Author Archives: Tara Brelinsky

random acts of kindness

Motherhood’s Random Acts of Kindness

 

We’d just finished showering, the two-year-old and me, when I reached for the towel bar. Unfortunately, since I hadn’t planned in advance for our dual exit from the hot, steamy shower into the frigid, meat locker that is our bathroom in winter, my hands met with one dry towel and one damp one (left over from my husband’s solitary shower a few minutes earlier).

In a split second decision, I grabbed the dry cloth first and wrapped it around my little one’s pink, naked body. Then I proceeded to use the chilly, wet towel on myself. Working in high speed, I figured I could whisk away enough water from my limbs to stave off hypothermia.

Once this step was accomplished, I was forced to tip-toe across the icy tile floor to get from the bathroom mat to the laundry room rug (because again my morning brain hadn’t thought to have our clean clothes laying at the ready.) READ the rest HERE

12 days of christmas ideas

Why We Celebrate the 12 Days of Christmas

 

For years, at about 3pm on Christmas Day my kiddos would hit the wall one by one. After a long Christmas Eve followed by a too-early-rising, their energy stores were depleted and just past midday they’d drop like flies: a snoring pre-schooler on the couch still clutching his new light saber, a drowsy teen sprawled out on the floor amidst her books.

Additionally, I often noticed an air of disappointment creeping in once the last gift was torn open, the evening meal digested and the boxes hauled out to the trash. Honestly, I sensed it in myself almost as much as I detected it in my family members.

READ more about the 4 ways we’ve reclaimed the Twelve Days of Christmas on Raleigh Moms Blog.

when words hurt children

Sticks and Stones: How Verbal Abuse Hurts Children

“What are you, an idiot?”

“Stupid”

“Dummy!”

“You #%&^$!”

It wasn’t the first time his parents had resorted to a litany of name calling. It seemed to be their routine form of communication: an insult here, a slight there, a sprinkling of profanities, a rude retort or a less than flattering moniker. Honestly, I’d been disgusted from the start, but on this day I could no longer silently stomach the verbal assault his parents were launching rapid-fire in his direction. Continue reading

lady thinks i have too many kids

An Open Letter to the Lady Who Thinks I Have Too Many Kids

 

Rounding the back bumper of our 15 passenger van, we began our routine for loading up the crew. The chatty teens readily made their way to the rear seat while our younger daughter buckled in the toddler.

Dropping the stroller down to the closed position, my husband instructed our 9 year old ball of boy energy to move the bottles of water and take his seat next to his 7 year old cohort. While our feet were dog-tired from the full day of walking around the fairgrounds, the kids’ energy levels seemed to be drawing off of some endless reserve. Continue reading

why we home school

How Do You Do It?

 

Whenever I tell someone new that we home school, I take a deep breath and wait for the inquisition. Inevitably, they ask, “How do you do it?”

Be it the curious customer standing behind us in the mega-store line or that distant cousin at the family reunion, enquirers have probed my mental stability to be making such a choice by asking me for an explanation. Should one of my students happen to be in close proximity, the investigator often feels compelled to quiz little Jude or Malachi on their ABC capabilities and grasp of the American system of democracy. I’ve learned to be ready. Continue reading

out of the box home school schedule

Thinking Outside of the Box: Home Schooling Year-Round

 

One of the many blessings of homeschooling is that it allows families to think outside of the box. Whether it be an un-schooling approach or a non-traditional method for inspiring learning, homeschooling parents have a wide latitude when it comes to finding the best fit for their individual family.

Growing up, I attended both Catholic and, later, public institutions of learning. While there were definite differences in the subject matter being taught, as well as the environment I was being taught in, all of them followed the same calendar model: the school year commenced in September, ended in June and was followed by two solid months of summer break. Continue reading

home school schedules

A Home Schooling Schedule

 

Milling around the home school bookstore with no clear goal in mind (which is generally a BIG mistake), my eyes were diverted this way and that by all the shiny, new text books and hands-on learning tools. Titles, promising the perfect solution to every dilemma home schooled students can muster, sucked me into the fantasy that my house could run like a well-oiled machine if only I would invest in the recipe divulged between the book covers.

I broke down under the pressure and bought a lovely book all about scheduling. Yes, we’ve been schooling for more than a decade, but still I figured we needed a better plan.

The author had fabulous ideas and worksheets which made me envious. “Oh, if I just print out her spreadsheets and fill in all of our names, everyone is gonna fall right in line,” I told myself.

According to the book, baby must nap every day at an appointed hour; thereby, insuring mama has time to devote to uninterrupted time schooling siblings (perhaps I should have read that paragraph to my toddler who hasn’t napped consistently a day in his life).

I Can Do This

“I can do this,” I prodded and gave the author’s advice a go, but somewhere after more than an hour of wailing (the baby, not me -although I came close) I lost my nerve and retrieved the toddler.

Yes, I could have tried to endure a few more days of torturous screaming midday to see if I could persuade my babe to stick to the prescribed plan. Instead, I made peace with the fact that in his case I’m happier not trying to force this square peg into a round hole.

Make peace with the fact that you can't force a square peg into a round hole. Click To Tweet

The reality is that some of the author’s rigid formula was a bad fit in my household.

Over the years, I’ve learned to be flexible and to adjust our schedule to meet our needs. For example, at times I’ve woken up before my kids and enjoyed a bit of quiet time in prayer (which is also what the author of my new book prescribes).

However, currently my youngest has usually migrated into my bed during the dark of night and he rouses easily. The few times I’ve attempted to extricate my limbs from his clutches and rise before him have ended in dismal failure. I lost both sleep and my peaceful solitude.

Similarly, teaching children to rise early is helpful because it does train them for a traditional school format or employment situation, but if you suffer with health issues or you’ve spent the night tending to a newborn, then a strict start time of 8 am may not be the right plan for you at this point in your life.

Individual Time Schedules

I admit the author did inspire me to create individual time schedules for my younger children’s school day. Prior to reading her book, I often felt frustrated when two or three of my younger students required my help simultaneously, but in completely different subjects. Just as soon as I would begin to assist my first grader with his math lesson, my third grader would beg for aid with his grammar lesson and my daughter would insist she couldn’t finish spelling without my immediate attention.

After reading the book, I decided to give each child a written schedule which was divided into thirty minute time blocks. I assigned a specific subject to each time slot and I added a block for one-on-one instruction with me.

Since math is typically the subject in which my attention is sought, I made sure to stagger everyone’s math so that it was assigned during their individual time with me. If my third grader found himself stumped by adjectives during his grammar slot, he was instructed to save his question until his fourth period when he had my complete attention.

That small adjustment did wonders toward bringing peace back to the school table. It helped my children to feel in control of their studies because the school day was broken down into manageable chunks with clear expectations of what needed to be done during each period.

Knowing that they could count on me to be available for them on an individual basis for a set amount of time alleviated their frustrations (and mine).

Children thrive when they know what to expect and when to expect it. Click To Tweet

Children really do thrive when they know what to expect and when to expect it. Trying to home school (or even just raise a family) without a schedule is an invitation for chaos, but as my experience reminded me the schedule that you set needs to suit your family’s personal style, as well as your current needs.
This article originally appeared in Seton Magazine online.

child in hospital

Some Mothers Will Have Empty Arms This Mother’s Day

bloomsFreshly picked bouquets stacked in bunches, lovely hydrangeas planted in bright pink pots, cards spilling out into the store aisles and 1-800-BUY-HER-THIS commercials repeating on the radio: all reminders that Mother’s Day was on the horizon.

Envious, I longed to be pampered, fussed over and honored. Desperately, I wanted to expect cards in the mailbox and notes in my inbox. I fantasized about getting one of those carnations they give out to all of the moms after church.

I wanted to be just like every other mama on Mother’s Day.

But I was not.

Mothers Are Special

Mothers are special people. Well, all people are special, but only a mama can contain and grow life within her.

Most sacrifice their bodies in order to nurture wholly new persons. And even those moms who don’t carry a person in their wombs, cradle sons and daughters in their heart. Mothers give up sleep, comfort and personal space in order to satisfy the needs of another.

It’s no surprise that we’ve designated a day in order to shower them with attention and praise. Except for some women (like I was), Mother’s Day can seem more like a cruel date on the calendar than a joyful celebration.

My Arms Were Empty

My arms were empty that first Mother’s Day. There was no cooing babe swaddled in them, no wriggling toddler perched on my hip. I had no stroller to push, no diaper bag to haul nor cradle to rock.

My firstborn had died the previous summer, so I bore no “proof” of my continuing motherhood. I felt like a mother, but I appeared to be a childless woman.

Ashamed by my conflict, I was caught between two realities (the one my heart understood and the one the world saw).

An awkward position in a time when people are heralding children as a choice, the unseen child cannot be justified by many. Then others, who aren’t sure how to comfort a grieving mother, think it best to ignore what has been lost.

How I wished to remind everyone that my son had been real, not some temporary dream or imaginary person. He had been flesh and bone.

Stuck in Limbo

And his very existence in the world, while brief, had changed me into someone new. That first son had made me a mommy, but his absence left me in a (painful) limbo.

I am not suggesting that we scrap the holiday in some ridiculous, politically-correct attempt to “level the playing field.” No, mothers deserve recognition and we all need to remember the countless ways in which women give of themselves to care for their children.

The truth is that when a woman becomes a mother, some part of her becomes forever entangled with her child. A lasting imprint gets left on her heart and in her mind.

The truth is that when a woman becomes a mother, some part of her becomes forever entangled with her child. A lasting imprint gets left on her heart and in her mind. Click To Tweet

Mother's Day noteThankfully, my own mother sensed my grief that first lonely Mother’s Day and sent me a delivery of sweet-smelling roses. My husband knew my dilemma firsthand and he, too, gave his best effort to make me feel cherished.

Those tokens of support and acknowledgment meant a great deal to me. They also allowed me to shed my shame and embrace the reality that I was truly a mama.

How You Can Help

If you know someone who has lost a child, especially a mother who’s lost her firstborn/only child, please remember to wish her a Happy Mother’s Day this Sunday.

Send her a note, a text or a card, call her on the phone or drop some flowers on her doorstep to remind her that you recognize her motherhood. Tell her that no matter how long she was able to carry her child (whether in her womb or in her arms) she remains a mother forever.

shoes

Now That You Know the Facts on Birth Control, What’s the Next Step?

In part 1 of this discussion on rethinking your birth control, I defined what it means to be a woman. Not just a modern woman, but a whole woman according to God’s design.

Part 2 detailed attributes of her feminine genius in the form of female fertility. The cyclic ebb and flow of her fertile and infertile phases and the means by which she is able to read her own body language.

The next two installments detailed how contraceptives help fracture womanhood into parts, many attacking female health by suppressing natural hormones and inducing early abortions. Uncovered, also, was the dishonesty of pharmaceutical companies and the pressure placed on women by medical providers.

Fear being a major factor for couples new to Natural Family Planning, I spoke about the need for couples to address their concerns in part 5.

Knowledge is power, as they say, and I think (if you’ve been following along) I’ve covered a fair amount of ground so where do we go from here?

Trash the Contraceptives

trashSuffice to say, you need to trash the carcinogenic/abortifacient contraceptives (and the whole mentality that goes along with them) and reclaim your status as a woman.

Stop giving yourself away in pieces and demand that your spouse (and doctor) respect you, all of you. Because asking you to jeopardize your health does not equate to respect or love.

And, by all means, start respecting yourself from your imperfect skin and dimpled thighs, to your fertile mucus and menses. Ditch your Cosmo magazine and a few Pilates classes to delve into a book or take a course on Natural Family Planning (aka Fertility Awareness Method FAM).

Start a Communal Conversation

Then, most importantly, begin a communal conversation with your spouse and the One Who made you into the creative being you are.

One of the greatest gifts that stems from NFP is the ongoing discussion it triggers. Unlike long-term contraceptives, that make family planning a generally mute point cycle after cycle, year after year; natural methods invite husband and wife to relay their thoughts, fears, desires and frustrations regularly, so they can decide whether or not to make use of the fertile window.

Since human vision alone is short-sighted (and often selfish,) when measured against God’s Providence, couples seeking to practice NFP successfully turn toward Him (Who orders all things for good) and seek His will above their own.

Baby or No Baby?

Each new cycle leads them to consider, “Should we optimize our chances to conceive this cycle or abandon ourselves fully to God’s timing or do we have a serious reason to postpone a pregnancy?”

Indeed sometimes the answer may be an emphatic “YES” to hoping for a baby. At other times the spouses may discern a real reason to answer “NOT NOW.”

We know a woman who has a heart issue and another pregnancy could result in death. She and her husband sacrifice the fertile time in order to protect her.

Another husband could be struggling to provide financially, or be in danger of losing his job, or a wife may be overwhelmed with a particularly needy child, or suffering from depression, so they, too, may prayerfully discern a need to abstain, for the betterment of the whole family.

Being Sensitive to the Needs of Another

spousesThis is part of the beauty of remaining open to life, it causes a husband and wife to be sensitive to the needs of each other.

Our friend’s husband placed her welfare first, and he finds non-sexual ways to express his love during the phases of abstinence.

Perhaps, a wife will opt to work outside the home to help supplement her husband’s income, or he might help with the children more often to alleviate some of his wife’s stress; thus, possibly alleviating the restrictions that prevented them from seeking another child.

NFP Isn’t a Requirement

Couples aren’t automatically obliged to practice periodic abstinence. Some couples discern a call to let the Creator, alone, plan the size and spacing of their family.

Not to be discounted, less fertile/infertile couples, who dearly desire a child or another child, may be asked to carry their cross and/or suffer repeated loss. These couples can also benefit from drawing their strength, comfort and continued guidance from the Lord, Who pours out plenteous grace.

Is There Even a Difference?

Not infrequently discussions abound about the how’s and why’s of using NFP for the purpose of spacing/limiting children. Some ask if there’s really a difference between contraception and natural methods with regards to morality. There is.

With NFP, the wife’s body remains whole. The lovers do nothing to counter God’s design, whether they opt to engage in or abstain from relations during her fertile window. As for right reasons to abstain, couples who continually seek God’s will above their own and strive to mirror His attributes can find the correct course.

Remembering that contraceptives sell women on the erroneous idea that they can strip sex of its procreative purpose and craft a happier ending; it’s not surprising that when God foils their intent with a baby, they rely on abortion to wipe the slate clean.

  •  Fifty-one percent of women who have abortions had used a contraceptive method in the month they got pregnant, most commonly condoms (27%) or a hormonal method (17%).

Or they accept the unintended pregnancy until some doctor informs them that their child’s imperfections are going to destroy their well-crafted blueprint: 2.1 healthy children (one boy and one girl of course), the white picket fence, and dual incomes. Then it’s off to the abortionist to spare themselves the inconvenience of rethinking their dreams.

Divorcing sex from its procreative potential leads couples to view children less (if at all) as gifts to be received and more as property to be obtained or discarded. One doesn’t have to look far to see how this mentality has negatively impacted marriage and the family structure.

My Newlywed Plans for Perfection

As a newlywed, I thought my white-knuckled hold on life would result in fulfillment, so I contracepted until we deemed ourselves ready to widen our circle. Like many people, I expected life to unravel according to my ambitions. But, three years in, God shook hold my clenched grip with the death of my firstborn. Devastated, my eyes were initially blind to the doorway that swung open because of that event.

My husband and I could have chosen to separate. Or we could have built up a wall of protection. But, instead, we learned to savor life, to value its preciousness and to accept its unpredictability (as well as its sometimes insufficient length). We kicked the Pill to the curb with those revelations and that unobstructed door has welcomed 8 unique persons into our family and ushered 6 souls into eternity. Indeed in my imagination, I never could have envisioned the abundance of blessings that would pour forth from our willingness to allow God to reign in our marriage.

Take the Next Step

After you dump the contraceptives and learn to read your body’s language, fortify your marriage by discovering more ways to express your love. Deepen your faith together and agree to solicit His counsel, first and last.

Finally, when your life changes (and it undoubtedly will) become a witness to Truth. Show that women deserve better than abuse, masquerading as modern feminism. Stand up as proof, that God’s ways are always better than anything we can conjure up.

Did You Miss a Post in This Series?

(1) Reclaiming Womanhood: Why It’s Time to Rethink Your Birth Control Plan(2) Demystified: How the Female Fertility Cycle Works; (3) The Nitty Gritty of Birth Control and the Abortion Back-up Plan; (4) Knowledge Is Power: How Doctors and Big Pharma Profit From Ignorance; (5) Pulling Back the Veil and Exposing Your Genuine Fears; (6) Now That You Know, What’s Next