Friday, September 26, 2014

Dessert or Breakfast? Either Time = Momspiration!

Our monthly Catholic Moms' Homeschooling Breakfasts have expanded to include a Thursday evening Dessert gathering for those who cannot attend on Saturday mornings. We met at both times last week for September. Here are the notes (blurry, crooked photos courtesy of my 4 year old with my iPhone!):

 
This month, we became acquainted with Momnipotent: The Not-So-Perfect Woman’s Guide to Catholic Motherhood by Danielle Bean.

1.       I explained why I am excited to study this book together:

·     The book was given to me free this summer in our swag bags at The Edel Gathering, and I think the quote on the cover encapsulates my feelings about it. “…this book is a breath of fresh air for the weary mother’s soul. It will bring hope and encouragement to any mom who has ever uttered the words, ‘I can’t do this.’” I know all moms have been there in that moment, and I think we need to admit it, talk about it.

·     Momnipotent is defined as “the special array of gifts given by God – lived out in particular through the vocation of motherhood – that blesses our families and the world.”

·     I think as homeschooling moms, the mom part of our vocations can get lost under the curriculum and lessons and schoolwork. It’s important to me to nurture the relationships in our home, and homeschooling is one way we do that. Remembering that I’m first their mother, then their teacher is key to those relationships staying healthy. Hopefully, reflecting together on our motherhood will inspire us to treasure our vocation even more.

2.   We watched a portion of the DVD, including the introductory video showing various mothers and children with the children sharing why they love their moms. Some of us needed Kleenex. We also watched Danielle Bean’s introduction to the study, where she explains how it works and the importance of women coming together to share about our vocations as mothers. The third segment we watched was where she presented three questions for reflection and discussion:

·     How do you feel about the fact that we are meant to find fulfillment in our motherhood, not despite it?

·     How do you feel about the worldly temptations to find affirmation and the perception that motherhood is somehow beneath us?

·     How do you feel about the special gifts given to you as a mother by God, in which we can find true happiness?

Then, rather than watch the bulk of the video where the moms discuss these things with Danielle bean, we discussed those questions on our own…
  
 

3.    How do you feel about the fact that we are meant to find fulfillment in our motherhood, not despite it?

Dessert:

·     I feel so grateful to have a positive community around me. My family is full of stay-at-home moms, and they are very supportive.

·     I want it to be normal for my children that moms stay at home, not rare.

·     My homeschool friends are the most supportive.

·     I want my daughters to have good mothers as role models.

Breakfast:

·     In the beginning, with my first child, I dropped my dreams of world fame and a prestigious career. Then, I was feeling very small and little, weak, but when I pray I find out it is a blessing from God.

·     We have to sit down, think, and be at peace with motherhood.

·     In Mexico all moms work. They ask me why do you do this to yourself? Why are you at home? It’s unacceptable, and they don’t understand.

·     It is important who you spend your time with, family, friends, etc. Find who shares your goals and beliefs.

·     Often people say we need to do “this thing” for our own happiness. They ask how can you stay home? Don’t you get cabin fever? Don’t you hate it?

·     When you quit your career, your friendships shift. They go out to party, and I can’t imagine doing that.

·     I am told I am wasting my education.

·     My friends worry that my husband has power over me if I’m not earning any money. I do sometimes feel guilty spending “his” money. I need to shift my thoughts.

·     It’s hard to get time for myself, yes. It’s necessary as a stay-at-home mom, but it doesn’t have to be excessive. We should encourage one another to take some mom time.

·     When I go out on my own or with friends, I look at it as an opportunity for my husband to do things “his way” with the children. It is a chance for them to bond in a different way when I am gone, a gift to them.

·     Some say “I’m a better mom because I work.” How is that possible?
 

4.   How do you feel about the worldly temptations to find affirmation and the perception that motherhood is somehow beneath us?

Dessert:

·     I miss the affirmation of others from the workplace.

·     Working moms can have the correct attitude towards motherhood, too.

·     Is the need for affirmation a healthy thing? Where should we seek our affirmation?

·     As children get older, the relationship we have with them and their comments can encourage and affirm us.

·     I am so comfortable having my children around me all of the time. When kids were in school and I had lots of “me” time, I did not feel connected to my kids.

·     Public school kids often don’t want to spend as much time with their little siblings.

·     I feel my daughter sometimes feels separated from the family even when she participates in her sport on her own. She has a need to reintegrate to the family.

·     I am confident in my homeschooling, and I tell other about it.

Breakfast:

·     Look to Mary.

·     Read The Privilege of Being a Woman by Alice von Hildebrand.

·     There is such a focus on your college major. What do you want to be when you grow up? Pick one thing and study it.

·     I knew I wanted to be a mom, even unconsciously.

·     It has been hard for me to even understand the concept of a woman choosing not to go to college and earn a degree, but it makes a lot of sense if you don’t have a need to spend all that money or go into debt. I just grew up with that expectation.

·     I am often asked when I’m going back to work or what I’m going to do to earn money.

·     When I adopted a child, my heart was taken out of me. I had to take a year off from working due to the intense emotion in becoming a mother.

·     My working years are my previous life. My children barely know about that time. Yes, our income is half what it was, and that’s a sacrifice.

·     I was told I will regret quitting my job, but I don’t.
 

5.   How do you feel about the special gifts given to you as a mother by God, in which we can find true happiness?

Dessert:

·     The gift of gentleness shows when my children are sick or injured.

·     Women are emotionally strong and can hold it all together.

·     Relationships are important to women.

·     We demonstrate empathy.

·     We keep things alive, literally and metaphorically.

·     The world thirsts for a mother’s love. They need it and don’t know it, so broken and hurt.

·     I am afraid of being too awesome, so my boys won’t find a “good” wife. Pray for their spouses now.

·     We need to love on all of our kids, touch them, especially the big kids. Begin with morning hugs daily.

·     Connect with our children during Morning Prayer. Evening Rosaries or Night Prayers are good, but don’t start the day without praying together.

Breakfast:

·     I find happiness in the adventure of motherhood.

·     Prayer helps me recenter.

·     There is cultural pressure to “have it all,” but it doesn’t work.

·     I am told to put my wants and needs ahead of children.

·     We have lost the value of redemptive suffering in our world.

·     But older couples in my neighborhood say they regret not spending more time with their children when they were growing up. And people with children often say, I could never stay home with them. Older people say, I wish I did.

·     My family is not supportive. My parents test my kids on reading and knowledge. It’s frustrating.

·     There is such a unique quality to family life, a treasure. There is more peace.

·     The attitudes of my children and me changed when I brought them home from school. I am happier, more tired, but happier.

·     If you had a stay at home mom, you remember that.

·     Only moms can breastfeed, nurse sick children, clean vomit, stay awake long hours, be quiet amidst the chaos.

·     We are nurturing. We are excellent at multitasking. We are cheerleaders for others.

·     Read the book Men Are Like Waffles, Women Are Like Spaghetti. There is also a YouTube video with the basics.

·     We bring peace to our husband’s anxiety. We are supportive and understanding.

·     Learn about the Five Love Languages to be a better wife.

·     If one is not willing to serve her husband or vice versa, divorce is likely.

·     We are excellent organizers.
 

6.   I closed by reading the reflection in the journal. It is about how we are the hidden, behind-the-scenes of our family life. We are rarely acknowledged, but we play a really important role.

7.   At Breakfast, there were two specific questions from moms regarding homeschooling issues…

How do you work with a child who refuses to homeschool? She is 7 years old, very stubborn, possibly ODD, first year homeschooling.

·     Spend a lot of time just playing and building your relationship with her.

·     Let her learn what she wants for a while.

·     Let her help with her younger siblings, teach them.

·     Take the word “school” out of your vocabulary with her. Play games.

·     De-school her for about six months. She will catch up.

·     Losing a year is not a concern with homeschooling. We have so much more time with our children than the schools do.

·     If she won’t do some work, she can clean instead, rather than be idle. Bathrooms.

·     Have special time with just her to read stories and enjoy one another.

·     Let your middle school kids take 30 minutes each with the two little kids, so you can focus on her.

·     Read For the Love of Literature and use the booklist to learn by just reading and narrating together.

·     Do lots of things orally, not written. This can ease her stress.

·     Pray.

How are people/parish handling sacraments for their homeschoolers? I prefer not to use religious ed as we are more thorough at home.

·     There is no archdiocesan policy as far as we know in San Antonio. It is up to each parish priest and DRE.

·     There is often not usually a parish policy. Many approach this on a case by case basis.

·     Go talk to the DRE and then to the pastor if necessary. They often make exceptions if they know you.

·     Using the same books that your parish uses helps to get permission to do catechesis at home.


8.   I closed by sharing the topics of each chapter in the book, namely the strengths of momnipotence and their corresponding potential weakness. Next month, we will be discussing how we as women appreciate beauty but are vulnerable to materialism and envy. The subsequent strengths are: We feel things deeply; We have high ideals; We are natural nurturers; We are naturally generous; We are master multitaskers; We notice the details; and We are sensitive to the needs of others and stand up against injustice.

If you're local, I hope you can join us next month! If not, look for the encouraging notes at the end of October.

Bless Your Heart!
 

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Edel...the Really, Really Late Version Part 2: What It Was Like

 
You can read Part 1 here.
 
Driving into downtown Austin on a Friday afternoon was, of course, a bit challenging. I found the Omni, circled the block a few times, avoiding pedestrians at every corner, and found a parking spot in the underground garage right near the elevators. Score. Deep breath. I worry if I will be able to have an intelligent conversation that does not focus on my children. I wonder if I will be out of place amidst the "cool" moms to have come to this event.
 
As I arrive in the lobby, I spot my long-lost friend (amidst all the other baby-wearing and preggo mamas), whom I last saw in 2008. I love this woman! She is way smart (-er than me) and charmingly funny and totally real. We do not have a ton in common if you look at the nitty-gritty of our lives, but I think we are kindred spirits in most of the big picture, moral, ethical, religious stuff, and in the priorities we claim for our lives as women. She and her husband credit my husband with breaking the ice that began their courtship. Yes, he was a matchmaker of sorts: "He likes you. Would you go out with him?" kinda stuff! And, their happily ever after plays out every day in their domestic church, much of it documented at her blog, Whole Parenting Family. So, we hugged, chatted, went up to our room, and got ready for our big entrance into the Edel cocktail party.
 

 
Awkward photo taken at my husband's request, since he hadn't seen me in the dress yet
 
At this point, I am feeling self-conscious. I know there are many famous bloggers in attendance. I know I will see friends from my college days with whom I have not truly connected in many years. I can not hide behind the baby I intended to bring along. It is just me, and I need a glass of wine. Thankfully, one is swiftly provided, and I quickly realize how friendly and real all of these faces, whose smiles I only know from their blog profile pictures, are. This event, for me, is like one long exhale. It is peaceful and enjoyable, chatting with old friends and meeting a few new ones. I mostly stick with the women I already know, but that is comforting and refreshing, exactly what I need.
 
The crazy shoe contest is a fun way to get conversations started, although I do not make much effort to meet new women, content to be surrounded with those I once knew and have always admired. I adore the contest winner who glued boy toys to her pumps, though, cars and balls! I chose to wear my Snoozies slippers with my glamorous dress. It feels funky to walk around in slippers. I wore what everyone wanted to wear anyway, and I honestly feel like the casual-ness of them helped me relax, as if I was chatting with these exceptional women in my living room!
 
Better than stepping on them!
As the event winds down, roomie and I head back to the room to put her little man to bed. I glance at the room service menu and think about ordering a burger, but I can see that my six-weeks-postpartum friend needs to sleep. I muse aloud about going to the hotel bar to order something, giving her some quiet, but I feel bad leaving her there after our long-anticipated reunion. In an instant, she speaks a word that I know now was a gift to me: "Go!"
 
I do not hesitate, knowing I will crawl under the covers and avoid this stepping out of my comfort zone. Arriving in the lobby, I can see the hotel bar is filled with young men with very few women. On a Friday night in Austin? What was I thinking? I decide to wander up to the cocktail party room to see who is left. Maybe a dozen women remain chatting, and someone is telling us we have to clear the room. Several of my college friends take that as their call to head out either back to their homes or hotel rooms. I find the one woman in the room I know and tell her I am hungry, am thinking of going to the hotel bar, but it is full of men. Does she want to join me? She has no idea the courage it took me to ask her that benign question. Yes, she says instantly, and I will ask others if they want to join us.
 
About eight of us end up at the bar, ordering burgers and quesadillas, and beverages, of course. The bartender is kind to us, seems to understand some of us feel out of place after midnight in downtown Austin without husbands or children, and treats us kindly. I only remember a few faces from that night, not because I had too much to drink, but because it takes me a long time to remember new names and faces. What I do remember is feeling included with the cool kids. And not just feeling included, but being one of them. All of us were wives and mothers, and many of our conversations were about being pro-life and attending Mass. We closed down the bar, surprising the bachelorette party nearby, as they asked what kind of group we were.
 
Edel Lesson Number 1: "Go. Seek Others Without Fear."


Quiet, empty St. Mary's Cathedral, Austin, TX
 
We have a long break Saturday morning. Most women wander downtown, but I have two goals: Sleep late and go to Confession at the Cathedral. When we finally arise, roomie and I decide to stay in the marvelous hotel and enjoy their breakfast buffet. SO yummy! It is perfect for two nursing mamas who need some serious nutrients and want to enjoy a variety of goodies. A college friend wanders in after her morning workout and joins us. (I am envious for about two seconds that she has the self-discipline to exercise on a weekend away.) Stopping in the lobby for a nursing session, we run into a slew of other Edel women and invite them to Confession. One taker.
 
Regretfully, I do not remember our walking buddy's name, but I do remember she might be moving to San Antonio from Arizona, a military family. If you are reading this, please comment, so we can be in touch! It is hot, really hot, but the two block walk is enjoyable with such pleasant company. St. Mary's Cathedral is quiet and mostly empty. The line for Confession is short. I kneel to pray. There are two priests and one woman wants to go to the other priest so allows others to go in front of her. I end up in the confessional without a baby and pour out my pathetic list of sinfulness. The priest, he speaks gently about my work being challenging and important. He urges me to focus on doing it all out of love, not duty, insisting that is the only way to sanctify the work.
 
Edel Lesson Number 2: "Do it all out of love for God rather than duty to your family."


Listening intently to Hallie, all of us hungry for something
 
The afternoon at Edel is amazing. It is the bulk of the conference part of the event, and you can listen to the talks for yourself here. I took away many nuggets from the wise women who counseled us. Jenny, who briefly opens the afternoon, acknowledges that Edel is about the "culture of encounter" that Pope Francis hopes to foster. Hallie, of course, shares her now-famous message from God: "It is good that you are here."
 
Marion's talk is the one that brings me to my knees. She humbly speaks of the potential for isolation, despair, exhaustion, and boredom in this vocation of motherhood. She reminds me that our children need mothers, not martyrs and that there is no "perfect Catholic mother," so I should stop trying to be her. I am refreshed by the reminder that the Church is the place of our greatest possible experience of freedom, and there is no blueprint or formula to holiness. Fear imposes rules, and our rigidity can cause us to miss God's own plan for us. The Church needs us to be different.
 
I am encouraged when she reminds us that in motherhood, dying to self is only the first step. The ultimate goal is life in Christ, and this does not require a total annihilation of self. God created us in His image, each unique individuals in need of relationships with others. Therefore, we must tolerate imperfection, in ourselves and in others. As women we need each other, and we need to share our sorrows, struggles, and fears as much as our delights. As Jennifer will later testify, Marion reminds us Christianity is always communal, and I must embrace God's love for me in the middle of the mess that is my life. Amen!
 
Edel Lesson #3: Stop trying to be what you imagine to be the perfect you and let God love you as you are.
 
My first professional headshot
 
We have an afternoon break before Haley's talk, a break that includes snacks, massages for some, chocolate samples for many, shopping, and a makeup makeover and free professional headshot for me. There is coffee served, but I am not a coffee drinker. In retrospect, I should have found some caffeine, but I did not want to walk away from the joy-filled crowds of women for even a moment. So, I am a bit drowsy when Haley speaks, and my mind wanders. A lot. Fortunately, we can listen to her talk again and again here and be inspired!
 
I do hear her insistence, however, to open myself to who God made me to be, to get out of the way and let Him work. She urges us to let God help us find our true selves, as motherhood is designed by God to change us. Haley's story, like Marion's is moving, and when she says that a man loves a mom differently than a wife, I resolve to allow my husband to love me in his way.
 
Edel Lesson #4: Motherhood matters. It is our path to sanctity. Trust that.
 
 
Amazing, delicious buffet dinner plate!
 
We enjoy another break before our dinner and karaoke night. Several of the moms dub the evening "mom prom," because when is the last time we all got dressed up for dinner and dancing anyway? A few of my college friends are staying at one of their homes in Austin, so they come up to our hotel room to change for the evening. I open a bottle of wine, and we talk before getting dressed up. I take a quick survey about how they make date nights with their husbands happen. We talk being a mother and raising babies. One mom is expecting her fifth boy. One mom has a preemie, number 5, in the NICU. Several of us struggle with fertility. And then there is my roomie from MN! In one word, our conversation embodies community. Beautiful stuff! I throw on my Friday-morning thrift-store-find polka dot dress, and we giggle like girls spilling the body glitter I brought to share all over the bathroom floor!
 
Off to the ball... I could not chow down fast enough on that lovely Tex-Mex fare. YUMMY! It was especially wonderful to enjoy a meal where I did not have to stop to cut someone else's meat or clean up a spill. The food was hot, and the margarita was cold (but the ice hadn't melted yet). Jennifer speaks. She starts by admitting that motherhood is hard and closes with a challenge to join with one another in building cathedrals. You can see my entire recap of her talk here.
 
Edel Lesson #5: Motherhood is hard, but we are all in it together.
 

My sweet friends, singing Mama Mia
 
Then, there is dancing and karaoke and dancing and closing down the hotel bar again with a larger group of Edel women. I do not even know how to communicate the joy I felt throughout that night. I was empowered as a woman in a way I did not even know was possible. I realized the strength that I have can be channeled to conquer my fears and doubts and trust in God's plan for my vocation. One college friend supposed I had too much to drink the way I was dancing, so free and abandoned. I didn't leave the dance floor except for another drink or water. Nope. I have always loved to dance and am usually too self-conscious to let loose, even around my husband. I did not get up for karaoke that night but probably would have if the list did not fill up so fast and I had someone to join me. Maybe in Charleston...

Edel Lesson #6: Be you. Have fun. Laugh. Sing. Dance. Enjoy who God created you to be.


Edel women dancing, looking gorgeous and carefree!

I left early Sunday morning to get home in time to go to Mass with my family. I said a quick goodbye to a still-in-bed friend and drove south, glancing at the sunrise out my car window, and ready to face the day with God and my new Edel sisterhood for strength.

Part 3 Coming Soon (hopefully you understand "soon" here is relative)!

Bless Your Heart!


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!