Tuesday, July 16, 2019

6 ways to teach your children gratitude

Photo by Simon Maage on Unsplash

Gratitude is expressed through a simple gesture or words. It shows our appreciation and love for others and directs our lives towards blessings. Without gratitude we are unable to acknowledge how richly blessed we are and hence we become abysmally unsatisfied and unhappy. Essentially, gratitude is a form of love. The Roman philosopher Cicero said, “Gratitude is not only the greatest of virtues but the parent of all the others … Nothing is more honorable than a grateful heart.”

As a mother, the thing I desire most for my children is happiness. However, I pray for the type of happiness that doesn’t come from success or worldly riches. I pray for happiness that comes from knowing that they are loved and that they are blessed by it. With this desire, comes the task of teaching them how to achieve this happiness, and that is only achieved through gratitude. Here are six simple tips you can start using today to ensure your children a lifetime of happiness as they count their blessings:

1. Never give up reminding your children to say please and thank you.

This can be simple and sometimes aggravating. I don’t know how many times a day I remind my little ones, “How do you ask for something? What do you say when you receive something?” It can certainly get tedious. But gratitude is like a muscle. You’ve got to exercise it so it can become stronger. Remind them to say “please” and “thank you” in the not so obvious of scenarios and it will soon become a disposition that they will bring to life each day. It’s not just about being polite, it’s about really appreciating others and who they are. I remind my children to thank their teacher when they leave school or when they’re in earshot of our mailman or garbage men. If you remind them for the little things, they’ll remember it more so for the bigger things.

2. Help them clean out their toys and have them choose some to give to the needy.

At first, I was a bit reluctant to move forward with this idea. I was afraid they wouldn’t cooperate; after all, we’re talking about two small boys and their toys! Needless to say, I was pleasantly surprised. Both my children proceeded with enthusiasm. There were a few discussions about this toy car and that dinosaur but in the end, they freely chose some good toys to give away.

I took this opportunity to explain how blessed they were and how others are not so fortunate. If you want to take it a step further, take them with you to the place where you will donate the toys, if possible. Allowing children to follow a task from beginning to end not only gives them satisfaction but makes it memorable. They may very well ask to do it again.

3. Pray out loud and thank God for your blessings and then ask them to do the same.

Be prepared to listen to your little ones rattle off all sorts of things they are thankful for, such as their toy tiger and giraffe and on and on. It requires some patience and perseverance. Nonetheless, it is a beautiful way to teach children to be grateful for all. Praying out loud has a great impact on the whole family. Each member is able to hear that they are a blessing to others. As they grow older they will forget their toy zebra and name each and every family member and friends. Yes, gratitude can also help you develop the virtue of patience.

4. Let them get bored!

I know. This is, by far, the most daunting one. We live in an age where everything is scheduled and timed. Who has time for boredom? Boredom is frowned upon; if you’re bored, you’re not being productive. But children need boredom. They need to experience the frustration of that feeling so they can appreciate the present moment. It is in those moments of absolute boredom that children’s creativity is sparked; their imagination comes alive. What better way to be grateful for the little things in life such as bugs under rocks, tadpoles, sprinklers, mud pies and pretending to be wild animals in a jungle? Boredom leads to the beauty of the now and all the varying degrees of gratitude that it can yield.

5. Delay gratification.

We can only be grateful for what we have now. There is no better way to help children discover what they have now than to delay gratification. In today’s age, we have easy access to just about anything. We know it, our children know it, and our culture makes sure we know it. Being appreciative for what we already have keeps the temptation of selfishness and greed at bay. Not allowing our children to always have what they want, when they want, can be the impetus for them to discover how they are already rich in many ways. With a little bit of nudging and a little bit of withholding, this can turn into another life lesson that is as good as gold.


6. Finally, take them to serve the poor or visit the sick.

There is a reason why Jesus emphasized these two actions. Having contact with those less fortunate than us brings us into contact with Jesus Himself. When we meet those who have less, we are reminded that we have so much. This is a great way to practically and powerfully show our children gratitude. Whether you volunteer at a soup kitchen, your local food pantry or visit sick children at your hospital, take your children along with you. Do not be deterred in thinking they will be traumatized. Let them see that in their simple gesture of service, they can be a blessing to others. The grateful hearts of those who are poor will, in turn, give our children grateful hearts. As  Fr. Solanus Casey said, “It’s Heaven begun, for the grateful on earth.”


Published on Aleteia in September 2017.

Tuesday, July 9, 2019

Let them get bored!


Photo by Blake Meyer on Unsplash

Why should you let your children get bored this summer? Because it will expand their imagination and provide lots more opportunity for fun!!!

I've had my fair share of days of sitting my boys in front of a screen, in order to get a few things done. But overall I want them to just play. It's not easy. What with all the planned activities throughout the year, now there is more downtime than ever.  My only rule during the summer is that if it is sunny they have to be outdoors.

What proceeds from this indoor embargo is that they discover boredom. Heck, I even learn about boredom from a whole new perspective; as a mom. As I leave them to their own volition, things begin to get interesting rather quickly. That uncomfortable and irritating feeling of boredom sets forth a slew of emotions. At first, it isn't pretty. But I allow them to sit with these emotions; to bask in the glory of pre-creativity. I command they think outside the box. I wait and watch with bated breath. What ensues from the annoying feeling of just plain blah boredom is priceless.

It is only through boredom that my children begin to come up with the most creative ways to pass these hot sticky days. The rocks lining the garden become stepping stones along a raging river. The garden shed becomes a fortress and the surrounding fence their fortification that keeps the neighboring enemy at bay. The branches are their swords and the garbage can tops their shields. The swaying water from the sprinkler is the hot lava spraying from an active volcano. The bugs grow to giant proportions and are dangerous dinosaurs. I can go on for days, but I will spare you the ramblings of two boys who battle dinosaurs and turn into cheetahs at a moments notice.

Needless to say, our days end with dirt-encrusted nails, caked-on sweat, scraped knees and loads of laundry. The dark waters of their evening bath are sure proof of a satisfactory day of play. To boot, they sleep better and stay out of trouble, all because I allow them to just get bored. This is the way children are meant to play. This is the way children should live their summers, as free from technology and scheduled activities as possible.

Nowadays boredom is frowned upon. We think that if someone is bored, they are not being active or productive. Boredom is the antithesis of success and productivity. But is it? Boredom is actually the key to creativity. It unlocks the imagination and allows, especially children, to discover a world of pretend and adventure. Children need boredom. Once the fog of boredom lifts, the mind releases an onslaught of inspiration. It makes you wonder why we don't allow ourselves to get bored more often.

So for this summer, we will try our best to avoid too much screen time, postpone playdates, cancel our errands and I'll just allow them to get bored. I won't interject. I won't fret. I will just wait, watch and witness how their creative juices begin to flow. Where ever their imagination takes them I will allow them to soar to new heights and discover new adventures. I'll let them get bored!

Photo by Johnny McClung on Unsplash


Thursday, June 27, 2019

Update!

Photo by Jorge Vasconez on Unsplash

Since my blog is all about imperfection, I will just admit that I have been less than perfect in keeping up with my posts. In fact, I had just about completely stopped posting once Lent started.

So here is my update on a few things: Our school is well on its way. We have hired a wonderful headmaster who just moved his family to Detroit. He will be setting up house at our soon to be disclosed location, recruiting students and marketing this whole year leading up to our grand opening in the Fall of 2020. Check out our website at www.chestertonacademydetroit.org Spread the word if you are in the Metro Detroit area.

On the family front, the kids are growing and our little redhead is getting cuter every day. It is amazing what red hair will do. We get stopped where ever we go. "Where did she get that red hair?" Considering we both have very dark hair it's really a mystery to us. I relay it to God's sense of humor. I always dreamed of having red hair. So there you go!

This summer we will be spending a lot of time with my family. We are sorely missing our family in South Florida and look forward to spending several weeks down there in the very hot sun! Nothing like a huge dose of Vitamin D to prepare for Fall and Winter here in Michigan. I have realized that the reality of Michigan is that we get at least 7-8 months of COLD! That is the analysis of a native Floridian. Any Michigander want to argue that? My husband says it's not true.

Finally, I will try to refocus on posting here as I have to confess that trying to extract what is true, good and beautiful in every day mamma land is very hard and so this outlet gives me a chance to really think about that.

God bless each of you.

Tuesday, February 26, 2019

What are you doing for Lent?



Lent is just around the corner! I sit and ponder all the things that I can "give up" and all that I can "take on" but it's probably best to make this very simple.

I ask myself two questions:

What distracts me most from God?
What can bring me closer to Him?


I would answer the first one quite quickly and without hesitation: SOCIAL MEDIA!

The second one? Frequenting the sacraments, with no excuses. Lord knows, that throughout the week I can come up with a million excuses of why "I just can't attend daily Mass."

The baby is fussy.

I have errands to run.

I didn't get enough sleep last night.

I have cleaning to do.

But really, what is more important than the King of Kings? All the rest can wait. 


What are you doing this Lent? Do you have something in the works to lead you through the desert? I purchased the "Blessed is She" Lent Devotional. I can't wait to get my hands on that. 

Don't complicate your Lent, yet go beyond your norm. Do you really have to give up chocolate and pizza again? Just be with Him. Just be still and know that He is your God and He loves you! Move the distractions out of the way and don't make excuses.

Join me on a Lenten journey. Take these remaining days to discern what the Lord is calling you to do this Lent. 

I will be praying for you.



photo courtesy of Pixabay

Friday, February 8, 2019

Reboot your life!



Have you ever felt like you need to reboot your spiritual life, life in general? Have you ever felt that you are just drained and running out of the hope that belongs to all children of God?

Last night I attended Chris Stefanik's Reboot conference. I needed it and frankly, if it's in your area, you need it. It's a spiritual booster shot. Go!

Chris Stefanik is a Catholic international speaker who heads up Real Life Catholic which is a non-profit that is dedicated to spreading the Best! News! Ever! Because the Gospel of Jesus Christ is not just Good news you know, it's the Best News Ever! (MercyMe)

Chris puts into perspective the simplicity of our faith and how absurd the world has it in not believing in the One True God. It's a love story and all those upsets, suffering, disappointments, illnesses...well those are just a page in the Greatest Love Story ever told. And it's not a general love story like God loves the world. No! It's a love story between You and God.

When God created the world, He had You in mind. When God became a man, He had You in mind. When God suffered and died on the Cross, He had You in mind. And when He rose from the dead so that we wouldn't be mere "food for the worms" but true sons and daughters of God who would live in eternity, well, He had You in mind!

You!

God is a passionate lover who only wants your love in return. That's it. So simple.

And how do we love Him back? Well, to be completely honest, it is so simple that I just have to tell you that you can't love Him back unless you allow Him to love you first. 

Allow Him to love you. Then...

Love yourself.

Pray.

Share the faith.

Build good friendships.

and...Reboot. Deal with your past and know that it's all, (wounds, sins and all), been thrown into the abyss of His ocean of mercy and He has placed a sign there that says, "No fishing". That's it!

We were made for more. We were made for greatness and that greatness can only be found in God. It won't come from a career or a marriage. It will not come from material things nor degrees. It will not come from lovers or even experiences. It only comes from the One who created You. The One who loves you with a perfect love. It comes from the One who gave everything for You and waits for you.






Thursday, January 31, 2019

The blessing of Now!




Right now I am waiting for the teapot to boil so I can make a nice hot cup of coffee on this very cold "polar vortex", day number two.  I'm focused on that teapot. I am grateful for that teapot right now because I am struggling today. I am struggling with living in the present moment. Actually, I must confess, this has been a constant struggle.

Do you struggle with living in the present moment? I believe it is a human struggle. A real human problem.  We are persons of hope and so many times we find ourselves confusing longing for hope. Hope is intricately tied to Divine union. Longing away our present and losing sight of the blessings of now is certainly not hoping. God is hope and God is the God of the present moment.

So here are five tips on how to stay in the blessing of the present moment.

1. Contemplate God's name:

We worship a God of the present moment! A God who, although He knows all things, blesses us in the here and now. Tomorrow? Well, that is just up to Him to gift us with or not!

In Exodus, Moses asked God “if I go to the Israelites and say to them, ‘The God of your ancestors has sent me to you,’ and they ask me, ‘What is his name?’ what do I tell them?”

And God replied: "I am who I am." And added. "This is what you will tell the Israelites: I AM has sent me to you."

If you think about it, God could have said anything to Moses. I mean he is God after all. But He chose to say "I AM".

Not, He was.
Not, He will be.

I AM!

Our God is the God of blessing and He blesses us Now!
It is now that we have to count our blessings. It is now that we must choose to live. Not when that addition is finally finished or the last ten pounds are finally lost. When our toddler is finally out of diapers or when we'll have the time to finish that project we started over two years ago.

Contemplate His name. Contemplate how God is good and how his goodness is presently in your life right now. 

2. Count your blessings immediately, right now! 

I do this by walking around my house literally cataloging all the things God has blessed me with. And I am not just referring to the material things. I thank God for my children, relationships, health, experiences etc. But if you want to focus on the present, try to literally thank God for what you are presently in front of, what you are doing, what you are feeling and seeing. Use the fives senses to list all the blessings you are living this minute. 

This is why I thanked God for my boiling teapot. He is a God of details. Yes, He even takes care of those little tiny details like that great cup of coffee as you look out onto the snowy white landscape. 

3. Practice Lectio Divina:

Lectio Divina is a way of reading and contemplating Scripture in the here and now. The great thing about Lectio Divina is you must focus on what God is trying to tell you in the right now.  Basically, there are four parts to Lectio Divina: read, reflect, respond and rest. The steps are pretty self-explanatory. You read the Scripture passage/passages. What grabs your attention? You reflect on what God is saying to you. Respond to God by reading the passage a third time and answering to His message to you (you can also journal your answer). And finally, rest. Read the passage a fourth time and rest in God's Word and God's love through His word. 

There is nothing more grounding than God's Word. His Word is alive! The beauty of Lectio Divina is that today God will say one thing to your heart and then two weeks from now, the same passage will say something totally different. That is because God's word is for the present moment and it is in the present moment that we are living and that is when He speaks. 

4. Beware of Social Media:

Social media has a way of robbing us of the present moment. The dangers of social media are not only a loss of precious time that we will never ever get back again but it also robs us of our gratitude. It has been reported that "those who used social media the most were about 2.7 times more likely to be depressed than participants who used social media the least. Why do we get depressed when we are on social media too long? Because we are focusing on the edited life and happiness of others and not on reality. Not on our reality. The time we could be spending living the present moment is lost in a world that tempts us to focus on what we do not have. 

Social media in and of itself is not evil, it's how we use it that can become a problem. Many women reported feeling depressed after going on Facebook and Instagram. Let's be vigilant and live more in the moment and interact with those around us rather than getting lost in a virtual world where we are mentally comparing ourselves to other peoples edited lives. 

5. Set more short-term goals:

Goals are great! I love setting goals. Shoot, I am constantly writing up lists of things I would like to accomplish. It keeps me on my toes and helps me to accomplish things I would otherwise put off. But long term goals can get in the way of living the present moment. Although we should have them, we should also focus on short-term goals. I mean short-short term goals, for today. 

These short-short term goals are not a list of chores. It's not a grocery list. It is a goal that I will set for today that I need to accomplish now. Some examples? Pray. Count blessings. Not yell. Offer up the mundane chores for those who need it. To be joyful when my husband walks through the door even though the kids are on my last nerve. Those kinds of short-term goals. Goals of becoming a better you rather than waiting until...whatever it is will make you a better person in the future rather than today.


This is how I try and overcome the temptation of living way out into the future. These are the ways in which I can stay focused in the here and now. The blessing of now is fleeting. The blessing of this moment is all we have from God. He does not give us the grace for tomorrow because He is the God of now. I AM he said to Moses. He is the God of love. He is the God of the present. He is our first blessing. Now. Today! 




Photograph courtesy of Pixabay


Thursday, January 24, 2019

Transforming our Culture from a Dream (continuation)




You can read the first part here.

Time passed and it was time that was on my side. Our children are still very small and attend a very good school in the suburbs. It is Montessori (a Catholic-based educational method that is student-led) and it is bi-lingual (Spanish-English) which works really well for our bi-lingual family. But the Lord was not going to wait very long to start working on His project.

We scheduled a visit to our community out in Minneapolis in the Summer of 2017 where there happens to be an excellent classical Catholic school that we wanted to check out. It is called Chesterton Academy. We decided to pay them a visit while we were out there. Our encounter with the founder was providential. He ended our very lively conversation with these words "Why don't you open a Chesterton Academy in Detroit?" It's as if the words hung in the air and all of a sudden I was transported back to that evening I sat in the back of the Church asking the Lord what we would do for our kid's future education. "Open a school!" I heard in my heart.

The two events were fused together through God's providence. I knew in my heart that this was the right formula. Chesterton Academy had recently set up a program for parent-led initiatives to open Chesterton Academy's in other parts of the country. It was almost a packaged deal. All we needed was local interest, donors and benefactors and a building. Easy, right?

Needless to say, we returned that summer, I got pregnant and things were put on hold. We picked it right back up in December and started to scout out interest in a Chesterton Academy of Detroit. We had a great turn out and things began to roll. For a bit, it seemed as though we would be able to open the school in the Fall of 2019. But the government has put a damper on our plans. We are not defeated though. Between beaurocracy and an all-out paper-chase, we have seen a recent inspiration of the Holy Spirit in many local Catholic citizens who have forged a great support system for us. I mean, who were we but Mr. and Mrs. Miller with a dream and a lot of desire. It was God who was handling this, we were just his instruments.

Needless to say, the opening of the school has been pushed back to the Fall of 2020 but we are well on our way to making this dream a reality. The dream is not only to provide this type of education for our own children but for countless other families. These families not only wish to provide their children with the right tools to be persons of great faith and service but also so that they may grow into adults who will be able to think and decide for themselves.  We need to equip our young people with the means to exist and thrive outside the suppressive society we are living in. We want to form real ambassadors that lead and forge a culture of change, a change towards hope, freedom, and love.

I must say that this grass-roots effort of Christian homeschool education, hybrid schooling, and Classical education is not a mere coincidence. Many parents are realizing that the public educational system is broken and that our Catholic schools, since after Vatican II, do not have much more to offer. What once set Catholic education apart, the teaching of the faith and the quality of education that surpassed other private schools is now almost non-existent. Parents are waking up and realizing that they cannot leave such a precious aspect of their children's formation in other people's hands. It is the parent who is the first and most important educator of their child.

Please pray for us. We still have many things to iron out but we are very well aware that God is in charge and that He will take care of the details. We move forward in hope and faith.






Photo courtesy of Pixabay

Thursday, January 17, 2019

Transforming our culture from a dream!


For a little over a year now I have not been too consistent with my blogging endeavors. So many times I have a great desire to write but I just cannot seem to carve out the time. I've decided to share with you, dear reader, what is going on in our lives that has caused me to have less time.

Besides welcoming our red-headed princess last spring, we have also decided to open a high school! That's right, you read that correctly. We are trying to open a Classical Catholic high school. But before I can get into the details of that, perhaps I should begin with how this all came about!

I am a Catholic school teacher. I have been involved in education, on and off since I was 19 years old. But it wasn't until right before I earned my second degree in Theology that I decided that teaching was truly my calling. Since 2002 I have been working in some way, shape or form in Catholic education.

I've seen a Catholic school from the inside! I mean, I've really seen it!

It's not pretty!

In fact, it's mostly disappointing!

Since 2002 I worked both at the middle school and high school level. Teaching theology is not for the faint of heart. In the world we are living in today, theology is just completely counter-cultural! I fought against the popular culture every day in my classroom. It was interesting at best, but really it was completely revealing as to what we are up against.

The culture is powerful!

But we are not defeated! Jesus is victorious and I will tell you how we can begin to make headway against the tide of this monstrous, ubiquitous, absolutely seductive culture that has a stranglehold on our young people and even ourselves...

Education!

But not just any education.

Real, honest to goodness, old-fashioned Catholic education!

Classical Catholic education.

Classical education is a way of educating young minds through the basics of learning to read, think and speak. Sound simple enough? For centuries this is the way all Catholic schools from the youngest of minds all the way through college taught.

It is called the "Trivium" which is grammar (read), logic (think) and rhetoric (speak).  It allows children to learn according to their developmental stages.

At a young age (elementary or grammar), children are like "sponges" and through repetition and memorization, they soak in everything from phonics, to grammar, to history and poetry and math. The next stage, known as logic (middle school) is when children begin to question everything. As we all very well know, when children become teenagers they begin to rebel and question everything from our authority, faith to why the world works the way it does. This is when we are able to teach them to think deeply and critically. By using the Socratic method, children are not spoon fed their information so that they can then "pass a test". Their questions are answered with more questions and it is the student, not the teacher, that arrives at the truth. Through all the information they have absorbed in the grammar years they are able to access all their learning and come to a conclusion. And this conclusion is always, always hinged on the truth.

But what truth you ask?

Let's get to the third stage first.

Finally, the third stage is rhetoric (high school) and this is where it all comes together and young minds discover ways in which to argue and discuss subjects eloquently. They essentially learn to speak with logic and truth as opposed to emotion. All this is done through the Catholic lens and is centered on the One truth which is Jesus Christ. All truth, goodness, and beauty are acquired throughout the years because the children understand, on their own, that it all comes from the One source: the Incarnation of God in the world.

This, my dear reader, is what will help to transform our culture! The faith they will receive in schools like this and other authentic Christian schools paired with the faith hopefully imparted at home. Classical education will help to release our young people from the grips of a culture that wants to convince them that emotion is king. "Do what makes you feel good!" Authentic Catholic education will help young people realize that they are not slaves to media or to their peer groups. By teaching them how to think and speak, young people will finally understand that anything that is true, good and beautiful in this world comes from God and God alone.

This is what will help bring about a new revolution of love and life in our world.

I began to search for this in our hometown. I found nothing. Sure, we had the typical menu of Catholic schools: the academically centric ones where the faith was watered down at best and the end goal was getting to the best universities across the country. The sports driven ones where boys or girls with money or talent flocked to in order to get that ever coveted scholarship to top State universities.  The all too familiar elite Catholic schools with the well-known name that has graduated generations of families and has a large and faithful donor base but barely anything to be called Catholic. And then there is your run of the mill Catholic school; Catholic on the outside, public school education with a fat price tag on the inside.

I was not impressed! Nor did I ever imagine sending our children to these.

Yet, the only offering of classical education was homeschool programs or the new programs of hybrid schooling: three days at home, two days at school. The programs were excellent but I did not feel up to it, at least not for now.

I felt called to something more. As if God was nudging me to continue to search.

So, I began to pray.

Then one day, during Mass, it all became clear! We would open a school! The thought was crazy! Even crazier because it had come to me during prayer. But it seemed right. I knew it was going to happen. I didn't know how or when, but I felt it in my gut.



(To be Continued...click here to read part II)






Photograph courtesy of Pixabay.