Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Keeping Track of Sacrifices

Lent begins tomorrow. Are you ready? In some ways I feel Lent is overdue this year. I started some practical resolutions last week to get my days in order, knowing I could not begin to make spiritual progress without such simple rules. Last week, I strived to:
  • wake up at 6AM every morning, shower and pray by 7AM whether the baby is asleep or not
  • begin school at 9AM on school days
  • give my children only one warning before a consequence (stop nagging)
  • pray the Angelus before lunch daily
  • take my children outside at least 30 minutes each day
  • get out my old chore lists and check them off
The week was quite successful, even though John Bosco had the flu. I did not do all these things every day, but I did do most things pretty closely every day and at the end of the week, I was pleased with my progress. This week, I wanted to add a few more things before settling in to prayer, fasting, and almsgiving. So I came up with this list to add to the above items:
  • write a meal plan for all 3 meals for the week and mostly stick to it
  • use fewer words to communicate more clearly, especially with my children
  • engage my children in preparing for and beginning Lenten practices
  • spend 30 minutes a day writing
As of now, this week is about the same as last week, insofar as keeping these resolutions goes. I share these details to tell you the two things that have motivated my success. Perhaps they will aid your success in keeping your Lenten resolutions. Perhaps you don't need them during Lent but can file away these ideas on personal  growth for another time.
1. I found a friend with the same vocation and a similar family situation. We both are Catholic homeschoolers whose husbands are rarely home during the week and whose children are not yet old enough to do a lot of work independently. We decided to be accountability partners. Each Sunday we email the other our list of goals for the week. We also text each other every morning upon waking (since we both chose the same wake up time) to ensure the other is up. Finally, on Fridays, we touch base to see how the week went.

This has been very helpful! It is a relief to know there is someone else out there struggling with self-discipline like I am. One benefit of homeschooling is that you make all the decisions and are entirely in charge - no school bell to beat, any teaching philosophy you choose. But, one challenge of homeschooling is that you make all the decisions and are entirely in charge - sleep in late, no paycheck to earn for a job well done. Plus, just the discipline of writing these things down and having to evaluate myself has been motivating.

Thanks, Friend!

2. Inspired by The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin, I have created a chart to check off my goals daily. (more thoughts on the book later) My chart for Lent can be printed from my Scribd account here if you want a copy. Across the top, I simply wrote each goal, and I check them off each day I am successful. I have used a handwritten chart for the past two weeks, but I look forward to using the simple typed chart for the 40 days of Lent.

Having a chart like this has required me to be honest with whether or not I am fulfilling the basic responsibilities of my days and my weekly goals. I have tied some things to simple rewards, such as unless I do x, I cannot get on the computer. But, mostly, the chart merely brings to mind daily (several times a day, actually) my goals and has helped me to stay focused and motivated.

Thanks, Gretchen!

These two simple things have unstuck me from my deer in headlights indecisiveness about what to do each day or what personal changes to make first. I have a long way to go on my path to holiness, but these little helps might just make it a little easier for me to get a little closer a little sooner.

May this Lent be life-giving to you!

Monday, March 7, 2011


In the quiet dark, save for the hum of the dryer, I scoop up scattered rattles and stacking cups from the living room floor, my throat sore from the exertion of the day called yelling. Monday. The hardest day of the week. And yet it always catches me off guard, no matter how optimistically I prepare for it.

The children were not giddy over completing math, reading, writing lessons. Why does this surprise me? Their dawdling tried my patience, and the teething baby whined. I am pulled in all directions at once, and I open the window to welcome spring breezes, hoping to change the air.

It does not work. They grumble and complain. Hours later we finish the short lessons, break for lunch, the oldest and I finish spelling, which drags, punctuated by my middle child's interruptions for attention, his feet conveniently getting in his sister's way one too many times.

That's okay. We have a playdate scheduled for the afternoon. A chance for children to play carefree and mothers to encourage one another. Yet, they cancel. We are home alone, and I collapse on the floor with the whining baby, dumping a toy bin of rattles and stacking cups to occupy him.

As I doze in and out of sleep, the older children are busy. My daughter approaches with coupons for a hug, a game, a tickle. My son bounces his silly putty about. They play carefree, and I try to recall I am not alone. The UPS man calls through the open window so as not to startle me as he approaches, and I cheerfully accept the package.

For, there are millions of mothers out there having the same day as me. Motherhood is not easy. More importantly, holiness is not easy, and this is the path God has chosen for me to grow in holiness. I am weak, and I beg Him for mercy to cover my faults.

Today was not a good day, but fortunately, several good days are still fresh in my mind from last week. We will start again tomorrow. I end the day with an extra-long squeeze for each big kid, looking them in the eyes and reminding them that tomorrow is a fresh beginning for us, encouraging them to sleep peacefully and reminding them of my love and His.