Tuesday, September 20, 2011

I Guess We'll Call It Homeschooling

Do not ask what level they are at…only, if they CARE. Great Charlotte Mason wisdom relayed from me via Angela via her daughter Rebekah during lovely afternoon togetherness on Friday.
I am only in my third week of homeschooling my kindergartener and preschooler. Should I even call it homeschooling? I keep them home with me and I am pretty sure there is active learning going on.  I have a five year old, four year old and two year old underfoot. I am not going to write about my wisdom as if I have something useful to share but more what I am learning. I agree with Leila from Like Mother, Like Daughter that I really can’t speak on such things as to how to educate your children until they are grown.
I have these plans I did on a nice spreadsheet about what WE, our school, would cover each week. I have poured over the homeschooling books and spent many late nights surfing the blogosphere chalk full of homeschooling blogs. I ordered very nice curriculum and WONDERFUL read alouds. Even as I lit our little prayer candle to begin school on the first day I felt a little like the Ingalls, all nestled at home together in our home in beautiful Alaska.
The first two weeks  in August were fairly structured, school starting by 10, not really stifling. We would be finished according to my check list of things by noon.  However, company came for 10 days (9 extra people in the house) and good weather beckoned enjoyment. My husband then travelled to Japan for work so I had a good two week interruption. Actually it was just life happening, is there ever a pause to learning if its things like being ok with your two and a half year old godbrother tearing down your block tower? I fretted as I checked my nice spreadsheet. We would be behind as we are trying to do the Alphabet Path, which I discovered through Shower of Roses, and C week was running into D week.
So….the weekend rolls around, we will use it to catch up in school.  Hiccup gets into this drawing and writing her own books mode. I mean she talks about it in the tub, all soapy “Mommy I got to get out and finish my book!”
But…I am thinking…in my own schooling handicap…I have such cool worksheets to do!  The good Holy Spirit nudges to follow her lead.
Then they (all my littles) just start playing together, something about using their bunk beds as an Eagle’s nest.
And the books keep flowing out of her head, picture after picture….
Then more playing.
I keep telling myself…do not interrupt imaginative play (why am I gritting my teeth though?). We pour over the library books and snuggle up to read alouds, “The Children of Noisy Village” right now.  Last night Hiccup snuck into our den because she complained of her sister’s snoring, and I let it happen. I let her crawl under the Ohio State snuggy to watch Jane Eyre with me “Cover your eyes ” during the Bertha scenes. Now she is staying up late? Well I guess she’ll just sleep in…err…because we homeschool?
We made cool leaf and wax paper prints.  I least I thought they were cool and they needed to go in our Fall Lapbooks we were making.  Lioness kept picking color after color for the melted wax.. Let her… I mean, I felt one color sufficed…but in school she would have been limited and I thought in my homeschoolingness... let her keep picking out the colors because there are SO many. Hiccup thought the project boring compared to the fairy godmother picture she HAD to draw and then Lioness just kept picking out the colors.
Yet, it all comes back to the question of…do they CARE?  So I am trying very much to check my own ambitions. I am trying to keep ORDER and WONDER http://ourmothersdaughters.blogspot.com/2009/03/order-and-wonder-or-most-frequently.html so as to safeguard LEISURE which is conducive to spontaneous play and stories on the page or even naps.
It is all extremely fascinating because I am the one who is doing the changing and adjusting into what our family looks like and my children are the guides.  I’ve never done this before. 

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

The Rushing Mommy Monster

She emerges in the last minutes before ballet...CCD...mass. She rears her ugly head right as you have settled down into blocks, ponies, barbies. She surprises you, without warning, wait..maybe she did give a warning...but you are only three or five. She starts with sweet requests, "Please get your socks on.." She may even chime in with her quirky Character trait of the month that she picked up from the Duggar family website and tacked on her bulletin board, "Are we being 'attentive,' please find your shoes..." However, the blood starts to boil as the clock keeps moving.  The realization that she cannot stop time has hit her yet again, a constant blow. Maybe its more the realization that she is a poor manager of time. The Rushing Mommy Monster feels the edge of her teeth as her fangs start to grow in, the patient requests are now orders, there is a hint of near... yelling, and almost...screaming. She keeps saying "late" and "are you listening?" and "errrrr."  Why aren't the van keys in the shell bowl by the front door? Quick pack a snack. No, you may not wear crocks. Come here so I can put this hair tie in your hair!!  The Rushing Mommy Monster reaches her breaking point as the carseat, buckling up dance commences.
Then calm comes in the eyes of a child, the three year old usually because the five year old is begging for the Tangled soundtrack to be played and the 19 month old is shoving old goldfish crackers that she found in her car seat in her mouth. She says, "Mommy, are you mad?"
It is not of shame but awareness of my own weak human state that I sigh and say,
"No, I am just a little impatient. I am not mad."
She has the biggest chocolate brown eyes, "Oh, I thought you were mad."
The Rushing Mommy Monster CAN be mad, furious really...and it all seems so sudden. One time she screamed at the littles in the garage, GET IN THE HOUUUUSSSSEEEEE!!!! but it was a mean and low yell. They had little deer in the headlight eyes and about had accidents.
My name is Stephanie and I am a Rushing Mommy Monster. I am taking steps to control this person inside. I breathe. I laugh (mostly at myself for getting into the last minute jams I find myself in). I just do it and if I can fake my way through the hurry with joy, I am convinced that joy really soon will replace the toxic anxiety that seems to overcome the Rushing Mommy Monster. Joy and really giving myself plenty of time.

Monday, March 21, 2011


In His goodness, I was given a very special gift of grace a week ago as all my daughters were sick with a very nasty stomach bug that lasted about four days. I also fell ill for one day and my husband left work early, which is very rare, to take care of us.  I emerged from that retreat of sickness, with a gem of wisdom on this whole “productivity” obsession that seems to be the Big Brother of our days.  I feel this was a very beautiful reflection to have at the beginning of Lent as we tend to think “will it be a productive one?” Perhaps we should be cautious of the urge to approach Lent as a task, “these are the things I must or must not do during these allotted 40 days.” No, lets shift, dare I say from the productive to the just being.
The sun had set on the second day of my middle child Lioness being very sick. She has some kind of stomach bug and was feverish today.  She whines, cries, and the remedy is plenty of cuddle time with mommy in daddy’s brown comfy chair.  We wait all day for him to come home so that he can sit and rock with her for the remainder of the day. She is miserable and is not her usual care free, high energy self. Although I love being able to rock with my daughter, to comfort her, there is a nagging.
My thoughts turned on how unproductive the past two days had been.  The laundry piled high. Need socks?  There are two clean loads in their baskets upstairs, it’s a new matching game! The kitchen is pretty bad. The bathroom floor is getting cleaned as well as the toilet only because it is being used at an ever increasing rate.
My intentions were good.  Maybe while Lioness dozed Hiccup and I could do a “reading” lesson, which I have not been very strict about. No, Hiccup prefers to read library books. Ok…I will do the “delight lead learning” and of course would not PUSH her to read. Joy throws her snow boots around but at least the public radio classical music plays quietly in the background.  She nurses on demand, although with Lioness sick, this has been rather difficult. Soooooooooooo unproductive, how on earth are you supposed to homeschool when a child is sick? At one point, as I was rocking Lioness on the bathroom floor in front of the toilet,  wanted to play with us.  I could not move, so I yelled for Hiccup. “Hiccup, could you please take care of Joy?” She doesn’t whine. She doesn’t ask why. She says, “Ok Momma” and lifts Joy away (the awkward bear hug  I’m only five  and trying to drag half my weight to my room lift).  I continued to sit on the bathroom floor, imagining how nice the bathroom would look if I changed the toilet paper holder to a more modern chrome.
Then it dawned on me. My five year old understands what I needed her to do. She did so lovingly and with care for her sister, her toddler one and her sick one. Yes “school” might have had to stop for these days, but the curriculum of life continued. We learn as a family that yes, we ALL can go a little slower if one of us is sick.  We take care of each other with patience.  That night my husband and I watched as Hiccup cuddled in the reading chair with Joy in her lap “reading” a picture book out loud. So we may not be “productive enough” to have Hiccup reading at such and such age, but her 18 month old sister enjoyed story time with her.
Learning the patience of a slow, sick day (and a couple of them in a row as Joy and then Hiccup both became very ill) helped me to put time in its place. The singer Jack Johnson has a line in one of his songs that says “stab a moment in the back with a round thumb tack that holds up a list of things we gotta do.” There was nowhere else to be but home, giving to the children. I was exhausted, but I was needed. As I look back, I know the days were very productive, on a spiritual level, and a perfect way to start a season in which we strive to forget ourselves.

Monday, February 7, 2011

And...Cue the Holy Spirit

I have an overactive imagination and at times I find myself contemplating my life the way a writer would think up a plot. The way a director might say, “Let’s see if it works saying that line this way and then you walk to stage left.” This great “ACT” has so many characters, scene changes, intermissions… let’s put some good music to it as well (for happy times I would choose “Jupiter” from THE PLANETS which I heard for the first time performed by the Juneau Symphony…WONDERFUL)!
So, as I am trying so hard to have a nice phone conversation with my sister Emily and I might be, I don’t know…perhaps…unloading a dishwasher (this is a stretch…I rarely multitask). Everything is good, I am enjoying myself, I like having a clean kitchen, I like catching up with my sister. Then, (music....dun dun dah…doomsday sounding), irritable cranky just woke up from a deep nap Lioness walks in, rubbing eyes.  She is doing a potty dance and whining and incoherent..ugh she’s at her WORST!  I try to keep talking with Emily, she was telling a great story about her beau.  I only have the upper rack of the dishwasher left, the utensil basket and lower rack are done. Errr..but in comes Lioness and at the same time…cue the Holy Spirit.
verb (used with object, also can be used as a noun)
to provide with a cue or indication; give a cue to; prompt: Will you cue me on my lines?

Holy Spirit, “Will You cue me on my lines?”
The Holy Spirit says, “In this particular scene you politely and quickly say good bye to your sister. She will learn what mothering is. Close the dishwasher, focus on the eternal. Listen to your child and be attentive.”
Attentive – We have been working on that character trait for over a month in this home.
My friend Angela told me around the campfire once as we were eating our oatmeal that I was so proud to have cooked in the cast iron pot, “You have to follow the Holy Spirit. If we have something planned in our family as an outing and even one person is very upset or tired and things aren’t really working out well..we have to pause and really focus on where the Spirit is guiding us. This guide might be in that child who needs us at that moment and all plans go away and then the plan is clear…the child.  The same goes for if everything just seems to be falling into place, miraculously, that is also the Holy Spirit saying…yes! This is a great idea!”
Perhaps as I learn to listen for the divine cues I receive for some of the little scenes, I can be ready for the bigger cues. You know when the PLOT thickens, when there is a TWIST to the story. Like…hmmm…a fourth?  Ah….wait…wait for the cues.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Merry Candlemas!

Now, Master, you may let your servant go in peace, according to your word, for my eyes have seen your salvation, which you prepared in the sight of all the peoples: a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and glory for your people Israel.
Southeast Alaska is not getting the winter storm pounding that the rest of the country is experiencing. Actually, last Wednesday was so beautiful the girls and I went for a walk to Rotary Park.  During this walk, I reminded them of the four “baths” that hygienists recommend we have daily (oh, yes I did),
1.       A rinse and good brushing of the mouth (twice a day)
2.       A wash of the body (wash cloth wipe downs count)
3.       A bath of fresh air for the lungs
4.        A bath of sunlight
My children and I can successfully accomplish the first three most of the time, with three children five and under…let’s be realistic, we are a little grimy at times…but it is very rugged I think (ha).  The bath of fresh air for the lungs ALWAYS feels so good, we take deep breaths, even though the girls sometimes blow out when I insist it is about inhaling. Deep and penetrating breathes!  The bath of sunlight in Juneau is very rare but there is hope for more of it…as Candlemas draws near.
The coming of this special feast truly hit home for me as the strand of icicle lights on our house were already lit automatically when we finished our walk that day. The lights have been on a timer to turn on at 3:00 pm during December when it was dark.  However, as the days grow longer, they are flicking on when it is still light out, not even twilight yet!   I have made a tradition for our family to keep our Christmas lights up until the Feast of the Presentation of Our Lord.  My two beautiful balsam wreaths with the lovely red ribbons are still very sturdy on our doors. Tomorrow, though, all must come down.  I wonder if our neighbors will sigh a sigh of relief as they realize that, no, we won’t keep our lights up all year…very tacky perhaps.   We will truly embrace Ordinary time and say farewell to any remnant of Christmas. I thank the Church for helping me keep time in this way, otherwise the beginning of February would be rather sober.  I even have a beautiful plate to put out this year on the dinner table that I found for a dollar at St Vincent’s thrift store.  I pray, let this plate be something my girls will find on a shelf in my kitchen in years to come and think fondly of Candlemas in our home. Dinner by candlelight, making sure all the Christmas d├ęcor is gone…even the arts and crafts on the kitchen door leading to the garage. Bringing our candles to mass so that the priest may bless them…my children are not grown and gone, but I am convinced traditions matter.
My thoughts for tomorrow, for this year’s Candlemas are lifted to this….
Ever so often, throughout my day with my girls, I find I am drawn to my bookshelf in our family room.  At one time I have a several books that I am reading, but it is always nice to peruse the shelves and see what strikes me, and my hand went to Rediscovering Catholicism by Matthew Kelly. I read about a chapter in, and was happy to find some inspiration.  His words resonated with me. People in society crave to see true authentic Christianity, and being truly Catholic is a lifestyle. They do not want to hear about your experiences, or your conversion stories…they want to see you live your life as an aunthentic Christian. They want you to SHOW them.  Thank you Matthew for the reminder and praise God you write so well, I was convinced in only a few pages.   January is a trying month at times, and the lights of the candles, the sunlight of these longer days, reminds us of our very serious responsibility as Christians to be a light to others. Merry Candlemas!

Friday, January 28, 2011

The Ordination

(written August 12, 2010)
I watched Steve place his forehead on his folded hands, his body flat on the cool concrete floor. The priests were in white, the Bishop was seated in his chair before the alter.  Janet’s six year old daughter leans over and whispers, “Mama, what he is doing?” And Janet whispers back, “He’s dying to himself.”
There was a porthole from Heaven to Earth during that mass, well, there is one every mass, but the presence was so strong during the Ordination.  I thought, “Maybe if I just jump toward the alter the divine presence would just lift me right there, a total assumption.” I was brought to tears of joy constantly. Oh, how good and refreshing it is to have a range of emotions being the fragile creatures we are to have “tears of joy,” I had realized how much I had been longing for that one. And excitement…yes, that is another, during certain moments of the mass it was like my heart nearly burst out of my body  from excitement. All I could do to avoid such a scene was place my fist firmly against my chest over my heart, Thump thump!”  I try to collect myself.
The incense climbed to heaven.  We lifted our voices in the litany of Saints.  My imagination goes wild with every blessed name we sing out, the saint lifts their head at the sound of their name. “Oh…you are asking for my prayers?  Yes my friends, I will offer my prayers for you.” They are not all solemn and stoned face like their pious laminated devotional cards might depict them.  They are warm and joyous, with huge grins on their faces and beaming! Oh how we were all singing! My friend Rebekah, a beautiful soprano, was leading us, a handful of weeks away from having twin boys. I felt her voice bring the hairs on my arms to attention, I know her boys were penetrated to their very cores as their angels whisper to them in the womb “Mama.”
I could have burst into flames from shear anticipation, “Oh this is going to be good!” as I watched the twelve priests in white with the Deacons and the newest Deacon Steve preparing to offer Mass, to offer what is most pleasing to the wild Almighty Father.   They file down together around the alter (we have a more modern alter set up, post to follow someday) and stand in their white, candles glowing.  The Bishop says, “And now with all the angels and saints let us sign our unending hymn of praise….”  And the “Holy! Holy! Holy Lord…” ripped through the sanctuary.  There were only about 100 human beings present at the mass, not enough to fill a quarter of the building, but believe me, the place was packed!
I rode that divine high through the next day when the realities of my own vocation were getting a bit trying.  Sippy cups, diapers, dishes, crumbs, clutter...I found myself returning to an image, this time it was me… flat on the kitchen floor, face down, my forehead placed on my folded hands…dying to self.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Angel Conspiracy Theory

A Lady in Waiting for the Queen of Saints would try to attend to the King out of love for her and Him. Over the course of last summer, I tried to visit our King in the Tabernacle often.  One day I was in a rush to get to my friend’s house when my dear friend Katherine and I decided to swing by our church to say a quick hello to our Lord. I had decided, and I voiced this aloud, that it would be most efficient if I parked in the fire lane right outside the Church (which the Church bulletin always says not to).  I would run in quickly, say a prayer and Katherine could wait in the van.  Then Katherine could run in real quick and I would be in the van…very simple.
As we pulled in, I felt the van park itself in a parking spot. I mean, I drove it, but it was like a momentary forgetfulness of the plan I had formulated a millisecond ago.  “Well…I guess we should all go see Jesus,” I turned around and my three treasures were all buckled in their car seats, bright eyed and wonderful . The unbuckling and buckling of car seats for three children under four was like the needle that St Therese bends down to pick up. All these little things for Jesus.  The situation was not very “quick” or “efficient” either, but…Jesus is not an errand.
Our lively priest Father J.P. was on his way to the Church and stopped by the van. “We’re just paying a visit to Jesus,” I say cheerfully.   He smiled and chuckled, happy with this.  I have to force myself to not think of how good this looks, of how devoted we look, and how it must be pleasing to him. Errrr…vanity. So, we talk about the weather…because it WAS an absolutely beautiful day.
 Katherine and I brought the girls into the little side sanctuary. The familiar glow of the candles, the art, the holy water, and the beautiful wood tabernacle where our King was waiting always seems to make one at ease. As Katherine and I knelt before him, the children on kneelers, or the floor, or the bench in the back….I reflected. He is with me always, what was this urge to come and see Him here and why on earth did I drag the gang along?
The angels… in all my own planning… were in a conspiracy to get us all here.  And so, I was affirmed in my belief that day that the angels long to be with Jesus in the most Holy Eucharist.  That my angel should want to be in His presence is clear to me because I, myself, would like to be in His presence.  The prodding, however, of the angels of my children has now made me more sure that our children do belong with us at mass, when we visit the tabernacle, during adoration. The children may not be totally aware of the presence, but be sure their angels will adore. Listen when they say, “Please take them with you.”