7 Steps to a Clean Home with the Help of Joyful Children (One Method of Teaching Responsibility While Growing Closer as a Family)

I truly feel this entire concept was inspired by the Holy Spirit, or maybe even Mother Mary whispering wisdom into my ear.  Whatever the case, one moment I was standing in the kitchen calling my children to attention (with frustration and despair bogging down my mind) and the next moment, four of my children (ages 10, 8, 7 and 6) were happily and busily cleaning the entire house without one grumble or complaint!  Follow these simple steps to get similar results in your home.

Step 1:  Breathe.  Remember that they are children and children will make messes, explore and be creative.  Remember that they are capable of amazing things and allow them the room to show you their strengths.  Don’t expect perfection.

Step 2:  Divide the main areas of your house into Zones.  Don’t include bathrooms, bedrooms, or other “private” areas in your Zones.  Try to create one Zone per person.

Step 3:  Let the kids pick their cleaning Zone.  So far, I have had not arguments over who gets which Zone.  If a disagreement should happen then come up with a fair way of choosing: have them draw straws, roll dice, go from youngest to oldest, etc.

Step 4:  Explain the scoring system to the kids and put it up on a chart or white board as you explain.  Stay with me here as this is where it can get complicated.  Maybe say something along these lines:

     Your Zone will be scored on the following points: cleanliness (how well you do in picking up toys, trash and other misplaced items and putting them in their proper place); speed (how quickly you get the job done WELL; not just hurry up, but diligently work on your task to do the job well and completely–think perseverance and diligence); and attitude (Are you joyful or grumpy?).  These will be scored on a scale from 0-5, with 5 being the best possible score.  These scores will be added together to get your subtotal.  Everyone with me? [demonstrate on the white board].

Then say, “Now, you are all different ages and have different abilities.  To account for this, I will assign a Degree of Difficulty to your Zone based on your age and ability AND the extent to which you clean the room.”  A Degree of Difficulty of “1” is the basic pickup of the floor and flat surfaces; but a “5” would be if you cleaned under the sofa, organized the book shelf, vacuumed the floor, mopped the tile, etc.  The more you do, the higher the Degree of Difficulty becomes.  The reason why this is important is because your subtotal will be MULTIPLIED by your Degree of Difficulty to get your final score. [Demonstrate on the board how 15  x 1 is 15, but 15 x 5 is 75]  Let them give you different scores to see how it affects the total. [Bonus math lesson here ;-)]


Step 5.  When the children complete their zone to their satisfaction, have them come to you and let you know that they are ready for scoring.  Then, with your full attention go into the room and inspect their job.  Be sure to give lots of positive feedback on the work they did well.  Don’t be afraid to make suggestions of where it could be improved, or hints about items that were overlooked.  Be generous, but honest with your score.  If my kids worked hard and gave it their all, I rarely score less than a 5.  In the above example, Zone 4 got a “4” in cleanliness because there was still quite a bit of trash on the floor and items on flat surfaces.  The Degree of Difficulty is the clincher here.  How much were they willing to put into their efforts?  My Zone 1 in the above example was the kitchen.  The 12 year old chose it with vigor and she delved into organizing cabinets and drawers, in addition to counters, floors and hand washing that her brother overlooked that morning.  That kind of effort deserved a perfect score for sure!  The Degree of Difficulty of 3 in the above example was the oldest child who chose to do the minimum effort.  He still had a great attitude and the room was picked up and vacuumed, so I explained that he could have earned a higher Degree of Difficulty by going under the furniture and straightening the bookshelves.  He did a great job, but it wasn’t going to be enough to win the contest.

Step 6.  Reward the top score with a prize.  I give 1st place 5 cents per point, 2nd place 1 cent per point and everyone else a quarter.  My children are still young at ages 6 to 13, so the prize is minimal.  If you have older children, then you might consider a higher payout–how much is a clean house worth after all?   The prize doesn’t have to be elaborate, but just a well-deserved reward for their effort.  At the end of this contest, your entire house will be picked up, vacuumed, spot mopped, and better organized than when you started.  Allow the reward to lift EVERYONE up, but still make the winner feel special for his/her effort.  Bask in their incredible efforts and boast on how enjoyable the home is when it is tidy and everyone works together well.  Sometimes we play a game, go swimming, or the kids watch a movie following the clean up—an activity to enjoy a job well done.

Step 7.  Repeat as needed to maintain the orderliness of the home, but not more frequently than once per week.  We decided to do “Zones” on Friday afternoons so we can enjoy a movie night and focus on family projects or outings on Saturdays.  This week my kids decided to do it on Thursday because the house had become quite messy and even they wanted the order back!  Hey, I’ll take it any day.

I would love to hear your feedback on how this works in your home, what changes you made, and what rewards were given.  I pray that you have as much success with it as I have had.  Truth be told the greatest reward for me has been the feeling of connection, that we really work well as a team, the Domestic Church’s version of the Body of Christ in action.

Edit:  I am usually working on my paying job while they are cleaning.  Sometimes, I clean an area as well, but don’t get scored in the contest.  Yesterday, they actually did all of the cleaning while I was gone for an appointment.  It was especially rewarding to come home to a clean house and to know the kids had matured to this level of responsibility without my direct oversight!  My goal here is not the clean house.  That is just a side benefit.  My goal is to grow relationships with my children as they learn to be responsible and independent members of our family and community.

The Power of Empathy

So many things in Christianity are paradoxical.  Love your enemies.  Turn the other cheek.  Dying to be born to everlasting life.  It is truly a life-long process to gain the understanding and meaning of these teachings.  It is not until we experience it  or are given the graces through the Holy Spirit that we truly gain wisdom and understanding.  I had one such experience last week.


About a month ago, my daughter got a kitten.  The kitten was carrying ringworm and showing no signs of the disease, just her super cute little “cuddle me” kitten face.


Everyone was happy to indulge the kitten and the kitten shared the ringworm.  Extensively but not exclusively.  All 8 family members got ringworm.  Doctors visits, prescription medications, reactions to medications, homeopathic remedies, natural remedies, OTC ointment, vet visits for kitty and dogs, all totaling over $1000 and lots of time that we will never get back was the cost of this sweet, cuddle-me kitten.  We decided that the kitten needed to go back to the ranch as none of us wanted to risk getting this infection again.  The doctors all said that they had never even heard of it being so prolific and extensive in one household.  We are still recovering after 4 weeks!


My daughter was, of course, heartbroken about having to return her kitten.  But, she was more than understanding as to why.  After all, she had the worst case of ringworm of all of us.  As she was processing her emotions, she lay on the couch in the living room.  Daniel looked up and immediately recognized that something was wrong.  “Angela, what is the matter?”  I explained, “She’s sad because we have to send the kitten back to the ranch.”  The next moment was an expression of pure love and empathy.  He looked up at her and said how sorry he was, that he understood how she felt.  His voice crackled as he felt all the emotions and stated how sad he was when he thought our dog Max would have to go when he was chewing up all of the faucet covers.  Tears welled up in his eyes and Angela’s heart and my own felt like they would burst with sadness for sweet Daniel.  In that moment of empathy Daniel’s expression of love and compassion, understanding and sadness was so compelling it left no room in our hearts for our own self-pity.  It completely healed the pain in the moment. It was indeed paradoxical.


I’m not saying the problem was solved, for there are many issues in life where there is no solution, no remedy for the pain.  I’m not saying that Angela hasn’t felt sadness since that moment or that she will not feel sad in the future, for the loss still exists.  But, in that particular moment of time, love healed.  No judgement, no logic, no lecture, no attempt to justify or solve–just pure empathy.  I learned the power of empathy in that moment.  I learned what it means to be “childlike”.  I experienced the power of unconditional love.  I was transformed in that moment with a resolution to love others unconditionally as I had just witnessed.  Christ was present in Daniel and we were blessed by His presence.


“Blessed are the pure of heart, for they will see God.“  (Matthew 5:8)

A Meditation on Moments in Mary’s Life

The following thoughts are not my own, but taken from a talk given by Schoenstatt priest, Fr. Christian Christiansen.  My only hope is to do them justice in relaying them to you.  This is a summary based on my notes.  The Discussion Questions at the end are also from the retreat.


In Luke 1:36 we read about the Annunciation.  This is the moment when the angel Gabriel appeared to Mary.  “Do not be afraid…” were the first words he spoke to her.  Mary teaches us in this moment to respond versus react.  She teaches us to ask God in a humble way, “What is this?”  She wants God to teach her the lessons in the weightiness.  And she responds with total surrender.  “I am the handmaid of the Lord.  Be it done unto me according to thy word.”   The Annunciation teaches us the example of following God’s will in total trust and surrender with humility.

Mary and Eve

The Visitation.  Mary realizes that her cousin Elizabeth is six months pregnant and goes “in haste” to help her.  Mary understands that Elizabeth needs support.  Mothers need help with everyday things.  They need help with food, cleaning, and meeting their own needs.  Like Mary, we should go in haste to help others when we are able.  Mary also knew when to leave.  “Wisdom is knowing when to stop helping someone.” Fr. Christian tells us.  Yes, we need to help; but, we have to empower women and know when to stop helping as well.  Mothers do the same task on a daily basis.  Mary teaches us to do our duty daily and in total surrender [to God].  Pray always meditating on scripture.  Mary was a faithful and practicing Jewish mother.  Scripture tells us that she “pondered…in her heart.”  “If you ponder something in your heart, you will never forget it,” says Fr. Christian.


Fr. Christian tells us that peace with history is knowing that God was there in every moment.  Mary teaches us to seek what God is telling us in the challenges.


In the Finding of Jesus in the temple, Mary does not react when she discovers the child.  She always asks.  “Your father and I were looking for you with much anxiety.”  She puts her husband first.  “Your father and I” not “my” or “me” or “I”.  Fr. Christian stressed this point, “No, not I, I, I,  Nada!” but “Your father and I.”  The husband is the first priority.  Mary speaks with clarity.  She says what she feels.  It is very important to express our feelings with clarity and charity.  She says she feel anxious.  She speaks her feelings from the heart.  It is important to allow our thoughts time to move to our heart before we speak.  Then, we speak with clarity and charity.

Mary speaks finely.  Fine is from God.  The devil is vulgar.


In John 2 we read the story of the Wedding Feast at Cana.  Mary was aware.  Mothers are aware of the needs.  They scan the room and see the needs.  Mary saw the need at the wedding.  She knew the embarrassment it would cause.  In her awareness of the need, she turns to her son.  Then she instructs the servants, “Do whatever he tells you.”  Her example shows us to be aware of the needs of others, to act and pray on their behalf.


At the foot of the cross, Jesus gives Mary to us as our mother.  She always leads us to Jesus.  In the Acts of the Apostles, Mary leads us to pray and to ask for the Holy Spirit.

Discussion Questions:

What moment in Mary’s life speaks to you most clearly?

What quality about Mary do you wish to imitate?

How can you live your love for the Church in everyday life?

Loving Self

“You’re not loving yourself.”  The words struck me dumb.  Huh?  How could I not love myself?  The Bible says, “Love the Lord your God with your whole heart, mind and strength and love your neighbor as yourself.”  It doesn’t say anything about loving myself.  Isn’t that being selfish?  All of these thoughts flooded my mind as I sat in the cozy meeting room of the priest’s home.  It was decorated in the late 80’s and felt familiar and comfortable.  But his words made me squirm.  If what he is saying is true, then I have to make changes and that will have an effect on everyone around me.  I don’t even know what that means, “loving myself.”  My mind told me that he was being ridiculous, but my heart recognized the truth.

That was December 2012.  My body had just stopped cooperating with me.  My adrenals were shot.  Anxiety and depression overwhelmed me. I barely had energy to walk from my room to the kitchen to make a sandwich, let alone take care of 7 children, 6 of whom were under 9 years old.  I was also homeschooling and working for our business from home.  When I felt tired, I just told myself “Dig deeper.  Push harder.”  When that didn’t work I berated myself for not being able to keep up with my duties.  When I lost my temper and screamed at the kids I felt as if I was going insane and hated myself for what I was doing to them emotionally.  Putting others first was only making me a worse person. If I couldn’t put others first, didn’t that make me a selfish person?

“You’re not loving yourself.”

Those words echoed in my mind.  “What does that mean?!” I cried out to God in prayer.  In those moments, I felt the deepest despair.  My mind taunted me with messages of “not enough” and “failure.”  God answered me in subtle and powerful ways.  He spoke to me through my family and friends.  He sent me health care providers who listened and prayed with me, while gently walking me through the mystery of “loving myself.”   God spoke through his living Word and in my heart.  I can see it clearly in hindsight–God walking with me at every moment; but, in that time and in that place I felt isolated and alone.  I felt burdened and I felt like I was a burden.  Connecting my brain and my heart was hard work and it was exhausting.

Perseverance taught me that small steps taken every day amount to large strides over time.  The world tries to sell us the idea that “loving yourself” means spa treatments, vacations, or shopping sprees.  But, I am learning that “loving yourself” means showing yourself compassion, forgiveness, and acceptance.  And while the occasional spa day is fun and rejuvenating; vacations are often restorative; and shopping sprees can boost one’s spirits temporarily, none of these will prove helpful in the long run if your mind is torturing your heart.

Loving myself has been and continues to be a process of recognizing the awareness of how God loves me.  It is recognizing my value and dignity.  It is embracing the fact that my life has dignity and worth that cannot be compared to anyone else’s. Ever.  When I remember that, I am free to love others as myself. Loving God with my whole heart, mind and all of my strength becomes easy and natural—like breathing.  My journey isn’t over.  The process of understanding God’s love for me is lifelong.  The wisdom I have gained in the struggle is precious and each day I fall in love with myself more deeply.  Not because I am a great person, but because I recognize God within me.  I can see His reflection a little more clearly when I look in the mirror.  I am loving myself.


Come Away and Rest



In this Sunday’s Gospel (July 22, 2018) from Mark 6:30-34, Jesus invites the Apostles to “come away” with him and rest.  The crowds had been pressing in on them, demanding attention and healing.  The people’s needs were so great and the Apostles were few in number in comparison.  Jesus understood the need for rest and rejuvenation.  Our own priest, Fr. Mike preached on this need for balance based on this gospel as well.  He was explaining our need to balance work, relationships and our spiritual life.  In the book, “Everyday Sanctity” by Sr. Nailis, this topic is addressed in depth as well.  We have a need for attachment to God, to our work and to our fellow man.  In rightly ordered life, these 3 areas are balanced.  Sr. Nailis says, “Everyday sanctity is the God-pleasing harmony between wholehearted attachment to God, work and fellow man in every circumstance of life.”  So simple and yet so challenging to achieve!  Especially for us moms, right?!

mom demand

So, how are we as mothers to “come away and rest” with Christ?  Like the Apostles, our children often out number us and come to us constantly with needs for healing, love, compassion, and to be fed (literally and emotionally).  They seem to be always pressing in on us.  This is especially true when we have young children in the home.  I remember well feeling overstimulated by touch as there was always a child being held or climbing on my lap, as well as one wrapped around a leg.  I find it especially amusing in this Gospel that the Apostles climb in a boat with Jesus and sail to a deserted land, only to arrive and find the crowds of people beat them to it and were there waiting for them—still just as needy and demanding.  How many of us moms have retreated to a “deserted” bathroom only to be discovered: little hands sticking under the door, the “Mom. Mom. Mom,” chanted from the other side?  Or, if you are like me and don’t lock the door, you have actual people in the bathroom with you?  Maybe you try to find rest by leaving the home and they “follow” you with phone calls and texts.  So, how are we to respond?  Often, I respond with impatience and frustration.  But, Jesus responds with his heart.  “When he disembarked and saw the vast crowd, his heart was moved with pity for them…and he began to teach them many things.”

With our own little crowds of children, we too should respond with our hearts.  But, to do so requires our deep connection to the Divine.  Our weak human efforts do not have the strength and need the grace that comes through God in order to respond with a “heart moved with pity.”  Practically speaking, we have to develop the habit of turning to the Father (through Christ through Mary) to beg for this grace.  Then, and only then, will we find the patience to teach them: to teach them about respect for other’s privacy, to teach them how to soothe themselves, to teach them that they are capable and loved, to teach them how to turn to Mary and to Christ for strength, to teach them the skills to be independent and interdependent, to teach them academics, to teach them self-control, and so on.  We must not be too hard on ourselves, however.  Even the Apostles, who walked with Christ, who saw his miracles, who heard his teachings, struggled with understanding and living it out.  Don’t get weighed down in your failures or too proud of your successes.  Nothing good is done without the grace of God. What matters most is that we continue to strive for the balance in a way that is pleasing to God and “in every circumstance of life.”  Let us pray for one another as we continue this journey heavenwards and learn to respond with hearts moved with pity.

The Heart of a Mother

Love creates and life grows within

Anticipation, excitement, hopes and dreams grow as well

Fear, doubt, anxiety linger

A child is born

Emotions overwhelm

The mind and heart overflow with wonder and awe

Responsibility is daunting

The desire to protect

To love

To provide

To serve

To do it all perfectly

Only to fail.

The groping with the imperfect

Of self and child

Moving forward

Trying again

Failing again

Knowing you are giving your best

Knowing that your best falls short of what is needed

Of what is expected

Of what “should be”

Reflecting on your own mother

Loving her for her efforts

Forgiving her for her shortcomings

Loving her in all her imperfections

Realizing how perfect she was for me

Wondering if my own child will ever see me as I am

Ever love me

Ever forgive me

Knowing that it doesn’t really matter

I could never stop loving her

With that overwhelming sense of awe

That was present from the moment she first existed within me

Understanding I must first love myself

In my imperfections

Forgive myself for the failings

Embrace the journey in joy and suffering

Continue to love

To serve

To know Jesus Christ is the only way

The rest is just the feeble, human experience–

Imperfect, conditional, and wounded–

Made perfect in His wounds.

Restless until I rest in Him.

–Jill Mach 11/21/17

If I knew then what I know now

June 1, 2000

Dear New Homeschool Mom Jill,

Breathe.  I know you get really excited about new adventures and challenges, but homeschooling is all about the process, not an item on your “to do” list to be tackled and checked off.  Homeschooling is about relationships: your relationships with your children, sibling relationships, lasting friendships, and –most importantly—your relationship to Christ.  Until 4th grade, just have fun.  Play lots of games, and do whatever you enjoy doing: crafts, nature hikes, field trips.  Yes, teach them math, reading, history, science and religion; but, do it in a way where everyone is enjoying the process.  Formal teaching at these ages should take less than 2 hours at a maximum.  Don’t worry, you will have plenty of years ahead of more “school work”.  Your kids are not behind.  If all you do is read books together for an hour a day, you will be doing just fine.  Your kids will be just fine.  Also, don’t get started too early with formal learning, co-ops and workbooks.  If you need a break, utilize swap days with friends or spend the money for a mother’s day out program.  Yes, teach them; but always through play and laughter and joy.  Host events for moms with kids the same ages.  These will be some of the strongest friendships you will ever form—and they will be for life and the life of your kids.

You are an extrovert.  Make sure you have daily connections with other moms who share your struggles.  Oh, and this cool thing called Facebook will be developed.  Don’t be fooled by it: it is no substitution for face-to-face connection and can lead you into deeper isolation if you are not careful.  It is a really cool way to share information and photographs though.  Avoid the vaccine debates.  Trust me on this one.

Do NOT worry about proving yourself to the naysayers.  Yes, your mother and father.  Yes, your husband’s parents too.  Yes, your nosey neighbor.  Yes, your sister-in-law who insists that you are ruining your children.  They are all wrong.  You know this already in your heart, but I’m here to tell you 18 years later that you are more than right about this.  Your children are amazing young adults with a strong faith life.  Homeschooling has so much to do with this because you were able to live your faith out daily with your children as constant observers.

Slow down and let go of perfectionism.  You are going to burn out if you continue at this rate.  You can NOT do it all and no one expects you to.  Especially not God.  Do your best every day and let the rest go.

After 4th grade, add in some writing skills and teach the kids how to use a daily planner to begin time management skills.  Grade the school work every day.  If you don’t grade daily the kids will catch on and work will not get done.  They do not have the maturity for that level of discipline.  Do not get frustrated as it is a waste of your energy and rooted in pride.  Instead, take a breath and remind them that school is the first priority, so no other activities can happen until they are all caught up.  They will learn, but it will take lots of repeated effort.  Expect to see results in a few years.

Know your strengths and your weaknesses.  You are not good at grading and follow through.  Find a course to help keep the kids accountable. Don’t fight yourself on this.  Especially for high school. Find a course that teaches your visual learners on-line or through a co-op.  You’ll thank me later for this.

Lastly, take full advantage of the flexibility of homeschooling.  Take the time to visit grandparents, enjoy the good weather days, go camping as often as possible and take the time off to visit with a friend or neighbor in need.  Don’t blow off school work, but be flexible with the timing.  You would be amazed at how much can get done after dinner when the day was spent hiking and playing outdoors.

Oh, and you were totally genius to do half days of school starting in the horrid heat of the summer.  The long holiday breaks at Thanksgiving through New Year were great blessings and really did make Advent a more focused time of preparation without the stress of school.  You are also wise to teach the kids homemaking skills.  In a few years, when God answers your prayers for more children this will pay off in a big way.

You are not a perfect mom, a supermom, or amazingly patient; but, your kids are amazing people.  Don’t forget to give Patrick lots of affection and thank him for supporting you in these efforts.  The two of you make an amazing team when you allow God’s grace to flow.  You’re doing a great job, Jill, so don’t be too hard on yourself.  I need you healthy in 18 years because, well, I don’t want to spoil the surprise…let’s just say you’ll be over the halfway marker by then, but will still have quite a way to go.

With Deepest Prayers of Encouragement,

Veteran Homeschool Mom Jill

January 15, 2018

Camp Schooling

IMG_20171023_120320581Yes, I’m really doing this!  We are currently at a local campground–a mere 15 minutes from home.  I’m basking in the sun, staring out at the lake and enjoying the laughter and play of my kids on the beach.  It has been a long-time dream of mine to travel the US in an RV and homeschool on the open road.  One of the major motivators to shift to homeschooling in the first place was the ability to travel.  Heck, we were spending thousands of dollars on private education back then (18 years ago and only 2 children enrolled in school).  The thought of all the places we could go with that money was astounding.  Of course, the savings in tuition was also the key factor freeing us to truly be open to life as well.  Homeschooling allowed us both the large family God planned for us and the ability to educate them well in faith and academics.  But, I digress.  The babies came and traveling very far was not really a feasible option.  Until now.

Four weeks ago, I said “yes” to God.  I finally let go of my pride and stepped whole heartedly into the vocation of wife and mother.  For 24 years of marriage, I had believed that wife and mother were not enough.  Someway, somehow, I had bought into the belief that I had to have some sort of tangible giving beyond my home to be “worthy.”  It might sound funny, but I didn’t even realize that this is what I believed.  Six months ago, I was ready to go out and find a job.  Not for the money, but for the affirmation and appreciation of my efforts.  I was grasping and desperate to be more.  To be someone.  To be me.  But, I didn’t know who I was.  Through prayer and faith, I just kept taking one day at a time and letting God lead me.  As painful, dark, and terrifying as that walk of faith was, I couldn’t go back.  I refused to stop living again, to stop being, to stop loving.  So, I kept moving forward motivated by love and hope and faith.  Then, one day my path was made clear to me—first in my heart and then in my mind.  I had to quit my job and embrace my vocation as wife and mother.  Easier said than done.

My job was working for my husband.  My job was a key role in creating and managing the databases for our business with our oldest daughter (my step daughter) and her husband.  We have four workers to run a business that needs to support both families and I was backing out!  I kept arguing with God that I couldn’t be replaced.  That they needed me.  “How will the databases be created and maintained?” I asked.  God said, “That’s not your problem.  You obey and let me do the rest.”  And so, I did.  I obeyed.  My husband was shaken, but he is not one to question God and supported me in the decision.  My step daughter seemed relieved.  It was time for us to rebuild and strengthen our relationship on a personal level.  It was time for me to enjoy my grandchildren.  As a mother and a daughter, she understood and was also very encouraging and supportive.  My kids were excited.  You must realize that my younger six children have no memories of a healthy mom!  The six of them were born in a seven-year timespan.  My health crashed after the youngest entered the world with both of our lives teetering in the balance.  I gave six-weeks notice and taught my husband how to create and manage the databases (apparently I am easily replaceable—a good lesson in humility right there).  And today is the fourth Monday since beginning my new career doing the most important job I’ll ever have: homeschooling homemaker.

When I talked to my husband about traveling the US, he wisely suggested I start with a week-long trip near home and work up from there.  Seeing that I have no experience in pulling a 30 foot camper, I wisely agreed.  Last week, I looked at the 10 day forecast and decided that it was a live or die opportunity.  If not now, when?  I packed over the weekend and Patrick drove us out to the campgrounds last night.  I cancelled all commitments and rescheduled appointments for the week.  And here I sit, surrounded in nature (I’m admiring a baby woodpecker only 20 feet away in an oak tree) with six very happy children.

The older two just took off for a hike and the other four are frolicking on the beach.  We have already worked in our math lesson this morning and will soon explore the love of grammar and writing; but the most important lesson my children are learning is to follow God–to find and live the life He chose for each of them to live.  They already understand in their tender ages that this earthly life includes pain and suffering; but by striving to live God’s will, one will find peace and joy.