Tuesday, August 26, 2014

What Do YOU Do for Fun, Mom?

Miss C, the inquisitive taken by a very talented friend
Out of the mouths of babes. One day this summer my sweet 11-year-old daughter asked me this question. And, in true 11 year-old-style, when she didn't like my answer, she asked again a few days later and then a few days after that! Hello, Holy Spirit! I am fairly certain my first response was something along the lines of, "Oh, I don't know! I enjoy reading and watching shows, just like you." Of course, in combination with my ongoing recovery from a long season of burnout and the incredible blessing that was The Edel Gathering, my answer has improved. At least in my opinion.

You see, it has been rare for my children see me laugh out loud or giggle with glee, even when I am having fun, and I think that is why she asked the question. Honestly, for me, sitting on the floor and playing pretend with my children for an hour is akin to waxing my legs. I know it would be great to do, but no thank you! Our ideas of fun are clearly very different, and obviously, to my daughter, fun is a visible thing. Once I realized her perspective, I resolved to demonstrate to my children that Mommy does know how to have fun and enjoy life, because I do not want them to feel like being an adult is all work and no play. Otherwise, they're never going to want to grow up!

It's too easy to let the fun get crowded out by our never-ending chores and obligations. This year, I have finally come to peace with the understanding that all of the things I do as a mother are never "done." Just as soon as I finish the laundry, there is more to be done the next day. I cook meals and clean the kitchen constantly. As long as little ones live in our home, it will never be fully clean at any one time. If I wait until I am done with all of my chores, the fun will never happen.

Not too bad tonight, since we had leftovers for dinner due to football practice.

There is also what I believe to be a grave misunderstanding among some Catholic homeschooling moms. In fact, Jennifer Fulwiler spoke of it in her talk at the San Antonio Catholic Homeschooling Conference this June. Because we are trying to avoid the extreme selfishness of our popular culture, we can fall into the trap of taking "dying to self" to the extreme. It was Marion Fernandez-Cueto at Edel who said, "Our children need mothers not martyrs." Enjoying time spent with our children is essential, but continually denying that we are individuals with desires and needs is unwise.

Friends, I am not saying you go off and paint your nails while the baby plays in the toilet (we are currently in the stage of toddlerhood that requires bathroom doors to be closed at all times)! I believe that motherhood not only forces us to give of ourselves more than we ever thought possible, but it is also this amazing opportunity to sacrifice for others. Living life intentionally where sacrifice is done with joy is one thing. Continually putting your physical, emotional, mental, and/or spiritual health on the back burner to give your children and husband your entire self 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year is not honoring who God created us to be and will result in burnout at best, depression or illness at worst.

I now have a better answer for my daughter's question. Here are eleven things that I absolutely enjoy doing and how I hope to model making these things a priority just as much as washing dishes and folding laundry:

My current stack
1. Books: I enjoy reading books, lots of them. My stack always includes five or six that I am trying to complete, and my Amazon wish list is almost at 100 books I would love to get my hands on someday! Reading to my children is truly my favorite way to spend time with them. Have you listened to some of Sarah's Read Aloud Revival podcasts? Great stuff! I keep a book in the bathroom that's easy to read in 5-minute chunks, and I almost always read 15-30 minutes in bed before falling asleep. My spiritual reading happens either in the morning or at nap time. Goal: I'd love to start a mommy book club, either online or locally.

2. Writing: Thus, this space. Plus, when there are not toddlers climbing all over me, I find journaling very refreshing. So, I am setting a timer for 30 minutes each day to write, knowing, of course, that probably won't result in a full 30 minutes of actual writing due to interruptions, but it's something. Goal: Post three times a week, for now.

3. Good conversation: My husband and I are now back to regular date nights once or twice a month, since the baby weaned himself, but before that, earlier in the summer, we would sit outside at night by ourselves or with neighbors and chat. One neighbor dubbed it driveway drinking, since we tend to have beer, wine, or margaritas to accompany our chatter. I still host my monthly breakfasts for Catholic homeschooling moms, and those conversations are always inspiring. Making these things a priority in my schedule is tough, but I am such a better mommy after a cathartic conversation. Goal: Schedule weekly appointments to talk with two very dear friends on the phone and twice a month coffee dates with friends.

This is the most. amazing. stuff.
4. Chocolate! I have a sweet tooth, and I enjoy baking. This is something I can easily share with my children, but all too often, I hide in the pantry nibbling on my stash of dark chocolate or sneak a Reeces Peanut Butter Cup from the freezer when they are not looking. I have both allowed and participated in the indulgence of ice cream and popsicles this summer more than in the past. Goal: Make one special treat for Tuesday Teatime and another on Sundays.

5. Taking walks: Long leisurely strolls are not easily shared with children, of course, but any sort of walk is better than none. On school days, I have begun taking the three boys around the block while big sister is in the shower right after breakfast. It gets some of their wiggles out to not be quite as all-over-the-place during school time. I am also making an effort to walk to the mailbox around the corner in the evening either with a child or two or none at all if the little boys are in bed. Goal: When the weather cools down, I hope to plan a weekly nature walk or hike.

6. Dancing: I am pretty sure I danced from age 2 to 22. I took ballet, tap, jazz, pointe, lyrical, and modern dance classes on and off. I was also an officer on our high school drill team. After college, I stopped. I got a teaching job, got married, had babies, and I didn't dance, but I never stopped loving it. Dancing at the Edel karaoke party for four wonderful hours reminded me how much I love moving to music, and since then, we have been putting on music and dancing a few days a week. Goal: Find a bigger way to incorporate dancing in my life, maybe as exercise either through DVDs or a Wii game?

And, this is my, "Am I really in a kick line with THE Rebecca Frech AND Mama Heather?!?!" photo!
7. Cooking Special Meals: Like most of you, coming up with something to make for dinner each night is a headache, but I love planning and preparing special meals either for my family or others. When there is a Care Calendar announced through our local homeschool group for a family in need, I almost always sign up to bring a meal, even if the drive is 45 minutes away! For major holidays, we have special foods that have become tradition (in other words, even if I wanted to get more creative, I couldn't or my children would be disappointed). Goal: Invite friends over for meals more often.

8. Games: I like board games, word games, Sudoku, etc., and I usually have several favorite game apps on my iPhone at any given time. My mom and I play Scrabble, and she beats me almost every single time. My husband and I play Scrabble, and I beat him almost every single time. I haven't found a new app that I like lately, though, and I avoid those FB games like the plague. Any recommendations? Goal: Continue the weekly family game night we started last week.

9. Social Media: To me, this is absolutely different than reading books or good conversation with friends, so I'm counting it separately! My reader is filled with wonderfully diverse posts written by talented women, mostly about my role as a Catholic, homeschooling mom. And, while I have deleted the Facebook app from my phone, I still try to check once or twice a day, because I enjoy seeing what my many faraway (and close by) friends are doing. Goal: Through my blog and Facebook, I'd like to be more of a positive contributor to social media and not just an onlooker or stalker.

Isn't a quiet cathedral the most wonderful thing ever?
10. Adoration: Alone. This should be a no-brainer, but when I do take the time to go to Adoration on a regular basis, everything is better. And, yes, I actually get excited when I get to sit with Jesus for an hour, or even less. Our homeschool group does a monthly Adoration hour for the children, but I spend that juggling the little guys. Goal: Begin once a week Adoration hour for Mommy!

11. Football: Yes, I am the big fan in this family. My husband is only interested in the Aggie games, so I'll let him stay. On the other hand, I will watch any game, any team, college, pro, even high school or peewee if given the opportunity. Of course, the Aggies are the most important games, but even then, I don't memorize players and stats and get all wrapped up in play calling. I just enjoy watching talented, determined players compete to win. Goals: Not wake the children with my enthusiasm while watching games at night and not neglect the children too much while watching daytime games. :)

What things do you enjoy doing that you wish you could incorporate into your life more frequently?

Bless Your Heart!

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