Thursday, December 21, 2017

Blessings of 2017

Blessings at Christmas to all our family and friends!
We pray you find PEACE in your trials and sorrows, JOY to inspire you in virtue, the LOVE of Jesus around you, and a FAITH in God to guide you. May you find a glimmer of these Christmas gifts in each day. We found it in our children's joy, love in our marriage, blessings of employment and daily needs, the kindness, charity and support of our community of family, friends and strangers, and the hope of heaven because of our faith in Christ Jesus. We have nurtured and held tight to our Catholic Christian faith, because it is truly what gives us the Serenity, Wisdom and Courage we need to live - especially after facing the loss of our son in October. Our faith teaches us how to best live, gives life purpose, and brings hope no matter the circumstances. We pray for all of you, that your life be filled by the Grace of God and a glimmer of Christmas in each day. Thank you ever so much for your prayers and love.

In our 11th & 12th year of St Brigid's Academy Homeschool, we aimed to have more outdoor adventures and learning. Melissa grabbed many ideas from the Charlotte Mason method which focuses on the strengths and desires of the children, reading and narration, and exploration. We took classes at the Wargo Nature Center, strolled through new parks, went fishing, swam in the lake, we Marched for Life at the capital, volunteered, built projects, studied outer space, took art classes, attended conferences and retreats, visited the new Children's Museum, watched the Great Solar Eclipse of 2017, made a pilgrimage to Our Lady of Guadeloupe Shrine in WI, and just took more time for each other instead of workbooks- making many new memories.  Best of all, we have made so many new homeschool friends our calendar is always filled with something fun to do.

    Mikayla is finding her own way at age 15. She is enjoying having many electives in High School, and having more independence through outings with friends and church. She was Confirmed in the spring, attended retreats, and feels called to a vocation in youth ministry. You can usually find her reading a book or skyping friends in some corner of the house. She is working on getting her drivers license.

    Stanley takes 13 to a whole new height! He is the same size as his dad, and taking on some manly tasks around the house. He enjoys reading, Math and History, but would spend all day creating in Minecraft or with Legos if we let him. Glad he met some great friends who share in his interests from engineering to sci-fi.

    Sabrina at age 10 is just as busy as her mom. She is very responsible, likes helping in the kitchen, and is a mini-momma to the littles.  Sabrina can't get enough time with her girlfriends, or enough paper for her artwork. Reliable, creative and a friend to everyone.

    Jonathan received his 1st reconciliation & 1st Eucharist just before his 8th birthday. He found he has a real knack for numbers and likes staying active. He really enjoys time with his buddies and computer/game time. He does his own stunts, which earned him his first set of stitches. We hope he never loses his courage and sense of adventure.

    Edward (Eddie) turned 5 on Feb 15 and the world was his playground. There wasn't anything he didn't want to try, see, touch, explore. he especially loved time at the playgrounds, at the pool/lake, and with friends. His favorite classes were Nature, Art and Math. His last moment on Oct 17, 2017** was adventuring outside with his siblings on a beautiful autumn day. Eddie's soul is now having the biggest adventure in Heaven, which we aspire to join someday. His life has inspired us to make time for and join in on many Family Adventures! If our story inspires you - share online with #Adventures4Eddie

    Molly blesses us with her 3 year old excitement for everything. She is a girly-girl who likes to dress like a princess, bake, paint and create. Molly is also fond of SuperGirl, Paw Patrol, ponies and playing house. Creativity may include special drawings on the walls, on her face, or on her brother - or saving time by cutting her own hair. She simply loved taking a wiggle & dance class. Call her anytime, because she loves to talk and has plenty to say. Molly loves to make others smile and join in her fun.

    David is a busy Toddler at age 2. He doesn't let anything stop him. He'll climb, crawl, leap or sneak to get what he wants. There is no doubt David will keep us youthful and attentive! His favorites are Paw Patrol, Trains, Cars, and eating all the Apples.

    Oliver, our 1 year old labradoodle, has found his way into our hearts. He is as big as a bear cub, but is a great snuggler, obedient, playful and friendly. Oh, those black curls are so soft! There are still days we wonder what we were thinking. Then again, he is just like having another toddler in the house and is just too sweet to stay upset at.

    Tom & Melissa are getting grayer but wiser by the day. We celebrated 15 years of marriage!  Every moment of it so precious and blessed with love. We will begin our new year in a new home***, to start the next chapter of our life - our new normal. 

Dear God, help me spend today with a Smile on my face, a Love of learning in our hearts,
Joy in your grace, and to be Helpful as we do our part. Amen.

We pray you have a Merry Christmas & a New Year filled with God's Grace!
Tom, Melissa, Mikayla, Stanley, Sabrina, Jonathan, Molly, David and Oliver
and in Heaven saint Eddie (and miscarried babies) celebrating with Jesus.

Our Last (Posed) Family Photo Together

**A note about Eddie's death. He was in a hammock with the other kids, and the tree it was tied to came down on his sweet head. It had been an unusually wet fall and the old roots let loose. It was the last swing of the season before we planned to put it away and cut down the tree this winter. Eddie revealed to us in a spiritual encounter that the only pain he felt "was being ripped away from us." and that he has found "Joy in God's Grace." He said "Everyone needs to forgive themselves." That has been the hardest part of all of this, forgiving ourselves for not removing the tree sooner. We count our blessings that we had 6 wonderful years with our son, and that his last weeks were a fun, faith filled, treasured time with his family and friends.  We seek the Lord for strength and offer our suffering for the conversion of sinners. We have faith that because of his age, and spiritual encounters with him shortly after his death, he went straight to Heaven. He lives! 
I'll post more about the spiritual encounters on this blog when time allows, but until then you can read about some of it on Facebook #Adventures4Eddie.

***We're moving closer to our church community and central to all our friends and family. It was an easy decision, as we've been looking for the opportunity to move for about 5 years. Losing our son was a final push to do it. While our family is having fewer flashbacks at home, and the good memories far outweigh the bad, we still made this decision with great amounts of prayer and consideration by our whole family. Everything has seemed to have the hand of God in the process.

Thursday, August 24, 2017

Homegrown Catholics Giveaway 2017

There are seasons in the year and in my life where I can tell my Love Language is Giving Gifts. I've been so excited about this giveaway for months, but haven't been able to get it together until now. (I guess there will be an advantage to the procrastinators who haven't filled out their homeschool planner yet.) If you don't need it, maybe you know someone who does? I hope that with this opportunity, I'll be able to find out what my readers enjoy from my blog and Facebook posts. Hopefully you'll be inspired by something new today!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Homeschool Teacher & Student Planner
 ($35 Value)
This is a Catholic Homeschool Teacher and Student Planner, complete with storage tote and pencil case. I hang this on the back of my chair at the table where we homeschool. Each planner is spiral bound with a clear cover. You can read all about the planners and see pictures here:
Relaxed Home Education Planner  {Available for Purchase as a PDF}

1st Prize: Teacher Planner PDF file ($10 value)

2nd Prize: Student Planner PDF file ($5 value)

3rd Prize: Lent Activities PDF file ($10 value)

4th Prize: Catholic Mass Seek & Find Cards and Mass Bingo PDF file ($8 Value)

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Monday, August 14, 2017

Autumn Approaches

As I drive through the countryside near my home, an August day looks and feels like autumn. The trees are just starting to turn colors in an upper corner branch, the tall grass is waving back and forth in the breeze, and I'm amazed at the beauty that God has put before me. I'm thinking all the way, I should be decorating my home with fall colors and looking for an electric fireplace for the basement. Are the blankets aired out? Have the mosquitoes got the message to stay away? We need more campfires. These little hints of fall make me want to snuggle up to a good book with a cup of coffee, my children around me on each side, and just FALL in love with the stories and my family all over again. To be surrounded in cozy warmth and carelessness.

But wait, that's not autumn. Autumn is when school begins, and we homeschool. Autumn is when I have no time to call my own because I'm busy with our groups and parish, noses into our academics, and every moment planned out to get it all in. We do get more time outside, but it's drenched in learning and purpose, to not waste a single moment.

So for that reason, I cling onto summer with one hand and reach out to autumn with the other. I still have that urge to go to the lake to swim or watch the kids dance at the splash pad. There's still time to have adventures like geocaching, packing picnics, taking a bike ride, taking a vacation up North, or visiting the outdoor zoo. I am born with the zeal for long nights and weakness for late mornings. I still want to get down to the sewing machine to stitch up a quilt or crochet the hat and fingerless gloves I've been working on for 3 years before they are needed. There is spring cleaning that didn't get done, wood projects that clutter the garage, things to fix, curriculum to plan, and children to send out on barefoot adventures. My summer list of frivolous and random things is long. I want to visit all my friends before they are huddled under their books with their children around them, learning about God's mysteries. Before they are tuned primarily into their home and school activities. THIS is that crazy time of year when I try to cram in everything we desired the other 9 months of the year, and feel overwhelmed when I can't, because I know that a season is coming to its end.

Autumn approaches, and I am not ready to let go of Summer.

God, Creator of the seasons,
 I ask to remain steadfast with all the things that I want to accomplish this summer. Keep my mind from the distraction of all those projects that can be put off until I'm tucked inside this winter. Give me eyes that see my children's summertime as a moment to be free from complexity. Remind me to include them in necessary tasks. Please forgive me for the times I forget to include you in my day. In all this, I hope to remember what it means to be a child of God. 

Mary, Most Holy, I ask for your prayers and guidance to be a humble wife and housekeeper, diligent in my tasks, so that when my husband comes home from work we are not riddled with a list projects and chores, rather ready for fruitful family activities.

Holy Spirit, I will continue to remember to 'Respond with Love' in every action and word, as I seek to use the gifts you so graciously bestowed upon me. God, I am amazed when I see the goodness and blessings in every aspect of my life, no matter the season. Thank you, Lord.  Amen

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

My Own Understanding

Psalm 3:5-6
I've spent years telling others to "Trust in God" because no matter how much I worry, it didn't make things better. But when I trusted that God had my back through the tough times, making me stronger and more knowledgeable, it was easier to bear. Even through the toughest trials, I could always see God when I looked back. That's how I get through my husband's unemployment, angry days of homeschooling, regular hormonal shifts and food sensitivities that bring on depression and anxiety, acceptance of having a large family through multiple cesarean deliveries, among other trials.
Now God is preparing me for the next part of his Word to us. "Lean not on your own understanding, in all your ways acknowledge him [or 'submit to him.']" I don't do this in ALL things. Somehow I keep thinking I can outwit God, by justifying what I want to do, rationalizing and putting a twist in my favor. He's been making it clearer to me lately that it isn't going to work. Resisting God pushes him further away, as well as burdening other things in my life I thought I was justifying.
Most recently I've had doubts of my efforts in parenting, homeschooling, friendships, and use of NFP. I've hit some low points, weak moments and put my knees down in the confessional more often than usual. Last weekend a homily hit me so straight in the heart, I had to take a crying room break (in the restroom stall) for myself. The more I ask God to work in my life, the more he reveals himself to me. Sometimes in ways that make my life a little harder, complicated or stressful. But I keep reminding myself, "Trust in God.... Lean not on your own understanding, Melissa. He's always been there to comfort and pick you up. His plan is so much greater than yours!"
This was true a few months ago when I had all the paperwork filled out to send my kids to public charter school. I even sent it in and they were accepted. After 11 years of homeschooling, now with 7 children, I had had it. I was so certain this is what I had to do to bring some sanity to our family life. But when it came down to filling out the final registration papers and making it all official, I couldn't do it. I was being tugged at by my heart. So I prayed, I prayed so hard and reflected on all the reasons I was doing this. I asked God to make it clear to me and He did. It turns out the only real reason I had to send them off was my own insecurities and lack of discipline, not my children's. It was myself setting too high expectations for our academics and how I thought our days should look like. So it wasn't my children that had to change, it is me. I now feel my life is certainly not about me, it's about God using my talents in this world to bring others - to bring my children closer to Him. He has expressed in my heart that a home education is part of their path. I've spent every day since trying to work out the issues in myself and our homeschool expectations. It has lead me to a deep review of homeschool styles and curriculum, making some big leaps in what will do this next school year. It's helped me make some big leaps in my faith life and personal reflection. See, God knows better. Always in hindsight.
I think every trial I make it through with God at my side, that is how I acknowledge Him. That I include Him in every decision, every moment of anxiety, every outward act and inward thought.
So today I encourage you to keep this bible verse near to your heart, and posted somewhere you'll see it each day. Right next to that Serenity Prayer. Perhaps you too will realize that submitting to God's will can make your paths straight.

****** For those who are looking ahead to planning your next homeschool year, with trust in God, I hope you'll consider taking a look at my NEW Relaxed Home Education Planner for teachers and students.

Homegrown Catholics - Homeschool Planner

and coming soon a variation - a Simple Subject Planner

Saturday, April 15, 2017

Updates made to Sacrament post

I just wanted all my blog world friends to know that I've just updated the post about First Communion activities, celebrations and ideas. We're on our 4th child receiving the Sacrament, so end of May I'll be adding MORE updates!

We are also preparing our first child as a Confirmation candidate, so I hope afterwards I'll have some wonderful words of wisdom along with activities to share. Comment below what you'd like to know or ideas you're looking for that I could work on.

I've been overwhelmed by my large family and homeschooling tasks. Thank you to anyone who's continued to peek in on my blog, even though I haven't posted anything new for awhile. You can follow my quick updates and ideas on my Facebook page:

God bless your journey!


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