Tuesday, September 30, 2008

My Life in the Cry Room

The past few weeks have been rather overwhelming with the children. It is likely due to 1. the hurricane, 2. hubby's 8-day hunting trip, and 3. Steven Joseph's new mobility. The hurricane threw me off in many ways...messing up our schedule and camping trip, flooding our bedrooms, and just bringing that fear and loss-of-control that comes with a natural disaster. We had a nice visit with friends in Austin during Steven's hunting trip, finding parks and stores and just getting away from the stress of home life. It was wonderful spending time with Roxy and Veronica and really helped me to get into a routine and work on both discipline and cleanliness since the two of them are so on-top of those things. But of course it was overwhelming being in a different city taking care of three young children without my husband. And then there's the new crawler! I have to keep track of Steven Joseph every second since we have no baby gates or cabinet locks and he screams if put in a pack-and-play or exersaucer. He puts everything in his mouth and is just the typical 9 month-old right now! It's exhausting.

Last week while in Austin, I took all three children to an evening daily mass at St. William's Church in Round Rock. We lasted all of about 2 minutes in the quiet church sanctuary before Stevie started making loud noises, necessitating a move to the cry room. I sat in the cry room with the baby crawling all around and the girls making up songs and prayers while holding the missalettes. Ellie refused to move from the ledge below the cry room glass in front of us, speaking loudly..."And on the third day, Jesus died! Let us pray for him!" I was too tired to discipline them or ask them to be still, so I just took it all in.

I was thinking about how this life with small children makes me feel like I'm living in a cry room! I'm looking through the glass and trying to see what's taking place around me, but I'm constantly distracted by the kids. It was ironic that in the cry room last week, I could hear everything during the mass through the sound system, except for the Eucharistic Prayers, the most important part! Many times I feel like I'm missing out on the "most important part", namely quiet time with my Lord and Savior. My spiritual guide reminded me yesterday that a simple morning offering prayer and listening to his simple word back is enough. Just spending a few moments meditating on the images of Jesus and Mary in my home...it's enough.

But many times I feel that those quick moments of prayer are not enough. I have children to form, ministries to discern, friendships and relationships that need work and prayer to help me grow. I have bills to pay, meals to make, and clothes to fold, and I feel the need to be closer to Him than the cry room.

So today I got a little more, felt like I stepped out of my cry room for a few minutes. This morning we had a Morning of Reflection for my lay movement. Just to get there is a big ordeal...feeding the baby, dressing everyone, dropping the girls at my parents' house, and having my poor screaming baby in the car for almost an hour before we finally arrived at the center. We meditated on the Beatitudes, particularly being "poor in spirit". My spirit feels truly weak right now, so I guess I'm on the right track!

I didn't hear much of Father's talk since I was in the hallway with the baby, but the one thing I do remember was him talking about how on the "Mount" you could stand at the top of the hill and speaking in a regular voice would echo down the hillside into the valley so all could hear. After another talk about poverty of spirit recounting a lady's granddaughter's stillbirth and her own cancer scare, we reflected on some questions relating to the talks.

One of them asked, "As I put myself at the Sermon on the Mount, what are my thoughts, my feelings? Where do I imagine myself to be sitting that day? Do I feel a need to sit close to Jesus or at a distance? Why did I pick that spot?"

I initially thought about how I would love to be close to Jesus, listening intently on his words and watching him closely. But then I remembered my state in life...I would likely be way at the back of the crowds watching little girls dance around in the fields and a baby crawling away from me! "Why did I pick that spot?" My initial thought...I didn't pick it! I'm confined to my "cry room" with these children and can't get close to my Lord!

But then I remembered...I did pick it. I reflected on that building where we were this morning. We were sitting in the classroom where I taught first grade during my first year of marriage. Now it's transformed into a chapel where Mass was celebrated! I thought about how this life is my dream. This was what I pondered that year of teaching, before children arrived. This was where I spent those first days of joy at knowing a new baby was growing inside me. This was where I shared with those sweet first graders about my new blessing and received many sweet notes from them about what a great mother I would be. This was where I admired those amazing Catholic families who sacrificed so much for their children to attend that school. And this was where my own vocation to Regnum Christi was born through their example and my interaction with other lay members and priests in the early days of that school. And now this room was filled with older ladies and spiritual guides who have been vital in encouraging me on my journey of motherhood.

So I realized how important it is for me to embrace my cry room! I must take joy in the simple actions of my children and in showing them Christ through the window, that they might step out of the cry room and find Him. In fact, my girls did go out into the sanctuary by themselves last week to witness the Eucharist while I stayed in with the baby. I need to take to heart the words that so many older mothers say to me "enjoy this time; it will be gone too fast." One mother told me of her sadness at her youngest going to kindergarten this year. Another said that someone once told her, "Now they tug at your shoestrings, but later it will be your heartstrings." And I know this woman's children have many challenges and she always talks about how she wishes she could go back in time.

This is my moment. This is my opportunity to seize these little souls for Christ. I mustn't go around complaining about being stuck in the cry room, but I should take joy in knowing that it's exactly where I'm called to be. And Christ is there with me even if I can't feel him or hear him or touch him. He is in my children. And that's enough.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Let's see

if I can get the pics to load today!

Woohoo! It works! Bowling party from yesterday

MC got right down to business

SJ wanted to be in on the action too!

Ellie did not like the loud noise

Daddy having fun!

Ellie finally got interested and wouldn't stop the last 15 minutes of bowling time! She really enjoyed it!

Sunday, September 28, 2008

and some funnies

from the past few days:

MC: "Mommy, since I didn't get blood on my band-aid, I'll just use it for something else. I'll RECYCLE!"


Ellie, referring to a name I mentioned : "That's a funny name"
MC: "Ellie, we say that name is DIFFERENT, not funny."


I ask MC to choose some books to put in the room where our overnight guests will be staying.
MC: "Yeah, I'll get some fun ones so they can read when they're in time-out!"


Ellie: "I want to be a queen too"
MC: "Ellie, I'm the queen and you're the VICE queen. If I die or get sick, then you get to be queen!"


Catching Up

The past two weeks have been a whirlwind...first the hurricane and then our week away. We had a wonderful time on our little "trip" and Steven enjoyed his Colorado elk hunting trip tremendously. I have so many pictures (over 200) to go through and lots of things to catch up on. This Friday is once again our "First Friday" class, so I've got a lot to plan. We arrived home late last night and spent today doing some general pick-up and deep cleaning, as well as attending mass at our home parish (with lights and electricity!), celebrating my parents' 34th anniversary, and our two nephews' birthdays.

Here are some pictures from the nephews' bowling party this afternoon. I'll be updating with hurricane and Austin pictures soon!

Well, just kidding. It looks like our internet connection is not quite up to par yet. It won't let me load 5 small pictures...ughh. I'll try again tomorrow! Nite nite!

Monday, September 22, 2008

Our Escape

On Friday we abandoned hurricane-land and are hanging out in Austin with some girlfriends and kids while the husbands are on a big hunting trip. It's been so nice to get away from the craziness of home life and the hurricane. I can't upload pictures right now, so I feel fully incapable of a good blog post, but here are some highlights of the last few days:

~Baby shower for our hostess, the sweet Miss Roxy!
~Sunday Mass at a gorgeous church, St. Williams
~A huge outing to IKEA, some outlet stores, Michael's and Target today (I'm brave, aren't I?)
~The purchase of a fun cardboard coloring castle for the kids to play in
~The gift of a wonderful homemade lasagna dinner from sweet Miss Katie who visited us with her kind husband tonight
~And the great times of just being together with good friends!

I'm hoping to do some homeschooling with MC this week since we were off school all last week with the hurricane. Hope all our H-town friends are doing well and that power is restored very soon to everyone!!!

Friday, September 19, 2008

And God said

"let there be light!"

Power back on. Internet back on. Phone back on. Thanks be to God! More later...

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Another update--Wednesday after Ike

Today is a much more positive day! We got our new carpet installed so we'll be able to move all our furniture back and won't have to all sleep on mattresses in the living room! My parents just got power back a few hours ago so we are visiting over here a little bit. The lines to buy gas are shorter and stores are now selling perishables so things are improving quickly!

Yes, although we are about 90 miles from Galveston, I believe we caught the eye of the storm in my area and probably had winds close to 100 mph. We live in an older neighborhood and have many hardwood trees around us that were lifted at the roots, some falling on homes and cars and lots falling on power lines. So it's taking longer to get power back in my area. Many of our friends had similar damage to flooring, roofs, and ceilings and driving down the road it's really a sight to see as we look at downed billboards, hotel roofs with patching, and huge trees fallen everywhere.

I have many pictures to upload once our internet is working (which could be longer than the power since we are on our city's internet). Mary Clare's bite reaction is better, and my dad is improving, so thank you all for your prayers! I got a call from our dear priest friend last night. He is still without power and got water in their chapel and a few rooms; I'm sure the case is similar for many others in Houston. If you have seen any coverage of Galveston, it's just devastating. My heart and prayers go out to those who've lost their homes.

We are enjoying the beautiful weather here, with lots of time outside! Steven goes back to work full-time tomorrow and I'm hoping we'll have power by then. I've missed the blogging world and hope to get caught up soon! Blessings to all--

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

surviving the storm

we are here, no power in our area yet. i'm on a neighbor's computer. everyone is fine! we have a generator to turn on some appliances. we got water in our house...master bath and bedroom and guest bedroom. not much gas or perishable foods, long lines for everything. thanks for your continued prayers! my dad is suffering from a kidney stone and mary clare is having one of those reactions to a bug bite, but we're making it through...with the help of the good Lord! thanks to Him for our safety and all our blessings! hopefully we'll get power soon! entergy is on our street today!!!

Friday, September 12, 2008

The Eerie Waiting

There has been an eerie silence around town today. Just preparing for Ike. And waiting. We went to Mass this morning. Father was so kind and such a good shepherd as he got us ready for the storm.

We went to the park with our friends who we were supposed to camp with this weekend. It was a nice morning activity!

With the breeze and clouds starting to come in, we've spent a lot of time outside today!

The calm before the storm. I'll put up some before and after pictures when we have power/internet; I assume we will be without it for a few days. We are ready for a family "camping" weekend indoors! We don't know anyone who has evacuated our area, except one of Steven's brothers. So I hope everyone stays safe! I'm praying for all our family and friends, all those rescue workers, and anyone who will be in harm's way in the coming hours. May God protect us all! May he keep our own home safe from harm and damage, and may this time of being together remind us of the blessing of family and the gifts that we have in our home, our food, our community.

Our Lady, Star of the Sea, pray for us!

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Nature Club

On top of the world!

MC in Native American headdress and her shy little friend ;)

Not sure if you can see SJ sitting next to MC for circle time! He was in on it all!

Ellie performed her poem! (she actually did it 2 or 3 times, and then made up another poem...no stage fright for her!)

"Happy Thought" by Robert Louis Stevenson
The world is so full of a number of things;
I'm sure we should all be as happy as kings.

The children made rain sticks and did a rain dance...we're hoping it keeps Ike far away from here! But that's not looking very likely and we've already had to cancel our big camping trip....bummer :(

Monday, September 08, 2008

A Day in the Life

I took some pictures of our school day today so I would have a record of how things went, and to show others who are asking me questions...just what do you do to homeschool a kindergartener? Keep in mind I've pretty much created our own plan, loosely using materials recommended by the Mother of Divine Grace and the St. Thomas Aquinas Academy programs.

We start with a simple morning offering prayer I made up, and then we say the Pledge of Allegiance and the Texas Pledge along with one or two patriotic songs. These are the flags we painted last year but still need to laminate or frame/decoupage and hang on the wall.

We try to start lessons around 9am. Today we started a little before 9, after waking up around 8! I heard the school bus drive by as I was dragging myself out of bed :) On Monday mornings we start with journal time to write about the weekend. Mary Clare narrates/dictates what she wants me to write and then she illustrates. Oh, and we had school in PJs today, fairly normal occurrence around here.

Close-up of her journal story about Daddy's Birthday and then a "poem" about rabbits she made up on the other side.

I offer to let Ellie dictate a story but she likes to write her own! She keeps herself busy while I work with MC. Oh, and she learned how to write a "P" and a "B" while writing this "story"!

Next, we practiced Mary Clare's current poem, "The Rainbow" by Christina Rossetti. I found it online and thought she would enjoy the topic and it would challenge her a bit since it's 10 lines. She did some of the poem-practicing while coloring a page of a random coloring book for a "break".

Her poems and narrated Bible stories are in plastic pages in a binder. It would probably be easiest to have one binder with tabs for poetry and the different narrations (Bible, journaling, nature), but we have a separate bound notebook as a journal. I like the paper with room for pictures at the top, and MC does too! She loves to illustrate but also loves to do it quickly! Ellie is working on a poem too, "Happy Thought" by Robert Louis Stevenson. I'll try to put videos of the poems up later this week.

We move on to math. I pretty much let MC choose the order of the subjects while I choose the subjects , and we end up covering everything in about an hour. Mary Clare is really enjoying Math U See. I am also really impressed with the approach and think it is a great fit for our family! I am fairly good at math but never learned all the good "tricks" to help me with memorization or to keep me from counting on my fingers. I love that it uses just one type of manipulative and tells you exactly how to use the blocks. The DVD is very helpful for me; I'm not having MC watch it with me just yet. Here she is showing a 3-digit number for her "test" today.

Then she (and Ellie) wanted to play with the blocks for a few minutes.

We're still trudging along through "100 Easy Lessons" for phonics. Neither of us is crazy about it, but I haven't found anything else that is grabbing me right now. We've done this on and off for over a year and we're on lesson 27. We're doing it every day now, though, so hopefully we'll make some headway soon. This is the part of school she likes the least...reading.

Ellie plays with the Leap Pad while we do phonics.

Today we ended with our bible lesson. On Mondays I usually read a new story in our Children's Bible. The bible I chose isn't necessarily a "Catholic" one, but one I bought at the Catholic bookstore because I really liked the illustrations.

Today we read "Jacob's Dream" and tomorrow she'll narrate it back to me and I'll write it out. We'll probably have to read it again before she narrates because she won't remember it all. She'll illustrate it tomorrow or the next day and may have me add on to her narration if she wants.

After a good 45 minutes of school time with a sleeping baby, I go to check on him...so sweet! I love babies first thing in the morning!

And so, that was our Monday morning. We had ballet this afternoon and everything went fairly smoothly for a Monday. I hope the rest of the week continues on this track and that that Hurricane Ike stays FAR FAR away from here. We're going on a big camping trip this weekend with our homeschool group, so we're praying for good weather and healthy families.

Hope everyone had a happy Monday and a wonderful Feast of the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary! (We celebrated Friday so we didn't do anything special today) Happy Birthday, Blessed Mother!

Funday Sunday

Steven has become the "fishing guide" for all our friends :) We spent a few hours at the park on Sunday afternoon, fishing and having fun!

The girls fishing

Daddy caught a big bass--1.2 pounds!

I think this was Steven Joseph's first time to sit outside and play. He was a little apprehensive but had fun putting things in his mouth! I'm sure he'll have a blast camping this weekend. Mommy isn't looking forward to chasing him around and fishing things out of his mouth though!

And here's a video of our big boy who just learned to walk with his little walker toy last night!

Sunday, September 07, 2008

¡Feliz CumpleaƱos!

Our Saturday!

A special gift painted by the girls

He picked up breakfast for us! The best donuts on the planet!

We went to a high school football game tonight at the brand new stadium nearby...so much fun! And our friend K and her boys were there! Steven Joseph wore his camo outfit from Grampatti in honor of the birthday boy!

Ellie was wide-eyed at this whole event! And here she's clutching her blanket. Before we went to the game she said "Mommy I not doing football? I do it when I get bigger?" and "Daddy is going to do it."

MC is just growing up before my eyes! One of her top teeth is loose. I think she'll be toothless for Christmas!

Going to a high school football game brought back so many memories. Hanging out in the stands with friends, and my years on the drill team...

The band was great! In fact, the director used to direct our middle school band. The middle school band I changed my mind on, after I was already accepted for percussion. I decided to do "FAPA" (Fine Arts Practical Arts) for my elective, where we had a different elective each 6 weeks...woodworking, homemaking, choir, theatre arts, etc. I still regret that decision. I wish I could play an instrument and read music and I think I would've loved band. Okay, no regrets, right?

And I keep forgetting about my new tab rule! I've done too many other things while writing this. And how is it 1am already? My my. Well, we had a wonderful day celebrating Steven's birthday. Hope everyone is having a fun weekend! And here's to another great year, Steven!

Saturday, September 06, 2008

Dear Sweet Ellie-Lu,

Tonight I listen to you breathe as you have fallen asleep on the floor beside me, and I am so thankful for those sounds, that life that stirs within you! Hopefully you will not remember the horrible day we had on Wednesday. I had just written the blog entry below about multi-tasking when I truly discovered that I cannot keep so many "tabs" open at once.

I won't go into all the details, but the point being that you went with your sister to get some toys out of the car in the driveway, and she came back in. You didn't. I didn't notice. About 5 or 10 minutes later Mary Clare asked where you were, as I was talking on the phone and trying to nurse Steven Joseph to sleep in bed. My heart dropped as I rushed out to the car. You were okay, very upset and hot and scared...but Mommy is still shaken up.

My heart truly goes out to all the families who have lost children in this way. The guilt is haunting. The memory vivid. And this was a happy ending. God bless those dear parents who have suffered the loss of a child. What a heavy cross they must carry.

And so, Ellie, I treasure your sweet life even more today. I hug you tightly and tell you how much I love you, over and over again. I watch your dancing, your songs, your sisterly play, and I sing and pray with you with new vigor. I love those silver glitter shoes more than ever, and your Ellie-isms are especially sweet!

Today was the first First Friday class of the year. And this year, I am YOUR teacher. I have done so much with Mary Clare and am giving so much attention to Steven Joseph, that sometimes you become that "middle child" who gets left out. I am so happy to be spending the time planning and leading your special Preschool Pray and Play class! Today we celebrated the Birthday of Mary. You wanted to answer all the questions and sat by your sweet boy friend, J. You got your own backpack and folder and made a beautiful package for the Blessed Mother. We had a party at the park and you kept busy playing with your friends. I think you're going to be the leader of the little 3yr-old group. You are a few months older than most of them and they all adore you!

(If you can spot my girls, they are as close as possible to the rosary made of cupcakes!)

And I adore you, my gorgeous Lizzy-Lu. Your sweetness lights up a room, and brightens my heart. I pray that God gives us many more fun years together and I thank Him with my entire being that you are here today...breathing, living, singing, and dancing!


And so readers, please hold your kids tightly and watch them oh so carefully! I am so much more aware of how accidents can happen in an instant. Guardian Angels, protect us!

Ellie (ie "Hannah Ana") performing Twinkle, Twinkle a few days ago!

The Principal's Visit

on Labor Day!

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

One tab only

I am a multi-tasker. And it's not always a good thing. It's hard to do one thing well when you are balancing 5 other things at the same time. But it's how I work. I frequently am cooking a meal, cleaning up a mess, talking on the phone, feeding a baby in a high chair, fixing a child's hair, and pouring another child juice at the same time. There is always a project going on in my head.

I was doing something last night that really showed how inattentive my brain is at times. Usually when the kids go to bed, I feel like I need about 2 hours of "down time", which is usually time vegging on the computer reading blogs, message boards, and taking care of emails. Last night I started by going through emails and starting to respond to some things that needed my attention. But once an email message needs my full attention, I switch to "veg-out" mode and make another tab on my browser to start reading some blog or other "light" reading, while that email message waits for me to complete it. Then I start to respond to someone's blog post. I get stuck in the middle...how do I want to word that? So I open a new tab and start reading something else. Pretty soon I have 5 or more open tabs and have not completed any of the messages I was trying to write! Then I have a baby up for almost 3 hours crying and I really get behind! My new rule...only ONE open tab! I think that could go for other areas of my life too!

I currently have several big projects/activities going on and things are falling by the wayside! First of all, I am wife and mommy. I have housework and cleaning that are rather urgent...dishes to clean, about 12 loads of laundry to fold, clean bed linens that need to be put back on beds, and a playroom that needs supervised cleaning by the girls. Don't dare to ask when my bathrooms last got a good cleaning!

Then I have Mary Clare's schoolwork. A necessary daily event. I am still working out our schedule and received a few more materials in the mail today. So I'm pondering how I will fit in Saint stories, Latin chant, and narrative writing...I'm really already doing all those things so it's more how I will add some of the suggested ideas from those materials into what I'm already doing. I'm trying to be consistent and steadfast with Mary Clare, who is still testing limits and sometimes outright refusing to do what is asked of her. We're improving though! We got through all our work with no breaks this afternoon! And hopefully she'll have her new poem to perform for the blog later this week.

Then I have my other homeschool group duties. I am leading the First Friday class this week. I have a lesson to finalize, supplies to get together, all kinds of charts and things to print out, and I need to check up on several people who are helping me put all this together. I need to have everything ready tomorrow night so that we can get there early on Friday morning. I am also planning a new member social next week along with a family camping trip. I offered to host a back to school swim party, but that may not end up happening. As you can tell, my plate is full!

I am involved in a lay movement which thankfully helps me to put this all in perspective. Tomorrow we are having our first meeting at our "center" instead of at my home. This will require a very early wake-up and drive, plus the purchase of a snack to bring with us to share. I am helping to plan the morning monthly retreats for this year. I just completed most of what needs to be done for September's retreat. I have prayer commitments which are sadly the thing that has been suffering, which would make all the other things on my list to go much smoother if I had my first focus on Christ and my reflections and discernment about the day's activities to happen first thing in the morning.

And I have some side work projects going on. We do packaging and other work for my parents' business, Candy Spirit. There are 2 candy stick orders in my living room waiting for packaging. I have some wooden crosses that I am planning to handpaint and sell on their website. I am talking with some families about arranging to be a childcare provider for one or two children during the week. And I also have a homeschool project which I am hoping to submit for publishing in the next few months. So I need to put together a basic proposal for that in the near future.

So if I haven't exhausted you already, I also have two walls I've started painting in my bathroom. This needs to be completed so I can put the bathroom back together! Would it surprise you to her me say that I'm not really stressed out? Sure, I'm busy and my mind is VERY busy. But I think I actually thrive when I have a lot of things to do. They may not be done perfectly, but they are completed eventually. My life is a little crazier than normal right now, but I'm sure once the initial beginning-of-the-year hype dies down, things will smooth out and I will no longer sound like a soap opera character to my poor friend Veronica! She never knows what new crisis will be shared the next time I call her!

In the time it's taken me to write this post, I have entertained a baby, comforted him after a head-bonk, nursed him, taken 2 phone calls, and wiped 2 hineys! I think it's time I get to the laundry mountain and check that off the list. Hopefully writing this out will help me to organize my thoughts a little and help me to discern the way I handle all these obligations. I hope it wasn't just another way for me to waste some time and avoid my ever-growing list of to-do's! I'm sure many of you out there have a life like mine...how do you make it all come together? How many "open tabs" can you handle at one time?

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

A quick pic

from our homeschool group's ice cream social last week. This is but a fraction of our exceeding-60-families Catholic group which we are so blessed to be a part of. Ellie was refusing to get in the picture but ran over at the last minute, MC is in the middle wide-mouthed, and Stevie is in the arms of the little girl in the middle row on the far right. Fun times!

Thanks, Neen, for the picture I just stole :)

Monday, September 01, 2008

Labor Day

The principal is visiting our school today :)
But the pics won't upload. Hopefully I can get it to work shortly. Hope everyone is having a fun holiday weekend!

Funny sayings of today:

After reading about Jacob and Esau.
Mommy: "And Esau planned to kill his brother."
Ellie: That was a bad choice.

Mary Clare, refusing to finish her reading, puts a crown on.
MC: "I am queen of reading and I don't have to do any reading any more!"
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