Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Thoughtful Day

I must say that Danielle does her job well - she gets us thinking, she gets us talking and, most of all, she gets us praying. Danielle's post and all the comments that came along with it today have had ME thinking. Thinking about "perfect moms" and what our vocation really calls us to. I left a comment earlier this morning and meant what I said. But as the day went on, I read more comments and I thought more thoughts. I know Brian can tell when I have a particularly thoughtful day. I tend to gush at dinner AND while we clean up after dinner AND while we get the kids to bed AND so on and so forth.

I really enjoyed reading all the comments and I think it is a good thing to be able to take comfort in knowing that even the moms who seem "perfect" are not and that we can all share our faults and weaknesses. Elizabeth Foss said on her blog that Danielle Bean has flaws, but that they are "all good." Why? Elizabeth says, "Because we are always assured that God is at work in the Bean home. If it were perfect there, they wouldn't need Him. But they do need Him and Danielle doesn't leave you with the ugly imperfect; she points you to the beautiful source of grace." How beautifully said and how true.

We are all in need of our Savior's help on a daily, small item basis. I am not perfect! I say that emphatically. Not because I am proud of the fact, but because I recognize it and it allows me to seek the Lord's help with my imperfection and weakness. "Lord, I am not worthy to receive you, but only say the word and I shall be healed."

I recently finished a lovely book, You Can Become A Saint by Mary Ann Budnik. It was a wonderful book about taking real steps towards holiness. Mrs. Budnik's work is based largely on the spirituality and teaching of St. Josemaria Escriva. One thing she wants the reader to understand is that sainthood is not a goal for just some "saintly" type of person, but for all of us. She makes the point that we are all called to be saints and that we can all do it! The canonized saints we know so well weren't members of some elite group, but were imperfect human beings like you and me. But they worked towards sainthood, towards holiness. They worked hard. WE must work hard. But we are all called to sainthood.

I believe I may never be canonized a saint. It is highly unlikely. I believe I will never achieve perfection here on earth. That's OK. But I cannot allow myself to focus on these facts. I cannot NOT work toward holiness and perfection. It must still be my goal, even if I believe I will never achieve it. I think that is the journey God wants us on - a journey with him, through our faults, through forgiveness and healing and to a more Christlike way. I am working toward Heaven and I am trying to help my husband and children get there.

I need lovely, holy, heaven bound mothers to look up to. I do not believe it is a bad thing. We look up to the saints. We try to emulate them and we are inspired by their great strides towards holiness. This is why we have them. They have so much to teach us. I believe there are other mothers out there who are meant to inspire me - so many of them! That is a good thing. If the good, the beautiful, the wonderful, the admirable, the saintly things another mother does or accomplishes, serve to inspire towards a closer walk with Jesus, then that is a good thing. I do need to turn to Mary for her input, but I believe Mary may also say, "Look over here Celeste. Look how this lovely mother is living. This is what you need to do."

I am guilty of laziness and ignoring things that need to be done. But laziness is a vice, not a virtue. I do not want to cultivate laziness. I want to constantly be looking for a better way. I want to work at making changes so that virtue will flourish and vice can be rooted out. I don't even do a perfect or halfway perfect job of trying for this. Isn't it easier to ignore the problem spot and not change it? But deep down I think we all want to do better. It's just the doing it that is hard. But I must. It is part of the journey toward Heaven.

* I do not like to dust. In fact, I despise it. Therefore I do not do it. So recently I sat down to try and think of a new way to organize my chores so it does get done. It's better for everyone in our home if it does get done. So far so good, but still not perfect.

* I am not good at changing sheets, but nevertheless it should be done. So I am working harder at finding a way to get it done.

* When Andrew was a baby, showers were getting hard in the morning. So I worked out a way to get my shower at night and then fix myself up in a shorter amount of time in the morning.

* I am not good at stopping my "work" to play. So I have to make an extra daily effort to play a game or be silly or watch a TV show WITH the kids or sit down and paint WITH the kids or turn off the computer and simply be available all day. It is hard for me, but my kids need it.

* I am sometimes annoyed by children's flaws, traits or habits. But I don't want to be annoyed by them. I want to love them and enjoy them. So I have to make a conscious effort to not let things bother me or to train them in a more loving way.

* I have a temper. I must work on it daily. Enough said!

* I do not feel like I pray well. It is always so easy for me to say, "Well, I'm not very good at it, so I just won't do it." But my responsibility is to work at getting better. To read a book that can be helpful. Or seek spiritual direction.

* I have never been good at saying a daily Rosary. Easy to put to the wayside. Too hard. Can't fit it in. But I should do it. So I am trying a new way.

* I have always overeaten and was gaining to much weight. Vice. Had to root that one out. Lost the weight, but I still have to work hard at it. Not because I need to be thin, but because overindulgence and gluttony are vices, not virtues.

One of St. Josemaria's focuses in the spiritual life is mortification. Doing the small things we don't like to do, the hard things, with cheerfulness and as an offering to God. And doing them well. Saying no to dessert. Cleaning the sticky spots on the floor. Spending time with the children. Making a difficult phonecall. Dusting. It is hard to do. But it brings us closer to Christ.

I know I have gone on long enough. But this all had me thinking so much. I am comforted to be surrounded by women on a journey. Imperfect women just like me. My imperfections are not the same as theirs. We can all learn from each other and we can all journey together. We have a responsibility to lift each other up, to be encouragers, and all the while still being real and authentic, no masks to hide the faults. Christ has called us to holiness, to sainthood. As the saints would agree it is the little things of everyday life that will either get us there or not. I want to grow. I want to change. To God be all the glory!

I will pray for you. You pray for me!

I know I'm supposed to offer this up


currently I am trying to find away around a totally tedious job. Each week, I dread the day of doing the children's laundry! I can usually get it done in a couple of loads. I don't mind the hanging up/putting away. But I am thoroughly annoyed by standing at the washing machine with my bottle of Spray 'n Wash for 20 minutes at a time. Checking each piece for stains. There are many!!!! Are my kids just super messy? I add Oxy Clean to their load. But I want a magic solution!!!! Don't we all? Anybody have any ideas about how to make this tiring little job a little easier?

Until then I will try my hand at prayer and offering it to God.

Monday, January 29, 2007

A day in the life

There are other much more experienced homeschool moms out there who have been blogging the daily details of their homeschooling life. I enjoy their posts for the insight they provide as to how the homeschooling family functions. It is inspiring and encouraging. Namely, I have enjoyed Faithful Over Little Things, Bonny Glen Up Close, and sometimes Cay Gibson will post her days at her site.

Even though I am only doing Kindergarten and my experience is limited at best I thought I would occasionally (VERY occasionally) post about our day in a similar way.

So here is today - the beginning of week 20 of homeschooling in this home.

* I got up at 6:30 (notice how my time has slipped later) and had prayer and coffee for 30 minutes or so.
* everyone got ready upstairs - change clothes, make beds, brush teeth
* had breakfast at 8am. Read our daily Bible and a page from our saint book and practiced our new memory verse for the week.
* started a load of towels while the kids finished eating
* cleaned up from breakfast
* While I tidied up, Jacob did 3 pages in Explode the Code (phonics) and Nicole practiced her ABCs in a write-on/wipe-off book.
*Nicole alternates between playing, "reading," and ABCs while Andrew plays
* On his own Jacob completes a handwriting page, copies 2 verses of the Litany we have been working on, and practices his poetry memorization.
* With me, Jacob reviews letter sounds, especially those phonograms that make the long a sound. We also complete a math page with some explanations, a map skills page, and some addition drills. Then we do a really neat little Mass worksheet (we have been doing these weekly together and it has been fun to see how well WE listen and remember).
* Jacob reads and colors while I work with Nicole on a computer learning game
* 30 minutes read aloud time: Bible story for Jacob to narrate, history story book, The Mitten, and Curious George Goes to the Hospital.
* Nicole continues "reading" while Jacob and I do science discussion about measuring temperature. Recorded inside and outside temperatures. Then we made a pretend thermometer with tag board and ribbon.
* I vacuumed downstairs and mopped the kitchen.
* then we made and ate lunch.
* played outside for 45 minutes and I snuck in a phone call to a friend
* went inside to watch a Signing Time DVD and I finished my grocery list
* switched a load of laundry to dryer
* put Andrew down for nap
* played one round of BINGO with Jacob and Nicole
* quick clean-up in den
* Jacob, Nicole and Mom down for reading and rest time (I actually slept a little - yeah!)
* Brian came home to take Jacob to horseback riding (Nicole and Andrew went along) and I went to the store for my weekly grocery trip.
* pulled back in driveway at the exact same moment as the others
* everyone helped unload groceries and get things ready for left over spaghetti dinner.
* I rested on the sofa while Brian cleaned the kitchen and the kids played. Wrote a few thank you notes
* blogged a few minutes
* supervised cleanup
* got everyone ready for bed and read a chapter of My Father's Dragon
* before I turn in: prepare supplies for science lesson (done), blog (almost done), type an email (done), and fold towels (I hope).

Good night!!!!!

Mysterious Stranger

Tooth Fairy Saturday!

6th tooth, top right! How funny!

Tooth Fairy Friday!

5th tooth, top left

Thrusday Art Practice

First, let me say I can't believe it has been so long since I blogged. I am slow and tired - forgive me!

Last Thursday afternoon, we took on another art adventure. The week before we had experimented with our oil pastels and copied the cat picture. This week, inspired by Suzanne's watercolor masterpieces, we decided to try out our own watercolors. I have had watercolor pencils for a long time (used them in stamping occaisionally) so I bought us some watercolor paper and inexpensive brushes at Hobby Lobby. We had loads of fun and can't wait to do it again!

I think my favorite part was sitting down painting with them. So often in my role as mother and teacher, I am instructing and leading the children on how to make a particular art project. Glue here. Cut there. But these art Thursdays have been a time when I sit with them at the table and just create WITH them. It is such a joy! I have absolutely loved it.

Here are our results!

Nicole's abstract

Jacob's horse and foal

Mommy's flowers

Monday, January 22, 2007

A perfectly lovely afternoon

Thanks to my two dear friends, Robin and Michele, my Saturday afternoon was spent attending the most delightful scrapbooking shower - for Baby and me! I have been looking forward to this shower since they told me about it a couple of months ago. It was well worth waiting for! Every little detail was so lovingly thought out and the whole event left me feeling loved and special.

The event was supposed to take place at Robin's house, but due to her sick kido(s), it was relocated to my house. They came early and prepared while I hid out upstairs for a while. When I "arrived" I couldn't believe how lovely they had made it all! The idea for the shower is that your friends and family come and help you assemble premade pages for your baby's scrapbook. Michele and Robin spent a lot of time and hard work preparing all the papers and instructions. The pages are adorable!

Michele made a tempting spread of goodies to munch (thanks for the Mexican food!). Michele is a wonderful cook and you could tell. There were quesadillas and a seven layer dip, fruit and sausage balls (another of my favorites). Then there were those chocolate truffle cookies she posted about in November! I know now why they are her husband's favorites! Everyone out there - you have to make them!!!!! I ate way too much, but don't regret it one bit!!!!

Then there were all the lovely little details. You can see in the picture the plant trelis with the basket in front. In the basket are litle packages of embellishments for the scrapbook. Each guest was invited to write a message on the back of a package and then attach it to the trelis. How precious! There was also a package of Bleeding Heart plant bulbs for me to plant with the trelis. I can't wait for them to grow - what a lovely memory that will be!

Robin made a cake to die for. She has such great talent for baking and decorating. The cake was delicious with a strawberry filling (I love fillings!) She decorated it to match the stripes on the invitations and napkins, etc. It was a masterpiece, as all her cake creations are.

We all had a wonderful time talking and laughing and creating pages. I am so thankful for the dear friends and family I have that love me and my babies (and my husband) so very much. They show their love in many countless ways. This perfect afternoon was just one more way!

Thursday, January 18, 2007

The many faces of Nicole

Just too cute for words.

Perfectly Pink Princess

Mommy in Training

Unknown Masked Stranger

This Week's Artwork

We had just finished our artwork for the week and I took some photos so I could post them here. I sat down to read a few blogs before posting on my own. It happened that Suzanne Temple was posting some of their paintings they had been working on this week. They are NOT to be missed. So here is our work using oil pastels and copying an illustration from the wonderful book, The Cat Who Walked Across France.

The Artist's drawing in the storybook.

Nicole's rendition

Jacob's rendition

Mommy's rendition

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Must See

OK, we finished this movie a couple of nights and really enjoyed it!!! It was a really great movie. Great acting. Wonderful story. We really thought it was great! Give it a try.

Monday, January 15, 2007

Deep in the Heart of Texas

Many people complain about Texas weather, especially Houston, Texas weather. It is usually warm here when it should be cold and HOT when it should be warm. And we do get a little giddy as cold weather approaches. Today we have hovered at 40 degrees all day and the temperatures will be going down to freezing tonight with a good chance tonight and tomorrow for "wintry mix," better known as freezing rain and sleet. I am looking forward to it. The kids are excited. Yes, we are mighty silly. Bring on the cold!!!!

And to all you fellow bloggers out there that have REAL cold weather, just don't laugh at us too hard! :))

Saturday, January 13, 2007

Dinner Conversation

Over a cozy dinner of sloppy joes and tater tots, the following was exchanged.

NICOLE: Daddy, guess what Jane down the street got for Christmas? She just got one.

BRIAN: Ummmm, I don't know. A dinosaur.

NICOLE: No, Daddy. A tater tot.

By the way, Jane down the street (real name withheld) actually got one very nice teeter totter.

Date Night In


2 Angus strip steaks, grilled to perfection
2 Baked potatoes, fully loaded
2 slices of chocolate pie from the frozen grocery section

A makeshift table on the ottoman in the den

A great movie we had just begun the other night, Cinderella Man

Brian and me (and this time, the voice of a very awake little girl heard over the monitor)


What a wonderful way to spend the evening. When we can't or don't want to go out, we so enjoy these evenings. And Brian, the wonderful husband he is, encouraged his tired, achy wife to go on to bed while he cleaned up.

P.S. The funniest thing was the label on the box of pie. It said, I kid you not, that we were to allow it to defrost on the counter for 5-7 minutes and then "Consume immeditately."

No problem. Check. Done.

Thursday, January 11, 2007

Tired and Slow

That would be ME! With about a month and a half to go, I have hit that stage of pregnancy I remember oh, so well. The funny thing is that each time I find myself thinking that maybe I will skip this part this time around. It is that tired, achy, slow-moving, waddling, limping stage. Thankfully it comes so late in pregnancy. It is that reminder to me that things are moving quickly and baby's arrival will be here before we know it. Hard to believe!

Despite my physical constraints and my tendency to lumber along, we have been mighty busy this week. Here I was so excited to return to normal after all the Christmas hustle and bustle. And I'm beginning to wonder which is actually the busier. I can't complain. We have had a basically wonderful week. This week found us back on the school wagon again, putting into effect all those changes I discussed. With our first week completed, I can say I am quite pleased with how the changes all worked out.

* The science was a lot more fun and both Jacob and Nicole really enjoyed it. We began the book on weather and had fun with it. It was much more stimulating for all of us.

* They did well with the memory verse and Jacob did a lovely job writing it out for copywork. He plans to take it to Mass with him on Sunday.

* Jacob enjoyed the new history book and they both loved the country study that we added on Wednesdays. Yesterday we learned about Italy and made a yummy new pasta dish for dinner (they both helped). We read a non-fiction book and also several Italian legends by Tomie dePaola. They were both fascinated with the information about the volcanic disaster at Pompeii.

* They loved our Tuesday Tea Time. We had made homemade blueberry muffins (with real blueberries) so we had those with our tea. I think I was the only one who drank all her tea. :) That's OK - there's more to it than just tea. We talked about our painting that we had displayed, a Renoir. They had some good things to say about it.

* And our Bible narration went much better using the other Bible.

Monday afternoon we got back to Jacob's horseback riding lessons. Tuesday we had friends over for lunch and play and Nicole had her ballet that afternoon. Wednesday Andrew had his flu shot booster and then we all went to park day with our Catholic homeschool group - the perfect day for it. Today we ran an errand and had our weekly library visit after lunch. And last, but not least, tomorrow we head back to our weekly homeschool co-op. Jacob and Nicole are very excited and we are all hopeful Andrew will have a happy time (prayers needed :) ).

Added on to all this was my fresh start for accomplishing housework. I have done well here and it is so refreshing. I am really happy with the way the chores are planned out and seems like it will work well. Laundry and chores have gotten done! Yippee! We even got our homemade bread made today (bread machine, of course).

We are ahead on tasks this evening. I am getting a blog entry in before my mind turns to complete mush. Brian and the kids are going through a box of all his Boy Scout mementos - Jacob is really wanting to join Cub Scouts next year. I think I will go join them for this walk down memory lane from before even I was around.

Monday, January 08, 2007

Baptism of Jesus

Don't forget (I almost did) that today is the Baptism of Jesus. I managed to squeeze in a few activities. We read about the Jesus being baptized by John the Baptist from our Bible book. Then we colored a picture off catholicmom.com. Later we read about Sacraments in general and, specifically, the Sacrament of Baptism. Then we headed upstairs to drag out the box of Baptismal mementos. Jacob and Nicole loved pulling out the cape that their Grandmommy made and the gown that their Gamma made (it has all their names embroidered on it). We looked at their candles and little Baptismal garments (or bibs as Nicole called them) from the Church and talked about the symbolism of each thing. We recalled godparents' names and why we have them. The children really enjoyed this. It made me commit to celebrating their Baptismal Anniversaries. I know some families do, but we never have. I have thought about doing it many times, so now I think I will really put the dates on our calendar and plan some celebrations. Jacob's is coming up first on February 4th, then Nicole on May 11th, and finally Andrew's on July 17th. What a wonderful thing to discuss, remember and be THANKFUL for.

Jacob after his Baptism. He had already been changed for his party.

Nicole after her Baptism. Somehow we managed to get a picture of her in the gown.

And Andrew just shortly after being baptized. We are still at Church.

Back to School! ... with a few changes

Back in August, I created a post detailing what we were going to be doing for Jacob's Kindergarten year. It has gone really well and we accomplished most everything we set out to do. But over Christmas, I sat down to reevaluate and consider whether everything we were doing was working and if there were any changes to be made. Ah, the beauty of homeschooling! We are not stuck with the plan just because it's the plan. We can change the schedule, the books, the approach if need be. I love that! Not that I want to change things willy nilly or always be changing - I don't. I like order. But I think as I learn to homeschool, this ability to change things is a blessing.

* I kept the Poetry portion of the syllabus from Laura Berquist, but was not so pleased with how some of the other portions were progressing. I dropped the two days of "Art" as the syllabus had it. I brought back an old favorite which the kids have been asking for. We will now have Tuesday Tea Time again with picture study during that time. The other day will be for an art project, preferably painting, drawing, pastels or clay. I kept the Bible reading and narration that she suggests (do like that), but switched to the New Catholic Picture Bible. Despite Jacob's GREAT ability for reading comprehension, I believe the Golden Children's Bible was just too much - detail, depth, etc. The other will be more to the point and understandable/readable. After much more thought, research and consideration, I have also decided that I prefer the Mater Amabilis curriculum (Catholic Charlotte Mason) in many ways. I think next year we will switch to that, but for now I am striving to incorporate some of their Kindergarten curriculum.

*Math: Horizons Math is working beautifully. I love it! Won't be changing that any time soon.

*Phonics/Reading: We finished Alphaphonics a month or so ago and have just been working through our phonics workbooks (MCP Plaid phonics and Explode the Code). We will continue these and I would like to work in a lot more reading practice. I have been tired in the afternoons and not usually up to lots of activity, so everyone has been resting. Hopefully I can spend a little more time with him before I rest.

*Handwriting: Still going through D'Nealian Manuscript. Still love it! I would like to work in a little more copywork.
*Science: I wasn't sure what to do with science from the beginning. I didn't want to get too over our heads in curriculum, but I also felt like I couldn't count on myself to come up with occasional science lessons that were meaningful and fun. I bought the Kindergarten Sonlight Science Teacher Guide on ebay for cheap and we have been doing that for the most part. I think we all find it a little boring and uneventful though. I am switching to using some books by Evan Moor called the Scienceworks for Kids Series. We will begin with Learning About Weather and hopefully complete Learning About Plants. I know Michele has used these and recommended them. I would like to fit in nature walks too.

*Religion: As I said above, we are changing our Bible to read, but keeping the narration part. I would love to use Cay Gibson's book, Catholic Mosaic, a lot better. It is a lovely resource using picture books to celebrate feasts, etc. throughout the Church Year. As for the Who Am I? series, we are not really using this much at all. We may still pull it out occasionally, but I think I will postpone the Cathechism formally till next year when we will begin the Faith and Life series. We will also start memorizing, and for Jacob copying, a Scripture verse from the Liturgy for the Sunday to come. I think I can really see them growing in their knowledge of the faith with all we have been doing anyway.

*History and Geography: I am tacking on this subject. We have a map workbook, Map Skills, I picked up along the way and Jacob loves it. We will continue this and introduce a book for some additional regular history reading - short snippets. Stories of Great Americans for Little Americans by Eggleston. We will read it 3 times a week this second semester and also focus on a country study one day a week. I am looking forward to this part.

We will also tack on some new read alouds for bedtime instead of just storybooks. We will begin with Rebecca Caudill's Happy Little Family.

I am really excited about these changes and updates and hope Jacob, and Nicole, too, will enjoy them. Wish us luck on our first day back. And here also begins my resolution to turn off the computer after breakfast until much later.

Sunday, January 07, 2007


The children have been looking forward to celebrating this feast. I had contemplated keeping up ALL the Christmas decorations through today, but I was ready to de-Christmas before we began afresh with our schooling on the 8th. So we boxed away everything except our Nativity (I love it so, I think I could leave it up year round). For now we only have one of the three Wise Men, Gaspar, and he has been travelling through the house this week getting ever closer to the stable. Jacob and Nicole were very excited this morning to finally move him near to the Baby Jesus. What a lovely tradition and how much it teaches with so little effort. Hopefully, Gaspar will have a few travelling companions next year (hint, hint, Gamma), but until then I think the kids still got the point.

Midmorning we spent some time reading a couple of wonderful books and making some jeweled crowns. We read an absolutely beautiful story called They Followed A Bright Star.

We happened upon this one at the library on Thursday and we loved it. If you can find it, I highly recommend it. Loved it! We also read, from the library since it is not for sale anymore, The Story of the Three Wise Kings by Tomie dePaola. He is still one of our favorite author/illustrators and for good reason. I will have to look for this one at the GIANT Houston Public Library book sale this spring. I have gotten many hardcover copies of his books there. Love them

I pray your day is blessed. May we all contemplate what gifts we can offer to Jesus daily.

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Ready, Set, Go

Well it is 6:45am, I am up (been up for an hour), I have had my quiet prayer time and I am ready to go. After many days of not doing this early morning routine, it was especially hard to "hop" out of bed this morning. But I knew this is what I need and have been missing. Today is more the first REAL day of the New Year for me - Brian heads back to work (sniff, sniff) and we return to our routine (minus the school part and kids activities that don't resume till next week). I have some thoughts in my head on resolutions and I really like Michelle's monthly resolutions - all this needs more thought, like so many other things.

Happy New Year to you all and have a wonderful day!