Climbing Life’s Mountain Together

 

We celebrate 16 years of marriage today. Six kids and a whole lot of crazy later, I can say it’s been a fun ride, thus far. We married young and have grown up together in a lot of ways. We’ve made mistakes, done stupid thing, learned a ton, and helped each other grow into better people. Marriage isn’t easy, but as with any challenge, it’s worth the work and effort.

When we were traveling this summer, we had a pretty smooth time of it. The first leg of the trip came without any hiccups to speak of.

And then we found ourselves heading to a camp site in the Sequoia National Forest. We were following a map which, oddly, told us it would take 2.5 hours to travel about 20 miles.

We ignored that red flag and plowed forward.

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The road back down the mountain. Note that all pictures are from the next day. I was a little too distracted to shoot photos at the time.

Before we knew it, we were half way up the side of a mountain, on an old unpaved,  un-maintained forest road. It was one lane, straight up, and filled with more ruts and washouts than smooth road. And of course, we were driving a giant 11 passanger van.

It was terrifying.

As with so many situations in life and marriage, we had two choices. We could argue, sweat, and cry or we could rally, work together, pray, and get safely to the top of that mountain. I can confidently say we’ve chosen either of those options in different times of our lives, but that day we chose the latter.

The sun was due to set soon, so we made some quick choices and carried on. Andrew walked a mile ahead to assess the situation, while I calmly removed the children from the van.

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The road back down the mountain was infinitely smoother and gentler.

If my husband can do one thing well, it’s drive a vehicle. When he returned from checking the road ahead, he calmly traversed that rutted dirt path, while the kids and I followed on foot.

In the heat of the setting California sun, we hiked the rest of the was up the mountain. I was grateful for good hikers and a strong teenaged boy to carry the tired four year old! When Andrew reached the top with the van, he walked back to help us all hike the rest of the way up.

Eventually, we all made it safely to the top of that mountain. And the view was remarkable.

As the sun set, we traveled forward to find that campsite for which we’d been searching. The campsite that led us up that road of insanity.

And, I kid you not, we turned a small corner into a darkend woods and met face to face with a herd of cows. Right where our campsite was supposed to be.

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More cows the next day.

Life can be so weird.

We eventually found a place to set up camp and the rest of the evening went smoothly. The top of that mountain was beautiful, peaceful, and still.

Marriage is a road freely chosen, but sometimes life can make it rutted, narrow, and hard to traverse. In those moments, we need to rally, work together, and depend on the grace of God that all will end well.

When we choose laughter and team work, even the rutted roads can be beautiful. And the view at the top, even alongside a herd of cows, can be breathtaking.

I’m glad we are climbing this mountain together.

Got Moon? Eclipse Reflections

Our country stood still yesterday and looked up into the sky.  Millions of people, all together.  You’d be hard pressed to create such a unifying event as that.

Sometimes, God does something extra spectacular, as if to say “Hey guys! Remember me?” This time, he literally stopped one of the greatest nations on earth, so we could all look skyward and see His celestial show.

He put the moon in front of the sun and the earth went dark. The stars shown at mid day, the land was encircled in a 360* sunset, the temperature dropped.

When we loaded five of our kids into our van to travel five hours (which turned into eight hours. Eclipse traffic is real!) to witness totality, I wondered if we were just a little crazy. We generally are, but this time, we certainly weren’t alone.

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Our beautiful campsite at Land Between the Lakes

In fact, the first place we stopped, didn’t even have camping available. We are talking rough, dispersed camping with zero amenities. You have to hike your gear in. It was all full. And this was Saturday – a full two days before the eclipse!

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Gorgeous Sunset over the lake Saturday night. The sun was practicing!

We loaded back up and traveled a bit more south to the Land Between the Lakes. It was still pretty crowded, but we soon found a gorgeous campsite in a cove, on the lake. Sand and shells, trees for a hammock, it was perfect. The sky was clear and we knew we’d have great viewing.

We weren’t too far off the road, so we had ample chance to observe the people coming and going. Traffic was pretty heavy and campsites were filling fast. By the time the eclipse started, stopped cars were lining the road.

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Hammock ready to watch the eclipse!

One of my favorite parts of camping is seeing so many people eager to escape the rat race for a bit and reconnect with nature. This world is far to beautiful to miss in favor of a screen or in a corner office. This time, people came from far and wide to witness this eclipse.

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Shadows are changing.

As the sky dimmed and people gathered along the road, gazing upward to witness this wonder, there was a certain buzz of humanity. A connection that we are all traveling together toward the one same goal. Some are more aware of it than others. But truly, we all gaze heavenward.

When the moon slipped into place, completely centered over the sun – the earth went dark and cold – and the crowds cheered at the wonder of it all.

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Totality

It was heartwarming to witness this marvel of the sky, God’s wonder at work, uniting people from all walks of life. People who made sacrifices, planned long and hard, traveled miles and miles, all to witness God showing off with His nature playground.

Knee Deep in Curriculum

The school year is approaching and, as typical, I am scrambling on just about every front.  We have part of our clan in Catholic school and the others are homeschooled, which mean we have just about every brand of crazy with which to contend.

We take schooling on a case by case basis around here.  Thankfully, this year is starting out pretty tame.  The oldest two will be in school – IN THE SAME BUILDING.  In the past, I’ve had up to three different buildings, in addition to at least one or two kids at home, so this will be a (relative) breeze.

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On the homeschool front, we will be sticking mainly with our Mater Amabilis curriculum.  This Charlotte Mason inspired approach fits well with our life-learning, fairly laid back, nature centered learning approach.  It affords us flexibility and structure, which works well for me.

We are looking at Fifth Grade, Fourth Grade, Second Grade, and crazy four year old this year. Said crazy four year old doesn’t need any school work, but she’ll loudly insist upon some.

To appease her, I got her a couple of these super cute Crinkleroot books, be Jim Arnosky.  They fit perfectly into the Nature Study plan and are fun little reads for all of us.

For religion, I got her Little Acts of Grace, which turned out to be a great book for Avila, as well.  It’s really sweet and teaches those little things that sometime get forgotten with child number six.

I’ll also probably pick up a workbook and some crayons of her very own, so she doesn’t feel left out. If she could only understand how lucky she is to have the chance to just play while the others work!

Avila will be in second grade this year.  We will continue to use Reading Lessons through Literature that we worked through last year. She memorizes easily, so I think the ortho phonogram program is a good fit for her.  Bella will be refreshing this, as well. We also love the McGuffy Readers, so both girls will continue on with those.

Avila will work through the Faith and Life 2, as well as the St Joseph Baltimore Catechism.  She’s prepping for First Confession and First Communion, so this is a big year for her! We will also continue to work though The Life of Our Lord for Children, by Marigold Hunt.  This is a gem of a book.  We used it last year, with all of the kids, so it will be bit of a repeat, but that’s ok.

We are trying new things across the board for Math this year. I struggle to find a math program that doesn’t make me want to gouge my eyes out, but I’m really hoping that this year’s changes will be better for all involved.  For Avila, we are trying Math for a Living Education. It looks cute, but I also think it will set her up for success with Teaching Textbooks next year.

Bella is going into the fourth grade, which is easy for me, since PeterXavier did fourth grade last year!  We are switching to Teaching Textbooks, which I think will work well for her.  She does well with math, but hate the actual doing of the work. I’m hoping the computer based program will seem “fun” to her. Or at least not be a total bore.

For reading with Bella, we will be working though Reading Lessons through Literature a second time, as well as lots of practice.  She loves books like Mercy Watson, so we will be indulging in gobs of those.

For religion, she will be working though Faith and Life 3. She will also work through Marigold Hunt’s The First Christians: The Acts of the Apostles for Children. This book details the early days and establishment of this Church. It continues the story that we started last year in Hunt’s Life of Our Lord for Children. I’m a huge fan of Hunt’s books and am excited to work through all of them with the kids.  PeterXavier and Bella will be reading this one together.

Bella finished Primary Language Lessons last year and will be starting the Intermediate level this year.  These are reprints of old books and are a sweet and gentle way to teach grammar, copywork, and writing.

PeterXavier will be in fifth grade this year. He’s charting new territory for us, since my other kids were in school for fifth grade!  He will also be switching to Teaching Textbooks.  Like Bella, he does well in math, but gets really bored with the drill and kill technique, so I’m hoping the computer will entice him.

I have a hard time getting him to read good books, because he balks at anything that smells of “school work”.  He’s voluntarily reading the Lord of the Rings right now, so I plan to not say anything and let that be a chunk of his literature for this year! *Shhh!!*

History, Geography, and Science will be done as a group, which is hugely helpful for me.  I’ll make a separate post for all of that.

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Lean into Our Lady, Mamas

Parenthood is a funny thing. Those sweet little babies don’t come with an instruction manual and a lot of the time, you’re really just winging it.

My oldest is turning 15 today. Fifteen years ago, I walked into the hospital in southern Florida, they scooped out a screaming baby boy, and sent me home. I remember wondering what made them think I was qualified to take this little bundle home.

I was only twenty one, and we were twenty five days away from our first wedding anniversary.  We were kids. And parents.

I still look around sometimes and wonder how this all is supposed to work. Who, exactly, thought I was qualified to do all this?! Adulthood seems like a farce sometimes.  Surely I’m not the only one who feels like she has no idea what she’s doing and just makes it up as it comes along.

On a wing and a prayer, it all seems to work out. We make the best choices we can, given the cards we are handed and then we pray that it all works out. God saw us to be qualified, so we pick up and carry on. We lean on Him and we lean on His Mother.

God was wise when He gave us Mary, a young mother who I am sure also felt unqualified for her job. But He called her and she said yes.  We can lean into her when the tasks seem too much. I was clueless as I walked out of that hospital, a young mom to a little boy. She must have felt clueless, too, as she sat in that stable, a young mom to the Son of God. That seems a bit more overwhelming than any of our situations, huh?

Her fiat is our fiat.  We say yes to His call and even when we feel overwhelmed, under qualified, and a bit of a mess, we can turn to Mary, because she understands.

As Gianna Molla, also a mama who I am sure questioned her qualifications, says:

Love your children.  In them, you can see baby Jesus. Pray for them a lot and everyday, place them under holy Mary’s protection.

Motherhood – parenthood – in no small and easy job.  It’s hard and exhausting and we often look around and wonder who thought we were cut out for such an enormous and daunting task.  The answer is God.  He found you capable. And he equips us for the task.  He also sends us saints to emulate and His very own Mother to guide us and carry us.

So, carry on, good mamas.  Fight the good fight and lean into Our Lady, everyday.