Friday, November 21, 2014

The Green Band

Today after swim class, John asked the teacher permission to test for his Green Band. And he passed the test! 

This is the same boy who was paralyzingly scared of swimming just a couple years ago and earned a little "most improved swimmer" award for working to overcome that. Now, he's a fish in water and has learned so much just in the last few months. He is the kind of kid who would thrive in swim team . . . if I were a swim team kind of mom!

Both kids learning the basics of diving

John diving

John swimming 25 yards

To earn a green band, the swimmer must swim 25 yards, exit the pool without assistance, jump into the pool and resurface, and tread water for one minute. The green band gives swimmers at all YMCA pools access to all pools and slides (instead of having to be within arm's reach of a swim instructor).

Shhhh . . . nobody tell my children that they all, even the three-year-old, can swim better than can their mama!

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Getting Back to Mothering with Grace

Last weekend, I attended the first annual Mothering with Grace conference, reminding me of how much I used to enjoy attending the MWG meetings. 

I got to be there from the very beginnings, as my friend Jessica felt moved by the Holy Ghost to gather mothers together to try to parent with more of God's grace. I used to drive the long 45 minutes to her home for these monthly meetings, which were so energizing and centering.

Then spending the entire mornings away became too much for me when I had two toddlers and was pregnant with #3. Those early years are so hard that having my toddlers nap in the car on the way home meant that they wouldn't nap at home and I needed a nap or I couldn't function! So, I took a break from meetings for a while until a location in the South opened up! We met at night at that point, which worked for me for a while. But my nighttime parenting habits are such that my babies and toddlers depend on me to be there at home--there are pros and cons to this. One undisputed con is that, I really can't go out at night till my toddlers are nightweaned. So, finally after a few years, I felt I couldn't go to MWG meetings anymore and found myself attending only its biannual Mothers' Night Out.

Well, guess what I learned last weekend at the conference? Now there are a good handful of locations and meeting times for MWG! The one nearest my home, just several miles down the road, was just recently moved to a time on a Saturday at 7:30 in the morning, which is perfect for me and my family! The larger the family, the more necessary it is for Mama sometimes to step away to recharge and the more difficult her absence becomes because her job is highly specialized, and it's hard for Daddy to hold down the fort without her. Absenting myself so early in the morning works well for us.

Therefore, Saturday morning I found myself at the MWG meeting praying, reading Scripture, meditating on its mysteries, reading about the saints, and talking about discussion points with other mothers who are, each of us, trying to parent with more of God's grace.

I have permission from the leader to share the handouts from this month's meeting below, as my hope is to encourage local mothers who read my blog to avail yourself of this wonderful support network.

The meetings open with prayer, and such beautiful, well-selected prayers they are:

Each month, a different virtue is explored via readings from the Gospel and other sources such as the saints, the Catechism, or contemporary, but holy, writings.

MWG is a Catholic organization, but is open to all mothers desiring to parent with more grace and there have been mothers involved who are not Catholic. There are mothers in regular attendance of various styles and philosophies of parenting. I remember in the wee beginnings of the organization, we mothers were essentially of the same "bent" because we were a close-knit group of friends. But over the years, properly, MWG has sought out and welcomed so many women that there are now mothers of many types:

  • married, divorced, or never married,
  • homemaking or working, 
  • with children in school or homeschooled, 
  • and of various parenting philosophies . . .  nobody should feel out of place!

Attendees are sent home with questions for personal meditation to use throughout the month. I always used to like posting my list of questions on my refrigerator to reflect on them here or there during the many hours I spend in the kitchen (AKA "Central Command").

I find the MWG meetings are so refreshing and lift the mothers present to have hope, to desire to achieve greater personal sanctity, to be more Christlike and give more to our families. The MWG meetings have a notable spirit of God, not a spirit of the world.

If any local mother reading this desires to be "filled up" once a month for an hour, I encourage her to check the website for a meeting location near her. There are already a few locations across the country and the world! And, if there is none near you, it is a simple process to apply to become a leader and do one, brief online training live with the founder.

"When you sit down to eat, pray. When you eat bread, do so thanking Him for being so generous to you. If you drink wine, be mindful of Him who has given it to you for your pleasure and as a relief in sickness. When you dress, thank Him for His kindness in providing you with clothes. When you look at the sky and the beauty of the stars, throw yourself at God’s feet and adore Him who in His wisdom has arranged things in this way. Similarly, when the sun goes down and when it rises, when you are asleep or awake, give thanks to God, who created and arranged all things for your benefit, to have you know, love and praise their Creator."
— St. Basil the Great

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Friday Family Fun

Family Game Night

+ Popcorn and hot cocoa

+ Uno

= crazy fun times!

Joseph ends each evening at the table like this.
This was my first time playing Uno in about 25 years, and I think I had a disadvantage, given that I had to wrestle this cutie in my lap . . .

It turns out that my husband is an Uno card shark. Almost nine years of marriage and I had no idea! The first night I pull out the Uno and this fella remembers every single rule and wins all three rounds.

A card shark works the table littered with sippy cups, Swiss Miss, and popcorn old maids.

What a fun evening!

Friday, November 14, 2014

Savor this Moment

I've been struggling to find my way in how much is ever enough in our homeschooling life. I'm liking more and more a point a 20-year experienced mother said recently: "Home education doesn't look like school at home." It doesn't!

I can write the most beautiful curriculum plans, but they don't include a child deciding to test limits and now the next hour and half are spent dealing with only discipline matters. My curriculum doesn't include the three-year-old throwing repeated tantrums because the poor thing really is ignored during school hours. My curriculum doesn't include the nearly-two-year-old needing a diaper-and-outfit change, or bonking his head once again, or his learning how to open stealthily the 16-oz bottle of tempera paint.

Our home education looks very little like School at Home!

And I've felt down about that lately . . . but I did get to appreciate one quiet moment this morning, which raised my spirits. After breakfast, I had helped all the kids get ready and was finishing my own preparations for the day. It was mysteriously quiet. I grabbed the laundry bag and went in search of the children to go downstairs for music practice and math.

I found that Margaret was looking quietly at a book while John was reading aloud the original Brer Rabbit (with all its wonderful language!) to his sick sister who was curled up in bed (we stayed home from activities today).

Reading aloud to his sick sister

Okay, Mama, all can't be topsy turvy in our homeschooling world if the children can get along quietly, read excellent literature, and show compassion for sick siblings. Savor this moment because it won't last . . .

I hope to meditate more about the concept of Home Education and write about it more in the future.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Mary's 6th Birthday

Today our Mary Genevieve turned six years old! 

She is a spitfire who keeps us on our toes. In every way imaginable, Mary is always climbing to the top . . . of any tree, building, or accomplishment! If there is any reason to invest in stocks in the paper industry, our little Mary's prolific production of drawings and letters every day is a good reason!

Yesterday, when I replied back to the love note Mary left me on the white board,
she asked perplexed, "But how did you know the note was from me?"

Mary's grandparents had come for a visit and everyone started off the day with a breakfast of bagels and strawberries. Then Mary opened her much-awaited gifts.

 Two of Mary's favorite gifts were from her own big brother: a crazy straw . . .

. . . and pink kitten slippers! Does it get better than that?


You know she is a Music Nerd when she is this excited about receiving a music stand and String Swing.

Music lover

But you know she's also still just six when she turns the box into a robot and plays with it for an hour!

Robot Girl

Grandmom and the girls spent an enjoyable time together making her famous applesauce before we headed to the ice rink for a couple hours of skating.

Joseph loves running free and wild through the spacious ice rink.

Joseph dancing to the music on a bench with Pop-Pops

The children stood watching one of the excellent skaters spinning and began trying to do it themselves.

For her birthday dinner, Mary requested fettuccine Alfredo with Mama's homemade sauce, sweet Italian sausage, and salad, and, for dessert, baked pears with vanilla ice cream. (Looking at her birthday blog post from last year, I see she requested almost the identical dinner and the very same dessert then too!)

Mary blew out her candles the instant we handed her the dessert, while we were still singing.

So excited, she can hardly stand it!
We ended our day by reading aloud from one of her new Little Maid books, after which Mary declared (twice), "This was the best birthday ever!"

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Field Trip to Firehouse No. 7

It seemed in retrospect a rather all-American event to take a field trip to a local firehouse on Veteran's Day, given that many of these firemen are former military themselves and certainly are all public servants who rescue Americans on a daily basis.

A stained glass window

Margaret hiding in a nook

A fireman coming down the pole

Showing us the truck

Showing us the truck

The tiny No. 7 Station is one of the oldest in Charlotte at almost 80 years old.


At one point, I was standing in the grass when my eyes fell upon Mary's lonely shoes. That can only mean one thing . . .

A clue

Climbing! She always climbs barefoot.

Mary up the tree

My two boys in red

Margaret, sullen because she can't yet climb as high as can Mary

The whole gang!

It feels disingenuous to post charming pictures of a fun field trip when Mama is struggling and failing to find equanimity so much during these last days and weeks. (Please pray for me.)

Equanimity (noun): mental calmness, composure, and evenness of temper, 
especially in a difficult situation

Yes, I desperately need more of that!

It remains imprudent to complain publicly in a blog format. Yet I worry that posting only from a place of Christian cheerfulness will cause a mother with a delicate heart to feel even more discouraged: My life doesn't look like that right now!

Always I hope that mothers (or anyone) reading this blog (or any blog) remember that cute, idyllic pictures capture only so much of a situation. Photos and lovely words express a partial truth, but the whole truth of life is always full of mess, dirt, grime, and best intentions.

Soldier on, mothers!