In this amazing interview I learned an abundance more than I expected.  I’m certain I am not done learning from this beautiful mother.  As life can be tricky and seemingly untimely, I met this woman just a month before they moved out of state.  As you read, you’ll understand why I’m intrigued by this mother of seven.  I didn’t quite expect to relate so well.    Honestly, this is the shortest introduction I’ve given, because I NEED you to read all about her!
Please meet Angela, a light in a dark world and a strong case for what God asks of mothers.

Tell us what makes your family unique.

We are a missionary family continually discerning how the Lord is calling us to serve Him which has made for a wild adventure in our almost 12 years of marriage!  It has included 10 moves,  4 different states and 7 kids.  We try to live as simply as possible (which thanks to the 10 moves, there have been many purges!) and instill in our children a great love for the richness of our faith in our day to day life.

What are the difficulties of being a homeschooling parent?  

There are many challenges in homeschooling my children…..but the joys and rewards outweigh them far more!
I think right now my greatest difficulty is teaching multiple children with their different ages/learning styles/needs/ strengths/weaknesses.  It is not one size fits all!  Each child is so different (even if they are the same gender or close in age!) and trying to meet the need of each child’s preferred learning style or unique strength can be a challenge.   One of my girls is good at math and science while the other one is good at the arts and reading.  So figuring out what’s best for all of them can definitely be time consuming and a struggle, but it allows the children to thrive with the confidence that they need to continue to grow and learn thus it is all worth the effort to see them succeed!
Another challenge is having a toddler and baby underfoot which can lead to frequent interruptions and prevent enough time for one on one time with each student.  We have all had to be creative and flexible with different ways to handle this small hiccup that will soon pass.

Joys of Homeschooling

The joys of homeschooling are many….however one of the best is the relationships  my children form with their siblings and myself.  It is a priceless gift!
I am able to integrate our faith into every aspect of our learning as well, which is truly a joy and a necessity to nourish our children’s souls in order to help them along our earthly pilgrimage toward Heaven.   Other joys include more down time to use their imaginations, to play outside in nature, and to slow down in our fast paced world around us.  It’s also nice to go to museums, parks, zoos and libraries during the daytime hours when many other children are in school.  IMG_5922

Do your children need their own personal time too?

Oh yes!  Especially the ones who are melancholic like me.   If you’re not familiar with the temperaments, they’re personality types: Sanguine, Choleric, Melancholic, Phlegmatic.  We like to use tools like the 4 temperaments to help determine what are the varying needs of our children.  For example, one of my daughters is a melancholic which is an introvert that recharges from alone time.  So we have noticed that when she’s snapping at her siblings, she is overwhelmed or overstimulated and needs to be by herself recharging.  We send her off to be alone to pray, read a book, do some sort of artwork, go for a walk or most recently write in her journal, which has been very helpful!   
Generally, though, yes they all have their own quiet times during the day.  For example, when the little kids are napping the older ones will be reading a book, creating something out of Legos, listening to an audio book, or something else that is quiet.  In our society with constant noise, it is a good and beneficial challenge to learn to be quiet and still.  

How would you describe yourself as a person?

My dad always taught me to be a leader and not a follower, and I think I always listened to his advice since I was young.  I’ve always done what I knew was right and did it, or what I felt called to do and just did it.  So I would describe myself as confident and a leader.
I’m a pretty easy going person that likes to have a plan but am fine with being spontaneous at times too.

Share something you value.

We are all one family created in God’s own image and likeness. (“One body but many parts”) Yet oh so different!  That is what is so fun…..we are irreplaceable and each have our own unique story.  We are who we are today because of something in our past that has shaped us this way or that way and we should never judge others based solely on outward appearances.  We just need to love others where they are and see them as a child of God, a brother or sister in Christ.

What outcomes do you want for your children? And how do you attempt to achieve it.

Ultimately Sainthood (sanctity) and for them to know, love, and serve God..
We attempt to achieve that by having a personal relationship with Christ and encouraging that.  We start our school day with a simplified Lectio.  We’ll listen to the Gospel of the day one time and as they’re listening to it, they have their prayer journals or just a blank sheet of paper, writing a word or drawing a picture of what stuck out to them or what happened in the reading.  Then we’ll read it a second time through after a couple minutes and have some quiet music on so they can continue to draw or pray to the Lord’s working in their hearts..  At the end of that 10 minutes, we share what stuck out to each of us and what the Lord is trying to tell us through His word. In addition to praying with the Scriptures, we want our children to understand the big picture of the Bible and that Our Heavenly Father ultimately calls us into relationship with Him and where and how do we fit into the story.
We also try to achieve holiness through frequenting the sacraments (mass and confession…..we need the extra grace), adoration, singing (and being a part of the church choir), reading stories about saints and holy examples who have gone before us, living out the liturgical year and celebrating the deep richness in our faith, and just helping our children to understand what a gift our faith is and to really make it their own!
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Is there anything you would recommend or wish you would have done differently at any point in your life?

Yes!
I always tell newly engaged or newly married couples to start your habits, your good habits, now because children pick up all your habits…..good or bad.  If you’re not disciplined in prayer, or finding time for your spouse, or finding “me” time to exercise or to pray, it is going to be harder once children come along.
I would also recommend finding some sort of way to handle finances.  My husband and I both came from families where there wasn’t a good relationship around money.  Either there was a fight around money or there was the opposite and it was an attitude of spend whatever you want to spend.  Thus, I would recommend, D’Ramsey’s Financial Peace University.  It is about controlling your money and telling every dollar where to go so you will be able to have freedom from loans, or to buy a house or whatever it is that you’re saving for.  There can be a lot of arguments and a lot of hassle around money in a marriage and it could save many headaches if both the husband and wife were on the same page regarding money. We wish we would have done this earlier in our marriage!
Also, what we did in our early marriage was confide in a marriage coach.  We originally tried a Catholic counselor, but he wasn’t meeting our specific needs at the time.  So while in Denver, we found marriage coaching, through a beautiful couple that has since started their own organization called Marriage Missionaries.  They meet with couples in six sessions on the biggest struggles in marriage (finances, communication, intimacy, prayer, etc.) and “coach” them and give them the tools they need to thrive and not just survive in their marriage.  Marriage is hard!  Two very different people coming from two very different backgrounds come together and are supposed to live happily ever after?  Hardly!  It takes work and effort but we have often used many of those tools learned through the Marriage Missionaries to have a thriving and wonderful marriage!  
This is something kind of small and seemingly insignificant but makes a world of difference for the kids……. start documenting photos sooner. I have not kept up with making photo books or baby books or even printing pictures off to look at so now I have a big pile of photos that I will use one day to make digital books.  If I had to start that over, I would make time for the baby books or the memory books and set a time each week to do a little bit at a time.

Who do you look up to in life?

The saints.
The saints who have gone before me…In particular the married saints who had children and were in the trenches of mommy-hood, particularly St. Therese of Lisieux’s mom, St. Zelie Martin and of course, Mother Mary!
One of my favorite images of Mary is called the Polish Madonna.  It’s a picture of Mary hanging laundry on a clothesline with baby Jesus sitting on the ground just enjoying her presence as she works.  

What have you learned along the way others could also benefit?

I know I’ve already answered this a little bit, but I’ll add good habits of prayer, putting your priorities in order in early marriage, or before kids, just because it gets harder after kids.
Another thing my husband and I do is to have a “business” meeting at the start of each week.  We talk about schedule or finances or disciplining, or anything that comes up with the family.  It started because I was asking my husband after we’d already laid down for bed, “Oh did you pay the bills?” or something about money or some business type question.  He said, “When I’m in bed, I want to go to sleep.” He falls asleep in 30 seconds while I lay in bed and think about everything that happened today and what I have to do tomorrow.   So the business meeting minimized talking about finances in bed.  It also puts us on the same page.  Our days are more peaceful because we know what to expect and if there’s any scheduling change we can plan accordingly.
Setting goals for your family.  We have a mission statement and a vision for our own family so we can better set goals that meet the vision/mission.  A book we loved was, “The Three Big Questions for a Frantic Family” by Patrick Lencioni.  In it he talks about having a mission and a vision and a 2-6 month goal for your family.  He says, if you don’t know where you’re going, then how are you going to get there?  Once you have your goals then every decision you make needs to help achieve that goal and if it is not, then something has got to change. This is something we see a lot of value in!

What would you consider to be the hard parts of being a wife and mother?

Realizing how selfish and prideful you are, how impatient you are.  It shows you your weaknesses because you’re tired, you’re hungry, you’re at your lowest, and then the kids are pushing you further because they need someone to take care of them.  When you have a lot of little ones who are so dependent on you, you definitely see that.  It helps you to grow, and growing is difficult, painful, and challenging, but it is also good.  This is probably the hardest, but in recognizing your weaknesses you can turn those (vices) into virtues and having your kids do it alongside with you.
Another challenge is disciplining.  When you have disciplining issues, but also want the best for your children, and sometimes you just don’t know where to go.  Having a mentor or someone else who has already done it is a good idea.

What are three fun or interesting facts about you?

1. I like to travel.  I love diversity, ethnic foods and different cultures.
2. My husband and I are big Swing dancers.  We love to do that, it’s good exercise and tons of fun.

3. My favorite image of Mary is Our Lady of Guadalupe for a couple reasons.  It is the only image God has given us.  He actually gave us the Tilma that had the image on it so that’s really amazing and a miracle in itself.  Also, she’s pregnant in it and I’ve been pregnant a lot.  So, I can relate to Mary as a mother.  Also, they appeared to the humble peasant farmer instead of the higher-class Spaniards.  She comes to all of us, “Am I not here, I am your mother?”  She says to us all, ‘ I’ll take care of you.’  I’ve been to Mexico and have prayed there at the Shrine so it is much more real to me as well since visiting there.  

Do you have anything else to add to this beautiful conversation?

It is important to slow down and smell the roses!  Be intentional with your relationships with your kids, with your time.
We pick a virtue each year at Christmas time with my side of the family and this year my virtue was “Good use of time”.  I never thought about it as something I needed to work on, but it is so true.  Sometimes when I just want to check my email or put my nose into a book and “shut off”, I realize these God given blessings will not be under my roof forever, that they grow up and eventually move away (sometimes this is hard for me to even imagine with so many dependent on me right now!….) and so with God’s grace, I put my own desires aside and delight in what is in front of me right now, what I am called to do at this stage in my life even if that means getting down on the floor to play dinosaurs with my 2 year old or playing peek-a-boo with my 6 month old or talking with my 9 and 10 year olds or dancing around the room with my 4 year old “ballerina” or playing ball outside with my 6 and 8 year olds.  Be intentional!
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