Tag Archives: struggle

Learn From My Preschool Mistakes; A Letter To Myself

photo (13)

Dear Self,

I’m you, only I now have five years of homeschooling under my belt…plus six more kids…KIDDING! I’m here to set you straight, and save you from at least a million melt downs. I know what you’re doing and thinking. I know you’re not willing to listen to other moms with more experience because, “they don’t know what Addie is capable of” or “their kids are undisciplined” or “look, her seven-year old still can’t read Chaucer; who’s she to tell me anything?” But you need to listen to me.

Just because you’ve read ‘The Well Trained Mind’ and ‘Designing Your Own Classical Curriculum’ a thousand times doesn’t mean you’re Susan Wise Bauer or Laura Berquist. You already have the next 14 years of classical education mapped out in your head down to the hour, when all you really need is the ability to take it one day at a time and plan a few weeks in advance.

My advice to you as you attempt preschool.

DON’T

-buy that $45 Pre-K lesson book. You’ll use it for three weeks before you realize you don’t need a book to tell you to read stories to your daughter, hand her coloring pages, crayons and counters.

-attempt to spend three to six hours a day “doing school.”It’s not defiance that’s making her get up and run around, it’s the fact that she’s a child. If she sits still for three or four 15-20 minute chunks spaced throughout the morning, you’ve done enough. By second grade, she’ll be sitting longer without so much as an eye roll. I promise.

-forget that’s she’s only four, and has the maturity of a four-year old. Just because she may cruise through the Pre-K numbers workbook doesn’t mean she’s ready to be pushed into the K Math book.

-stop in a the teacher supply store. It’s like heroin. Better not to start. Also, homeschool conferences are good. Buying all the preschool curriculum from every vendor just so you’re “prepared” is bad.

-assume she can write all her letters as well as she can identify and sound them out. Let her trace or scrawl them on blank paper to her  heart’s content. A sloppy letter A is a sloppy letter A, not her way of trying to ruin your morning, so don’t let it.

-start Latin. Seriously, it will go so much better if you just don’t even try it. Don’t worry, by fifth grade, she’s a pro.

-assume that teaching Bryon and Edie will be the same as teaching Addie. What’s working now may not work in the future and that’s okay. Be flexible and prepared to change materials to meet the needs of the kids. Forcing them into a program that doesn’t work wastes time and causes tears. Especially when you’ve spent $150 on some fancy pants preschool program at the teacher supply store/homeschool conference.

You know why you don’t see older homeschool moms with lots of kids stressing about PreK or kindergarten? Because there’s nothing there to stress about. Teaching algebra is stressful. Making sure your child can read, comprehend and write a paper about Shakespeare is stressful. I know mom’s who are losing their hair over college transcripts and you think you have the right to worry/complain about “Addie not working at grade level with her peers” if you purchase the wrong Hooked On Phonics edition?

Please.

If at any point you start getting angry, or Addie starts to cry or anyone mentions hating school, just stop for the day. If this becomes a regular occurrence, you need to reevaluate what you’re doing.

Here’s what you need to focus on.

DO

-go to the library more and read more books. Don’t forget CDs of stories and music.

-select Pre-K level crafts and activities. Addie will honestly love it even if you think it is totally lame. I know you want to buy every product from the Illuminated Ink website but those projects are years off. Save yourself the frustration.

-plan more playdates with other moms. I know the apartment is small but choose nice days and stay outside. This is important for you as much as the kids.

-offer lots of praise on a job well done. Four year olds don’t need to be berated about school work; lazy high school students do.

-be a mom. Don’t become a different person when it’s school time. Your children don’t need a professor or 1950′s Catholic school nun; they just need you.

-warn Tony that things around the house will change. By adding the role of teacher to your jobs as mom and homemaker you will always struggle to find the right balance. He will come to see this himself in time and look for ways to help you. Never hold back your concerns from him. He wants you to succeed and he will help you set your priorities.

-be consistent in your discipline. You’re too strict with Addie and Byron and Edie is getting away with murder. Sit down with Tony, set some clear, age appropriate rules and consequences and stick with them.Take care of it now or it will come back to bite you in the butt. I’ve got the teeth marks to prove it.

Despite lifes ups and downs, I’m still happy with our family’s decision to homeschool. We have the most wonderful children, and I’m confident homeschooling is helping them reach their full potential, despite my imperfections. Hang in there. I know you’ve got this.

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The First Homeschooling Day Of The Rest Of Our Lives

Today’s post was supposed to be a humorous look at our first day back to school. I had it all planned out in my head. First day of school pics with me in my classy denim jumper, joyful reflections of Fulton listening to stories as he began preschool plus some of the gritty details; sloppy handwriting, complaining over math, etc. Instead I apologize in advance for a grammatically incorrect rambling brain dump of a post. Proceed with caution.

I thought the rainy weather was an omen that my decision to return to school on Labor day was wise. My husband was off work and would be around to help with screaming kids and assist with easing the household back into a school routine. Except he was going to morning Mass, which was fine, however he went to a diner for breakfast afterwards, stopped to do some errands and didn’t get back until I was two-thirds through my day and had already driven half my children to tears.  (Pretty impressive on my part huh?)

Sure, my life can be humorous, but it’s anything but scripted. The fact that I thought I knew what the next 24 hours had in store, and how I could translate it into a blog post, show’s I’m still a student myself in some ways.

Here, in Amy Welborn bullet points, are the highlights of my day:

  • Set a 9 am alarm on Fulton’s iPad cued to a track of the Angelus being recited. Plugged the iPad into a speaker we got by sending in four Pringle can UPC codes and was disgusted when said audio set up did not actually play the Angelus at the designated time.  I don’t know what I’m more upset at, the quality of the speaker, the quality of the free alarm ap or me for not just buckling down and reciting the Angelus myself.
  • Piano practice resulted in lots of tears. I don’t know what to add except that I hate piano, my kids hate piano but I don’t want them to hate me when they’re older because I let them give it up. Is there a psychological description of what this is called besides insanity?
  • Math resulted in tears. But seriously, after only a month off  I don’t see how she could have forgotten all that information. I would show her a problem, she’d explain to me every step, and then collapse into her chair a blubbering mess when I asked her to do the work herself. The dramatics were straight out of Masterpiece Theater.
  • After 10 minutes of use, Fulton’s sensory / fine motor skills rice bin made our dining room look like a package of Uncle Ben’s exploded.
  • Thankfully, Edie was very excited to start school. She did her work promptly, helped Fulton with his activities and then chose to sit at her desk and color. Someone’s  already thinking of Christmas.
  • And did I mention how Teddy screamed the entire time I tried to read history? Oh wait, not the entire time, he synchronized his breathing with mine so when I paused he did too. Story of the World Volume One sounds awesome when read at the top of my lungs. I’m going to call Peace Hill Press and see if they want me to do an audio book version for frazzled moms with screaming toddlers.
  • Two walls in our new kitchen, which includes the new school room, have been ruined by a new leak in our roof. So I was a bit distracted from things by the need to throw towels on puddles. When Tony did finally make it home, he spent the majority of his day trying to find the leak while asking me stuff like “Did the kids do Latin yet?” But, to his credit he tried to help Addie with math while I tried to pray the Little Office only to have her voice her concerns loudly in my direction because, apparently,  my spiritual growth needs to be trumped by her math tantrum.

Yeah, I’m trying to better myself at the same time I’m kicking off a new school year. I’ve got the kids on a schedule, me on a schedule and I’m going to pray more.  Ora et labora and all that jazz. Despite trying this all before I somehow think that because I’ve written a fresh list, or posted new rules things will go differently this year.

I ate a brownie sundae at 2 because I feared drinking wine at that hour would freak out Fulton’s nurse. I didn’t really start feeling slightly less deranged until Cari posted this video of He-Man. I watched it twice, had a good laugh, which speaks to the effectiveness of the video since the whole time it was playing Addie was asking me questions because she just ‘didn’t get it” and, amazingly enough, I didn’t send her into tears again.

We had leftovers everyone liked for dinner. Fulton and Teddy ate without complaint or mess. We listened to “The Planets” by Gustav Holst and the meal didn’t disintegrate into jokes about Uranus, although Tony kept snickering. The kids didn’t argue in the evening. Everything turned out fine, and as I tucked them all in, they hugged and kissed me as I promised them I’d be more patient tomorrow. Which always makes them smile; are they happy I’m trying to be more patient or scoffing at what they know will be another failed attempt?

Today we start day two. At least I know it can’t be any worse than yesterday. Pictures might be forthcoming…but no promises.

 

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{SQT} Insert Smiley Face Where There Is A Frown

I contemplated skipping SQT this week because what could possibly top seven things about my new clock? But here I am, neglecting the children again and wracking my brain for seven things that can somehow reflect my week without making me seem like a whiney momasaurus. Prepare the fail button.

1.  My house is loud. All the time and lately, it’s been driving me crazy. Like, send my husband out to by me Jagermiester at 7 p.m. crazy. (Which he did. Love you hon!) Right now the younger two are constantly screaming for my attention, usually over top of one another. Our family went to a playdate on Wednesday and I spent the whole time with one of them either on my lap talking over me, spilling food, pinching my skin or screaming from the floor that he was being neglected. Even at home, no one can talk to me without going through Fulton or Teddy. They are the gate keepers. Woe to those who expect to converse or hug me without the wails of the oppressed ringing in their ears. And don’t even expect to sit next to me lest you take a Hot Wheels to the noggin. I love that my kids love me so much but it’s kinda like scary stalker banshee love right now and it’s make me weary. And irritable. I think everyone else in the house would add irritable.

2. No one wakes up happy in this house. Teddy wakes up by 6:30 every morning screaming like the monster under his crib is gnawing on his leg. If I don’t jump up instantly out of a dead sleep to get him ,the whole house is awake in 5 minutes. And when Fulton wakes up he screams GET ME, I’M AWAKE!  over and over until I do just that. It’s like being shot out a gun into my morning. And I’m the type who loves to ease into my day with some coffee on the porch. I can’t even remember the last time I did that without some child banging on the door behind me, “I want to come outside too!”

3.  I had to drive Byron and a couple of his friends to altar server camp at our church this week. This necessitated me being dressed, Byron being dressed and driving somewhere BEFORE 7:30 a.m. I tip my hat to my friends with kids in school. You think homeschooling is hard? I think running around every morning like a chicken with my head cut off is a nightmare! And that was just for one kid! The reason we’ve had leftovers twice this week? The reason my Quick Takes are late? The reason I passed out last night on the couch at 8:30? Altar server camp. I can’t wait to get back to my normal routine of PJ’s until 10 and a coherent mindset by noon.

4. I will not have an indoor cat. I will not have an indoor cat. I will not have an indoor cat.

Who is that furring up my new school cabinet?!?

Damnit!

5. Cute treehouse photo.

 

6. I had the talk with my oldest daughter about Aunt Flo this week. It was necessitated by her selecting an American Girl book that mentioned tampons. The talk went well and  she wasn’t scarred thanks in part to our Usborne Science Encyclopedia which did the hard part of actually explaining things. It was like a Summers Eve commercial without the talk of that not so fresh feeling. Definitely one of my prouder mom moments. I mean, I didn’t even snicker when I said vagina and fallopian tubes!

7. My husband said lots of funny things this week. None of which I remember now, but really, he’s an entertaining guy. Hopefully he’ll read this and leave a snarky comment. (Don’t try too hard Tony, just go with your gut!)

Bdee-bdee-bdee-that’s all folks. Stop by Jen’s for more Quick takes.

 

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{MMD} Perspectives on Life and Love

Anne at Modern Mrs. Darcy is hosting a Perspectives on Life and Love blog carnival I couldn’t resist joining. Maybe the recent wedding put me in an extra sappy mood, or our approaching anniversary or it could be my attempt to make amends with the hubby for a recent post that doted on shirtless surf instructors. But whatever the motivation, I’m going to share my perspectives on my life, and the love in it then join up with everyone on MMD on Friday. Be sure to stop by Modern Mrs. Darcy and check out all the posts. 

 

Somehow, I got lucky in love. Despite all my flaws, annoying habits and tendencies towards selfishness, sarcasm and cynicism, God introduced my future husband to me at the ripe old age of 17.

Yes, our’s is the clichéd high school romance tale with only a few minor twists and turns. He was the co-captain of the football and track teams. I was the art and drama student. I moonlighted as the school’s mascot, donning a foam comet head during half time. Yet we became friends, hung out and amazingly enough, he said yes when I invited him to the senior prom.

We started college two hours from one another, but by graduation were on the same campus. Our relationship saved me from participation in the rampant hook up culture. I drew closer to the faith even as Tony pulled away from me. We broke up, admittedly because I’d become too clingy. However, during the separation I had an a-ha moment in which I realized my life would be fine if it went on without Tony as my partner. Although it was a relief to finally be comfortable with myself, it was also a relief when we reconciled.

We graduated, got jobs,  apartments, new friends and became engaged. I converted and we were married on October 13, 2001. We were each 23, the second couple in our close group of high school friends to marry (the Episcopal priest among us went first). Within a few months of walking down the aisle I was expecting our first child while trying to decorate our new house.

We jumped head first into the American dream. It was never how I planned things, even once I became Catholic. I still felt like a kid in many ways; way too young to be responsible with money, bills, credit cards, mortgages and now a tiny human being! But I never wished we did anything differently up to that point. Even once Addie arrived, I never thought “Wow, the days of hitting the bars four times in one week sure sound good now.” Tony and I didn’t mind that that phase of our lives was done.

I loved my husband immensely before marriage, and now marriage and raising a family together was adding a new layer of love to our relationship. There were the routines and habits that added familiarity and stability. There was also the changing, growing and maturing that we did alongside one another, giving support when needed and not letting each other give up in the face of challenges.

The first serious test to our marriage came after welcoming our oldest son into the world (only thirteen months after our daughter.) Within two weeks of his birth we moved and took over running a business. Our high hopes and grand ideas motivated us to persevere through sleepless nights, long commutes and hurried days that ran one into the other, convinced we were building something great for our family. After learning some life lessons the hard way, we ultimately and painfully realized we were wrong. We sold the business after two years and moved to N.J. laden with debt and expecting number three.

This first taste of trials and suffering stretched us to our limits but ultimately created a stronger bond between us. I thought surviving that ordeal had prepared us to handle anything. In hindsight, perhaps God was warming us up for what was to come.

Life passed peacefully for a few years while we paid off all our debts, joined a wonderful parish, made new friends, searched for a home and prepared for the arrival of number 4.

We moved a month after Fulton’s birth (I went into labor the night after closing) and settled into our new country life on an acre of land, surrounded by farms. And I really think that’s as calm as it ever got around here. Since then we’ve accepted our responsibilities as the parents of two children with Spinal Muscular Atropy on top of the usual stuff that comes with parenting and homeschooling three healthy children.

I do not think I could shoulder the crosses I do, had God not sent such a perfect husband my way. He gave us so much time to figure ourselves out, learn about life, deepen our faith, and build a rock solid commitment to each other as to be unshakeable in the face of tragedy and trials.

Despite marrying young, having a large family and staying at home, my life hardly resembles a 1950′s sitcom. Our choices have flown in the face of modern marriage norms, but despite it all, I’d never wish for any other life. (Except maybe one free of SMA.) We are fire-tested, proven and ready for whatever awaits us. Sometimes I worry, “Oh God, what do you have in store for us now?? I don’t understand why this is happening to us!” but with Him and Tony by side, experience shows, we will manage somehow and grow closer in the process.

I see unhappy marriages everywhere, the dire divorce statistics and I wonder why am I so blessed? How did I get so lucky as to have a marriage others look up to and admire?  I feel like I should have gleaned some insight from our experiences to share with other couples, but alas, all I can think of right now are the words hope and sacrifice. When two people lovingly and joyfully give all they have to one another without reserve, there is always hope for tomorrow. Our experience shows that even if your life is blessed with poverty, sickness or worse, it’s not the end of your marriage. God can bring good from all things if you let Him. We’re in it for the long haul. God doesn’t promise it will be easy, but with Tony by my side,  it doesn’t have to be hard.

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The Force Of Homeschooling And My Dark Side

When I started homeschooling I knew “Seton” families and “Calvert” families and unschooling families. I assumed that once you found a curriculum, or method, you liked, your course was set for your duration as a homeschooling family.

I watched as my oldest blossomed at an early age under the Catholic Heritage Curricula reading program, and then the Abeka Math program. My goal was to start my son, with a late October birthday, one year behind my oldest daughter, with a late September birthday. I’ll admit, my underlying motivation was to see Byron receive his First Holy Communion the year after Addie. I just couldn’t see making him wait two years, when *I* was sure he would be ready.

Perhaps Addie just set the bar to high, or maybe I expected too much of Byron but after keeping pace for a year or so he started struggling. By this point he was enrolled in CCD one year behind Addie, but his reading skills were not as strong as hers. The CHC reading program that worked so well with Addie was torture for Byron. Addie cruised through her second grade CCD year, and seemed to memorize each answer the moment she completed reading it from the catechism. So long as I  sat and reviewed her work with her, she learned and retained information easily. Once her First Holy Communion was under her belt, I turned my attention to Byron, hoping the same practice and drill would elicit the same well versed responses.

We began Byron’s second grade year still trying to work with CHC and throwing in any supplementary material I thought could help. While he was making steady progress in all his subjects, he was not “where I thought he should be.” And unfortunately, not where some other people thought he should be either. Thankfully, Byron was spared any labels, and the comments that were uttered did not leave any lasting impression. “How’s Byron’s reading? What are you doing for him? You need to make him read more.” I was more stung and hurt than him. After bragging about my “prodigy” daughter, I found myself sticking up for my son, who I finally accepted, might not be made in the image of his sister.

We approached May and I fretted over his prayers and I lost sleep worrying about his interview with the parish priest. My anxiety would sometimes manifest as anger and of course Byron suffered as a result. He became convinced he couldn’t do it, and he couldn’t understand why the answers he needed to memorize didn’t stick in his mind.

However, in the end, he did pass his interview and he did receive the sacrament of First Holy Communion in a smashing white suit. We crossed the finish line but at such a cost. It was a shot between the eyes for me; my unrealistic goals and expectations could ruin my job as a homeschooling mom, make it 10 times harder all around and drive all the joy of learning from my child.

I wish I could say, I found the perfect curriculum for Byron after that and things got better. Heavens knows I’ve looked, and tried and bent over backwards to accommodate his unique learning style, but some days, it’s still a struggle. I decided against keeping him one grade below his sister and instead gave him a workload two grade levels behind, which is where his birthday would have placed him in the local public school anyway. I never told him. I just slowed down our progress in some areas and replaced a book or two and it’s been a huge improvement for us both. Most noticeably, he’s finally learned to love reading. Thankfully, years of slow gains did not drive him from the printed word.

While outside comments quieted down, I still struggled with my own feelings of inadequacy; as if the differences in learning exhibited by my children were completely related to me and not them.  Could he have learned with that program if I was a better teacher? Am I failing to give him the specialized attention he really needs? What if there is a perfect curriculum out there for him and I haven’t found it yet?

And then today, Byron went and did something amazing.

Recently, he’s taken a keen interest in everything Star Wars. We’ve checked out all the books from the local library on the series, and he’s read them all multiple time, asking for help with all the difficult words. He watched all but ‘Revenge of the Sith’ numerous times (while under the care of grandma-totally not my doing) and drawn detailed movie scenes, character portraits  and built 3-D models from cardboard. But today, as he quizzed his uncle on obscure Star Wars trivia and answered every question, in detail, that was asked of him, I finally realized his complete potential.

He can memorize dates, facts  and misc. information. He can watch or read a story, pick out the main characters, plot, setting and summarize the story in chronological order. He can discuss all these things, with an adult, with conciseness and clarity, using complete sentences  while maintaining eye contact and good posture, without fidgeting.  Yes, it’s Star Wars, not Shakespeare, Roman History or Algebra but it shows what’s possible when his passion is ignited.

He’s taking the skills we’re trying to teach him and applying them to what he loves and learning as much about it as possible. Isn’t that the goal of homeschooling, especially a classical education? To give our children the tools to learn whatever they want? To form them into knowledgable, well-rounded adults, capable of seeking out information beyond the status quo? Today, at age eight, it’s Star Wars. Tomorrow it may be art history, biology or theology. Whatever he picks, he will be prepared to tackle it. Finally, I can see that and not worry about the little things.

Unfortunately, there is no perfect curriculum or magic formula for all children. Each child will have their own strengths and weakness that will force you out of your comfort zone. But just when you think, it isn’t enough, they surprise you, and if you’ve put their needs first, they will grow into the educated people you prayed they’d become.  It’s been a learning journey for us both. Someday I hope Byron will understand how much he has taught me.

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The Importance of Family Prayer Time…with a bit of my conversion story thrown in.

I’d really envisioned just writing a quick post about how ridiculous our family prayer time has become lately, but it got me thinking on other things… so forgive my long-windedness.

Growing up Methodist, somewhere along the line I got the impression that church and religion were Sunday things, but only when extremely convenient, and that prayer was a private thing between you and God, and it usually just happened as the words came to you.

The focus of our church service was the music and the sermon, and the highlight of the day was visiting with friends and family. Once I left the building, I don’t know how much I carried with me besides some cute songs and bible stories. It certainly wasn’t enough to sustain me when I hit my rebellious teenage years and started asking questions about everything. It didn’t help that the minister who interacted with the youth group was a real ……well, let’s just say we didn’t get along, and in answering my questions he typically tried to make me feel simple-minded and foolish.

Besides meal time prayers, I don’t remember my family ever praying together. In fact, I don’t remember ever really discussing religion at all. And on Sunday’s, children typically attended their own service or sang in their own choirs,  so we rarely ever sat together. Even after being confirmed, I couldn’t recite the Apostle’s Creed or tell you what a Methodist actually believed or what made us different from other denominations.

By seventeen, I didn’t know what I believed in or why I should believe it and I didn’t feel comfortable discussing these things with my parents. It was then that I met my husband, another seventeen year old with a completely different outlook on religion.

Growing up in Lancaster, PA, my husband was the first Catholic friend I ever had. We hung out with a large group of mutual friends before we started dating towards the end of our senior year (I actually asked him to the senior prom.) In his car he kept a rosary, and his family’s house was adorned with religious art, palm branches, statues, the whole nine yards, which naturally led to lots of questions from me. He answered all of them patiently and almost instinctively,  I knew what I was hearing was the truth. There was no question I put to him that he couldn’t answer, or wouldn’t quickly find the answer for. And it all made sense. Had I been more well versed in my own faith, perhaps I might have tried to challenge him more, but our relationship, from the very beginning, is what kept me from completely turning my back on Christianity.  It was as if all my previous angst had left me an empty pitcher just waiting to be filled.

I’ve grown a lot in my faith from our early talks at his parents house, to my reception into the Church at a really, REALLY, liberal Ordinary form parish in Syracuse, NY to our home now at an Extraordinary Form parish in Berlin, NJ. I’ve never looked back with longing on my days as a Methodist. I’m so happy to be Catholic. For all the snark in my blogging, I hope that some of the joy I experience as a devout Catholic rubs off on people.  I won’t win any apologetic wars with a Bob Jones graduate, but maybe one person will see my family and think, “huh, those papists might be on to something.”

And now the real point of this post, family prayers! Good heavens, with five kids under ten they’re a real nightmare sometimes, but almost every night, we sit down as a family and pray. The goal is to say at least three decades of the rosary for a specific intention, plus our family’s litany of saints and then any special prayers (currently a novena to the Holy Ghost.)

Tonight’s prayers got sidetracked early on by a discussion of Mexico and whether it’s safe to travel there, which got the husband and I off on a tangent about NAFTA, then drug smuggling, but not before I uttered the expression “pissing and moaning.” So then I got lectured by the husband for using such language in front of the kids..again…but not before I had to explain what I said, what makes it “coarse and crude” and how they’re never to repeat it.

“Can I just tell Frankie?,” asked Byron.

“I’m sure Frankie already knows,” I sighed.

“Can I just remind him?”, Byron asked.

“NO!,” said the husband, me and the oldest daughter.

When we actually started, Edie kept giggling because she was hiccuping, Fulton kept pointing his finger at someone and yelling ‘BANG!’ while the older two, who’ve taken to leading the decades, kept trying to pray louder than whomever was the current leader.

I then burped, which caused everyone to laugh, except my husband, which made me snicker……

And you get the picture.  I actually consider this a good night because the yelling is in fun and there’s no crying. But, despite it all, I wouldn’t give up family prayers for anything. I honestly wish I could be more on the ball about keeping up with more prayers and devotions during the day, but so far, we’re failing miserably at our attempt at a daily Angelus.  Thankfully, we are better at observing liturgical traditions, mainly because my husband, a devotee of Dom Gueranger, spearheads them. For example, we recently had a Rogation procession around our yard, complete with incense, to bless our gardens and animals. We’re also good at hosting dinner guests or parties on specific feast days (St. Martin of Tours and the Nativity of St. John the Baptist are two that come to mind.)

And, my husband and I, we’re still talking religion. It’s been an ongoing conversation for the last sixteen years, and now, we’re including the kids in it. Our Catholic faith is why we go to church on Sundays and so much more!  It drives our decision-making, our dealings with others and, obviously, heavily influences our schooling choices.

I can’t assume my kids will become devout Catholics because we prayed together, but I feel confident in saying their faith would suffer if we didn’t. And I won’t assume that weekly attendance at Mass and CCD classes are a sufficient substitute for a rich spiritual home life. I hope we’re laying a foundation that will  give them solid footing during those rough teenage years. Plus, maybe some memories and family traditions to pass along to future generations. Despite all the distractions and noise,  I’ve come to the conclusion that family prayers are worth enduring patiently not only for the short-term blogging material, but as an insurance policy against future spiritual struggles. In 25 years, I’ll write the follow up to this post and let you know how it worked out.

What prayers does your family try to say together on a regular basis?

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Lent is Penitential

I really struggle with Lent. This is one of those unfortunate years that I can’t use the ‘I’m nursing/pregnant’ excuse to skip out. The previous Lents in which I’ve attempted to go ‘hard core’ and give up something like soda or snacking between meals or sweets have usually ended with me devouring at least half a bag of semi-sweet morsels in a dark pantry. “I’m just looking for the lentils sweetie!”…nom, nom, nom.  Or there was the year I attempted to give up Coke and then my in-laws showed up for a weekend visit with a 12 pack and by Saturday night, six cans were gone.

Maybe it’s because growing up, Lent wasn’t anything but 40 days to shop around for a new spring dress and shoes. The idea of sacrifice being a worthwhile part of Easter prep didn’t really get introduced to me until I converted to Catholicism and started attending the Extraordinary form. It hasn’t been an easy adjustment. I spent the first 20+ years of my life ignoring Lent. Now, around here, it’s all Lent, all the time. If I even think about de-frosting those brownies  or indulging in a late night snack, I got the Lenten police all up in my face. “Mama, mama, mama, we gave those up!” or “Honey, do you really need that? Didn’t you eat enough lentils at dinner? Where did those marshmallows come from? Why are you in the pantry?”

I try to go about my Lenten duty with a smile but, more often than not, I’m that dirty faced hypocrite. If anyone asks me how I’m doing,  I quickly wind up deluging them with all the details of my fasting and try to gain as much earthly reward and sympathy as possible. I might of actually claimed to have worn sackcloth at one point, I can’t be sure…that was the year I tried to give up coffee.

This year, God has either granted my prayers, or those of my husband, and given me the grace I’ve needed to fast with a little more joy than usual. And He’s made my kids more receptive to Lenten sacrifices too. Don’t be mistaken; none of them are running around saying the Divine Office between episodes of self flagellation. They’re just complaining a lot less about what they’ve given up. Maybe it’s because their Mama isn’t spending so much time in the pantry with that forgotten bag of Halloween candy. Or getting absurdly angry about that backward letter ‘b’ in handwriting, then bursting into tears…followed by running into the pantry.

My husband, who loves Lent (I know, right?), has been very impressed with my efforts but has succeeded in keeping me from getting a big head by his managing to  subsist on honey and locust thus far. And I had a friend tell me to read accounts of some early Church martyrs which kind of makes everything in my day much easier to deal with. Just knowing the greatest trial I will face tomorrow will be getting my kids to eat their veggies at dinner without a dessert bribe compared to say, being the main course of some wild animal, is wonderful perspective.

However, Lent isn’t over. I still have four-weeks to go, and anything could happen. I think the return of Christ would be welcome, since any time I leave the house I’m continually reminded, sometimes most painfully, that the world is against me in  my Lenten struggle. For example, at my local grocer, it was surely Satan himself who placed the Cadbury Creme Egg display right next to the apple juice aisle.  Somehow, I managed not to give in to temptation and perservere. Could it have been my guardian angel who guided me to the rice cakes?

The countdown continues.

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