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God’s megaphone is saying:

I am selfish! Yes, it feels like that is our Lord’s lenten message to me. Quite honestly, it is coming as quite a shock so perhaps pride may be a part of the message too?

So how does this pride and selfishness manifest itself? I refuse to submit my will to anyone other than the Almighty himself. Apparently, He is the only one I feel should have more say than me because he is God after all.

I’ve always thought that I was strong willed and always right. God apparently calls that selfish and proud. Ouch.

So much for my resolutions, it seems God has some of his own in mind for me such as submitting to others (especially my husband) for no other reason than making an act of love, a sincere gift of self. He has made it very clear it doesn’t matter if I am right, if I have a good argument or a better way. It doesn’t even matter if someone else is in the wrong, I am to submit.

So this lent this is the cross our Lord’s given to me bear; submission.

If only I had a Caramel Macchiato to console me!

And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God. (Eph 5:2)

Be subject to one another out of reverence for Christ. Wives, be subject to your husbands, as to the Lord. (Eph 5:21, 22)

Whoever wishes to be great among you will become a servant; whoever wishes to be first among you shall be your slave. Just so, the Son of Man did not come to be served but to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many. (Matthew 20:27, 28)




A Lenten Birthday Surprise

I knew my husband had something planned for my birthday by the way he was acting, lots of hush, hush, with the kids, and don’t open that e-mail sort of thing. But I could not have imagined all he had planned…

On the eve of my birthday, the only hint of what might be planned was leaked, “Children make sure you have warm clothes for tomorrow.”

 “Aha!” I thought, “We’re going somewhere outside.” 

I have a hunch of what you’ve planned for my birthday  I quipped.


“Don’t tell me! Just write it down on a piece of paper and give it to me so you don’t ruin this surprise!” I was warned.


“This surprise?Is it my fault I have such great natural intuition? Just because I guess doesn’t mean he has to give it away!”, I thought to myself, as I wrote down my far-fetched but most confident guess.


The next morning, my dear husband kissed me goodbye while I dozily responded back with a peck.

Five minutes later he was back in the room telling me to jump in the shower because we needed to leave by 7:30 am. The goodbye kiss? All a hoax. He really had taken the day off and had big plans for us!


So by 7:40 am, the children, the dog, my husband and myself were loaded in the mini-van headed to pick up bagels and coffee to eat on the way to our surprise destination. My husband turned on the CD player for my first clue:  Nuns chanting beautifully.  I was right! I knew we would be going to visit St. Walburga Benedictine Abbey, I just knew it!


My dear husband had peeked at my guess from the night before and knew I had guessed correctly leaving him enamored with what I could only explain as my feminine genius!


Three and a half hours later (after passing the exit by four miles on the most expensive tollway in America and decideing to take the back way rather than turning around and forking out more cash) we arrived at the Abbey just in time for noonday prayers.  The sisters chanted the prayers beautifully. They truly sound like the choirs of heaven when they sing and are a great testimony to the power of Beauty, that which is True and Good.  Prayers only lasted for 15 minutes before the noon hour was being announced by the striking on the bell tower that sounded for lunch. I had stayed in the chapel to pray when I heard the bells and realized it was the hour that our Lord had been nailed to the cross.  Sorrow filled my soul for my sins as the psalm resonated in my heart, “I am like water poured out; all my bones are racked…Many dogs surround me, a pack of evildoers closes in upon me: they have pierced my hands and my feet; I can count all my bones. They look on and gloat over me; they divide my garments among them, and for my vestures they cast lots.”

 Oh, Jesus, I am sorry. May my tears wash your feet and bring you consolation on the cross just as Mary’s did. 

It then dawned on me that I am now the age of my Lord when he was crucified: thirty-three. Wow, was I prepared to suffer I wondered? I wasn’t so sure. Giving up Starbucks seemed difficult enough but that wasn’t really suffering. The Lord then, in his mercy, reassured me of his love by reminding me of the times in my life when I have bled, when I have suffered, when I have been crucified with him. These memories no longer brought me pain as I thought back on them but rather joy. I felt so honored to have been allowed to suffer with our Lord on the cross.  What a gift!


Aware that was alone, I then wiped my eyes and went looking for my family, who were wandering around the beautiful grounds of the Abbey. We hiked for a while, climbing near St. Peter’s Garden for a short time, taking in the natural beauty of the granite mountains that butt up against St. Walburga. It is quite breathtaking.


We loaded everyone back up into the van and received my second surprise; a beautiful & thoughtful card with MONEY inside with a note stating it was to be spent shopping in Old Town Ft. Collins! Whoo hoo!!! My second guess was right too!

After a full but fun day shopping in all the stores you have to tell young children NOT TO TOUCH in (my dear husband took the young ones to visit a skate shop owned by an old high school buddy) I made my selection: two ceramic chickens for the kitchen! They were even 20% off which meant I had leftover money for new curtains in the kitchen to go with the chickens. What an awesome birthday.


We once again packed into the van, gave thanks for the miracle that happened with the dog which I will explain below, and headed toward home looking for a restaurant that had something vegetarian on the menu since it was a Friday in Lent.


 (About the dog: Someone let her off her leash when she was tied up outside the skate shop but I just happened across her on the corner of a very busy intersection while having to go find a public restroom for Galadriel. We figured that just about the time she was let loose, I started down the street where I met up with her! The women who were holding her said they were going to take her home if nobody had answered the phone number on her collar. I can’t even express what a tragedy it would have been if we would have had to go the 2 ½ hours home without Lil’ Anne!)


Rosie suggested we eat at an Italian restaurant in town. Samwise had just fallen asleep after an incredibly exhausting day, so I suggested we drive on towards home and eat after he got a little shuteye. My dear husband insisted that we eat in town and nothing I said would sway him. At this point I knew something else was planned, but what? I hadn’t guessed anything else last night.  As we pulled into the parking lot I saw my in-laws van. Okay, you got me, honey! I wasn’t expecting this!


As we walked to the table, not only my in-laws were there but my mother and stepfather were sitting at the table, two hours away from home too! I really was surprised! And that’s when I was presented with my last surprise. The children presented me with a card and a gift bag. In the gift bag were lots of earplugs and 13 tickets to see Chris Rice in concert. The date for the concert: February 23, 2007! We finished up dinner, enjoyed an on the house dessert and then ended the night with 3 of the 5 children falling asleep listening to there very first concert!


Thank you, honey, for such a wonderful birthday full of blessings and surprises!


What are we doing next year?!?

Lent is upon Us

You know Lent is upon you when the highlight of your day is going down to the local IHOP to fill up on a short stack of free pancakes, you make a special trip to Starbucks and get extra caramel on that Macchiato, and you have seconds on dessert which, by the way, were incredibly delicious Starbucks Coffee Mud Pie ice cream bars. (In my defense, a couple of hours have past since my 1st one and isn’t that why it’s called Fat Tuesday anyway?!?)

So now that my stomach has been sufficiently filled in preparation for the fast tomorrow on Ash Wednesday, it seems it would be a good time to reflect with you on my plans for Lent. You know those plans that are suppose to aid us on our path to holiness. Those things that we resolve to do every year (somewhat like a  Catholic version of New Year’s resolutions.) Those things that most of us eventually fail at atleast once during Lent. Well, here are mine:

  • Give up Starbucks.  I have such a weakness for Starbucks and now with the drive-thru windows and the shops in almost every grocery or discount store, it is becoming more difficult to resist the gravitational pull it seems to have on me. This really sunk in the other day as I drove past an add for cigarettes priced at $4.20 a pack. Who would pay $4.20 for a pack of smokes? How absurd! And then came the Quiet Voice with conviction, “A Cinnamon Dulce latte is $4.20. How many have you bought this week?” Ouch! Okay, no more Starbucks.
  • Keep an accurate expense record. Be accountable for every penny spent and see how it is spent. This is so intimidating to me but I feel it’s a sacrifice that must be done. It’s a little way I can make a gift of myself to my dear husband who is willing to work a paper route (in addition to his regular 50 hours a week) so we can pay off debt we have accumulated due to medical bills and other big things that have come up. So if he’s willing to sacrifice sleep, I’m going to do everything I can to make sure it’s for as short of time as possible.
  • Exercise, eat well & take care of my body. It is a gift that I’ve been neglecting for too long.
  • Question for quiet time with the Lord in the morning: Lord, what gift do you have for me to receive today? How can I make myself a gift to you, my husband, & the children today?
  • Question for the Lord at night: Did I receive you today? Did I receive my husband and the children today as gifts?
  • Pray the Liturgy of the Hours with my spouse and children everyday.
  • Try to get back to praying Divine Mercy every afternoon.

 So there it is. My list. Will I execute this perfectly this Lent or will I fall short of what I have set out to do? I already know the answer. I will fall short because we all fall short of the Glory of God but it is in the falling & failing that we are weak enough to rely on His Mercy to make us holy, not on our own strength.

Have a blessed Lent and let us not forget-His joy comes in the Morning! 

The Vino has Arrived!

Fed Ex, rang and ran, leaving the BOGO 2003 Rosso from Puglia Italy on the porch. I’ve been eagerly anticipating it’s arrival as my 4Reallearning friends & I gear up for a virtual wine tasting. BOGO stands for buy one, give one which is so appropriate for a company that donates $2 for every 9L case sold, to adult stem cell research. (For clarification: The Catholic Church supports adult stem cell research and only opposes research that is immoral such as embryo research where the embryo is intentionally destroyed. Visit here for more information regarding bioethics.)

 The other wine we are tasting (per my suggestion as I already had it in the fridge) is a Aquinas Napa Valley 2005 Chardonnay which was named for St. Thomas Aquinas, a revolutionary scholar in the 13th century who used the laws of science to support his belief in the Almighty.

To educate myself on wine I’ve been using these resources from the library: Introduction to Wine Tasting with Bob Betz, Master of Wine and Jancis Robinson’s Wine Course. I enjoyed both of these and in turn have come to enjoy the intricacies of wine as well! I highly recommend both resources.

The Denver 4Reallearner’s will be gathering together for the tasting and I will post our review here on House of Grace for everyone to enjoy. Cheers!

St. Agatha-Pray for Us!

Today we honor St. Agatha, virgin and martyr, who for love of Christ remained pure and chaste even in the face of horrendous torture.

Click on the link to read what Catholic Culture tells us about this holy women.

We plan to honor this couragous Saint by making a bread wreath, as bread is one of her symbols. We will attach prayers written on paper to the wreath, with a special intention for our dear neighbor who has been fighting breast cancer for the past 4 years. We will take the bread to mass tomorrow to have it blessed by a priest and then hang it in our kitchen near the window which faces our friends home. It will serve as a sacramental, reminding us to pray for St. Agatha’s intercession for the healing of our neighbor’s body.

For dinner we will be serving Pasta e Fagioli which is a red wine & tomato based soup with white northern beans & shell pasta. The red is symbolic of St. Agatha’s martyrdom and the white beans, of her purity. The seashell of course is an ancient symbol of baptism and reminds us to pray for the grace to live out our baptismal promises even in the face of difficulties and tribulations.  Our martyr candles will be lit as well to illuminate this picture which has a prominent place in our home, as well as in our hearts.

St. Agatha, pray for us!

Snow Activities

Here are some science activities we are planning on doing that correlate with our Winter Reading.

Snowflake Imprints

This project is done outdoors during a snowstorm. We plan on doing this several times during the winter, recording the weather conditions and their effect on the type of snowflakes. We will be recording: temperature, humidity, wind speed and direction, each time we make imprints.

Materials: Shoebox with lid, Acetate (Grafix Clear Film) cut to fit inside shoebox, Krylon plastic spray (we choose blue), cardboard cut to the same size of acetate, wooden spring clothespins (two per project)

Important: Keep all materials in the freezer for atleast 1 hour before doing the project.

  1. Place acetate on the cardboard and secure with clothespins.
  2. Spray acetate with Krylon. Work Quickly!
  3. Allow a few snowflakes to land on the acetate.
  4. Place acetate in the shoebox and cover with a lid so no more snow falls on the acetate.
  5. Leave outside for atleast 1 hour to allow the Krylon to dry.
  6. When dry, a replica of the snowflakes will be left on the acetate.
  7. Observe replica snowflakes with a hand lens or a microscope.
  8. You may want to classify the snowflakes using Ken Libbrecht’s Field Guide to Snowflakes.
  9. If you keep a nature journal you might want to draw a picture of your snowflake with a ruler and protractor.

Some questions to ponder: What type of crystals formed? Is there more than one type? How big are the crystals? Are any alike?

Borax Snowflakes

We found this activity at Home Science Tools. They are a wonderful supplier of science equipment for homeschooling families.

Make real crystal snowflakes to decorate your home using borax. This activity takes about 30 minutes of active preparation and then overnight to set.


  • Wide mouth jars – one for each snowflake (can reuse to make more snowflakes)
  • Pipe cleaners (Depending on the size of the jar, you may be able to cut one piece into three smaller pieces. Use the diameter of the jar’s mouth to measure how long the pipe cleaners need to be. Use white pipe cleaners to make traditional snowflakes, or use colored pipe cleaners and food coloring for more colorful snowflakes.)
  • String
  • Scissors
  • Pencils – one for each snowflake (have as many pencils as you have jars)
  • Water
  • One-cup measuring cup
  • Borax such as 20 Mule Team Borax Laundry Booster
  • Food coloring – don’t need this if making traditional white snowflakes


  1. For each snowflake, twist together three pipe cleaners in the center so that you make a 6-pointed star. Use scissors to trim down the ends of the pipe cleaners so they are all approximately the same length and can fit in the jar.
  2. Take a piece of string and tie it to one end of the star. Connect the string to the next point by twisting the string around the pipe cleaner. Continue around until you connect all the points together with the string, making a snowflake shape.
  3. Attach one of the pipe cleaner points with string to the shaft of the pencil. You should use just enough string so that when the pencil is resting on the mouth of the jar, the snowflake can be lowered into the jar and hang suspended without touching the mouth or the sides of the jar. Place the snowflake in the jar to make sure that it will fit and will hang suspended inside the jar. Take the snowflake out of the jar.
  4. Use a teakettle or microwave to boil enough water to fill each of the jars. When adding the water to the jars, measure out how many cups of water are needed to fill the jar. For every cup of water placed in the jar, mix in three tablespoons of borax. This will make a super saturated borax solution. (If using the optional methods below, add the food coloring in with this step.) Stir the borax solution with a spoon until dissolved.
  5. Hang your snowflakes in the jars so that they are completely suspended in the solution. Let your snowflakes sit overnight. Gently remove your now crystal covered snowflakes.

Optional: Try these methods to make your snowflakes even more unique!

  • Use colored pipe cleaners and food coloring to make different colored snowflakes. Use three pink pipe cleaners and one drop of red food coloring to make pink snowflakes, or green pipe cleaners and several drops of green food coloring – you get the idea. You may also want to try using yellow pipe cleaners and blue food coloring to make a greenish tinted snowflake or use different colors of pipe cleaners. Have fun making several different color combinations.
  • Make different designs or patterns with the string and the pipe cleaners. Make two circles to connect the pipe cleaners or try zigzagging between the points. Use thread or thin string for more intricate patterns.

Melt Snow

  • Weigh a quart size jar. Record weight.
  • Fill jar with clean snow. Weigh jar. Record weight.
  • Predict and mark where the melted snow water will come to on the jar. Measure with a ruler and record prediction.
  • Cover containers.
  • Predict how long it will take for the snow to melt.
  • Check on containers periodically until all the snow has melted. Record time.
  • Record weight and water levels of the melted snow in thier containers.
  • Discuss the results.
  • Now test the melted snow for purity. Pour the melted snow through a clean coffee filter.
  • Pour distilled water through a clean coffee filter.
  • Discuss results.

Snow Imprints and Snow Melt were adapted from Project Seasons.

No Snow? No worries. How about a Blizzard in a Bucket? Not up for a Blizzard? Try this, Instant Snow in a Test Tube.

I Don’t Wanna be an Unschooler! (But maybe I am?)

Hmm. I’ve been pondering this question lately and it seems to have come up here on the 4 Real Learning forums, although the question posed there is, “Are you radical unschoolers?”. It was an interesting thread. What I found most interesting was that many families posting on that board choose to describe their educational philosophy using terms other than unschooler.

I found this interesting because I always seem to have a strong negative reaction to the term, unschooler, when I think about applying it to ourselves. I think this is because 1) “unschooler” just seems so in your face. It seems to be a term which puts “schoolers” on the defensive and 2) I’m not really sure what constitutes a “real” unschooler. The definition of the term, if there is one, seems ambiguous to me.

For instance, if I require my children to do some reading everyday and limit their television viewing can I be considered an unschooler? What if I let one child choose our read aloud and insist that all the children are in hearing distance, even if they would prefer to read their own book upstairs? And what if I require them to do some sort of math work everyday but allow them to choose the materials they use? Or what if I insist that around age 9 they start formal lessons for math & english using traditional curricula, but the rest of the day, after chores, the children are free to do what they like with it? This is what our “schooling” looks likes; a few have to’s, lots of want to’s, with lots of unstructured time.

Would it be right to call myself an unschooler? I’m not sure. Maybe. Maybe not.

But then there is still just the “in your face” rebellion from the status quo that the word unschooler invokes that I’m just not comfortable with. When I was younger, I reveled in being confrontational with my ideals, proclaiming them to the world on the bumper and back window of my car. I even proclaimed them with my body, through tattoos and piercings, and fashioned myself with Renegade Annie t-shirts. My ideals were quite different back then. And very confrontational and in your face.

As the Lord has opened my eyes to Truth, I no longer have high ideals but rather deep convictions. Convictions so personal, and dear to me that I don’t want anyone to be put off by them but instead want others to revel in their beauty; to see the quiet mystery of my joy and contentment in my vocation as a wife and mother who educates her children in our home, within our family.

I don’t want to be a homeschooling mom who is always stressed, uptight and complaining about never having anytime to enjoy myself because there is so much school work to get done. I never again want to think I have to make a choice between homeschooling and welcoming another child into our family. (Been there. Done that. It only lead to burn out.)  I want to always be able to say “yes” to both, enthusiastically and freely!  That’s why I’ve fully embraced a a relaxed home learning environment.

Leonie at Living Without School shares this quote by John Holt who had this to say about unschooling:

Any child who can spend an hour or two a day, or more if he wants, with adults that he likes, who are interested in the world and like to talk about it, will on most days learn far more from their talk than he would learn in a week of school. ~John Holt

I agree with Mr. Holt whole heartily. Doesn’t it sound so positive? So relational? So natural?

This is what our learning is:

  • Positive
  • Relational
  • Discovery Oriented
  • God Inspired
  • Faith-filled
  • Family Centered
  • Wonder-filled
  • Abundant
  • Grace-filled
  • Living

But that is quite the mouth full, so perhaps we will call ourselves–

Natural Learners.

Isn’t that what we were created to be?

Rocky Mountain Catholic Home Educator’s Conference

June 21-23, 2007

The Glory of God is man fully alive! -St. Irenaus

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