course, but there is something special about the bonds between women. Between mothers and sisters. I don’t have biological sisters, but I have my sister-friends, whom I think are just as great (we even share clothes, without the history of fighting over them). I hope that seeing these relationships that I have will help my (little) girls to build their own, and to nurture and cherish them.

Seven – A Lot of Photos on My Big Girl’s Day

Seven years ago today, this happened:

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My oldest girl made me a mama.

I get so sappy and nostalgic on my kids’ birthdays.

I can hardly believe she’s seven!

Just look how she’s grown.

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She’s racing through first grade.

She loves reading (Happy Potter at the moment) and singing and all kinds of crafts.

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She plays the piano and takes ballet lessons. She sings in the children’s choir at our church, and she’s in Little Flowers Girls’ Club. She loved soccer last year. She runs like the wind.

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She’s sweet and loving. She’s creative and loves to explore. She’s funny and quite goofy, but sometimes she’s very serious. She has a habit of twirling her hair. She likes to learn about things before getting too involved with them. She’s tough, but not a daredevil.

She loves her sisters and her friends and her dogs. She would spend all of her time outside if she could.

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She’s a great helper, and she can’t wait for her baby brother to be born.

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Seven. I don’t know how time has flown by so quickly. I have been poring over her baby photos and videos today and marveling at how she has changed and matured and grown.

I just tucked her into bed after a wonderful birthday party with all of her cousins, and I told her she has to stop growing. She thought that was hilarious, but I was only half joking. She’s such an amazing little girl, and my time with her here at home is feeling so fleeting today (I told you I get super sappy on my kids’ birthdays!).

I can’t believe how blessed I am to be her mama.

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My Favorite Catholic Books – From Conversion and Beyond

This is a post I’ve been meaning to write for a long time. It keeps expanding, and I keep putting it off. Recently, Kelly has published some posts on this subject (part 1 and part 2), and the other day a friend texted me asking for recommendations on this very topic. Plus, Lent starts next week, which means I’m especially thinking about and wanting to talk about great, spiritually-stimulating reading. So I think this is just the right time to finally put my thoughts together and write a post about my favorite Catholic books.

I love books. I love Catholicism. I especially love books that help me understand and/or practice Catholicism better. I’m sharing some of my favorites here.

These first four are the books that I found especially helpful at the very beginning of my conversion process:

Mere Christianity, by C.S. Lewis – This isn’t a specifically Catholic book, but it was the very first Christian book I read when I first started thinking that maybe I wasn’t an atheist. When I began reading it, I thought God was probably real, but didn’t believe in Jesus as the Son of God. This book helped me see otherwise.

The Hiding Place, by Corrie Ten Boom – Again, not a specifically Catholic book, and not necessarily written as a spiritual book either, but the simple and profound faith of the people in this book was so inspiring and powerful, I couldn’t help but be moved toward belief.

Rome Sweet Home, by Scott and Kimberly Hahn – Scott Hahn was an anti-Catholic, Presbyterian minister, his wife Kimberly is a Protestant minister’s daughter. This book lays out all the reasons they both eventually came to see the truth and beauty of Catholicism and to convert. Once I started to believe in the basic tenets of Christianity in general, this book helped me to understand the Catholic faith in particular and to realize that I wanted to become Catholic.

150 Bible Verses Every Catholic Should Know, by Patrick Madrid – It seems like a common criticism of Catholicism is that it isn’t very Biblically based. This book shows that in fact it is, pointing out specific scripture passages to support things like the Sacrament of Reconciliation, the Real Presence in the Eucharist, and the Catholic emphasis on faith and works as the means to salvation, not just faith alone.

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After I got the basics of Christianity and Catholicism, I started really delving into understanding the Faith more and deepening my spiritual life. More favorites from the past (almost) three years:

A Biblical Walk Through the Mass: Understanding What We Say and Do In the Liturgy by Edward Sri – This book is fantastic. I learned so much about the Biblical basis of everything we do during the Mass, what everything means and why we do it. For anyone who ever feels lost or unsure what the point is, or even just wants to feel more connected to what is happening during Mass, it’s a must read.

My Sisters the Saints: A Spiritual Memoir, by Colleen Carroll Campbell – This book helped me learn about how the saint are present and active in our lives and can lead and inspire us. I’ve read this book twice and gotten so much out of it both times.

Story of a Soul: The Autobiography of St. Therese of Lisieux, by Therese de Lisieux – A beautiful story of an imperfect soul striving for sainthood and finding it with her “little way.” I love the stories of her struggles to be unselfish and to show her love of God by doing little things every day.

33 Days to Morning Glory: A Do-It-Yourself Retreat in Preparation for Marian Consecration, by Fr. Michael Gaitley – This is a guided retreat book. It has short readings for each of 33 days, focused on consecrating oneself to Jesus through His Blessed Mother. It is so rich in insights about Mary’s role in leading us closer to her Son. I have read this book three times and gotten more out of it each time. The first time, I read the book. The second time, I read the book and completed the retreat companion workbook that goes with it. The third time, just recently, I got together a group of people at my parish and led a group in doing the retreat together, with the book, workbook, and DVD series by Fr. Gaitley. Each time, it was an enlightening experience.

Saint John Paul the Great: His Five Loves, by Jason Evert – Looking at the life and teachings of Saint John Paul the Great by examining the things he loved the most: young people, human love, the Eucharist, the Virgin Mary, and the Cross, is a profound way to understand him and his amazing life and mission, as well as these beautiful elements of our Faith. This book moved me in so many ways, and made me really wish that I had been Catholic when he was the pope.

The Real Story: Understanding the Big Picture of the Bible, by Edward Sri and Curtis Martin – These authors bring the Bible together in such a way that it becomes one startlingly clear, cohesive story of God’s perfect plan for salvation. It’s a short and very easy-to-read book that left me feeling like so much I had read and thought I understood suddenly made so much more sense.

The Examen Prayer: Ignatian Wisdom for Our Lives Today, by Timothy M. Gallagher – I had heard of the examen prayer a few times, and really wanted to learn how to do it. My parish offered a few opportunities to learn about it through classes, but I wasn’t able to attend them. I asked my husband to get this book for me for Christmas, and I am so happy I did. I love this method of prayer and have been practicing it daily since completing the book. The book clearly teaches how to do it and why this powerful prayer is beneficial. It is a wonderful way to turn ones focus toward recognizing God’s will and trying to pay attention to and follow the stirrings in our heart that are God’s promptings throughout each day.

I’m always looking for new books to read to help me grow my Catholic knowledge and faith. If you have any must-reads in this area, please share them in the comments! AND, Kelly is hosting a link up with lots of others’ favorites as well, so check out those posts for even more wonderful books, just in time for some Lenten reading.

Working on Forgiveness

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about anger and forgiveness, love and selfishness, holding grudges and letting go. For several years, but in the past several months in particular, I have been trying to figure out how to deal with it when some people are doing wrong toward others that I love (and to a lesser degree toward me). I’ve tried to be the peacemaker, I’ve tried to talk sense and reason,  I’ve tried to simply be kind and hope that things will get better. Lately I’ve been feeling like it has all been for nothing.

And I’ve been pissed. Oh man, I’ve had some serious righteous anger going on over here. Roiling, gut-wrenching, at-times-preventing-me-from-sleep anger. I loathe the feeling of impotent rage – when someone is doing something so obviously, hurtfully, terribly wrong, and there’s nothing I can do about it. And I’m not going to go into detail in this post about what the others’ hurtful behaviors have been, because this post isn’t really about them. It’s about me and how I am trying to figure out how to respond to it.

So here I sit. Struggling with my own glaring imperfections that make it difficult for me to let go of anger, and I think about how I want to be. A few years ago, I probably would have just let myself stew in this sense of righteousness. I probably would have been mad and stayed mad and liked it, in a miserable sort of way.

But now I know that I don’t want to be that way. I don’t want it for myself, and I don’t want to set a bad example for my kids.

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So every time I get to thinking angry thoughts about being hurt and having my loved ones hurt, I try to turn my thoughts toward forgiveness and love. Usually I fail pretty miserably, but I keep trying. And here’s why:

When I’m focused on being angry at someone else for being selfish and mean and unforgiving and hurtful, I’m not remembering the grace and mercy of God. Instead, I need to focus on what Jesus taught us about how to treat others. He said to forgive “seventy times seven times,” to “turn the other cheek,” to “love your neighbor as yourself.”

He also said, “Pick up your cross and follow me.” This is one of my crosses to bear. And as such, if I let it be, it’s a way for me to grow, and become more faithful, more loving, more forgiving.

And really, part of the reason I’m writing this is to remind myself of these things. Because it’s so easy to forget, and to go right back to relishing that angry voice in my head, to thinking, “how dare they?” and rehearsing would-be conversations in my head in which I really tell them off.

So I’m trying. At least a few times a day I’m reminding myself to be forgiving, to work on feeling love toward others, even when they have hurt me. I’m offering up my frustration and sorrow. I’m going to confession and admitting my anger. I’m praying for those who are doing wrong, who are hurting me and my loved ones, and for all of us to find it in our hearts to be forgiving.

And I’m doing all of this very, very imperfectly and with a lot of struggle. I wish it was easy for me. But then it wouldn’t be such an opportunity for change and growth.