Monday, July 28, 2014

Homeschooling a crowd

I'm not sure how Eva Beadle Simms pulled it off on Little House but, in our one-room school, things are never quite as tidy as it was portrayed. Same goes for the bloggers who say "just hand the little ones their busy bags and you'll have plenty of time to work with the bigger kids." Ummmm. I suppose if you're done with your "work" in about 8 1/2 minutes, since that's the average time it takes #s 4 and 5 to blow through counting bears, dress up dolls and dry erase boards.

I'm not complaining, really. It's kind of cute how they have little-to-no attention span (they are 2 and just 4 after all) but it still presents a challenge. So, we're always looking for new and exciting things.

Our latest "find" was a bargain-basement priced, giant Rubbermaid container of blocks. So many blocks...and figures and doors and horses. They have played non-stop since the blocks arrived yesterday. So, you know, go with what works. On our first non-vbs school day in some time, I figured I'd work them into our large-group time. It was awesome.

We started by reading a book from our local library (it was featured in Children's Literature in the K-3 Mathematics Classroom)

A cute story about a little block that encounters many "creatures" while finding out that, indeed, he is completely himself and not a missing piece from someone else. Curiously, (or maybe not, since this week we're covering "B" for Baptism, among other things) the post-reading chat was a lively time of "who am I" and discussion of how we are each special because we were chosen by God, even in the womb (Jeremiah is the scripture quote of the week) and that we are washed clean in the waters of baptism. Yes, I wish I had recorded the discussion. It was a lot like that but with little-kid words.
Once religion and reading were taken care of ;0) We moved on to art and math. First, we used piles of blocks to create a creature of our own design but along the lines of those in the book. Here are the top two's creations...
"the one who holds batteries"

"the one who reads books"
Each had a story about their personal creature and how they functioned.
The last part of our session was math and, well, it was less exciting. We counted blocks (like how many it took to make our creature), we sorted, we multiplied, divided and estimated. That's my limit ;0)
By the time 10:15 rolled around and it all fell apart, I felt like we had done enough with the little people. They went to play
a castle for the knights...Mr. G loves those topper blocks
and the older two were able to seek solace in the school room to do the rest of their work. I do love this experiment we're having. I am so grateful to be home and help my little ones learn and grow. We are so blessed.

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Take time every day...

I have been praying for a few weeks now that God would "send a sign" that we're doing/thinking/understanding what He wants for us to do/think/understand in our lives. While I would love the Blessed Mother to appear and say "don't be're doing the right thing" I know that's likely a bit dramatic for little old me. So, I receive little clues via email...

"This Lord of ours is so anxious that we should desire Him and strive after His companionship that He calls us ceaselessly, time after time, to approach Him . . . His appeals come through the conversations of good people, or from sermons, or through the reading of good books; and there are many other ways, of which you have heard, in which God calls us. Or they come through sicknesses and trials, or by means of truths which God teaches us at times when we are engaged in prayer; however feeble such prayers may be, God values them highly."— St. Teresa of Avila, p.25, The Interior Castle

God calls in other ways too. Yesterday we were at the VBS closing Mass and the pastor decided to give #3 child his giant black-and-gold rain stick to hold during Mass. When said child asked me if Mass would end soon (we were about 10 minutes in) I said "you know the Holy Spirit whispered to Father to hand you that stick as a reminder from Jesus that He loves you and wants you to pay attention." It worked!

I'm was amazed and yet I don't know why it took me by such surprise. I do believe that God is constantly reaching out to us, longing for us to turn to Him. It's really clear if you take time to be open in this way to His call.

So let's make a plan, shall we? Let's be open this week to God's call. It can come in a "good morning" sunbeam or a "I'm here to walk with you" during a long night with a sick child. If you can't find Him in the midst of your day then you do the calling (I do this a lot). He is there. We just need to look and listen.

God is so good. We are blessed! Have a great week.

Embrace the Ordinary

Gina, at Someday (Hopefully) They'll Be Saints has started a blog post idea...find God's blessings in everyday life (good, bad or otherwise). What an amazingly wonderful idea!

Last week was a true test for me. Long days, crabby people, feeling really crummy. Still, while lying on the concrete poolside, listening to #4 scream her way through a lesson, it seemed that I could see everything more vividly. The colors, the shapes, everything seemed the way God made it when He drew it up out of his amazingly wide-ranging box of colored pencils. What a blessing on a day that may have seemed more like drudgery than gift.

We are blessed!

Friday, July 25, 2014

Happy #11

I missed it

I could blame my lack of sleep or general feeling of unwell but I'm not going to cop out like that. I had a golden opportunity today and I blew it. I had the perfect chance to unite my suffering to Jesus and I let it pass. I'm bummed.

Let me back up. Child #3 threw up at breakfast yesterday and proceeded to be fine for the rest of the day. So this morning, when he looked not great but said he was well enough to return to VBS for the last day, I took him. I signed them up for this week as an agreement with someone who failed on their end but I figured we'd make it through the best we could. They are all enjoying the experience.

So, when he unloaded outside the door (and partly on the back of his sister's shirt) I wasn't surprised but I was also less than thrilled. Still, I soldiered on. (I should say that this particular VBS is always late starting and late ending...). Anyway, we cleaned up, I changed little girl's shirt (who said "can we just GO" - meaning "can we get into VBS already") and I took my sick boy home. That's not my fail of the day - I think I handled that well with the assistance of a very kind father who immediately came to my aid.

My fail happened later, when we were waiting the extra 15 minutes for pickup. We were standing outside the doors again when my attention was drawn to a very animated group of moms not far away.

"So the brother just pukes everywhere...the grass, the sidewalk, all over the back of his sister's shirt." said the pretty blonde woman.
"Oh, I know. Then the sister was crying 'I want to go home, I want to go home!'" said the well-toned brunette.
"She had like five kids with her too" the last one said with great disdain..

So, here's my fail. I walked up, looked the blonde in the face and said, "I'm standing right here"

"Oh", said the blonde, "I didn't realize you were nearby."

"Well", I said, "gossip is always wrong."

It's not that I don't gossip. I do. My problem, other than the five kids comment, was making an excuse for gossiping when it's clear you are in the wrong. I didn't handle it well, though and it's made a crummy day even worse. I have the chance, like always, to take these less-than-stellar days and make them as good as possible (see the scripture verse in the previous blog)...I failed that one in all kinds of ways today.

So, I suppose I'll go pray for those women. I'll pray that if and when they post this on their FB today, it might be with a tiny bit of remorse and at least a bit more kindness. In the meantime, I will do my best to offer it up and let it go.

After all, I am extremely blessed....and it's Friday. Have an awesome day.

Monday, July 21, 2014

Monday, Monday

Not in a Mamas and Papas sort of way...

I don't have much time to do any deep thinking on the blog today but I saw this and it's had me thinking for a few, I thought I'd share. See what you think ;0)

"You must not abandon the ship in a storm because you cannot control the winds….What you cannot turn to good, you must at least make as little bad as you can."
— St. Thomas More
 We are blessed!

Sunday, July 20, 2014


I see why people send their kids off to camp. I wouldn't actually do it but I definitely see the draw of reducing your load by a kid or two for a few weeks. For now, we'll just enjoy our together time in the car. Lots and lots of VBS songs, I would imagine :0)

Enjoy your week. We are blessed!

Friday, July 18, 2014

Maranatha, Days 4&5

Let's start at the end. Today was the final day of Maranatha. We began with Mass as a group, followed by Adoration. It was really lovely to watch all the little (and not so little) ones come together to worship. It gives me some hope for the future of the Church. I need to pray harder so that fidgety kids in Mass don't bug me quite so much. I'll get there ;0)

I have no pictures but, after Mass, we came together to teach the final lesson for our group. We read the Passion then talked about all the little crosses we face each day and how we can unite them with the Cross of Christ. A large tree-branch cross was brought it and the kids each took a turn nailing their cross (which they wrote on a small piece of paper) to the larger cross. Such excellent much for them to ponder at later times.

I just saw #2 with his "bag of goodies" that they take home from VBS at the end of the week. He had a freezer bag filled with things to represent the corporal works of mercy (crackers to feed the hungry, water to give drink to the thirsty, etc...). He will be giving that lesson to us after dinner this evening.

I love Maranatha. It's just the best experience. Even Blondie had a great time and learned so much. We are blessed.

OK, on to day 4. I'm sure they did lots of great things but, alas, we were not there. We were at Slovak Day at Kennywood with thousands of other Pittsburgh Slovaks. It was a must that we go this year so the top 3 could dance with their Pittsburgh Area Slovaks group. It was hectic and crazy but lots of fun. (Blondie wore the outfit we got from relatives in Slovakia since she wasn't dancing this year). I was impressed that most of our kids even rode some rides. Who knew we would eventually realize the fun of an amusement park?! Here are some of the shots (I took way too many).

Tiny man meets the Kangaroo

I have one just like that with #1 (minus the shoes)

 The group - they did well (#3 is in the middle, #1 with her cello, #2 turned head in the front right)
Trying to win a SWEET giant bowling pin (they didn't)

The sign says "Slovak Day" but I cut it off :0(

 Good sport to hang in kiddieland with her sibs
 Pilot and co-pilot
 Finally - a ride he likes!
 Tiny man was not a fan (with dad on the other side)
 This was the crowd favorite
 Even tiny liked it
 Slovak hunters - ready to dance ;0)

 and sing
 Isn't that little guy cute!
After the show we had Mass with TWO bishops! Score!

We were so blessed to make it and participate in such a great day. Have a great weekend!

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Maranatha, Day 3

OK. I don't have a lot of time right now...costumes to press. Still, I feel like I have to write down what happened so I can remember how awesome it truly was.

WATER DAY!!! Whew, got that out of the way. No idea what it was/what they did but they all had a lot of fun and no one broke a bone. Bonus.

This morning, before WD, the Passionists had a very full schedule. (there are no pictures because, as you know, I try not to take them in church). Use your imagination.

First, we talked about how people throughout the Bible acted when they came into contact with God/Jesus.

  - We read the account of Moses and the burning bush
  - We read the account of the Magi's visit to Mary and Jesus
  - We read the account of Jesus arriving on Palm Sunday

We reflected on how important it is to have proper posture, attention, and openness when in the presence of God.

Boom. Off we go to Adoration. They did really well (although I have to say there was only about 4 minutes of non-singing/non-reflection-reading Adoration). It was the 4th and 5th graders...I'm thinking they could have pushed them to silent prayer a teeny bit more.

Regardless, it was really wonderful to have that experience followed immediately by...Confession! Yes, and some of the little boys were scared to DEATH (cute). #1, of course, was second in line. That girl, she would go every week if I took her. No idea how it goes but I am so thankful that she is open to the grace.

As I said, I have to run. I just want to share all the awesomeness that is Maranatha. If you live in the South Hills, start badgering your pastor now about having this amazing program. I would love to not have to drive through tunnels/bridges to get there!

Tomorrow - Slovak Day! I can't wait. Three of my little people will be dancing so pictures will be forthcoming.

Enjoy this glorious day. We are so blessed.

Wordless Wednesday

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Maranatha, Day 2

I neglected to give an "intro" to Maranatha yesterday. Quickly, it's a "Vocation" Bible School and we are SO blessed to be part of the program. Little ones start at 4-years-old as Franciscans and spend a week each summer studying about their particular order. From Franciscans you go to Little Sisters of the Poor, Spiritans, Missionaries of Charity, Benedictines, Passionists and finish with parish priests (you know, non-order...there is a better name but my mind is having a bad day).

In the main hall, there are dolls dressed in the habits of each order.

This year we have a Franciscan, Little Sisters of the Poor, Missionary of Charity and #1 and I are in the Passionists. They are all amazing experiences (the Franciscans talk about the POPE and St. Francis and the nativity for example) but I am learning so much I didn't know about the Passionist order. The greatest part of the week (well, ok, it's water day for the kids), BUT the second greatest day is "special visitor" day. When possible, a priest or sister from the order comes to speak to the class. Today, the Passionists met Fr. Pat Geinzer, C.P. What a spiritually abundant 20 minutes!

Father explaining the "sign" of the Passionist order

and the Passionist crucifix (Mary is standing at the bottom)

The 15 decade rosary (the Passionists only have 10 decades - they are to live the Sorrowful Mysteries each day)

A blessing from father with the cross

then with a relic of St. Paul of the Cross

We are so, so blessed that this type of experience exists for our kids. Please keep the program in your that it may grow to reach even more young men and women and enrich their faith.

Saturday, July 12, 2014

Do you hear it?

If you've read this blog for any amount of time, you know I am a big fan of the Holy Spirit's workings in my life. It hasn't always been this way. I was just thinking the other day about how much time I wasted missing all the little "gifts" that happened to me during the day for so many years of my life. Now, I do my best to listen and hear the guidance given to me. Like today. I suppose someone could say "wow...what a bunch of coincidences!" You and I know better ;0)

- It's a lot of gross girl stuff but I decided I needed to work out tonight because I would be "out of commission" for the next two or three days. However, it was SO HOT today I thought "there is no way I can run, I'll just do aerobics downstairs." Well, in about ten minutes I found myself in running gear and outside.

- "OK I thought. I will walk but I can't run. I can't do it." However, when I got outside, it seemed almost pleasant. I still walked a lot of the way but, different this time, I headed toward the center of my town and away from my parish. I usually head the other direction but I felt very strongly against it today. So, off I went. In about 20 minutes, I found myself at the bottom of a deep hill so I looked up. Straight ahead (about 3/4 of a mile away) was the steeple from my church. "OK, I thought, I will go" - I always stop by the tabernacle to give thanks after my workout and I feel like I missed something when I don't.

- Another 15 minutes and I made it to church. I walked toward the top of the church and tried the door - it's locked at 7 on Saturday night. So, as when it's closed at other times, I headed down to the statue of Our Lady to say a rosary. I did see lights on in the church hall but I didn't think much about it. I was having a productive, peaceful rosary so I was in that place and not thinking of much else.

- I was well into the third Joyful mystery when I noticed, out of the corner of my eye, someone come out of the door from the lower church, along with a young girl. I looked up and saw that it was my very good friend. After her shock passed at seeing me, she said "oh, now I know why we came out this door!" It seems that she was parked on the other side of the building but still felt it was imperative that she exit that particular door.

- We talked a bit and she said "you should go in and get your blessing from the new priest!" Of course! Now I remember, it's the thanksgiving Mass and reception for our former deacon of three years who has now become a real, live priest. I told her "no" as I was feeling embarrassed from both forgetting the big day and looking as post-run terrible as I did.

- We talked for a while and then she got a huge smile on her face. I turned around to see our pastor, parochial vicar and the "new priest" walking from the lower church to the rectory, right past our seat. I greeted our newest priest warmly and even gave him a hug but stopped after a bit of small talk. My friend, of course, didn't get the hint. "Father, " she said, "she won't ask for a blessing but it would be lovely if you could give her one." So, he did. The most beautiful blessing I have had for some time. It was a gift I will cherish. Having spent the last 3 summers getting to know this deacon and now priest has been a blessing for our entire family.

So, there you go. I allowed myself to be led and look at the amazing gifts that were given to me because of that obedience. I had the choice to "do my own thing" but, truthfully, I'm growing tired of that. I kind of enjoy riding the wave and finding out where I land. Usually it involves some grace-filled moment like tonight.

If you've read through this entire post (God bless you!) I would like to ask you to spend the next day or so listening a bit more intently. If you feel a little nudge to do something, just do it. You never know what blessings there are for you. God is so very good. Let Him show you just how much.

Friday, July 11, 2014

Five on Friday

Here are a few of the things I'm loving right now...

1. My 4-year-old

We had a fun and festive princess/hello kitty gala last night, surrounded by family and friends. I think I spent more on her balloon and card (you blow out the "candle" and it sings "happy birthday") than on her cake. Still, you tell me what a smile like that is worth.

2. Imaginary family members

I'm unclear on the "why" but both daughters have had extensive imaginary families, complete with 10+ siblings (#1 spoke so vividly about her "South African family" that the preschool teacher asked me if she was adopted!). Well, #2 has taken up where she left off, with even more imaginative siblings (two are named tree baby and house baby...never can get her to explain why). Her older sister, as a keepsake card, decided to immortalize her vision of "Shosho" and "Bobo" from the stories Blondie likes to tell. They look like fun to me :0)

3. Adoration

Last night (this morning, I guess) I was blessed and motivated enough to make it back to my old 4 AM time slot at our local Oratory. It's hard to explain how wonderful that hour is to me. To sit and pray in the silence (and at 4 AM, it's really silent!) feeds me spiritually in a way I've never been able to replace. It was so nice and it was so helpful to realize that, at this point, there is no chance I can make it a full-time gig. I've been wiped out all day.

4. Early morning exercise

Of course, I could actually be wiped out because, after getting home and changing my clothes at 5:20 AM, I headed out to the local track (there are lots of hills around here and, with no sleep, it's all I can do to run on a flat surface). Still, 3 miles in felt wonderful. I wasn't joined  by anyone else until well after 6 so it was great to just be out in the cool morning alone.

Of course, my new toy makes everything more bro and s-i-l are always on the cutting edge of trends. Usually, I am not. However, I noticed their bands this weekend and when I checked out FITBIT I knew it would soon be mine. This thing tracks your steps each day, nutrition, water intake, sleep(!). All in a shiny orange package (yes, they come in black if you're not into making a fashion statement) sooo cool.

5. Moving stuff and reconnecting. 

I've been a pretty crummy friend lately. Other than my two closest pals, I haven't had any time to nurture a lot of the acquaintances I've made over the last several years. I've actually been OK with that. There are people who will pass in and out and it's good just to touch base...that's the amount of interaction needed and wanted, I think, on both sides. For others, though, this time away has been a little bit like a post-move. If you go through a year without opening a box that traveled from your old house, you can be pretty sure there is nothing in there that's needed in your new place. So it is with several people I've lost touch with over the last year. The distance has given me perspective - to realize that we didn't have enough to carry us long-term. On the flip-side, that's why it's so nice when a long-lost friend is willing to put in the effort to reconnect. It's a treasure you cherished but forgot about for a while. I'm looking so forward to sharing mussels with a lost treasure next week :0)

5A. Reading stuff

Since we're talking about using time wisely...I've been noticing that my reading tastes have changed immensely in the last few years. I used to plow through almost any murder mystery I would pick up, just to have something to pass the time. Now, thankfully, I can't really stomach it any more (I've never been a "romance" novel type of girl). The violence on the page of some of these mysteries is so not worth my time and damaging to my mind. The same for lots of books with language that rivals, well, a Big Brother episode. I have several readers in the house now so, no, I won't take the chance of having those lying around. I'm grateful, really, that my mind is finally coming clear about some things. I guess it's the busyness (or the age) I just don't want to spend time with things that aren't nourishing to me. So, off with you Bridget Jones, I'm opting for an Amish mystery (still some plot twists but darling enough that my 8-year-old can also partake).

Have a blessed weekend!  

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Four years ago...


I know that #1 was praying all night that above bump would turn out to be her wish-come-true. ;0)

And finally...

The third part of our homeschool odyssey was actually the following day. Before heading for home, we stopped by The Amish Farm and House. Don't believe what the reviews tell you, not the latest anyway (many people were "shocked" that it's in the corner of a Target parking if they somehow built a house and farm from the 1800's in that space, not the other way around! Ug.)

Anywhoo...I was sad as I walked through the farm, thinking that the shops were so close. To me, it's just another reminder of how society has taken over with its "needs". Oh, another lady was mad because Amish people didn't actually live there and just let you tour their house 7 days a week. Honestly...ok, rant over.

The tour and individual exploration time were amazing. Just enough to get our little ones a great taste of what an Amish life is about. There were so many great things to explore. Here are a few...

We started out in the farmhouse, built in 1805, and learned lots of good things about where the Amish reside in the county, and where they came from originally. Also, there were many examples of quilts throughout the home.

Moving outside, we saw what the house might look like on "wash day" as well as the blacksmith shop and the tobacco barn.

We saw an outdoor bake oven, a thriving garden (broccoli in its natural state!) and milked a pretend cow.

The kids each got to take their turn at using this contraption to make their own jump rope from three pieces of twine. It really works!

We met an amazingly talented carver (he specializes in roosters) who also gave "swing" rides to tiny Blonde girls; then spent some time talking to the Amish schoolmarm who pumped her fist and shouted "hooray" when she learned we were homeschoolers (I appreciate the fact that Amish school starts at 1st grade).

The last "demonstration" was by two Amish farriers (I have no pictures - because they are Amish and because I was fascinated). These brothers have been shoeing horses for 15 years and it was amazing to watch. Eli worked the anvil and his brother (didn't find out his name) told the jokes while he was working on the horse. When I asked what "lucky guy" figured out how much to cut, how to nail the shoes, etc...he said "I've heard it's the same guy that, when sitting around a fire one night said, 'You know that creature that tried to kill Charlie last night? I'm going to ride it'" Amish humor at its best.
After we stuffed our brains we played, took walks and acted silly. What a perfect ending to this wonderful family adventure. We are blessed.

 can you see them in the windows?