Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Edel...the Really, Really Late Version Part 1: How I Got There

Since the date and location of The Edel Gathering 2015 has just been announced, I guess it is time for me to try to articulate the wonderful-ness that was Edel for me this July. As a side note, yes, I am that mom who rushes to finish the previous child's baby book while nine months pregnant with the next one! Which reminds me, I need to work on #4's book!
If you want to read from some other Edel 2014 attendees who wrote while the event was still fresh in their mind, I'll put a link at the end of my third post. (you can even click on over when I post it and scroll past my nonsense to the link and enjoy more established bloggers' takes; I won't even know!) I am splitting this post into three parts: How I Got There, What It Was Like, and What I Took Home.
I needed Edel. Desperately. As I shared before, this spring I was positively drowning, and this overwhelmed mama knew that Edel was for me. After all, the description on the website says, "Edel is an event for mothers who need a break." There's more, but that's all I needed to read. I bought my ticket the day they went on sale, barely blinking at the sticker price. A few weeks later, I had arranged to split a room at the luxurious Omni Hotel with a long-lost friend from our time at Ave Maria School of Law. Nell and her then-future husband were on law review with my husband. The little ones and I would visit the school frequently, and my daughter adored seeing Miss. Nell! Anyway, I cringed at the expense, but since I was planning to take my nursing toddler, I knew I wanted to have a room on site.
Omni Hotel Lobby, Austin

As the summer began, I realized how insane it was for me to attempt to attend the weekend. Due to multiple work-related and family events in July, I would not have a single free weekend that month. In fact, I would be out of town three of the four weekends, leaving my husband with the older three children. If you know my introvert husband, you know that he has a pretty low tolerance for noise and mess and needs his alone time! But, the idea of a party for moms sounded so appealing, and with hubby's encouragement I resolved not to cancel our plans. Yet. 
There was the matter of the crazy shoe competition. I knew that I probably needed to cancel, so I didn't put any thought into it. I figured if by some miracle I ended up attending, I would just have to figure it out at the last minute. I read others' crazy plans on Facebook and knew I couldn't be that creative anyway. I dislike hot glue guns. I had some dresses in my closet that could probably work for the parties but certainly nothing that would make me feel "intensely amazing," as Hallie encouraged. Oh well, I probably wouldn't end up making it, I remember thinking. It is just not practical.
Crazy Shoes? I just ended up wearing what everyone *wanted* to wear!
Then, we made the tough decision to close my business. All of a sudden, one of my July trips was unnecessary. In the same instant, however, my discretionary budget was nil. Nevertheless, my husband was insistent I not cancel. He wanted me to go, and he didn't care what it cost. The week before Edel, I told him it didn't make sense for me to go. My toddler was still nursing 4-5 times a day and going to bed early. I would miss all the fun both nights having to put him to bed early. I briefly considered trying to hire a babysitter to sit in the hotel room with him while he slept, so I could enjoy the social time. Husband had a plan.

First, I received a most encouraging email from Miss Nell. We previously messaged through Facebook, so I remember thinking it was a bit odd to get a bit longer email, but nice. In retrospect, I don't know how she pulled it off, being exhausted from a difficult recovery from the birth of her sweet baby boy and taking time to write little old me, but she conveyed an excitement that was immediately contagious. I told my hubby she was counting on me. I had to go. For her.

Selfie with Nell as we got ready to walk into a cocktail party where we knew very few other ladies!
And, then, somehow, he convinced me to leave the nursing toddler at home. I thought I would regret it afterwards. In fact, for a while, I did. He was 16 months old, so I probably sound crazy for even worrying about it. But, I had never left him overnight, and he was still nursing 4-5 times a day. The longest I had left him was for 12 hours. This was going to require 36 hours and two bedtimes and wake-ups. I worried. I felt guilty, really guilty. But, I knew he was right. I had just taken "the baby" to a family wedding the weekend before in Florida, and it was exhausting. Without my mom being there to help, it would have been miserable, and I would have felt terribly left out of all of the fun. I needed fun.
So, I planned as best as I could for maximum success, prepared a whole bunch of extra food for that little boy, found a couple of fabulous dresses at local thrift stores, took a deep breath, and drove away on Friday afternoon about 3pm after putting him down for his afternoon nap, quickly stopping at Walgreens for a new shade of lipstick to lift my spirits.
Part 2 coming soon (after I clean my house for guests coming tomorrow)!
Bless Your Heart!

Thursday, September 11, 2014

The Schedule that Works

If there is one thing I am grateful for this academic year, it's the adjustments to our schedule and to my expectations. I created our plan this summer with my needs in mind in addition to those of my children, rather than the other way around. After feeling completely burned-out last spring, I knew I wanted to proactively take better care of me and work things to give myself the margins I need for peace and rest.

Here are some elements in our schedule that are really working well:
  • I take a shower at night. I was doing this off and on for a while, but now that I have committed to it, I do not feel like I have to sneak away in the mornings when the children are all up to rush through a shower before the toddler destroys something or the boys get into a drag-down, knock-out fight. I am able to fully focus on getting my morning tasks done with a good attitude, knowing I'm not neglecting myself.

  • I have one cleaning chore a day on my morning list, and I try to get it done before school. It might be sweep the kitchen or clean one bathroom, but knocking this out in the morning (or eating this frog, as some would say) makes such a difference in my attitude and outlook for the rest of the day. It's not hanging over my head, making me feel like I can't get it all done!

  • I try to get the boys outside before school for a quick walk or ride around the block while my tween is in the shower. Now, I have to admit this has only happened a handful of times in the three weeks we have been schooling, but on the days we have done it, it has made the rest of our morning run more smoothly. As the weather cools down, I hope to do this more often.
The four-year-old who needs outside!
  • When we do start school, the two big kids start on math, and I give my full attention to our Pre-K boy. This is advice many moms have given me over the years; put the little one first while he is fresh. The theory is he will be more focused on learning and more willing to play on his own when you switch to working with his older siblings. He is so excited to learn his letter sounds and to recognize each letter! The play on your own worked for a while but is starting to wane. I'll need to start filling his drawers this next week to give him more options. He keeps asking for screen time!

  • I have included loop scheduling as a big part of our homeschool this year thanks to Sarah. I am looping some things during our Morning Basket and setting aside time to work on bigger Loop Subjects after that. I'll detail more what materials we are using in a separate post, but this is working very well to help me feel at peace with our workload and accomplishments. I am curious to map out how much we actually completed in our first term in a few weeks, though. 
Little man joining in on Morning Basket

  • I am off duty during quiet time. I school with the big kids for two hours, and then we break for lunch and quiet time for two hours. They can continue to work on independent work during quiet time, but they have to save all questions for afterwards. Then, we come back together for table time and do our remaining work. This break for me has been huge. They are not thrilled with it and would rather not wait on me to finish their school, but I know I need the break. I am a much nicer mama!

  • My quiet time begins with prayer and a nap (yes, for me!). Ideally I want to spend a few minutes with Scripture or a spiritual book. I haven't made that happen consistently, but I am usually able to spend some time in mental prayer while cleaning up the kitchen or switching the laundry. Then, I lay down with the Pre-K guy. He doesn't take a nap usually, but we read a story or two and snuggle for a bit. Most of the time I do fall asleep, and, for now, I am allowing myself this privilege. I sleep from 20 minutes to 2 hours while my son plays quietly in my room with his very own box of little Legos or the marble set he cannot use with his little brother around. I cannot tell you how much this rest helps me to cope with the evening crazies and bedtime routines, which I'm usually running solo these days!
Those are just a few things that are working well for us, right now. I know it will change, of course! What is working for you?

Bless Your Heart!

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Pray Like a Mom!

Let's talk morning prayers. I am not a morning person, so I struggle with my attitude about morning prayers a lot. This has been my thought process in 2014:

January - The baby isn't waking up at night to nurse anymore, so I should be able to get up and have some quiet mommy prayer time. However, he does wake up anywhere between 5:00 and 7:00am, making it impossible to guarantee my quiet time. He is still nursing immediately upon waking and is nursing a lot during the day, so I really do need my sleep. I can't go to bed earlier, because he takes two naps a day and the 3 year-old naps in between the baby's naps. So, I don't get time to myself except at night, and I'm usually in bed by 11pm. I'll just try to talk to God during that morning nursing. (Of course, more often I fall back to sleep.)

In February, I wrote this.

March - The baby is one. Shouldn't I stop feeling the foggy-brain haze by now? He still wakes up between 5:00 and 7:00am and is still nursing immediately and a lot during the day. I might have to try quiet prayer time with him, but as soon as the 3 year-old wakes up, he talks all. the. time. So, how is this supposed to work? The best I can do is stop for a quick morning offering while I'm getting dressed. That will have to do, for now.

May - The baby is the same. I'm still tired all the time. Maybe this is more than lack of sleep. I'll get some better vitamins. I went on a women's retreat (with the baby) and loved every minute, but I feel like I came back unchanged. I'm still drowning. I need God. The morning offering is good but not great. I just wish I had more time with Him!

July - I can breathe a little. Hubby and I are creating some empty spaces in the margins that have enabled me to not rush through every second of my day. That has allowed more peace and more thoughts of God throughout the day. I'm trying to do Morning Prayer from the Divine Office on my phone in the mornings. When I do, I am interrupted every time, but I do finish it and feel better afterwards. Do I feel better because I can check that off my to do list or because I'm really connecting with God, though? Don't overanalyze! Something is better than nothing.

September - In order to go on a trip this summer, I took photos of the morning offering and a few other prayers I like to say in the morning. It's helped tremendously to have no excuse not to flip to those and stop whatever I am doing to pray. So morning offering is happening. I've fallen out of the habit of Morning Prayer, though. I really long for quiet time alone with Jesus. I could try setting my alarm for 5:30am, as I'm more likely to be alone then, but I'm afraid I would just fall asleep. I do want to start a weekly hour of Adoration before the Blessed Sacrament. If I do that and continue my morning offering and attempt Morning Prayer, that might suffice. Listen to me! I won't ever be satisfied, because my image of silent meditative uninterrupted prayer is what one would find in a convent, not in a house full of little people.

And so, the other morning, as I sat on the recliner, wrapped in a blanket, struggling to stay awake and keep an eye on the two little boys eating at the table at 6am, I prayed to God. I thanked Him for that day, for that moment to be with him. I begged him to help me say and do the right things to help my children grow in virtue throughout the day. And, I remembered the words Kathryn Whitaker had shared with us at the women's retreat I attended in May. She attributed them to a wise priest, a mutual friend, Fr. David Konderla (his amazing homilies are free here), who told her:

Pray like a mom, not like a nun!

And, I realized I just did.

So, dish, ladies. What, honestly, does morning prayer look like for you right now and what would you like it to look like?

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Pope Benedict on Teachers

As you know, the task of a teacher is not simply to impart information or to provide training in skills intended to deliver some economic benefit to society; education is not and must never be considered as purely utilitarian. It is about forming the human person, equipping him or her to live life to the full – in short it is about imparting wisdom. And true wisdom is inseparable from knowledge of the Creator, for 'both we and our words are in His hand, as are all understanding and skill in crafts' (Wis 7:16). ~ Pope Benedict XVI

As I'm struggling this third week of our homeschool with seeking the right balance of checklists and rabbit trails, I found this gem again. And I remember how difficult the simplicity of it all is. Schooling is not the point. Life is the point, a life lived with the intimate knowledge of how great our God is and how much He loves each one of us with an unstoppable, unrelenting, uncompromising love. This is what my children need to learn. This is what I need to learn.

Bless Your Heart!

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

So Few Words...So, Pray With Me?

Friends, there are many in need of our prayers all around the world today. I humbly ask that you offer a prayer for the soul of Lisa Slush, a sweet friend who passed to eternal life last night, and her grieving family. This local Catholic homeschooling mother of six fought cancer courageously and inspired me immensely with her deep faith and endless joy, accepting God's will in all things.

Eternal rest grant unto her O Lord, & let perpetual light shine upon her.  May her soul, & the souls of all the faithful departed, through the mercy of God, rest in peace.  Amen.

Bless Your Heart!