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The conference started on Thursday.  Unfortunately we were running behind schedule and did not make it in time to attend the Akathist service- this one being a prayer service to the Mother of God as the nurturer of children.  It is a beautiful service as we have attended them in the past.

We did make it for dinner and were happy to see familiar faces and see many new faces as well. After dinner was a nice group photo session and orientation activities including the phenomenal display of photography by Jocelyn Mathewes in the museum at Antiochian Village titled Women With Icons.

Friday brought us a beautiful Pre-sanctified Liturgy service followed by the first sessions!  I attended one called "Maneuvering through the High School Years" given by Dianthe Livanos.  Dianthe shared her wisdom and reminded us that life is NOT about a title, position or amount of money we make and that we must remember to place Loving God above everything and teach this to our children. I had a wonderful discussion with Dianthe after the session about refocusing my outlook on some recent challenges - we truly must set our sights on God as parents - in doing this our children will hopefully learn to do the same.

Another session was conducted by Susan Papademetris on setting goals and following through.  Susan reminded us to set goals- have them in writing - something I use to do but haven't actually done this for several years.  It's something I certainly intend to work on.  I have writing goals but not written homeschool goals...something is wrong with that picture! We need to review these goals annually - some of us may be fine doing this monthly or weekly...others may need to do it daily.  I think the overall goals - especially our goals involving our faith- should be reviewed quite frequently! Susan provided a wonderful handout that I still need to reread to get it all. It will definitely be put in my pile of planning materials for next year as I want to keep it all in mind as I plan and organize.

My session 3 was on Free Online Resources for Education and I'm looking forward to the list of sources Bob Weaver will be sending to those of us in the session!  He did a fabulous job  of presenting a list of places to look for information and the questions to ask yourself about your sources (Is it authoritative? Comprehensive? Reliable? Current?) and how to go about answering those questions.

The Keynote Speaker, Dr. Christopher Veniamin, spoke on The Orthodox Understanding of Salvation:  "Theosis" in St. Silouan the Athonite and Elder Sophrony of Essex.  Orthodox theology is personal and unique and Dr. Veniman thoroughly covered this topic and hit many important points including:  We must pray or our enemies just as Christ did, If you don't feel bad for the sinner destined to experience the fire then you lack the spirit within you, and before we say, do , or even THINK anything - we need to refer our minds and hearts to Christ!

Saturday brought 2 more sessions and another talk by Dr. Veniamin on  Salvation. My first session on Saturday was given by Monica Klepac on "Holding and Letting Go - Sanity and Sustainability in Homeschooling".  Monica did a fabulous job at reminding us about setting goals and prioritizing those goals - always remembering which are the most important.  She also reminded we moms to remember to put the oxygen mask on ourselves first! - just as in procedures for an airplane emergency-  we need to get time for ourselves and take care of ourselves or we won't be able to care for our children - this is something I wished I would have learned years ago.

My second session on Saturday was given by Dr. Veniamin (with a rather humorous opening act by Andrew Kern I may add) on Repentance.  This is an important topic as our society really does not seem to understand repentance nor does it offer real support to a soul which desires to repent and yet we are ALL in need of repentance.  Dr. Veniamin talked about loving our enemies, laying aside our own will to learn the will of God (a really hard challenge!), and remembering that none of us can discern the will of God by ourselves - we need guidance from others that are further along the spiritual path - namely our spiritual fathers...

Of course, these are just the sessions that I went to.  Each session has three choices of speakers and topics.  Sometimes it's hard to pick which one to go to!  I'm glad my husband is with me so he can go to some different ones and take notes for me.  It gives us a lot to talk about in the days to follow.

And of course - there was the late night with other homechool moms.  I was tired -  plus my teenage son was close by - so I didn't really share that much but I still enjoyed the time with them that evening.  We stayed up way to late but it was worth the time with these dear people who I so rarely get to see and get to know.

Thank you to all that had anything to do with setting up the conference and presenting to adults as well as a big thanks to all that took on the children's sessions keeping them safe and wonderfully occupied!

I am already looking forward to next year...  so set the date on your calendar if you want to go!  People have come from all over the United States, even Canada! It's so worth it! It is to be held two weeks AFTER Pascha next year - April 23rd- 26th!!!  I hear  a certain father may be giving a talk just for Dads!  And I'm sure, as always, there will be lots of good sessions to choose from!  Will I see you there??

March was a whirlwind....  I'm not sure if it came in like a lion or went out like a lion....but there was a lot of lions in between and not so many lambs. But I did learn to refocus on the most important Lamb.... the lamb of God.  So that, my friends, is a good thing. It has indeed been a full month even though I didn't post near as much as I had been.

Writing:  I started out the month on a roll... I was actively involved in revising several manuscripts and sent one to Rate Your Story.  The review came back...not as promising as I had hoped for but it wasn't abysmal either.  I think if I let it sit for a bit, I can go back and do some necessary revisions without it being quite so painful and then submit it to both of my critique groups before resubmitting it to Rate Your Story.  I enjoyed submitting two manuscripts to my critique groups as well, but by the third week I felt over my head and let them know I was behind and needed some time to get back into the swing of things.  I also stopped posting so often on here...  I just needed the time (and still do) to catch up on other things in life!   I was also reading a lot of blog posts at the beginning of the month but have barely read any since the middle of March.  Some of my favorites in early March though included two on The Modern Mrs. Darcy - this one on the 20 minute Frittata  and this one on keeping focus on things that matter most.  In the writing world I also LOVED this post on Write For Kids.

Homeschooling: In our Homeschooling, things have been .... well....it's Spring...and while the weather isn't all that warm yet, I've already been feeling Spring Feverish.  I want sunshine and I want to chuck all the books.... shhhh...don't tell my 15-year-old!  🙂   On a positive note he is starting to catch up a bit and there's only 2 months left - plus I just got reenergized a bit at the 2014 St. Emmelia Orthodox Homeschool Conference.  I'll write more about it at a later time...but it was wonderful being together with a large group of like-minded people...both in our homeschooling and our Faith.  What's not to love about that?  I am already looking forward to next year's conference - which will be April 23rd- April 26th 2015!

Food & Nutrition:  About the only posts I've kept up with are my weekly posts on our Whole30!  Today marks Day #30!!!   YAY!!!!  BUT....we're not done....we are going throughout the entirety of Lent... starting to add things back in (one item on a test trial by itself every three days) on April 8th.  I'll be sure to post the next update later today or tomorrow.  If you haven't seen the posts, start out with the first one on doing the Whole30 and then read the weekly updates starting with Week One. It's been a challenging but very worthwhile adventure!

Orthodoxy and Lent:  Lent started on March 3rd...I set some goals including our family's decision (with the blessing of our priest) to make the Whole30 our Lenten Fast.  I've been keeping up with reading though I haven't quite gotten as much done as I would have liked...but I have done some each day and I'm getting into a much better habit of prayer.  The homeschool conference always does wonders for me spiritually as well - helping me to refocus on my ultimate goal of making God real in our home and making Him the focus of everything. It has been a challenging month in several areas and wise words received at the conference and in my reading have helped me rethink my focus and feel more positive about those things. I must remember that there hasn't been one single difficult day yet that I haven't lived through and that God gives us grace and strength to get through the challenges...in fact, the challenges, if we approach them correctly, bring us closer to Him.

In Summary: At the beginning of the month I had grand ideas about writing a monthly summary post....well-  this isn't exactly what I had a mind but it is a summary!  So it's a start.  Perhaps by the end of April I'll be better organized and back on track...either way I just need to forgive myself for falling behind and also realize I just expect way to much from myself.  Please bear with me readers as I figure out how to balance all these things I want in my life!  I'm not willing to give any of it up....but I do need to remember which are most important and figure out how much time I can afford to the rest.

Be sure to check back on the upcoming post on Week 5 of our Whole 30 🙂

God bless you all!