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A Fall Season of Playing, Praying and Serving

We have completed our seasonal sports activities, including cross-country and our homeschool sports group that meets once a week. I am sad to see the season end because I know how much the kids look forward to practices, races, and seeing their friends. I also enjoy coaching all the kids that run. I enjoy supporting them through adversities, challenges, and moments of achievement. Congratulations to all the kids who earned medals and our junior varsity girls who won second place!

Our son had an exciting and successful season too. He was motivated all season to improve. He was willing to put the work in to get better. We ran together every morning for a month to get into shape before the season started. He ran the longer trails with the older kids at practice. He went on extra runs with me outside practice times and listened closely to his coaches' advice to improve his running form. Running cross-country has taught him so much about perseverance and work ethic. His self confidence has grown so much too. We had so much fun cheering him on at the races, and we are looking forward to spring track when my oldest daughter is eligible to race too.

We also had a fun season finale for our weekly homeschool sports group. The weather was beautiful for our last few weeks, and my little ones were happy making sand castles while the older ones learned to play football and wiffle-ball. In addition to learning some new sports and games, they also participated in a service activity a couple of weeks ago. The sports activities ended early for all the kids to help prepare 80 lunches for a local shelter. The older kids put on their gloves and made peanut butter sandwiches. The younger kids made cards for each bag, and everyone helped pack each bag full of snacks and sandwiches.

We will meet up for sports again in the spring. Our youngest daughter will technically be old enough to play sports with the older kids, but she isn't sure she wants to join because her little brother will "be alone". She's so sweet and thoughtful. I reminded her that I would be with him, but she didn't seem convinced he would be fine. We'll have to wait and see if she is ready. In the meantime, I am very grateful they are having fun and making great friends. They also benefit from seeing and playing with other kids who practice the faith. This affirms them in their own faith.

Recently, we gathered again with these great families to pray at a parish Cemetery for the repose of the souls of family, friends, and those who have no one to pray for them. We finished school work before lunch and got in the car right after to meet up with everyone. I discussed with the kids on the way to the church how bodies die, souls are eternal, and the importance of praying for all souls to go to Heaven.

"We already know this, Dad!"

Of course they do. How could I forget? After we arrived, they had some questions about the headstones and what happens after death. They were all very respectful and reverent.

We gathered with about five families outside the church to pray the Rosary in the courtyard. I was so impressed that my oldest daughter volunteered to lead a decade of the Rosary. They're still getting to know everyone. I guess I expected her to be shyer about volunteering. She did amazing leading us in the Fourth Glorious Mystery! Four other children also volunteered to lead a decade of the Rosary, and we shared the names of those who have passed from our respective families, including our Noah. After we finished praying, everyone met at a nearby park, and the kids got to play outside all afternoon.

Praying the Rosary with our homeschool community was a helpful reminder to be more intentional about family prayer time. We do our best to pray the Rosary or the Chaplet of Divine Mercy as a family, but I thought we could be doing more. Unfortunately, our family prayer times tend to end in tears because someone lost count, forgot the words, or dropped their beads. The Chaplet has quickly become the kiddos' favorite because it only takes eight minutes to say, and they know all the words.

We make family prayer time a priority in other ways too. We try to attend a few extra daily masses each month, celebrate Saint's feast days with crafts and cupcakes, and participate in parish programs. This is a big year for us and learning our prayers. Our second grader is preparing to receive the Sacraments of Reconciliation and Holy Communion, and she is learning to memorize the Act of Contrition. The two youngest also have a list of prayers to learn as part of their lessons.

I had a brilliant idea to help them learn their prayers and help us to pray together more. I set up a little shrine in one of our built-in cabinets. I moved our statue of Our Lady of Fatima and set it in the center. I added the candles and crucifix and little angel statue. My little one likes to add his St. Peter and St. Paul toys. I bought some battery-powered candles and told the kiddos they could say their prayers and turn them on. Sometimes they stand there and turn them on and off because buttons are fun. We've made a good habit of saying a Morning Offering to Mary. We also pray together the Hail Mary, Our Father, Glory Be, Act of Contrition, Prayer to My Guardian Angel and The Apostles Creed. Mary hears our prayers, directs us to her Son and watches over us.

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