Monday, December 22, 2014

A child has been born to us, a son has been given to us! (Again!)

He was not part of my plan this year.
But he was part of God's plan for me and my family. 
"For a child has been born to us, a son has been given to us." Isaiah 9:6 (NET Bible)

This Word of God first became flesh and blood to me and my husband when I gave birth to our firstborn son more than six years ago. It was an answered prayer, a miracle from God, a promise fulfilled! It came to life for the second time when our second son was born. Another miracle from God! A bonus treat! Then, I got pregnant again! And we found out that we're having another son... Honestly, I was a bit disappointed because I was hoping that God would give us a baby girl this time. But, my disappointment did not last long. Thank God for the grace to remember that this child, this son, is no less a miracle compared to my two older children.

Being the thinker that I am, I asked God why He gave me and my husband another son and why he had to come close to Christmas.
One of God's answers to me was this: so that I would be reminded of His coming during the first Christmas.
Since I gave birth close to Christmas or just a few days before the start of the season of Advent, I could not help but turn my thoughts to Mama Mary's experience when she became pregnant unexpectedly and gave birth in a stable.
I wondered if she was also disappointed that her original plans did not push through, that she had to experience inconveniences (to say the least) because of this unexpected pregnancy ,and that she had to give birth in a stable of all places!
I admit that one of my weaknesses is my need for control on the things that will happen in my life. I love it when things fall into place as I imagined and planned them to happen. And I hate it when things do not turn out as I wanted.
I guess this third pregnancy and the birth of our third child is "very timely" indeed! I say this because I believe that God is giving me more opportunities where I can practice how to let go and let Him be in control.
I wanted to finish two more books this year. I wanted to finish at least one an online training program. I was thinking of going on tour to promote my book on breastfeeding. I wanted to cover as much material as we possibly can in our homeschool. I was excited to plan and prepare for Christmas activities with my family this year since my husband is in the Philippines this year, unlike last year when he was abroad. I was looking forward to attending Simbang Gabi Masses with my husband and kids now that we live in a house near a church. All these plans didn't materialize this year because I had another challenging/difficult pregnancy and I gave birth just before Advent.
God reminded me of this Bible verse through these unfulfilled plans.
"You can make many plans, but the LORD's purpose will prevail." Proverbs 19:21 (NLT)
I am thankful to God for His abounding grace that helped me overcome my disappointment over the many plans that I had to postpone. I thank God for teaching me to be humble enough not to insist on what I want to achieve or happen this year. I thank God for the grace to trust in God's perfect timing.
As the year quickly draws to a close, I lifted my dreams and plans once more to the Lord this morning. I asked Him to help me fulfill the dreams that He planted in my heart. I asked Him to bless my plans for next year. I claim in faith that "all things work together for the good of all those who love the Lord and those whom He has called to His purpose. " I know in my heart that even though I was not able to work on these dreams this year, they can still be fulfilled if God wills them to be fulfilled. Even with another child to take care of, I know that God can still enable me accomplish these God-sized dreams. It might be more difficult because I would be busier but this could be the testimony that God wants me to share: that nothing is impossible with Him. That when God plants a dream in our hearts, even when our circumstances are not encouraging, God can bring it to pass. We only need to believe and allow Him to supply us with all that we need to accomplish the good that He has called us to do.
Thus, I thank God that a child has been born to us, a son has been given to us again at this time in my life!
Do you also have plans that did not materialize this year? What is God telling you through them? Feel free to share in the comments.

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Preparations for Advent and a New Baby

The moment we got my first ultrasound result, I knew that our Advent and Christmas celebrations would be different this year. My expected delivery date for our third baby was on the last week of November or the first few days of December according to the ultrasound results that we received in the past months. This moved me to prepare early for Advent and Christmas.
So I revisited books that we usually use for our yearly Christmas countdown and I wrapped them in Manila paper, numbered them from 1 to 25, and placed them under the Christmas tree as early as middle of November. This family tradition was top of my mind when I thought of what I needed to prepare early for Advent this year. I also thought that this activity would be something to keep the kids, my eldest son particularly, feel secure amid the changes that will come to our family as we welcome a new addition to our brood.
True enough, our third baby boy came a couple of days before the first Sunday of Advent. In fact, we were invited to light the first Advent candle in our parish church but my husband and I were already in the hospital when he received the message because I was already experiencing the first signs of labor. I hope we would be invited again next year and that next time, we can participate and light the candle with our three boys.
Another family tradition that we have is making our own decorations for Advent and Christmas. Just like in the past, my sons and I made our very own Advent wreath. We traced our hands on green-colored paper. We formed the hand cut outs into a wreath. We also made DIY candles for our wreath. I was able to assemble the parts and set it up a few days before I gave birth.
Another decoration that we made are the angel ornaments in our Christmas tree. We made these as part of our homeschool lesson and Catholic alphabet curriculum (Letter of the Week Activity: A as in Angel). You may read about this craft in detail here.

The third DIY d├ęcor that we made as part of our family tradition and homeschool activity is the Bethlehem scene. We actually made two. One is made of popsicle sticks and is now hanging on our Christmas tree. The other one is made from toilet paper tubes. This one is under our Christmas tree right now.
Our second DIY nativity scene, minus St. Joseph.
We are supposed to make him when we get to letter J
in our Letter of the Week Program.
We were still in Letter G when I gave birth. 
Our coming home from the hospital with our new baby, Georg Daniel, was very timely. We said the prayers for the blessing of the Advent wreath and Christmas tree last night as one family. There are now five of us in our family. After the prayers and blessings, we read the first book in our Christmas countdown.  

My eldest son made a welcome home banner for us,
which they taped to our main door. 
We will also celebrate the feast of St. Nicholas this year. Last year, we celebrated it by going to Mass wearing red clothes, by giving a gift to someone and reading a book from our Christmas countdown about St. Nicholas. This year, aside from doing these same things, I plan to put chocolate coins on the kids' shoes. I have already wrapped the gift that the boys will give away. The chocolate coins are also inside our refrigerator already. I also lined up books about Santa Claus to be opened on the days before and after St. Nicholas' feast day aside from the book on St. Nicholas that we will read on December 6.
I also bought gifts already for the boys in advance, wrapped them and placed them under the Christmas tree because I knew that once I give birth to our new baby, I can't go out of the house for quite a while. I wanted to make sure that the boys would get presents on Christmas day.
I needed to consider preparing for the coming of our new baby as I prepared for Advent and Christmas this year. It's quite challenging because that meant preparing early for a number of things. It also meant streamlining my activities and tasks in the months leading to Advent because I needed to spend time on those that are most important to me and my family. Knowing that I would be on maternity leave also moved me to update my maid manual and the daily and weekly work schedule of our maids. (If you want to get a FREE copy of these, click here to sign up.) My friend who is also an ob-gynecologist advised me during my first delivery (6 years ago) to refrain as much as possible from using the stairs during the first month after my delivery. I had been observing this after my past two deliveries. I want to follow her advice again this time especially since I'm older now and I have three kids to consider. Since we now live in a two-storey house, I updated the maid manual and their work schedule so that these tools can guide them while I'm recovering. I do not need to supervise them closely. Plus my husband can use the manual and schedule as reference in supervising and checking the maids.
With all these preparations and more, I thank God for the reminder that the coming of a child, just like the coming of the Christ Child on the very first Christmas, is something that we need to watch out for with joyful anticipation, not dread. God sent me this timely reminder last Sunday through the priest's homily. I was in truth disappointed that I was not able to go to Mass physically last Sunday because I was still in the hospital and there was no Sunday Mass in the chapel of the hospital last Sunday. I am thankful that my husband and I were able to watch the Mass televised through EWTN. The priest's homily was beautiful! What I heard from the priest was something I haven't heard from other priests in the past. I believe that God was telling me that day that even though my Advent and Christmas experience this year would be a lot different from my planned and preferred ways of celebrating these seasons, God wants me to look forward with joyful anticipation for the blessings He has in store for me and my family. I may not be able to go to daily Mass and Simbang Gabi Masses because I'm still recovering from childbirth; but it doesn't mean that I will not be able to encounter Jesus at this time. God assured me that as I take care of myself and of our new baby, He will continue to reveal Himself to me.   

God's gift to us this Christmas!
Meet the latest addition to our family: Georg Daniel!
This is challenging for someone like me who has been devoted to the Holy Eucharist for years (since I was teenager). I've always looked forward to communing with Jesus in the Holy Eucharist and to celebrating Advent and Christmas. This devotion is one of the reasons why my husband and I bought a house near a church. But God's plans for me this Advent and Christmas season is different from my plans. I choose to embrace His perfect plan although I'm still wondering how things would fall into place in the coming days and weeks. I'm still wondering how I would survive taking care of three kids now and still live family life joyfully. I guess I just need to remind myself often of what the priest said in his homily last Sunday... That we are invited to watch and welcome the Christ Child just like when we are preparing for the arrival of a new baby -- with hearts filled with excitement and joy. Moreover, we are invited to watch and welcome Christmas in the same way that little children anticipate its coming -- expecting good things to come/happen and expecting to receive beautiful things as gifts.
I pray for a double portion of God's grace this season of Advent and Christmas to experience Jesus in the ordinariness and challenges of taking care of a new born baby and two older children. May God reveal to me in the coming days His purpose for blessing us with a new baby at this time.
If you need more suggestions and inspirations on how to celebrate Christmas meaningfully, I invite you to check out these previous posts of mine:
As for me and my family, we will be having a birthday cake again for Jesus on Christmas eve/day. We will also give away brown bags/loot bags for the Birthday Boy's favorites (the poor: street kids). But instead of doing it exactly on Christmas day (like we used to do), we will do this on December 28. I got this inspiration during the Mass last Sunday. I think it's very timely because it's one way to honor the memory of the innocent children who died that day. On top of that, our newborn baby would be celebrating his first month that day. Sharing the little that we have to the poor around us would be a good way to express our thanksgiving to God for the blessings we received in the past year, most especially our baby Georg Daniel.
How are you preparing for the Christ Child this Advent? Feel free to share by leaving a comment. Have a blessed Advent and Christmas season to you and your family!

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Homeschooling and Finding a Community for Support

November is a terribly busy month for me. We celebrated my second son's birthday this month and I'm almost ready to pop (39 weeks and counting)! I've been trying to finish as many pending tasks and projects both in our homeschool and at home. But November is also a special month because of these two communities/groups that I am a part of. I'm writing this post to express my gratitude to God for leading me to these communities/groups and for the wonderful people I have 'met' in these groups.

The first homeschool support group I became a part of was ROCKERS. I learned about this group through Teacher Mama Tina. ROCKERS stand for Roman Catholics Keeping Education Real. It's composed of Catholic parents who are currently homeschooling their kids, who previously homeschooled their kids or are still discerning about homeschooling. We recently had our All Saints' Day gathering/party and I am very thankful to God for the blessing that this community is to me and my family.

Our little saints during the ROCKERS All Saints' Day Party.

The second homeschool support group that I'm a part of is the Gifted HomeschoolersForum (GHF). GHF is composed of families/parents who are raising and homeschooling gifted kids, twice exceptional kids and/or are gifted themselves. GHF is celebrating its 10th year anniversary of being of service to families of gifted children worldwide this year. 

Click here to read the blog posts of the other bloggers in this group. 

Both are online communities or groups but I find these groups very helpful. 

What I love about the members of these two communities/groups are their PASSION and DEDICATION.

I am inspired and encouraged by the stories that my fellow parents from ROCKERS share on how they live out their Catholic faith through their homeschool journey with their kids. I am very grateful to God for leading me to this community of believers who choose to make the teaching of their Catholic faith an essential part of their children's education. Like most of them, I believe that our faith should be the bedrock or foundation of my kids' education for the love and fear of the Lord is the source of all wisdom. I want my children to learn even at an early age to always turn to God first and to the Catholic Church for guidance in their decision-making. This is one of my main reasons for homeschooling my kids because I have learned through the years that there are times in our lives when we make decisions that are not considered rational or wise by worldly standards. There are many decisions that we make based on faith and if we are to live radical lives for God, a lot of times, God would give us opportunities to walk by faith and not by sight. That's what I love about being a Catholic homeschooler and being part of ROCKERS. The passion and dedication of the parents in this group to raise little saints for God and to pass on their Catholic faith to their children is contagious. The fire of their devotion to pass on this legacy of faith to their children inspires me and affirms me that I'm on the right path. 

I am also inspired and encouraged by the stories that my fellow parents from GHF share or blog about. I learn a lot from them about giftedness and how to accept, embrace and advocate for the special needs of gifted children. I love the courage that many of these parents show by their words and by the way they choose to live their lives. I once heard someone say that only a pilot would really know/understand what it means to be up in the air. I think this metaphor applies to families with at least one gifted kid in it. Only parents who are caring, raising, homeschooling gifted kids would really understand the unique and special needs, challenges and joys of other parents who have gifted children. I remember when my eldest son was still a little over two years old... it must be my mother's instinct or intuition that moved me to search for answers and expert advice when I started to notice that my son is not typical. It must have been this same intuition that made me consider the possibility that my child is developing way too fast for his biological age. Thank God that I had the courage to act on that intuition! The developmental pediatrician's assessment affirmed my hunch that my child is in the gifted spectrum. When I somehow panicked because my two year old was already learning and mastering preschool and kinder materials, some parents told me to take it easy and slowly. Believe me, that's what I wanted to do! But, what does a parent do when it is the child pushing you to move at a faster pace? That's why I'm grateful my husband and I discovered homeschooling! We can provide our eldest son with materials and lessons that he is ready for and eager to devour at his own pace. We need not limit him based on his biological age. I'm glad I found other parents who understood my concerns and my quest for seeking answers on how to feed my eldest son's curiosity and intensity. I'm delighted to discover that I am not alone in my concerns for my gifted child. That I'm not alone in my challenges of understanding giftedness and how as a family we can make this work.

Choosing to homeschool your children makes you part of the minority. Homeschooling a gifted child makes you part of an even smaller group of people! Thus, I consider it a big blessing to have found these communities and to be getting support from the people who make up this group. 

Are you homeschooling your child, too? Have you found the community or group that supports your decision and lifestyle? I hope so. If not, I invite to join any of these communities/groups that I am a part of.