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?