Call Me Catholic

Happy Easter!

Dear Readers,

Happy Easter!  He is risen, Alleluia!

Here’s a snapshot of us all yesterday, celebrating at my inlaws’.  As we didn’t want to leave anyone out of the photo, we had to get creative.

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My husband is on the left, with our children behind him.  His parents are in the back row, left, and his grandparents the back row, right.

It’s been a whirlwind of a week, as the baby has been very sick.  A few weeks ago she had an ear infection, but never recovered.  She only got worse – vomiting and diarrhea.  This went on for four weeks, during which she all but quit eating and began losing a dangerous amount of weight.  It was very stressful, to say the least.  At her lowest, she weighted 15 pounds, 4 ounces.  Keep in mind that she’s 14 months old.  (I ran into a friend the other day with her 3-month-old baby, who weighs 18 pounds.  That should give you some context.)

Needless to say, Holy Week was very dark for us.  However, she has snapped out of it and has begun to eat again.  Alleluia, alleluia.

And another update…

We will be traveling to Mayo Hospital in Rochester, MN, to have my son with the migraines thoroughly examined.  These appointments begin on Wednesday with an EEG and continue throughout this week and next week.

We’re hoping to find some answers, as his migraines seem to be getting worse with lots of vomiting and now his body locks up during the intense ones, and he’s not able to move.  He’s also blacked out a few times.

His case is a little complicated too, due to his having an arachnoid cyst on his brain, with a shunt draining into his stomach cavity.  Doctors also recently discovered a minor Chiari I malformation, but it isn’t certain that any of these things are causing the pain.  He could just be an extreme case of childhood migraines.  We’ll see.

As many of you are concerned, I will try to offer updates as we go along.

In any case, remember us in your prayers!

Call Me Catholic

Notre Dame de Paris is Burning

Dear Readers,

I am shocked, horrified, and devastated by the recent news of Notre Dame in Paris burning.  Really, my stomach is sick.

I was there in 2002, studying art history.  At that time, I had fallen away from the Church, but was so attracted by her beauty.  I couldn’t get enough.  Notre Dame was simply breathtakingly beautiful.  Just what would inspire a people to build such a thing?

Earlier today I dug an old photo out of me standing in front of Notre Dame’s westwork.  I was taking notes, as my art history professor explained Gothic architecture to us.

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I am on the left.

What a tragedy.

My first thoughts were exactly those of Steve Skojec from One Peter Five.  If you’re interested click HERE for it.

May our Lady intercede for France!  Holy Mary, pray for us!

Life is Worth Living

Spring is here! A Poem to Celebrate!

Awhile back, like in October, I published the following poem, which I found in an obscure South Dakota centennial book.  I was thinking about it this morning, as I was checking out the bad, horrible weather in South Dakota, where my extended family lives.  (Glad I’m not there!)  It’s just snowing and snowing and snowing.  So I thought they might need a little poem to cheer themselves up.

It is spring, after all.

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This was the view out my parent’s front window this morning.  Ok not really.  I found it on Wikimedia Commons.  But I’ve been informed it’s just as bad.

Without further ado, here it is, dedicated to you poor people suffering from an April blizzard.  My remarks are bracketed.

Winter [read spring] in South Dakota

It’s winter [spring] in South Dakota
And the gentle breezes blow
Seventy miles an hour,
At thirty-five below.

Oh, how I love South Dakota,
When the snow’s up to your butt. [Goodness, the language of some people!]
You take a breath of winter [spring] in
And your nose gets frozen shut.

Yes, the weather here is wonderful.
So I guess I’ll hang around.
I could never leave South Dakota
I’m frozen to the ground!

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Now I know that some of you live in warmer climates.  You know who you are.  You’re probably reading this on your iPhone, sitting on your deck, listening to birds sing, while the rest of us are freezing our tushies off and drinking anything hot to stay alive.  I’ll have you know, we currently have an outdoor windchill temperature of 19 degrees, but at least it’s not snowing here, yet.

Furthermore, the little children requested Christmas music this morning.  Christmas music.  They thought that maybe it was December again?

Oh, dear!

Homeschooling

The Homeschool Room

In our old home, we didn’t have a homeschool room.  Rather, I was very creative about where I placed our homeschool materials–on shelves in the living room, in kitchen cabinets, or in bedroom closets…anywhere.

And the children worked just about anywhere too.  In fact, we even had a card table set up in the basement storage room where The Eldest preferred to do her math, as it was a quiet spot.  One does get creative with limited amounts of space.

Thankfully, however, our current home has 5 bedrooms: one for my husband and me, one for the baby, one for the 3 girls, one for the 3 boys, and one for homeschooling.  Deo Gratias.

The Homeschool Room

Now, we’re trying to educate our children classically.  Just what does that mean?  If you’ve got twenty minutes, I strongly encourage you to listen to Andrew Kern’s podcast, The Top 5 Ideals That Any Classical School Should Employ.  It’s awesome.  And I mean, awesome, as in awe-inspiring.

But…

How does that relate to my homeschool room?

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In order to educate all these children, I need a space that is neat, simple, and beautiful, if possible.

Neat?  Most days.  Although it does happen that the boys will take out their circuits and leave them all over the room, and the Two-Year-Old will decide to shred an entire notebook to pieces.

Simple?  Sigh.  I operate a school.  Therefore, I must have some supplies, but these need not be in overabundance.  For example, do I really need those nifty magnetic shapes that everybody else has?  Nope.  (Although I secretly think they’re the coolest thing ever.)  Or how about a bucket full of markers?  Definitely not.

The third one?  Beauty?  I’m always harping on beauty, because it matters!  After all, Ratzinger once said, it’s martyrs and the arts that will evangelize the world, not all your committees and words.  Shoot, I came back into the Church through studying Church architecture, painting, and sculpture.*  One can only stare at Brunelleschi, Fra Angelico, and Wislawa Kwiatkowska for so long until one begins to ask questions.

In any case, today I’ll show you what works for us.

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In our homeschool room, you’ll see a table and chairs, where The Eldest prefers to do her school work because she can shut the door.  The other children like to carry their work out to the kitchen to be near me.

On the walls in here you’ll see a picture of B16 (our affectionate name for Pope Benedict XVI), two maps, a history timeline, the alphabet, and numbers.  These are all practical things, but I’ve also tried to place them proportionally on the walls.  (Proportion is so important that St. Thomas Aquinas names it as one of the three elements of beauty.)

The other side of the room features our computer work space and bookshelves.

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These are mostly our school history, science, and religion books.  Our other literature books are in a different room.

Lastly, we have the closet, which is a blessing.  No longer must I run from room-to-room in order to gather my daily supplies.  They’re all just here.

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And here’s a look at the inside of both sides:

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This side features the children’s completed work trays, cubbies, my answer keys on one of the upper shelves, and a few games on top.
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This side has the children’s puzzles with DVDs on the top shelf and a few art supplies on the lower shelf.

In a previous post I went into detail about educational supplies or “toys” HERE.

And that, my friends, completes the tour of our Homeschool Room.  But I’ll leave you with three things that I’m continually working on:

  1. It’s better to have less.
  2. How I organize my space matters, because beauty matters.
  3. And, less is really better.  (Except for books.)
*This is why ugly churches and bad art are a sin.  They convert no one.
Life is Worth Living

My Favorite Dress: A Tale of Pride & Woe

The other day I put on my favorite dress.  I haven’t been able to wear it for awhile, due to the fact that I was pregnant and then had a baby.  And you must remember, most dresses are not conducive to nursing babies.

So I finally shook the dust off of it and slipped it over my head.  It fit!  Miracle.  Wow, I felt almost glamorous.  My husband gave me a double-take.  This was going to be a good day.

As the day wore on, however, I found myself thinking of…myself.  Yes, considering my dress, how neat it looked, how neat I looked.  Every time I passed a mirror, I checked myself out.  Still looking good.

Later on my husband and I loaded up all 7 children and drove to church for Stations of the Cross.  My husband and two of the boys were serving, so I was in the pew with the remaining 5 children. Do I need to say, that I didn’t expect to enter deeply into this devotion?

After about the second or third station, I had to take the baby out into the narthex, where I put her on the floor, knelt down, and attempted to pray from the St. Alphonsus Liguori booklet.  Then I was bombarded with thoughts of…my lovely dress.

This was obsessive.  This was not good.  All day my thoughts were of my dress and how I looked.  What was going on?

Then a thought whispered to my soul, “Do you love this dress more than Me?”

Whoa.  My heart pounded.  What?

“Do you love this dress more than Me?”

I was holding that booklet and staring at a picture of Mary, holding Jesus.  He was completely emaciated, and I realized how stupid and foolish I had been.  How blind!  Do I love this dress more than you, Jesus?  No, of course not.  Forgive me, Jesus.  Forgive me.  What shall I do?

But I knew what I had to do, even before I finished the thought.  This dress must go.  It will be a sacrifice in atonement for my pride and vanity.

And so that evening, I took my favorite dress off for the last time.  It will be given away.

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Not much of a dress, I know, but nevertheless, goodbye, dress.
Call Me Catholic

Passion Sunday and Veiling Images

There’s some crazy stuff in the Old Calendar that is just interesting to learn about.  My husband is forever telling me this.  (By Old Calendar I mean those things connected to the Traditional Latin Mass.)

For example, this coming Sunday is called Passion Sunday.  It always falls on the Sunday immediately before Palm Sunday and serves to move our thoughts toward the Passion and death of Christ.  (In the New Calendar, this Sunday is called the Fifth Sunday of Lent.)

Passion Sunday is also Judica Sunday

Now I know that the prayers of the Mass are supposed to reflect the liturgical season the Church is observing, but there’s some real beauty and depth to be found in the prayers of the Traditional Latin Mass (TLM) that I’ve never noticed before.  I’ll give you one example.

On Passion Sunday, Psalm 42 is highlighted in the Introit and pleadingly states,

“Judge me, O God, and distinguish my cause from the nation that is not holy: deliver me from the unjust and deceitful man: for Thou art God my strength.”

If you’ll remember in the TLM, Psalm 42 is also prayed every Sunday during the Prayers at the Foot of the Altar, but on Passion Sunday it’s omitted and will be until Easter Sunday.  This is something like the Gloria.  Both are omitted because they are associated with the Paschal joy of the Risen Christ.

In other words, we have this stripping away of Pascal references in order to sharpen our awareness of Christ’s Passion, which is why we refer to these final two weeks of Lent as Passiontide.

Sometimes this Sunday is also called “Judica Sunday.”  Judica being Latin for the opening word of Psalm 42, “Judge.”

It’s amazing how it all comes together.  I’ve got a lot to learn.

Veiling of Images

In any case, my children always look forward to Passion Sunday, for my family likes to observe a unique tradition that all churches used to do, and many still do.  We veil our images with purple cloth.

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Here’s our fireplace mantel.  Even though we still have two days to go, I went ahead with the purple anyway.

This tradition began sometime in the ninth century to reflect the readings of the TLM.  For example, the Gospel for Passion Sunday is always John 8 wherein the Jews take up stones to cast at Jesus, but he mysteriously passes through the crowd unseen and then hides.  Therefore, the veiling of images reminds us that Christ’s Divinity was hidden at the time of His Passion and death.

Think about that for a minute.  Again, it’s astounding how all these things come together.  Of course His Divinity was hidden!  Otherwise everyone would have believed, not just that centurion at the foot of the cross.

Secondly, veiling also strips us of visual stimuli.  Throughout the year we may become accustomed to looking at and praying with our crucifixes and icons, and so taking them away for a time helps us paradoxically to become more aware of them.

So if you’ve never done it before, try veiling a couple of images in your home.  It’s pretty easy to do.  I just bought a yard of purple cloth at Hobby Lobby and cut it into squares.  I’ve also heard of families using purple tissue paper in a pinch.

Motherhood & Parenting

Bare Midriffs, Bikinis, and Leggings – Oh My!

Since I brought up the topic of clothing and closets in the last post, I thought I’d examine it a bit further.

When I was younger, I got away with wearing just about anything.  Tight jeans?  No problem.  Bare midriffs?  Big deal.  Tube tops?  How cute!  Bikinis?  Of course.

My parents were too busy to notice, and I took advantage of the situation.  But let me be clear, I knew what I was doing.  I wanted attention from men, and I got it.

I’m older now, and I’ve thought about these things.  Truly, it was really damaging for me to dress that way, for I believed the lie that I wasn’t good enough, but that I had to, in a sense, sell my body for attention and love.

About 15 years ago, when I came back into the Catholic Church, I began to look seriously at how I dressed.  These things matter after all, and I found that I was sending the wrong message.  No, it wasn’t ok for me to dress in such a way as to make men’s heads turn.

The body is to be hidden, veiled if you will, because it is holy and beautiful.  And no, this does not mean that one must wear only denim jumpers and turtlenecks, far from it.  Rather, we are called to wear clothing that is simple, but dignified and beautiful, if possible.

In our culture, this is hard.  It takes an extra effort to search out those stores that even make suitable clothing.  But this is a battle worth fighting for, and I’m thankful that my husband takes the lead on this one.  He sees that our culture is losing this battle, and he wants our children to begin wearing appropriate clothing now, as little children, so as to grow in the habit.  These things matter.

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Daughter #2 hard at work this morning.

For example, when leggings became all the rage a few years ago, our family made a conscious decision to never wear them alone.  This goes for me and even the two-year-old.  If we want to wear leggings, we must wear a skirt or dress over them–just a shirt doesn’t cut it.  My husband and I want to be sure that our girls know that they are beautiful and have great dignity, and that there are other things to wear besides just leggings.

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The Two-Year-Old this morning.  She refused to smile for me.  She picks out her own outfits.

Most people “get it” that husbands and dads don’t care to stare at women out in public wearing skin-tight clothing, but from a woman’s point of view, I find it hard too.  I don’t like to see other women wearing revealing clothing because sometimes it makes me feel poorly about myself.  I think, “Wow, she looks great.  I certainly don’t have that kind of body.  Maybe I should workout more…”  And then, if I don’t stop it, those thoughts continue to speed downhill.  This will always be a struggle for me.

I mention all of this today because I want to encourage those of you who do attempt to dress in a modestly beautiful way, and I want to challenge those of you who may need to take a closer look at your wardrobes.

Just how should one dress as a daughter of the King?

I know I have some work to do, as I am in constant need of conversion.  How about you?

 

Christ-Like Minimalism

Christ-Like Minimalism: The Bedroom Closet

Some of you could care less about what’s in my closet.  Really, I sympathize.  You may just want to skip this post.

For the rest of you, here we go.

My Closet:  An Introduction

Now I’ve been pregnant or nursing for about 13 straight years.  Just think about that a minute.  Then consider that I likely have another 10 more years of fertility.

Take a minute, do the math, process it.  Think some more.

So clearly my body has been up and down a lot and will be up and down some more.  There’s my normal, pre-pregnancy weight.  Then, there’s my pregnancy weight.  I always gain about 50 pounds.  Then, there’s the post-pregnancy period, wherein it takes about a year for my body to return to its initial weight.  And then about that time, I’m pregnant again.

Why do I mention all this?

Because as any of you mothers out there know, this requires a variety of clothing sizes, unless you have the privilege (or burden?) of being able to buy new clothes every “Body” Season.

And then consider the fact that I live in a region that promises a temperature swing from a frigid -40 degrees Fahrenheit to a blasting 110 degrees.

It’d be a lot easier to live somewhere tropical year round.  I imagine you could live in a sundress and call it good.

How does all this relate to my closet?

In short, I’ve got three wardrobes:  Normal, Pregnant, and Post-Pregnant.  Of course there’s some overlap with clothing.  For example, my two nursing tank tops have simply become my pjs for all Body Seasons.  (Romantic, no?)  And fortunately (or unfortunately?) I can wear my one pair of sweat pants also during all three phases.

But for my sanity, I do have clothing for each specific Body Season, and I’ll mortify myself a little by writing about it.  Maybe it’ll give you a few ideas.  I’m hoping it’ll spur me on to get rid of more.

So what is in my closet?

No skeletons, I hope.

Here’s a shot of my clothes as one walks in the closet:

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Let me break it down for you.  As it happens, right now I’m experiencing a Normal Body Season, so my blue tub of maternity clothes is sitting on the floor.

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Tub of Maternity Clothes.  Currently not in use.

The pink box on the upper shelf is my wedding dress, and the brown box is my sole box of childhood memorabilia.

My Post-Pregnancy clothes are discreetly hanging in the corner, behind a few tank tops, which you may be able to see, if you look closely.

My dress-up clothes are hanging on the right, with my 3 dancing dresses in plastic.  (My husband and I enjoy dancing; it’s a hobby.)  So, the clothes on the left are what I wear every day.

Here are the remainder of the shelves, which contain bottoms for all four seasons – jeans, skirts, skorts, and capris.  (I don’t have any shorts.  I hate them.)

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The top shelf features a pink dancing skirt next to a Nikon camera; the bottom shelf has two bags on it.

Here are the exact numbers of my regular clothes:

  1. Long-sleeved shirts: 12
  2. Short-sleeved shirts: 6
  3. Tank tops: 7
  4. Sweaters/zip-ups: 8
  5. Jeans: 1
  6. Pants: 1
  7. Skirts: 6
  8. Skorts: 3
  9. Dresses (including for dance): 8
  10. Capris: 2
  11. Leggings: 2

I realize that for many of you, I’ve got a ridiculous amount of clothing.  But I’m working on it.  I was greatly inspired by Darci Isabella’s video on what she’s got in her closet.  Wow.  Like 5 tops and 2 skirts.  Just wow.  She does qualify it, however, with that she’s done having children.

My current rule is that if something comes in, something goes out.  I keep the same number of hangers.  And I also “rotate” my clothing, so that way I can see what is being worn, and what is not.  For example, do you see that blue long-sleeved shirt on the end?  I haven’t worn it in a long time, because it’s on the end.  Everything that’s been worn, gets put on the other side.  That shirt may have to go.

Confusing?  Make sense?

It’s my crazy way of knowing what I need to get rid of.

And how about my husband?

Here’s his entire wardrobe.

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Work clothes hanging on top.  Everyday clothes on the bottom.

He does have some running clothes too, and so do I.  They’re just in the dresser, in the room, with underwear and socks.

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Dresser for underwear, socks, 2 pairs of leggings, nylons, running clothes, veils for Mass, and an empty drawer.

And shoes?

I gave up on shoes a long time ago.  Less is way better, and in my case, a lot more comfortable.  Here is a picture of every single pair of shoes I own.

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From left to right: winter boots, running shoes, every day shoes, dancing ballet slippers, sandals, flip flops, and every day boots.

Any questions?  Be sure to ask.

 

Life is Worth Living

7 Things I’m Grateful For

In the traditional calendar, today is the feast day of St. Gabriel the Archangel.  He immediately precedes the Annunciation, which is tomorrow.  This makes perfect sense, as he appears to Mary, asking her to be the mother of Jesus.  Happy feast day!

In honor of St. Gabriel, I’ll offer 7 things I’m grateful for.

  1. The Canada geese have been flying overhead all week.  (Yes, it’s Canada geese, not Canadian geese.  I’ve been corrected!)
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    Here they are above our home.

    And here is a close-up of what they look like for those of you not familiar.  These things are big.

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    This is not my photo, it’s Chuck Szmurlo’s from Wikimedia Commons.

    We greatly enjoy their raucous honking and the fact that they all land in the cow pasture across the road.  It’s great fun.  The children and I like to walk down the gravel road to see how close we can get to them.

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    This is a look into the cow pasture yesterday morning.  If you look closely, you can see geese flying above the dead tree and some more out on the ice, waiting for it to thaw, I suppose.
  2. As you can also see from the photo, our snow is finally melting.  This is not only glorious, but great fun for the children, as they  stomp around in the mud and make “rivers” for the water to flow down into the ditch.
  3. We’ve seen other birds too–little chickadees and killdeer.  No robins, though.
  4. The ducks will all be returning soon, and we’ll be doing our annual Duck Day tour wherein we listen to Peter and the Wolf and identify ducks by name.  I’ll be sure to keep you posted.
  5. I am currently reading Fr. Calloway’s 10 Wonders of the Rosary, which came out earlier this year Maybe I’ll post more on it later.
  6. I gave up wearing my winter coat, for the most part.  Anything above 30 degrees is spring-like enough for me!
  7. My favorite local restaurant, Anima Cucina, has some great meatless entrees.  My husband took me there a Friday or so ago.
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    My husband’s dish.  These are sardines with cherry, basil, and mint.

    And even though I am not a vegan, I ordered their vegan sandwich.

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    This thing features meatless chicken (whatever that is), brie, radicchio, and an olive tapenade.  Delicious.

    What are you grateful for?

     

Call Me Catholic

Yeah, You’re a Strict Catholic

I brought the baby into the doctor’s office yesterday.  She had an ear infection, and I had an interesting conversation.

As the doctor was entering his information into the computer, he said, “Wow, you have 7 kids!  You must be a strict Catholic.”

This seemed out of the blue.  Apparently my baby’s computer file must keep track of those things.  Then he said with a smile and a smirk, “I guess you had to have all those kids, huh?”

Now I’m used to snarky comments about the size of my family, but this ticked me off.  Why should I have to put up with his condescending, vitriolic pompousness?  I didn’t comment on the size of his family, implying that he’s a dope.  So I reached across the baby sitting on my lap, and slapped his smug face.

Ok, no, I didn’t do that.  But I did say, “Yes, we wanted all these children.”

He calmly said, “Oh yeah, I suppose you planned them all too?”

What the hell?*

“Natural Family Planning does work, when you actually monitor and chart your mucus.”  (Yeah, I said that.)

At this point, the look on his face completely changed.  He blushed, cleared his throat, and said, “Uh…I guess the other doctor here at this clinic wants to bring in a nurse trained in Natural Family Planning because she’s so busy with all her NFP patients that she can’t keep up.”

It’s true.  I knew that doctor was swamped with women wanting her assistance.  So I replied, “Yes, it’s fascinating–the woman’s body.  We studied the Creighton Model.  You might consider learning too?”

“Hmmm…”

“This isn’t your grandma’s version of the ridiculous Rhythm Method.  This stuff actually works.”

Then he said something awkward about my husband’s “swimmers” always seeming to find their way (weird), and I just sighed as he quickly slunk out of the room.

Why do I mention this incident?

Of course I couldn’t slap the guy.  That never wins people over, but of course I also couldn’t remain silent.  A wise priest once told me that if someone else is going to “go there,” then by all means, go there with him.

In other words, if someone is going to comment on my family size, then maybe I should go there too.  Just because you think 7 children is nuts and overwhelming, doesn’t mean that I do.  Or, just because you’d rather watch TV in your bedroom, doesn’t mean that we’d rather do that.  You wouldn’t believe what some people say.  “Get a TV!  Don’t you know what the pill is for?”  Or, “Don’t you know how that happens?”  Come on, people.  Be a little open-minded.

Or open-hearted?  As a matter of fact, we didn’t specifically plan each of our 7 children; God did.  My husband and I knew what we were doing, though.  Many of you may not be familiar with Natural Family Planning (NFP), but it’s not that complicated.  I simply chart when I’m fertile by monitoring my cervical mucus.  Yes, it sounds gross, but it works.

So while we may not have specifically “planned” to have, for example, this last baby, we did choose to have intercourse on a fertile day.  We knew the consequences.  But our hearts were open.  Open to God’s plan–His providence–with all it’s heartaches and joys.

And my heart has become bigger and softer with the birth of each child.  And I am so thankful.  So thankful.

 

 

*I just thought that.  I apologize for the foul language.  It’s a sin, and you should pray for me.
Call Me Catholic

Jomo and Silent Retreats

Jomo What??

The other day I came across a curious acronym – JOMO.

Now I know that some of you are much more up-to-date on these things than I am, so you likely have an idea of what it stands for.  For the rest of you (and me) it means: Joy of Missing Out.  It’s a play on the famous “Fomo,” Fear of Missing Out.

This caught my attention because my husband and I joke about Fomo every time we get a new email suggesting another activity for our children, or I listen to another podcast about someone else’s family doing great things out in the world.

Now don’t misunderstand me, I am glad that extra activities exist, and I am glad that other families do great things, but I also know that I’ve got to be comfortable with where we’re at and not fear missing out.

This is where Jomo comes in.  For it’s true, there is great joy in missing out.  We say no to many things and prefer to be together as a family.  Instead of running our children to multiple sporting events or musical performances, we limit these things and stay home.  Our children ice skate in the backyard and build snow forts.  We have friends over for coffee.  We pray the rosary together every evening.  We play Up and Down the River with gummy bears.  We laugh with our children.

No, our home isn’t always peaceful.  Quite the contrary.  Most evenings someone’s crying or whining.  My point is that family life seems to have been lost or tossed aside in this modern world, and it’s worth fighting for.  It’s worth it, to be home with the children in a meaningful way.

So the next time you’re tempted to say yes to another commitment, maybe pause a moment to reflect.  Will this bring joy to your lives?  Or will it result in more running?

Silent Retreats

One beautiful thing you might consider doing this Lent is signing up for a silent retreat.

As we’re now in the middle of Lent, and most of us are trying to step it up a notch, I want to strongly encourage all of you to sign up for a silent retreat this year.

You all know how important it is to step back in silence from time-to-time to be with God.  I’m sure I don’t need to convince you.  The hardest part, however, is actually going.  Of course Satan hates silent retreats.  He’ll do anything to prevent you from spending time with God.  In fact, retreat masters will often tell you to expect all kinds of obstacles to appear, especially at the last minute.

Let me give you an example.  Two years ago I was signed up to attend a private silent retreat with a small group of mothers, but just hours before the retreat was to begin, our Retreat Master was forced to cancel.  So we were left wondering if we should still go, without a Retreat Master?  Well, we decided yes.  After all, what harm could come from spending time alone with God for a weekend, even if it wasn’t directed?  And I am so glad we did!  For God always provides, and He sent an excellent priest at the last minute to replace the previous one.  We had a Shepherd and the Sacraments.

In any case, you all need to go on retreat, or into the desert, if you like.  And since I can’t ever get enough of Cardinal Sarah, I’ll leave you with a quotation from his book The Power of Silence.”

It is vitally important to withdraw to the desert in order to combat the dictatorship of a world filled with idols that gorge themselves on technology and material goods, a world dominated and manipulated by the media, a world that flees God by taking refuge in noise.

Did you read that?  It is vitally important!

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This is a life-changing book.

Cardinal Sarah

Cardinal Sarah has two of the greatest books ever written out now – God or Nothing and The Power of Silence.  Buy a copy for yourself and your priest.  You won’t regret it.
I understand he’s got a third book in print too, but it hasn’t been translated into English yet.  When it is, I’ll be sure to get it.
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Now here’s a Man of God, let me tell you.  This book is awesome.

 

Homeschooling

Homeschoolin’ It Like a Spartan

Now I grew up in the public school system, and I only knew one family that homeschooled.  And let me tell you, they were weird.  Yes, they were the epitome of homeschooling weirdness.  You know the type, they dressed funny and kept to themselves on a farm.

So naturally I assumed that all homeschooling families were weird, until I went to graduate school.  It was there, in my very first class on philosophy, that I sat next to a man who was witty and smart and didn’t dress like a ninny.  I was shocked to learn that he was homeschooled, all through high school no less.

A few years later I found myself married and settled in a strange, new city.  I didn’t know anyone, and I was lonely.  But a kind, homeschool mom of 7 invited me over to her home.  In fact, she’d let me come over to her home any time to just hang out, and I was so thankful.  Later, she invited my husband and I to join their weekly rosary group, which we did.

It was at this time that we started rethinking homeschoolers.   For here was a group of six families, all homeschoolers, that found time to pray together every week.  They took the faith seriously.  They were all active in their parishes.  Their children were kind to my children.  They themselves were fun to be around and have discussions with.  It was a true oasis–a monastery in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation.

It wasn’t long, and we were hooked, and as you know, we homeschool.

And Now For a Rant

Yeah, we homeschool.  We homeschool like Greek Spartans.  Except that instead of training our boys to become hardened warriors for the State, we train them to become masculine warriors for Christ.  Instead of instructing our girls to become tenacious women, we instruct them to become virtuous heroines for our King.

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There’s an old Spartan saying that goes like this, “Come back with your shield or on it.”  This meant that you better be victorious in that battle or don’t bother coming back.  I appreciate this maxim.  Certainly it’s brutal, but I’m tired of mediocrity, and I’m tired of settling for less.

Let me give you an example.  13 years ago, when my husband and I first moved out to western North Dakota, we walked into the local Cathedral and were astounded.  I naively didn’t realize that cathedrals could be built so ugly.  I had just spent 6 years studying art history and traveling all around Italy and Greece and had never seen anything so…boxy, so bare, so disordered, so…ugly.  I looked at the stained glass windows.  I couldn’t figure out what they meant.  I looked for the tabernacle.  It was nowhere to be seen.

Seriously.

The worst part is, I felt bad.  Everyone around me, including the priests, were trying to tell me that it was beautiful.  I even had one priest give me a booklet on the stained glass windows, which attempted to explained them.  He insisted that I read it.

And I tried.  Honestly, I tried.  But let’s get real and call a spade a spade.  That building is ugly, and the whole point of stained glass windows is to tell a story to the illiterate, and those windows fail.

Which leads me to homeschooling.  I’m tired of apologizing for homeschooling.  Look, all around me I see Mass attendance declining and Catholic schools closing.  But guess what isn’t declining or closing?  Catholic homeschools.  We’re on the rise.  In fact, our Catholic coop is so big that we have waiting lists to get in.  And most of our families are young families.  And they’re having babies.

You want to know the advantages of homeschooling?

  1. We don’t give a damn about sports.  Yes, they’re good, and yes, we like playing them, but get real.  I’m tired of all the emphasis on sports.
  2. We’re serious about our academics.  I have a 6-year-old that can tell you all 46 books of the Old Testament.  My 8-year-old can recite The Charge of the Light Brigade.  My 10-year-olds can decline nouns in Latin.  My 12-year-old can write a 2 page essay on whatever.  Yes, there are schools out there that get it too, but so do we.
  3. Christ comes first, and we mean it.  We’re not just paying lip service here.  It’s all about Him.  We begin our day with Him, we attempt to walk all day with Him, and we end our day with Him.  Prayer permeates everything we do.
  4. Our children have to help out.  Of course homeschooling isn’t perfect.  In fact, I’m still trying to figure out a way to take Sick Days.  And I’d really like to get myself a Lunch Lady and a Janitor.  I guess the children will just have to help out and grow in virtue.
  5. We get thrown under the bus all the time, and it forces us to be sharp.  Shoot, even our bishop throws us under the bus!  (Click HERE for that one.)  How many times have I heard, “If you would just send us your kids to our school, it would be so much better.”  Yes, it would be, and thank you for the compliment, but there’s a reason why our children would improve the atmosphere.  It’s because they’ve been taught at home.

Now I wish I didn’t have to say this, but I know some of you will misunderstand me, so I’ll say it anyway.  I am glad that diocesan, Catholic schools exist.  They are a good thing.  I’m just tired of pretending that homeschooling isn’t a good thing too.

To all you homeschoolers out there, take heart!  Keep homeschoolin’ it like a Spartan.  Or better yet, as Dr. Taylor Marshall says, “Be the Maccabee.”  And if you don’t know what that means, go read both books of Maccabees.  Or, if you’re pressed for time, just read my favorite, 2 Maccabees 7.