Category Archives: parenting

5 Tips for Surviving a Family Road Trip with Kids

road trip with kids

“On the road again…just can’t wait to get on the road again” are song lyrics written by a man who clearly has never carted 8 related children around in a church-sized van.

Doubtful he’s ever had to listen to “He’s kicking my seat, she’s got her feet in my face, they’re eating all the popcorn or the baby is pinching me” for nine straight hours.

Seeing as my beloved and I decided to raise our group far from family, we’ve had to master the art of long distance road tripping with children in order to visit all those aunts, uncles, cousins and grandparents.

Maybe I should clarify a bit because my husband’s current work schedule allows forces him to relegate the annual trek to me alone (I know he’s really weeping when we’re all gone and he’s stuck in a quiet house with his stinky cigars and the TV remote).

To better facilitate our journey and prevent me from losing my mind in the fast lane of I-95, we’ve developed a few rules for the road. Read my 5 tips for road trip sanity HERE at Raleigh Moms Blog

Being a Matisse Woman: Seeing Beauty in the Natural Form

Matisse

Henri Matisse – Decorative Figure on an Ornamental Ground

Giggling, two of my little boys made their way in my direction (poking and shoving all the while).

The 9 year old was toting a hardcover book in his hands which he promptly thrust in front of me just as I took my second bite of lunch. His 6 year old cohort looked on with a smirk, as he determinedly flipped through the pages until he’d reached the one that had caused their giddiness.

“Mom, look at this,” the older child commanded. “She’s naked. There are naked pictures in this book!”

After glancing at the full page graphic of The Artist and His Model, I spent the next several minutes (between bites) explaining the beauty of the human form and the awesomeness of bodies. However, at some point during my educational speech they did what little boys do, they drifted off in search of some new distraction.

Finding myself alone with the book, I took the time to scan the pages for myself. Certainly, Henri Matisse’s talent was undeniable and his subject matters included everything from the female form to a Catholic chapel, but I found myself, like my sons, fixated on those nudes albeit for a wholly different reason.
READ the rest of my post on Raleigh Moms Blog

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.

Embracing Different Learning Styles

 

embracing-different-learning-styles

“Why? Why didn’t she just follow my example?

Why hadn’t she been able to figure it all out just the way I wanted her to,” I considered.

I didn’t resort to yelling, but my disappointment was probably clear as I began pointing out her mistakes. She asked to be excused from the project and I obliged.

Seeing as the ornaments we were making were part of a fund raising project, I had to jump back in and complete the task myself.

It took me the latter part of the night to complete the project which provided me ample quiet time (okay, when I say quiet time in a household of ten I mean internal quiet) to think about what had just taken place at that counter top.

A bit of guilt poked me as I considered my daughter’s glassy eyes… READ the whole article HERE

Life In a Big Brood: 10 Problems with Living in a Family of 10

When we started out, just the two of us, my husband and I were clueless. He is an only child and my siblings didn’t show up until I was 10 years old. We both were accustomed to the limelight, tranquility and praise, but we’d always longed for the joys of sibling companionship. My husband says he actually referred to himself as a lonely only when he was little.

Our heads in the clouds, we envisioned our own family would be a cross between the Von Trapps and the Bradys. Add twenty-two years and eight kids and our eyes have been opened. Oh, we wouldn’t trade one of our lovelies for the world (most days), but we concede that our initial plans were unrealistic.

In an attempt to set the record straight for starry-eyed newlyweds and lonely-only parents, I compiled a list of 10 big family problems.
1. Timing
Wake up, time to wake up,” I bellow up our two sets of stairs every morning. Yes, my kids own alarm clocks, but apparently my voice is the only sound capable of breaking the sleep barrier. The first countdown (of the day) commences approximately fifteen minutes prior to all planned endeavors. And this (my squawking) repeats in five minute intervals until about five minutes beyond the target time. It goes like this: while brushing my hair, I warn, “fifteen minutes to school.” With toothpaste dripping down my chin, I crow, “ten minutes.” After admonishing a still pajama-ed, bed-headed, stinky breathed child who’s reading a book, I shout, “FIVE MINUTES.” Ah yes, and the post countdown (“we’re LATE”) gears up exactly five minutes after we’ve failed to launch (which in a household of ten occurs more often than not). Because although I’ve educated my bright pupils myself, not one of them can tell time (unless the time involves a party, play date, or a guest’s anticipated arrival).
2. Laundry

I remember eyeing all those bare breasted women and half-naked children on the cover of Time Magazine when I was a kid and wondering why. Why didn’t their culture adopt some semblance of modesty and fashion. Didn’t they see the value in covering up their sensitive parts or donning some designer label jeans with a cute matching top? Now folding mountains of clothes I fantasize about a life without laundry (albeit after nursing eight babies I kinda like camouflaging my drooping bits). As if ten pairs of socks, shorts, t-shirts, underwear, and pj’s weren’t enough to handle daily, there’s also that one sweater that keeps turning up in the middle of the mound (you know, the one that still has the creases in it from the last time you washed and folded it which was yesterday).

3. Memories
With my first precious babies, I carefully documented their little lives in picture albums. From the scrunchy, red-faced newborn photo to the soccer team snapshots, every important moment was captured and neatly organized. With the invention of the cell phone and instagram, in addition to half a dozen more sweeties vying for my attention, I fell behind in my scrapbook endeavors. But in a big family that’s really not a problem (per say) because there’s always someone who will remember your history and exuberantly retell it for you (usually while in the middle of Thanksgiving dinner or when you bring your first real love home to meet your family). The real problem arises when your version of the facts (you know the honest-to-goodness facts that you remember because you always remember correctly) get twisted in a knot by everyone else who shares your surname.
4. Feast or Famine
We keep a small arsenal of snacks and non-perishables in our basement. Not because we are hardcore doomsdayers preparing for the end times, but because we have to keep some back stock to protect against the end-of month famine. Here’s how it goes down in the big family: the children cry out weakly, “Please, Sir, our porridge pot is empty and we’re starving (to death), can’t you please go fetch us some gruel?” At which time we head over to the local discount grocery and proceed to cram two carts filled to overflowing with cans, boxes, slabs and bunches of every kind of nutritious (cookies and marshmallows count, right?) ingredient. The feast begins on the drive home when those malnourished children tear into the first box of cheese crackers and eat all but the crumbs stuck on the inside bottom of the packaging before the van rolls into the driveway twenty minutes later. This jolly feasting continues for the next week until they’ve finished off the other two packages of cheese crackers, a dozen apples, a pound of salami, four sleeves of cookies, two loaves of bread, three varieties of cereal… Hence, how we end up back in a scene from Oliver Twist.
5. Volume
Back in the day (BC- before children), my husband and I laughed when we visited some relatives with kids because they had the TV cranked up to 55 in a 9X9 foot room. It didn’t take long for karma to swing back. We have no clue how anyone ever enjoyed a family movie before the advent of the rewind button. My husband makes feeble attempts to threaten the kids into silence when a race or ball game is on, but they can’t hear him over the barrage of “Who’s winning? Who’s that? What’d he just say?” Years ago we suspected our children must be deaf (especially our second daughter), so we had their hearing tested in the hopes of remedying their busted volume controls. Unfortunately, the doctor told us they all hear just fine.
6. Privacy
Perhaps, their volume control problems are to blame, but most of the time my brood are unable to hear my commands when spoken in a range below screaming. However, when the hubby and I are discussing vacation plans (while hiding in a closet on the opposite side of the house) you can be assured that some little busy-body will overhear us and chime in. Then there’s the bathroom. Precisely eight minutes into my morning shower every.single.day. my six year old must retrieve the only pair of pants he seems to own which (of course) are located in the laundry room that can only be reached through the bathroom. Most of the time, I’ve already got toddler company in there anyway, so what’s another family member, right? My husband freely empties his bowels without any pomp and circumstance, but as for me it is no wonder why all those commercials for fiber aid feature women. If I need to excuse myself, it is a game of distraction wherein I try to slink off unnoticed (tiptoeing down the hall and holding my breath while pulling the door shut in the hopes of masking any squeaks). 10% of the time I succeed in peeing in peace and solitude, 90% of the time someone decides it is of the utmost importance that I be located immediately to answer some burning question like “Can I have a puppy for Christmas?” 
 
7. Shoes
Summer sandals and sneakers, church shoes and winter boots, shoes that used to fit and the hand-me-downs that are still a size too big for anybody, shoes, shoes and more shoes. The shoe problem is less about the number of shoes around here and more about the fact that they rarely all make it onto the shoe rack (kinda like dirty clothes and the laundry baskets). They make it beside the rack, under it and next to it. We also find lone shoes under the table, behind the couch and strewn about the yard.
8. Seating
Seating in the big family is assigned. Be it in our big, white van or circled around our permanently extended dining room table, every body has his/her respective spot. Hours of discernment and mediation went into mapping the plan-o-grams so as to reduce the chance of conflict between adjoining parties. The schematics work (mostly), until a new person gets added, then it’s back to the drawing board.
9. Somebody to blame
Somebody” is ALWAYS to blame. Of course, “Somebody” is the invisible child who perpetrates every crime that can’t be directly attributed to a known offender. Rest assured, children are quite helpful when it comes to solving crimes (like who wrote on the wall or broke mom’s favorite coffee mug). Their detective work rivals that of Sherlock Holmes when asked, “Who did …?” But if it’s not sister or brother, it typically falls to that annoying Somebody kid (who to date has consistently avoided my capture).
10. Bedtime
And then there’s BEDTIME. We hear that is the time of day when people lay their heads down, close their eyes and drift off to peaceful slumber. We wouldn’t know because (did I mention?) we have eight children. I have vague memories of a time BC when I may have slept through the night without waking to nurse, comfort, redirect, reposition or talk with some family member. Truth be told, I’m so well trained now that even if no one disturbs my rest (which happens close to never) I still arouse long enough to pee (probably because it is the rare time I can be alone) and to double-check that everyone is still breathing. I’ve yet to actually laugh in the face of inquisitors who’ve dared ask, throughout the years, if our newborns are sleeping through the night, but I’d like to. Bedtime would be more aptly named Second-Wind-time since it seems as though our kiddos (who were drifting off to sleep during dinner) suddenly muster enough spare energy to run cackling through the house at warp speed.
Perhaps, if we enlisted a whistle like Captain Von Trapp, our children would report on time and line up in a tidy row. Maybe, I just need an Alice like the Bradys had to contend with Laundry Hill and the case of the missing left shoes. Yes, big families are rife with problems. But if I had it all to do over again, I (honestly) wouldn’t change a thing because along with the challenges come even more blessings. When I’m sitting elbow to elbow at our noisy dinner table, my cheeks aching from laughing too hard at the family story that’s being told for the umpteenth time, all the hard stuff counts for nothing.

A Little Reminder That Life is Good

When my older boys were little I made Halloween costumes (from sewing Buzz Lightyear to creating a bull out of a cardboard box), threw themed birthday parties (Veggie Tales and Sea Creatures), paper-mached a pinata (that turned out to be nearly indestructible), and baked birthday cakes (a school bus). Eight kiddos later and I sometimes feel a bit of guilt because my crafty skills are more often constrained by time.
Lately, I have to admit I feel downright aggravated with myself.

Between juggling home school lessons, tending to baby and coordinating teen work/commitment schedules, all those Pinterest ideas are little more than eye candy. Just when I contemplate reaching for the glue gun or sewing machine, I see the unmade bed, the unbrushed hair, and the fingerprints. A thousand other chores bellow for my attention.

Even finding time to write a post had become a hassle as of late. Inspiration rises to the surface only to be squelched by a cry or a “Mom, I need your help.”
But tonight when I sat down to save pictures from my camera, I discovered all these happy moments that we’ve been wracking up together. And I am reminded that I am my own worst critic because life in this big brood can’t be all that bad if the measure of judgment is metered out in smiles. 

 

The birthday bonanza lasts from late March through September and everyone gets to wear my homemade birthday hat. Note the sticky papered age tags so I can keep track.
Lilia got to spend her birthday with dogs, lots of dogs. Oh yeah and Aunt Tammy, too!

Nikolai getting help from his baby bro.

This is the 15 year old boy version of a smile. I’ll take it.

Nothing says “We had fun” like dirty, bare feet!
Pierce turned 18 and got his driver’s license. He promptly drove out alone to buy his siblings lunch in celebration.

Okay, so Pinterest does get credit for this idea. I simply had to find the time to give my 6 year old a surprise minion cake.
marshmallow minions

So I didn’t make the pinata, but I don’t think anyone cared where the candy was raining from.

Daddy and the boys at the race.
Indeed LIFE is GOOD!
 

Our Family Never Misses A Meal: Getting Kids to Eat Their Supper (plus our favorite recipes)

Please, pass the mashed potatoes and don’t hog the gravy.”

 

Some of my best memories revolved around the dinner table. Holidays and many in-between days found me settled at the family table with my mom, grandparents, young aunts and uncles amidst good food and even better conversation. Graduated out of a high chair, I remember the delight of sitting (propped up on the silverware box) next to my grandmother at the head of the table. I learned the value of keeping your elbows off the table and your manners minded.

Those meals took some preparing. There were duties to fulfill in order to get everything to our plates. Uncle Tom was the master of salads and I recall watching as he shook the dressing packet into the oil in Grandma’s glass bottle. Clean up always seemed to fall to the women of the household, who filled the kitchen with chatter as they washed and dried and put away those Corelle dishes. 

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Picturing Parties, Peacocks & the Perfect Beach Day

Just another week in Brelinskyville I say. And by that I mean: traveling to celebrate our first graduate, hosting 86 of the world’s most awesome party guests, a stray peacock, field tripping to the beach and an extra blessing to count.




1. I’ve already gushed HERE over my very first home school graduate, but now I’ve actually got the pictures to document the achievement. We opted to enroll our high schoolers in Seton Home Study, so my son was eligible to participate in a graduation ceremony in VA. What a thrill to be among 100+ other graduates (from all over the country and one who came all the way from the Philippines) and those were just the graduates who chose to attend the event. 

I can’t say enough about how well Seton met our needs as a family and prepared my son for his future as an intelligent adult and a Catholic capable of defending his beliefs. Quite frankly, while I knew I would stay the course throughout my son’s high school education, I was somewhat intimidated and overwhelmed at the prospect of having to calculate his credits, double-check his requirements and create his transcript. Enter Seton where they do all of that and more. Four years and three high schoolers later, I am satisfied that we made the right choice and the tuition is worth every penny.

Class of 2014






Jude’s First Holy Communion
Sebastian’s Confirmation



2. When we throw a party, we like to really throw a party! Years ago we decided to host big, all-inclusive, family-sized shin-digs. When the oldest two were little I did the kids’ only, themed birthday parties (think Veggie Tale donuts, pirate treasure hunts and paper mache pinatas) complete with preplanned games and a gift unwrapping break. However, as the size of our brood increased that plan seemed less than ideal and honestly kind of un-fun for the adults and siblings. I mean hosting 8 birthday soirees would book up our whole summer and fall (since our bdays span from March to September). So the big bash idea sprang up and we’ve been sticking with it ever since. Now the kids entertain one another (no need for me to orchestrate games) and no one is left out since there is a least one (or six) somebodies your age to hang with. Moms and dads are then free to enjoy the company of other adults since the kiddos are so busy together. Of course, being southerners and all potluck is the way to go. This cuts down on expense and allows friends to share something rather than feeling obliged to bring gifts.  

This go around we and 76 of our friends and family spent the afternoon together celebrating this year’s sacraments and milestones (with a confirmation, communion and graduation in one spring there was oh so much to celebrate).





Kevin (named in honor of the bird from UP)

3.  Okay, so normal people might happen across a stray kitty or puppy, right? But here in B-ville we find ourselves adopted by a stray peacock! No, really, a peacock literally flew into our field of fowl and he’s decided (against our best efforts to discourage him) to make this home. Occasionally, he perches on our high roof, but most of the time he sits near the hens that he is trying so very hard to impress. Quite comical, when the hens walk passed he fans out his tail feathers and shakes them ever so purposefully whilst turning slowly so as to remain within 

the hen’s line of sight. The chickens (like innocent, college girls in a frat house) don’t quite understand his oh-so-subtle flirtations (or they’re just not interested in inter-species romance). If the girls here aren’t diggin’ him, I guess he’s decided the food makes up for it. Anyone got any peacock tips?

Mr. B and the sea

4. How is it that a whole year has slipped by since I carried my big bellied self to the beach? Well, it has and it was high time to soak in some RR on the coast of NC. A more perfect beach day we couldn’t have prayed for (okay well the freezing cold water may have been a deterent for some of us but as you can see from the pics the kids numbed up fast enough to enjoy the chilly waters) as the temperature was warm but not sweat-worthy, the life guards were on duty, the parking lot was nearly empty and the sky maintained its Carolina blue.

We barely even bothered with the radio as the soothing sounds of the waves were enough to captivate our attention. God also graced us with just enough wind to lift our kite, but not so much as to require us to wrap up in towels for comfort. The coast takes a bit of navigating for our crew since we live a few hours from it, but as always the day trip gave us that little timeout we all needed.





5. Putting this post together, I have to admit my shame in adding this last thought. Just across the way from our favorite beach spot is the Bodie Island lighthouse, so this trip we decided to check it out (not sure why we hadn’t in the past). Happy to have arrived an hour before its closing, we filed out of the van and began snapping pictures. A tour guide was about to usher in a new group and she advised that we’d need to purchase tickets inside to join the next grouping. Unfortunately, once inside we realized the pricing was too far outside of our tight budget, so we had to settle for looking at the curator’s picture book of the lighthouse interior. 

Glad for the portrait view, I was internally bemoaning. Our budget is more often than not tight, but I hate saying no again and again. I wanted to say, “Yes. We’ll take ten tickets!” I wanted my kids to race up the spiral staircase, to peer out from the top, to imprint a lasting memory, but thoughtful planning dictated that we needed to forgo this expense as our traveling is not yet complete for the summer. 

How silly I feel now for my ingratitude as I detail the abundance of blessings that have been poured forth these last few weeks. So what that we missed the spiral stairs in that black and white structure we’ve witnessed sacraments, welcomed loved ones, met new friends, experienced unfamiliar settings and stored up an ample cache of mental souvenirs. 

Once again, this domestic church I call home succeeds in raising my eyes upward.

The Fall, An Accident Inspires Gratitude

Doing the baby jig at the rear of the adoration chapel, I glanced down at the book of thanksgiving. Perusing the list of gratis for health and healing, family and friends, my eyes were drawn to two lines in particular. The familiar scratching of P. I. O. called my attention. Truly this wasn’t the first time my nine month old’s name has been sprawled in childish print in that book, but on this day he was mentioned in two consecutive entries.

Thank you God for protecting Pio.

For keeping Pio safe.
Instantly I jumped back in time to that late morning less than two weeks ago.
Crouching on the family room floor next to the coffee table while attempting to finish grading a lesson, my second eldest son had me stop and proofread his assignment. With my hands baby-free for a few minutes I felt like I was actually making headway in keeping the school day on track so this interruption wasn’t troublesome. It was a good day.
Off in the distance a commotion erupted which I was fully ready to ignore, figuring it was the umpteenth “he did-she did” of the morning. But my son leaped up like a guard dog that’s caught whiff of danger and my internal radar said to follow. The next minute (which was really more like ten seconds) felt like a slow motion scene as my brain tried to clue in to what was happening. Five steps in, I watched that son break into a sprint as he flung the dog/baby gate open. Close behind him, my own movements felt less conscious and more reflexive.
Then my ears registered the words, “THE BABY.” My body stiffened and my head starting spinning like a twister as I instinctively prepared.
My concern-faced,7 year old son rushed at me and thrust the crying infant into my arms, as he explained that the baby had fallen down our basement stairs. Nausea rose up as I scanned little Pio from head to toe. Running my fingers over his hard skull to feel for lumps, I stared into his dark brown eyes to be sure he was fully coherent. Bending and rubbing chubby limbs, I tried to remember not to overlook any part of him.
The kids were talking rapidly, questioning one another. Fear was palpable.
Sweet Pio was simply happy to be in his usual spot, my arms, and so his crying ended quickly. My jarred nerves were not so rapidly soothed as I spent the remainder of the day on watch trying to decide whether a nap was indeed a routine nap or the signal of a concussion.
By the grace of God alone I managed to remain calm in front of the children although internally I was anything but. I was angry and scared, worried and fearful. However, I knew that the children were watching me for a reaction and it would set the tone for theirs. The child who had accidentally allowed the baby to get out of sight was gripped by remorse and anxiety and there was a delicate balance to be struck to prevent the siblings from laying overwhelming blame.
Once the story unfolded and the pieces were fit together it appeared that the baby had only slipped part of the way down the actual stairs before free falling over the open side of the staircase straight to the hard basement floor. Thankfully, he hit a stack of plastic crates which probably slowed his descent. Standing at the bottom of the steps trying to play detective, I had a distinct sense that Padre Pio had been a party to this event. Hard to explain, I just knew he had been there.
Although I’ve offered abundant thanks and praise for the blessing of my sweet youngest, that day reminded me again that life is a precious, fragile gift. Without any advanced notice, everything can be rearranged. For as easily as joy can fill us up, just as swiftly sorrow can rush in. Like the thief that comes in the night, a moment can steal away our well-crafted plans.
Reading those scribbled words in the chapel book, it seemed clear that the gravity of the situation had not been lost on even my young ones. Our family life has exposed them to much of the realities of life and clearly the lessons are sinking in. How beautiful it is too, that even though they fuss and fight, they are able to recognize in small ways that we must be thankful in the moment to moment of life together.
Standing there in the chapel, I looked around at those 8 bowed heads and counted my blessings by name. And I thought, this is the good stuff of family life. The reality checks that keep us grounded. The events which drop us to our knees in petition. The gifts which swell our hearts with gratitude. Countless opportunities to practice patience and forgiveness. And the chance to turn our dirty sock-strewn, toy-riddled, noisy home into a domestic church within which precious souls are formed and made ready.

My First Home School Graduate

To-do list:

wash laundry

scrub toilets

wipe counters

make bed

graduate son

mop floors

pay bills
Hey wait, did you catch that? I just ED off an item on my to-do list FOR-EV-A! Unlike the laundry which will never be finished or the crumb piles that will only reappear five minutes after I’ve cleaned them up, my son will never again require me to re-home school him (okay I will probably have to remind him of his manners and to pick up his wet towels, but that’s a different kinda schoolin’). That’s right, I’m doing the happy dance now that my numero uno son has completed his last assignment, making him a high school graduate.

It seems like just yesterday that little Pierce, in his adorable mushroom cut, was seated across the kitchen table with #2 pencil in hand. “Ssss, snake, ssss…what letter says ssss?” I was asking. Number families were neatly chalked on the hand-painted, wall blackboard and card stock Rembrandts covered the fridge. From ABC’s and 123’s to algebra and biology, I watched him stretch and grow in stature and wisdom throughout these last thirteen years.
This was the child that taught me to correct in blue ink (to his young perfectionist mind red pen was like the matador’s cape). He was the gifted artist who scrapped beautiful pictures if the proportions weren’t to his liking. The first (not the last) to reduce me to tears during our first reading lessons, he went on to devour books as a teen (no, not literally, he only bit board books as a toddler). My son #1 has music in his heart, so he taught himself to play the organ and then the piano. While he may not have ever been the quickest player on the soccer field, he easily ascended the ranks in Civil Air Patrol.
Our home schooling years are like postcards in my memory.
Okay, some of those postcards might be stamped from LaLaLand when I recall my yellow, school bus daydreams. Those are home school mom fantasies wherein you place your beloved, hard-headed learner on the magic yellow bus and then float back into the house to commence leisurely eating your secret cookies right in the middle of your tidy living room (as opposed to stuffing one in your mouth while hiding behind a cabinet door hoping no one will sniff you out). Then you watch some mindless talk show on the fingerprint-less TV screen and talk uninterrupted on the phone for a whole hour.
Yeah, I admit it, I even threatened to send him to “school” a time or two figuring he’d return home ever grateful for my sacrificial time and attention. In my estimation, he would return home (after a 7am to 4pm day, heavily laden with a ten pound backpack stuffed full of homework) uttering words of thanksgiving for his former home schooling routine and begging to be home again in the pleasant company of his siblings.
I had those days occasionally, but all in all our years together at the school table were a great blessing. Every milestone achieved, every lesson learned, every concept internalized, I was lucky enough to witness. And for all of the education he received, I learned right along with him. Indeed my rusty algebra was renewed and I can diagram sentences again, but even more importantly I was schooled in patience, compassion, perseverance, honesty, integrity, forgiveness and charity.
Home schooling is about providing kids the tools to become life-long learners, who know how and where to find answers to their questions and solutions to their problems. In the beginning, people asked me how I would make sure my son didn’t miss anything. When high school drew close that “anything” became how could I teach him subjects that I was lacking in. Staying the course in my vocation, I discovered the reply to that inquiry just about the time they stopped asking. He wasn’t constrained by me anymore than Einstein was constrained by his mother.
So today I am reaching around to give myself a well-earned pat on the back. Looking at my handsome, intelligent, artistic son who serves on the altar, holds down a part-time job, leads in his CAP squadron, delights his baby brother and fills our home with melodies, I know we succeeded at forming a whole person capable of extraordinary things.
That’s one goal down and just 7 more (kids) to go.