Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Doubting Thomas, Faith and Fear

This weekend at Church, the story of doubting Thomas was read. During the reading, my son said, "It's pretty specific what he says is going to make him believe." 😇 I hushed him and chuckled to myself.

I kept thinking about that. Thomas had specific criteria that would make him believe.

Why didn't Thomas just tell them, "That sounds a little crazy guys. I'll believe it when I see it."

Thomas needed more than just the testimony of others, or a whisper in his heart. He needed not only to see but to touch and know.

Do I carry specific criteria for my faith or limits on what our faith can handle? Maybe I am more likely to set criteria my life or family must reach for me to have strong faith.

Recently, I had the privilege to hear Brother Guy Consolmagno speak.  I spoke with him briefly afterwards; he said, "Faith calls you to live without fear, not to live in fear. Our faith is big enough to handle anything! If we fear what we might learn or hear, we aren't living with faith."

As a parent in today's world, we live with a constant bombardment of fear mongering and insecurity. It is easy to fall prey to the fears of this world instead of hushing the Thomas in our hearts. It is harder to exercise our faith and pray, than it is to doubt and fear. We are insecure in how we parent and the choices we make. We need to wrap our lives and families in a blanket of faith to protect us from the insecurities and doubts around us.

Thomas is eternally known as "Doubting Thomas" but maybe he was more "Fearful Thomas" or "Insecure Thomas". Afraid of what it would mean if it were true that Jesus is risen. Afraid that he missed his chance to see the risen Christ. Afraid that he wasn't chosen to carry on Christ's mission.  Insecure of what his place was in the confusion of recent events. Insecure that if he believed with his whole heart he might bring suffering to his family or look like a fool.

Can you blame him?

I fear that I'm somehow messing up my children, fear that I'm not a good enough mom, wife, or homeschool teacher, and fear the unknown for our futures. But honestly, that's just insecurity and lack of faith. I will try instead to calm the insecurity with a warm and secure blanket of faith. I will quiet the winds of fear and listen to the whispers of faith of what I know is true.

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Last minute GHC Cincinnati Tips

Can you believe that the Cincinnati GHC starts in just a few days?  I'm a local to the area, so I want to throw out some advice.

Pack a Snack and Water - You know you do this for your children all the time, save yourself money and pack for yourself! 

Stretch Your Mind - If every year you hear the same speakers, try a little something new.  Go to something that might refresh your soul like Sarah Mackenzie, S.D. Smith, or Anthony Esolen. Go hear about the beauty of Math from Ed Zaccaro or about the ancients from The Lukeion Project.

Have Fun and Feel Good - If you hear something that stresses you out, or makes you feel inadequate in your homeschool, write it down and forget it!  Don't run to buy their product! A curriculum purchased while feeling self lacking and under the guise of a fix, is never really a fix. Take a deep breath, research the area while you are there and go home. Re-evaluate in a month if you still feel drawn to it.

Support the Convention - It's easy to think that the Homeschool Convention and Curriculum providers will always be there, but if we don't show up and support them, they won't.

See the Area -
If you're visiting Cincinnati, take some time to enjoy our city.
Although there isn't too much near the Convention Center, from Fountain Square you can now ride our Street Car to The Banks or to some great restaurants and shops in Over the Rhine near Washington Square.  There are lots of fun and unique dining and shopping between Washington Park and Vine Street from 13th - Central Parkway.

If you're an old book lover, I recommend walking over to The Ohio Bookstore on 8th and Main Street.

For a quick bite during the convention, there are a few faster service places on 6th by Vine Street. Most of these close by 6pm. So for dinner, you'll have to treat yourself.
If you want:
Some of the best  authentic Italian -  Sotto
Mexican, Latin American or Spanish Inspired  - Nada or Mitta
Fun Brewery - Taft Ale House (cool old Church) 
There are lots of others options that are great as well! 

Have Fun and see you there! 

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

What To Read this Lent through Pentecost

This is your yearly reminder to read The Divine Comedy. ;)  You would expect nothing less from me, but why? 

This impressive literary classic is more than you might think.  Yes, Dante writes a image of Hell,  but in the as Dorothy Sayers' quips to only read the Inferno, is like knowing Paris by the sewer system. I couldn't agree more.  It would be as to acknowledge your shortcomings this Ash Wednesday and not work on them in Lent. This book is Dante's sharing of a personal Lenten journey. 

Lent is a time to face our own personal humanity and work on our journey to heaven.   Lent is the time when we acknowledge that we sometimes get lost and need to find our way back to God.  This is exactly the journey of The Divine Comedy.

In Inferno Dante examines the sins we are guilty of and more importantly gives us a lens through which we can examine our own culpability in those sins.  In Purgatory, we are asked to repent and get our hearts right for Heaven. In Paradise are inspired by the eternal Love and life examples we are given. 

What can a man from 700 years ago know of a woman's struggle or a millennial's challenges?  You would be surprised how universal the challenge of being human truly is. 

So, it matters not the translation you use, but the effort you make in personally reflecting.  I invite you to journey with me this Lent and Easter season through Hell and into Purgatory and finally arrive in Heaven.  Starting on Ash Wednesday, we will read about a Canto a Day until we finish on Pentecost.

Notes for those ready to take up the challenge:
I personally love the Anthony Esolen translations from Modern Library Classics: Inferno; Purgatory; and Paradise.  They are easily read and have a wonderful poetic quality like the original.  I also appreciate the footnotes being kept to a minimum. The Longfellow, Musa , Ciardi, and Hollander translations are all very good as well.  They are also often found free or cheaply on Kindle. 
I also want to encourage you to not get bogged down in the footnotes, only read if you feel you need to. 
I will be creating an group on FB that is for those who want to join the Canto conversations.  Contact me on FB if you want to join!  A Canto a day only takes about 10-15 minutes at most!

Friday, February 3, 2017

Four Lessons from 2016

Although we are over a month into 2017, I think it is important to constantly learn from your own experiences. Overall, I learned I need to take care of myself. As moms, we all hear that we need to make time for ourselves, but making time is hard. For myself, I don't need vacations away from my kids or husband, but small time where I know I am nourishing my own soul. These four things made the biggest difference in my year. 

I must make time to read for me! Books and audiobooks are just a joy for me! I love sharing books with my children, but I need to read what interests and inspires me as well.

I have found endless encouragement for reading at the Potato Peel Book Community. It is a wonderful community of readers who love good literature and not what is currently on the Top 10 list. 

I also love listening to the What Should I Read Next podcast. There is no judgement about what you like to read but great suggestions for all types of readers. I love hearing why people read, what they want different in their reading life and the reading struggles we all face. 

Between the Potato Peel Book Community and What Should I Read Next, I find myself constantly inspired to continue to read and encouraged in my efforts.

Related imageArtistic Expression
I need to be creative in some way. I love to paint, but it is time consuming.  This year, I taught myself to crochet. I now have a portable, artistic hobby that allows me to create while watching movies, listening to kids read, or at meetings.This is a total life changing win for me!

Challenge Myself
It is constantly important to challenge yourself. For me, planning, being consistent and organized THAT is the challenge. 

I was fortunate enough to participate in a Homeschool Boot Camp run by Pam Barnhill. I realized there that for me, my own planning and consistency is the key to success for myself, my kids and homeschool. Therefore, consistent is my word for the year! Challenge accepted! 

Encourage Myself with Instagram Gratitude
Instagram can help you see your own world a little differently. A few days distance with a filter and those crazy moments of life are beautiful! I love looking back at my own feed, because I have Instagram for me. It's a way to journal my life and how I see it. It helps me see beauty around me. I grown in gratitude and appreciation for my own life, looking at my Instagram past. 

A I look at 2017, I'm excited to continue with these and learn even more! 

Sunday, January 15, 2017


When I first read about choosing a Word for the Year, I thought it was a little odd or confining.  I am not one to make New Year's resolutions, so this word seemed like a different resolution.  Yet, this Word of the Year concept was one I kept running into.

I kept thinking, "No, I am working on too much to confine myself to one word and for a year."  Then, I realized there was a simple word that embodied all the areas which I needed to work on: Consistent.

Webster's definition of consistent is a person, behavior or process unchanging in achievement or effect over a period of time. 

That is what I want to be! 

A parent who is consistent in my love and support, expectations, standards and reactions.

A homeschool teacher who is consistent not only in the execution of my lessons and philosophy, but in the standards and availability of assistance.

A homemaker who cheerfully does those daily chores with great love.

A wife who makes time for our relationship and value it above all others. 

A woman who nourishes my soul with reading and writing, improves myself with exercise, and makes time for the laughter and blessings of friends. 

In all of these areas, I will try to be consistent. 

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Searching for Heros

I was recently listening to Carole Joy Seide on The Read-A-Loud Revival Podcast.  She was talking about some history books that may seem out of date.  It was an interesting perspective I haven't considered before. 

In it, she said she didn't mind that the books weren't considered historically accurate because they were beautiful and focused on the heroic values of our ancestors. 

I admit that I agreed.  I found myself nodding in agreement to the idea that if we "tear down" those heroes our children have no heroic ideals to live up to. 

I often struggle with this when considering Columbus.  It makes me cringe when friends claim there is no historical reason to study him.  Despite my growing up with the image of Columbus as a hero, I am no longer naïve to the many atrocities which the age of exploration brought with it.  I also do not want to raise children to be adults who are naïve to it. 

As I thought about it more, I realized we read "the great classic books" and our children hear of flawed heroes often. Are we as parents are less hesitant to discuss the virtues and flaws of fictional characters, than of real people.

Columbus for example is not a villain, neither is he a hero.  He is a man who was brave, gutsy or gritty as we might say today.  Did he have flaws?  YES!  What can we learn from that?  Well, for one thing, we cannot judge yesterday to today's moral standards.  But isn't that a reminder for us to not look at what the world around us may consider ok, such as raping and plundering, but to follow what we know to be right. 

I am not arguing about Columbus, what I am saying, is ask your child to examine their heroes.  Although admiring heroic virtue is important, it would be shame to have your children think that any hero could be "perfect".  Everyone has flaws.  Everyone struggles with their flaws and mistakes.

Painting the world through the lenses of rose colored glasses is beautiful, but it can backfire.  Once your children are older and learn the reality, will they question other Truths you have taught them?  Will your child cling to the fictionalized hero and excuse their mistakes? Or worse see the errors as Just because they are the actions of a hero? 

Keep the dialogue open about these topics because this will allow your children to come to you to discuss the people in their lives that might seem like heroes or villains at times. 

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Everything Stays on the Tray!

Moon Dough on the tray!
When my youngest was two, I became so excited by the idea of sensory bins. Thank you Pintrest!  I made the colored rice, the mood dough, and bought the kinetic sand. All three kids were so happy!  It was quiet and I read. 

I thought it was the answer, until I noticed the mess on the floor and table.  I didn't think the hour of clean up was worth the half hour of read aloud. 

A few weeks later, I was reading about Montessori methods.  I noticed the trays they were using for their works. Although I could not see my children doing the same works, I decided to apply the same concept and re-vamp sensory bins.

I use a container similar to this for moon dough, water beads, and kinetic sand.  This is just the right amount to play with and it stores easily, as they stack. They also fit nicely on a tray. 

I have a cheap, plastic tray for each child, that they must use in order to use a sensory bin.  My trays were about $1 at Ikea but I have seen them at Christmas Tree Shop, Walmart and other retailers priced similarly.

Kinetic Sand with some tools is a favorite!
My youngest has understood from the age of 3 that everything has to stay on the tray.  Yes, it bears repeating and reminding a million times.  Everything stays on the tray! 

If, I see the sensory items straying off the tray, I remind them.  If it continues, they loose the sensory bin for a few days.  Although that happened at the beginning it hasn't happened recently.

I am now a super, cool mom when I give my child Kinetic sand, water beads or Play-doh at the kitchen table!  This is really just how to squeeze in extra reading time with toddler! 

The kids are used to using the trays now, so they use them all the time, on their own. Mom win! 

A few weeks after using the trays consistently, I added in the child sized broom and dustpan as part of the clean up routine.  Honestly, the amount on the floor is minimal and it reminds the child to clean everything up when they are done.

I was so convinced of the ease of sensory bins that  I gave water beads, moon dough, and colored rice to a friend for her toddler. Unfortunately, I forgot to give her the trays! I told her about them, but I did not purchase them for her. She left the sensory bins on the porch for her daughter to play with and it was mess!  (see first photo!) 
Who wouldn't want to dive into waterbeads?

The amazingly brave mom persevered and tried the last colored rice sensory bin on a tray. It has been a success! Now there is a happy mom making dinner and a happy toddler playing near here! 

People of all ages love the feel of sensory bins, so train them now to use trays and it will be a joy for years! 

Just remember and repeat: Everything stays on the tray!  Then, enjoy a good half hour of quiet kids!