Wednesday, August 31, 2011


I spent much of August experiencing great fear and anxiety. I was truly humbled and brought to my knees when my first mammogram showed some areas of concern.

At first I was told that the two spots they found were "probably just cysts" but I needed to have an ultrasound to confirm that. A few days later I went to the ultrasound and was then escorted by a nurse into a dark room where a radiologist showed me images of my right breast on a HUGE screen. He showed me two monstrous looking growths and told me that he didn't know what they were, but they were definitely not cysts. That's about the last thing I really remember hearing because thoughts and feelings instantly began whirling in my head. I know I started to cry.

I was scared. Really scared.

I tried to stay calm. I tried to listen to the assurances of a very chatty nurse.... "They're probably fibrous growths." "PROBABLY?" I had heard that word before this test and it was wrong. She scheduled an appointment with a "breast health doctor" and a biopsy. She told me NOT to look at anything about this online. Yikes!

I tried to stay calm. I cooked dinner and took care of the boys and tried to do some school with them. I had a retreat to work on and attend. I had a chore list to work on. I kept busy.

But I was not calm. I was scared. Lots of "WHAT IF's" circled around in my head everytime I got a quiet moment. I was constantly fighting off full-fledged panic.

Jon, my mom, my dad, my sisters, and my friends were all great. They were praying for me and trying to re-assure me. My amazing Catholic OB even called me to make sure I understood the results and I was OK. He reminded me that I need to "put my trust where it belongs."

That statement really helped me begin to focus on the core of my fear. I was afraid that God's plans weren't going to line up with mine.... that I was really going to have to let go of the control to which I so tightly grasp. I proudly profess to be a Catholic, to love God deeply and follow Christ faithfully. I believe that God is faithful to me, that I will behold Him face to face for all eternity when my life here on Earth is ended. Yet I felt that I would give anything to just be able to be healthy and able to raise my boys. I felt like I needed to convince God that MY plans are the way we need to go.... as if He doesn't know what's best for all involved.

Is that true faith? I know that such struggles and questions are normal. I had just never really faced them so head-on for such an extended period of time. It scared me to realize that in many ways I trust my OWN plans and efforts more than God's. I was engaged in a real spiritual "wrestling" match. I turned to a very familiar scripture passage ---

Jeremiah 29:11-14 "For surely I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord, plans for your welfare and not for harm, to give you a future with hope. Then when you call upon me and come and pray to me, I will hear you. When you search for me, you will find me; if you seek me with all your heart, I will let you find me, says the Lord, and I will restore your fortunes and gather you from all the nations and all the places where I have driven you, says the Lord, and I will bring you back to the place from which I sent you into exile."

Interestingly, even that passage was so unsettling for me. I wasn't interested in God's plans. I wanted Him to listen to MY PLANS. When I realized that, I was so humbled. I tried very hard to pray and really be open to God's work in my life. I tried to listen for His Word for me. The only words I could hear were, "Do not be afraid."

A prayer that has been very helpful for me in the past is the part that the priest says after the Our Father at Mass. He prays, "Deliver us, Lord, from every evil, and grant us peace in our day. In your mercy keep us free from sin and protect us from all anxiety as we wait in joyful hope for the coming of our Savior, Jesus Christ." And we respond, "For the kingdom, the power, and the glory are yours, now and forever." Those are very beautiful and powerful prayers that can so easily be glossed over as we prepare for the Sign of Peace and Communion. My appreciation for them has certainly grown during the past month.

Fortunately, when I saw the breast doctor he told me to "take Schoedinger (a local funeral home) off speed dial." He reassured me that he was 95% sure the spots were benign fibrous growths AND that even if they were cancerous, they would be very "treatable".... not even stage one cancer.
And so I was greatly relieved. But I knew that this challenge was more than physical. I knew my faith was being tested. I knew God was speaking to me about more than just life and death issues. I continued to pray about trust and control and faith. I knew that the devil had found a crack in the foundation of my faith and had dug in deep. Fortunately, a few days later I was on the homeschool retreat. I had a lot of time to pray and sort things out.  Confession, adoration, encouragement from wise women, time to think and pray. It was very helpful. I knew God's faithful, patient, loving presence again.
A few days later I went to have the biopsy done. It felt more like a necessary inconvenience than a stressful test. Jon took off work to go with me. My friends watched the boys and cooked me dinner. I was relatively relaxed as I changed into the gown and waited in the waiting area. UNTIL..... I began to feel a bit off balance. Things felt shaky. I stayed calm and got through the biopsy. The nurses and doctors couldn't have been nicer. It hurt a bit, but I kept my eyes closed and didn't see any needles. The doctor even essentially told me it wasn't cancer, since it changed shape. (The smaller spot was actually just a cyst that he was able to drain.)
On the way home, I realized that in my shaky moment before the biopsy I had felt an EARTHQUAKE! Truly! I'm still laughing about that and wondering what exactly God was trying to say/do with that. My first thought, though, was that if this is the end of the world, I'm going to be really mad that I had to go through this whole saga.

Last Friday, just before we left for a weekend in Michigan, I got the official call that the biopsy had come back fine. Alleluia! And so ended  ANOTHER health saga for me. What a summer! Sprained ankle, broken finger, high cholesterol.... bad mammogram. Please Lord... enough. You have my attention. I am trusting in you... and taking care of myself the best I can. 

Another thing I've committed to in the wake of this latest health saga is praying every day for people whose diagnoses aren't so positive... for the panic and uncertaintly and pain people experience every day. All of us are going to experience it at some point. I'm praying for the amazing health care professionals and researchers who are caring for people and searching for new treatments.

I praise God --- not that MY WILL was done in this scenario --- but for his patient, faithful love. For all the chances he gives all of us to learn and trust over and over again.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011


It's official.... school has started here at our little Catholic academy.

Last Friday I received our approval form from the local school district.

This is the first year that I've had to officially notify the school district of my intention to homeschool. I submitted our course of study and book/resource list and I received the official "excuse from compulsory attendance notice." Phew. Now comes the real work!

We actually attempted to kick off our school year last week. The boys received their "schultutes" (a German tradition) filled with some goodies and school supplies.

We made time capsules, which we will open at the end of the school year. The boys each traced a hand, wrote their name, narrated some of their favorites things, listed some things they want to learn this year, and drew a self-portrait. I measured them with a length of ribbon as well.

We put all of these items into a toilet paper tube, wrapped it with tissue paper, and decorated it. I got this idea from Pinterest  (  It should be fun to open them at the end of the school year and see how much the boys have learned and changed.

We kicked off the year with a study of habitats. Here's Ray playing a game, matching animals to the habitat in which they live.

 Here's Adam drawing a desert habitat.

 We have been reading about habitats and creating some dioramas of some of our favorite habitats.

We had some help from some friends! Here's Jackie, who helped a whole bunch with our awesome rainforest habitat diorama:

 Here's Alana, who decorated this Arctic habitat.

Ray created this pond diorama all by himself.

 Adam created this "African Plain" diorama all by himself.

 Last week we had fun with habitats and we did a lot of reading, but we weren't quite ready for much more schoolwork. So this week we are adding in some more elements of our school schedule... I guess we're "phasing in."

Yesterday was a beautiful day, so we went to a local park and studied the pond habitat. We had a great time searching for critters. The boys made some nice sketches and we read a few books about ponds.

After that, we headed to our downtown library (which we LOVE). The boys played some computer games while I gathered books we need for the next few weeks. Then we sat down at the table and cracked open their new Phonics and Math books. They don't look thrilled in this picture, but they did enjoy their lessons and they did a good job.

 Today we did a little bit more.... getting them back on track with their "learning to read" lessons, working on memorizing a short poem, doing Math and Phonics, learning about Saint Rose of Lima, reading together, and doing a few "food chain" activities. So, each day we'll keep adding more elements until our routine is set for the year.

Ray is on board and ready to roll. Adam is having a bit more trouble letting go of his own "creative agenda" to do some work that I want him to do. I am trying to be gentle with him, yet set some boundaries for school time.

Finally, check out our new school room clock ----

I actually found this gem at Kroger for $19! I was looking for a bold, simple clock and I was going to put the "minutes" numbers around it. When I saw this, complete with the "minutes numbers" in red, I snatched it right up. It really looks great and will be helpful as we continue to learn to tell time!

Please pray for us as we continue to settle into a new rhythm of learning around here.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

"Rooted in Love" - A Retreat for Catholic Homeschooling Moms

 I was blessed to be part of a beautiful retreat this weekend. More than 50 Catholic homeschooling moms gathered at our diocesan retreat center to begin the new school year with prayer, inspiration, and support.

On Friday evening we heard a powerful talk by a passionate young priest. He spoke to us about the devotion to the Sacred Heart. We had the joy of participating in Adoration, Benediction, and Confession.... without the distraction of our little ones. After that we had a great time visiting with old and new friends, snacking, and doing a bit of spa pampering. It was like a giant slumber party and we all stayed up too late!

On Saturday we listened to beautiful talks by two amazing homeschooling moms. They were so uplifitinng and encouraging. I really felt inspired and strengthened in my vocation. We spent time sharing in small groups, attended Mass, prayed the Rosary and the Divine Mercy Chaplet, and participated in breakout sessions with other moms who are in similar places on the homeschooling journey.

The "Rooted in Love" theme was based on Ephesians 3:14-21 ---
"For this reason I kneel before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named, that he may grant you in accord with the riches of his glory to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in the inner self, and that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; that you, rooted and grounded in love,m may have strength to comprehend with all the holy ones what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, so that you may be filled with all the fullness of God. Now to him who is able to accomplish far more than all we ask or imagine, by the power at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen."

We were reminded to stay focused on our MISSION as Catholic homeschoolers.... nurturing our families, forming our children in the Faith, practicing and joyfully celebrating that Faith as a family. Truly, it is Jesus - the tender, generous, faithful, awesome love of Jesus - that is the heart and root of who we are. Love of him surpasses all knowledge. For us, all that we do and all that we are is from him, through him, and for him.

All of the participants were divided into small groups for discussions. Each group was named after a patron saint (all of whom were related to motherhood or education in some way). It was wonderful to get to know new women and share our insights, experiences, and prayer intentions. At the end of the retreat we were each given a peg doll of the patron saint of our group! So cool! (I got Saint Thomas Aquinas.... and I also purchased a Saint Joseph doll, so I was able to give one to each of the boys.)

It was great that so many husbands took on the responsibility of watching their children for the weekend so their wives could get away. (We have some really big families! At one point we were trying to add up how many children we had among us as a group... it was a BIG number!) We prayed a lot for our husbands as well as for moms who weren't able to attend.

I just love this next picture of so many moms with babies! I have been on retreat at this center many times, but never with so many little ones in tow. It was beautiful to have the littlest ones with us.

And so, as Moms, we were blessed to be renewed and strengthened in our vocations. Thank you, Lord, for this special grace-filled time. I pray for all of my companions on this journey, and for all of our families as we begin this new school year.  

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

How Sundays Are Meant To Be!

What could be better than spending a beautiful Summer Sunday afternoon at this lovely house on a pretty little lake?

Spending it with awesome friends! We had a fantastic time at my friend Becky's parents' home in Chillicothe. It was a relaxed afternoon of cooking out, swimming in the lake, roasting s'mores, making ice cream, relaxing, playing, visiting, and sort of fishing.

We are so blessed to have family friends. The kids love playing together and the adults really enjoy spending time together too! I can't imagine raising my family without the love, friendship, and support of good friends. I am looking forward to lots more fun adventures in the future!

Here are some shots from the day ----

Picnic on the porch

Adam's wild find... a teeny tiny toad

Ryan and Adam preparing to dive from a platform into the lake!

Ray striking a pose before a fancy dive.

Action shot!

Bathing beauties!

Getting ready to roast marshmallows

Making homemade ice cream!

The dads took the kids swimming and then enjoyed talking football, wrestling, and who knows what else!

Christian - so serious with his serious marshmallow roasting device!

Lovely ladies (and Noah) at the lake

We tried some fishing as we were winding down and preparing to leave... just basically threw some poles in, nothing serious and didn't catch anything.... but the boys loved it.

What a catch!
 I really believe that this is how Sundays are meant to be.... Mass in the morning, families relaxing and being together in the afternoon. When we were growing up, we went to Mass and then to my grandparents' home for a big breakfast. After breakfast we played cards or sat and visited in the yard. I don't remember tons of errands and chores on Sundays. (Then again, I was a kid.) I hope to create some real Sabbath time on Sundays with our family. It's important.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

We survived - and thrived!

We really ENJOYED unplugged week around here. We found lots of fun things to do. Adam was the only one who even counted down the days. I was especially impressed with Ray, who thoroughly enjoyed getting into some projects and activities that I know he would not have picked up if he had the option of watching TV. We read lots of books, did some art and some cooking, went on some fun outings, and enjoyed the beautiful weather.

Now we are transitioning into a school schedule with dramatically cut-back and controlled TV/computer time. I don't think it will be a problem though. We have so many fun things to learn and do. Here are some glimpses of the fun we had during unplugged week ----

Jon taught both boys to play checkers and they are even beginning to learn chess. Later in the week they got into a Marathon Monopoly game. However, Ray informed me yesterday that Adam was out of the game because he got "bank-robbed" (meaning bankrupt).

We discovered that the new fountain park at Scioto Mile  in Downtown Columbus is AWESOME!

Ray got out his Lincoln Logs and built an entire town.

Both boys began Karate classes at Team Karate Center. Adam is demonstrating a move he learned.

Jon and the boys spent a fun evening at Holy Spirit Parish festival while I hosted a committee meeting here.

Have YOU ever petted a flamingo?
The boys and I had a really fun day at the zoo.

Can't watch TV?
Might as well brush a goat!

Dippin Dots!

I can't believe they are big enough to ride the carousel all by themselves now! We are definitely in a new phase of family life.

Spitting dinosaurs! These zoo creatures were mechanical and they were a huge hit with my boys. They got absolutely soaked.

The one exception to the unplugged week challenge was movie night at the pool, the last one of the summer. Ray tired out too early, but Jon and Adam watched Toy Story 3 on the big screen on Friday night.

Even though we're starting school tomorrow, we're still going to enjoy lots more summer fun in the next few weeks!