"When we had our children, our ideas changed somewhat. Thenceforward we lived only for them; they made all our happiness and we would never have found it save in them. In fact, nothing any longer cost us anything; the world was no longer a burden to us. As for me, my children were my great compensation, so that I wished to have many in order to bring them up for Heaven" -- Saint Zelie Martin, mother of St. Therese of Lisieux, canonized October 18, 2015 along with her husband St. Louis Martin.

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Homeschool Advice from a Veteran Mom

Yes, I did just claim to be a veteran home schooling mom.  Caveat: my oldest is still in grade school (8th grade), so if you're in high school or beyond with your kiddos, just ignore me.  

I was nosing around the internet looking for inspiration as one does when one should probably be off of the internet all together...and I came across a little blog I like and there was a little article on homeschooling.  I tracked down a post in which the question was asked: what advice do you have for a new home schooling mom.

I should have some, right?  I mean, I've been at this since my 8th grader was in 3-year-old kindergarten (and yes, I had a boxed curriculum which we followed meticulously--those were the days!)  I think this is my 12th year of home schooling and I've got 7 kiddos under my oldest.

I think this is the best I've got: believe in what you're doing, not in what's being done at any particular moment.

That's clear and easy to understand, right?  (hang on.)  "What I'm doing" might be slightly different than what you are doing, but when I home educate "what I'm doing" is this: I'm owning being the primary educator of my children (and running with it).  I'm drawing upon the graces of the sacrament of matrimony to be the mother God is calling me to be to my children, in the way He is calling me to do that.  (My children, my motherhood--by nature, this will be different for each family, so I don't judge others for doing things differently, I think "differently" is the given).

I'm choosing to have my children with me for the bulk of our waking hours, because I think I need the bulk portion in order to mother and teach as I ought.  I'm choosing to have them be together as a family for the bulk portion of their days as well--learning to live with one another in charity, if nothing else, is something we need to be together in order to do.  And yes, we wear down our rough edges by bumping into eachother and wearing eachother down to a gentle smoothness...the process isn't always pretty.

Believe in the education you provide your children, be that a set boxed curriculum or something that you've put together and are so excited to lead your children through.

When I say the "...not what's being done" part, I mean: Don't worry about what you saw done on Monday morning when the washer got repaired, on Tuesday when you had dentist appointments, or Wednesday afternoon when your sister dropped by for coffee.  I promise you that if you keep battling to get some good work in each day, you will be shocked when May arrives and you look back at what your children have done that year!

So, that's what I mean by "not what's being done".  I mean, not what's being done at any given point of any given day.

Don't judge your homeschool when the floor is strewn with paper snippets and the whole tub of crayons, which the dog is eating.  Not when the toddler is teething and has a dirty diaper and you're trying to work through "Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons" and the house is a mess and there's no dinner planned and it's 4 pm.

The thing is, those details all matter, and the details of life--all of those moments (that I just told you to not judge yourself by) are exactly what DO comprise a homeschooling mother's day, and don't I know it!

So, maybe my advice put another way would simply be: it's not always going to look pretty.  But it is beautiful.  It's beautiful because it's family and it's home life.  That's gonna be messy, stinky, chaotic, exhausting.  But we love our vocation.  And for those who are called to be a home schooling family, education is just a part of that.  With lots of prayer and trust, the education is imparted just as the laundry keeps on a-running and the dishes are put back up on those shelves.  "A woman's work is never finished", but if we are faithful, there will be beauty and love, and plenty to show for our effort to boot!

Sunday, September 20, 2015

One Week Count-Down (so they say)...

You know a woman is desperate for an addition to be completed when she's showing you piles of lumber...

Ok, good friends (because no one else wants this tour)--c'mon in and see where we're at:

Why, just unzip that lovely plastic entrance and step through gingerly. :)  Peek in at those (unstained, unwaxed, uncured) floors!!!

Yes, I'm dreaming organizational dreams: 

(All needs paint.)

Do you remember me telling you about how excited the kids were to have a window seat?  I'd really think we needed a cat, but...Aragorn works pretty well!

If you are a reader, you must be a window-seat person!  Or even just a gal who likes to drink coffee and chat on the phone: window seat, right?!  And here's the bonus:

It opens for storage!!

Don't be too jealous yet.  Tomorrow morning bright an' early I'll be mucking out the rabbit hutches before the men show up.  Then I'll be talking varnish with the crew.  Then I'll be calling my painter.  There will be hammering and sanding and sawing.  It's all so much more glamorous on-line (which is, of course, why I blog)!

Haha!  My real hope for next week is to remember that my 3 and 5 year olds are part of our home school and to be a better Mama to them!  I think ABC flashcards are on my horizon!

Hope your week ahead is a bright one!

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

September Feasts: The Seven Sorrows of Mary and the Exaltation of the Holy Cross

We've just passed by some beautiful feast days, and if you've been too busy to notice, or to celebrate, you can do what I do: celebrate them all together in a sort of "weekly" celebration!

The 12th was the Holy Name of Mary.  Then came the Exaltation of the Holy Cross.  Appropriately, after contemplating the victory that Christ won through his sufferings, we turn our thoughts to those of his Mother.

Do you know about the devotion to the Seven Sorrows of Mary?

The Seven Sorrows Devotion

Here's a link to a full page explanation of the devotion.


Check out these graces attached to the devotion!

  1. I will grant peace to their families.
  2. They will be enlightened about the divine mysteries.
  3. I will console them in their pains and I will accompany them in their work.
  4. I will give them as much as they ask for as long as it does not oppose the adorable will of my divine Son or the sanctification of their souls.
  5. I will defend them in their spiritual battles with the infernal enemy and I will protect them at every instant of their lives.
  6. I will visibly help them at the moment of their death, they will see the face of their Mother.
  7. I have obtained from my divine Son, that those who propagate this devotion to my tears and dolors, will be taken directly from this earthly life to eternal happiness since all their sins will be forgiven and my Son and I will be their eternal consolation and joy.

However, promises aside, the contemplation of Mary's sufferings throughout the life of her Son are such beautiful and rich sources for meditation.

So, what are the 7 Sorrows?

  1. The prophecy of Simeon. (St. Luke 2:34, 35)
  2. The flight into Egypt. (St. Matthew 2:13, 14)
  3. The loss of the Child Jesus in the temple. (St. Luke 2: 43-45)
  4. The meeting of Jesus and Mary on the Way of the Cross.
  5. The Crucifixion.
  6. The taking down of the Body of Jesus from the Cross.
  7. The burial of Jesus.

(The link takes you to the page with meditations for each sorrow.)  

To pray the 7 Sorrows, you simply announce the sorrow, and pray the Hail Mary while contemplating the suffering.  Simple! It helps if you can do this at a set time, like, in the car as soon as you leave from Mass, or right at the end of supper.  If it becomes a routine, you won't forget!  

Yesterday, I pulled out some art supplies and had the kids work on a couple of simple crafts.  Here's a peek (I hung these in the window of my kitchen, so the lighting is pretty bad in the pictures).

We simply water colored seven hearts to represent each sorrow.

 And these are the "stained glass" crosses from the Exaltation of the Holy Cross.  Just waxed paper on the back of construction paper, with glue-sticked-on pieces of colored construction paper.

Link up or leave a comment if you have a craft to share!  Happy September!

Monday, September 14, 2015

My Happy Place

I dashed off to 8:15 a.m. Mass this morning, as usual, with my husband (yes, I am lucky enough to go with him each morning, and no, I would not be able to manage this feat without his help!), and eight children in tow.

I don't like to do much housekeeping on Sundays in order to try to observe Sabbath Rest.  Of course, the Church's teaching is no unnecessary manual labor is to be done...and almost everything a mother does on a daily basis is necessary...so...

Anyway, the house was a mess.  Plus the kids made paper airplanes all weekend.  Dozens.  There were contests.  That was added to the random laundry and toys that routinely litter my home.

So I entered my home after Mass and heard the "zip".  There is a plastic sheet with a zipper that separates our main living space from the home school room addition.

  Pretty, I know.

  The general contractor walked in.  He had a question about our deck:

Railing or no railing? (Railing). He held the plastic back for me and I daintily crept through to the addition.  In my ever-suave manner, I managed to kick a plastic wind-up butterfly at him as I made my way across my mess, well, my home.  I believe there were possibly four men awaiting my decision.  I sort of hate being in positions like that.  It just makes me want to crawl in a hole--or just get back to making my kids breakfast in the kitchen!  

It's simply not my "happy place".  My happy place?  Right here:

In the backyard, by the sandbox, with 8 or so little kiddos, several of whom are not even my own.
Catching lost bunnies (Pip again!), making fall versions of our summer sand cakes, and watching my "baby" play in her swimsuit for (surely) what will be the last time this season:

However, it is my great hope that very soon our school room addition will be another place of great joy and contentment.  Wanna see where we're at? (I know you do).

Today was tedious work.  Nothing showy or exciting (well, the deck was fun to see go in).  Today they framed out the interior windows, which we're just going to paint white:

 Really bad lighting, sorry, but this window is finished:

Same window, better lighting:

 And a cut-out where the extended wall left a space behind the drywall.  We're just putting in a little extra open shelving to make use of the extra space:

 But this is exciting: the wood arrived for the floors!!

Stay tuned!

Saturday, September 12, 2015

Pretty, Happy, Funny, Real: September


(photo credits: Arwen)
 I'm still not over my windowbox.  I think everyone else is, though.  I'll probably stop photographing it soon.  Well, at least when the flowers die.  Which could be soon-ish.


Look at the foot of St. Philomena:

 It's a gift from a friend of mine: amethyst.  One of the stones mentioned in Revelation that will be used in the building of the heavenly Jerusalem.

A gift of consolation after my miscarriage last month--looking forward to that grief-defying day!  So beautiful, and I must add: nice to have something tangible when a baby is lost and our hands are empty.


Do you see the man drywalling our "dining room" wall behind the plastic?  And Aragorn trying to do his math?  When I try to explain how excited I am to have the addition completed...a picture is worth a thousand words, no? :)


I was washing our floors last week, and I took a momentary break to do some urgent task.  I turned around to see this little helper!

Yes, she slipped.  Yes, I shouldn't have tried to capture this on camera first.  But it was pretty cute...

And, for a final landscaping effort before the season is over, we removed our hedge from the front of our house.

 I know I had some before photos...I'll see if I can get fix this post in short order.  In the meantime, I'm already days late for this weeks PHFR!  Slacker blogger...ugh, busy mom!!:)

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Back-to-School: a mini-Daybook (because I'm short on time, but impatient when it comes to posting!)

Outside my window:  Siding is being sawed and hammered into place on the final wall of the school room.  Rosie is giggling with a rolling laughter, running barefoot with a (plastic) sword.  I'm not sure what the game is, but it's nice to hear.

I am thinking: That I have got to be positive and hopeful about our home school year, despite the difficulties of working "under construction".  Two more weeks?? Everything is in plastic bins or desks that are scattered throughout our main floor.  I've never felt so chaotic or scattered as I began a school year.  Except for that one year where my husband decided to change our curriculum at the cusp of the new year to a classical one...which we used for a month.  Ah, those were memories!

I am missing summer.  These "sand cakes" decorated with flowers and berries make me nostalgic for all of the little neighborhood girls that spent hours upon hours in our yard this summer.  Thankfully, they'll be back on the weekends while the weather lasts.  Such sweet days.

A few plans for the week: Gymnastics on Tuesdays for Galadriel, Ballet on Wednesdays for Arwen and Galadriel (Rosie is still too shy).  And now we've decided to add "hunter's safety" at the local library two nights a week through October.  So much for taking a break this fall!  Well, at least my boys aren't in a sport (thank heavens!).  Unless you count the fishing that they've just taken up as a new passion!  Is there anything more wholesome than fishing? Oh--and they're learning to altar serve! So, yes, I guess that quesion is answered. ;)  It makes our mornings a bit earlier than usual (getting to Mass on time is pretty important now)...but so very well worth it!

Something to encourage: I just came upon this article from a new home educating mom.  Short and sweet, and a good little jog to the memory as to some of the reasons why we might do all of this!


Saturday, September 5, 2015

"Pip": Lost and Found

"Pip" is my 3-year-old's pet miniature holland lop rabbit.  It all began when Rosie turned 5 and got a bunny for her birthday.

Legolas loved her bunny.  Loved, held, and would-not-let-her-go!  Rosie wasn't happy with having to share all of the time.  Sometimes with big families things have to get a bit more complicated before they get easier.

Well, Legolas wasn't the only one who wanted a bunny.  Arwen had been hoping for one for a while, so I struck a deal: she would take care of the double-hutch and I'd buy them both a rabbit.

Alfalfa and Pip, en route home
All summer long the neighborhood girls would come and play with the bunnies.   I bought some fencing for the yard to let them get time out of the hutch to run and eat clover.

This is one length of fence positioned into two halves (to separate boys from girls).  Since then I've bought a second fence and we only put one rabbit in each full sized fence.  This way they a) won't breed and b) won't fight and c) have more room to hop around.

Occasionally the bunnies would escape and run (or hop, I guess) around the yard.  They are pretty floppy and fluffy, so they were pretty easy to catch.  All, that is, except Pip.

Whether he was smarter than the rest or just naughtier, Pip would always head for the hedge at the back of the yard and stay under the thick bushes until a large group of children surrounded him and would finally emerge with him.  They would be covered in brambles, but happy to have recovered this most-prized pet.  For some unknown reason, Pip is the hands-down favorite.  (I actually prefer Coconut, and Zorro is the runner-up (she's our black doe, and Aragorn's rabbit).

So, all of this leads up to the "loss" of Pip.

This past Thursday afternoon his cage was simply found vacant.  There was a search party.  There were signs made.  And then it was time for dinner, and bedtime.

No Pip.

9:15 p.m. I got a phone call from my neighbor's house.  I was afraid something was wrong with one of their children (I guess at this point, the bunny had slipped my mind).  "Hi Mary, it's Joe: I've found Pip!"  Found, but unfortunately, had not caught Pip.

My mind raced to the group efforts that were always required to catch this rascal of a rabbit!  My children were all in bed.  It was pitch black out.  "Um, Honey?" I said to my husband, who was half-asleep on the couch, "We have to go get Pip."

My sainted husband pulled on his shoes, found a flashlight, and followed me across the yard to the neighbor's house.  There was Joe, his own flashlight in hand, with a white milk crate upside down.  My heart leaped, "Did you catch him?!"  "No," I tried, but he bounced off of my leg and ran into the bushes.

There was only one thing to do: I plunged into the bushes.  I mean, it was our rabbit, and I had to act like I could catch the thing--or at least try!  My hope was to flush the rabbit out toward my husband and Joe and have them catch Pip.  The rabbit ran back and forth among the bushes as I blindly groped after him, but Pip did not make a dash for the men-at-the-ready.  "Get in these bushes!" I shouted to my husband.

Dutifully, my, yes, sainted I say, husband plunged in.  And--oh sweet victory--I was able to scare Pip towards my husband, who nabbed the rabbit!!

Pip is safely home in his hutch.  The children were delighted to awake to the news, and the tale of the late-night "rescue".  I am wondering what kind of a stew would be best to try with this naughty little trouble-maker of a rabbit! (Just kidding.  Even if he deserves it!)