Thursday, December 17, 2015

Blessed is She: God's Family

When I read the readings for today, I was pretty excited to write about Jesus' genealogy. Four women of the Old Testament and Our Lady are all present there. 

Who are these women? Why did God choose for them to be in the line of His son?

This is probably my favorite devotion that I have ever written for BIS.
Check it out at Blessed is She.

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Getting Ready for the Baby this Advent

And by the baby, I mean the Newborn King, the Little Lord Jesus, the Second Person of the Trinity who became Mary's little Child.

I always thought that my perfect Advent was the year my second was born on the First Sunday of Advent. My Christmas preparing was all finished, and I just sat with my baby watching everyone else in the daily snow falls we had that December in Buffalo, NY.

I think I was wrong. It was an amazing Advent; relaxed and prayerful, but I wonder if maybe Advent can still be great if it looks a lot more like the weeks leading up to the birth of a baby.

My baby preparations involve several extremely long to do lists: odd jobs around the house, odd jobs in the yard, and BABY prep. And of course there are always the last minute things that you just did not quite get to. Besides that I am supposed to be doing the prelabor exercises: squating, kegels, and relaxation practice for those hard contractions.

I actually do way more to get ready for a baby then I do to get ready for Christmas. The baby list takes months, and for Christmas we do it all in 4 weeks. 

Christmas is: cookies, cards, gifts, decorations, some cleaning, and prayer.

Baby is: baby clothes, all the baby gear, hospital planning, hospital packing, relaxation practice,

The year we had our second we stayed at home for Christmas instead of the usual three week tour of the Midwest relatives. People came to us. People took care of us. It made sense for that year and it was perfect for that year.

This year we are traveling for the first time since the birth of our fourth six months ago, and I can't help but think that maybe this is a more Marian Advent.

Our Lady spent her time waiting for Christ firstly visiting her cousin. Then she went home, got married, and was ready to have her baby in Nazareth, when Caesar decides to have a census.

There she is almost ready to give birth to the Son of God and she has to travel on a donkey 90 miles in cold weather on dangerous trails. When I am 9 months pregnant I can't handle the pot holes in the road, let alone riding on a donkey.

Do you think Mary said to God, "This is not how things were supposed to go? My Advent needs to be restful so I can pray better!" I imagine not. She being the perfect woman, took it all in stride. Her acceptance of the journey, was part of her continual acceptance of God's will.

This Advent is already not what I expected. We were going to finish the semester strong with school since we will be taking a three week Christmas break. Instead we had one full school week after Thanksgiving, and then last week I was sick with strep throat, so minimal school. This week the 24 hour stomach bug is making the rounds (so far only the kids).

But we have all been okay. Advent has been manageable because I have been forced to take it easy on myself, M,  and on the kids. And we still have been doing our traditions of the Jesse Tree, lights up on St. Lucy's day (since Lucy means "light"), and the tree up on Gaudete Sunday. We have been having some really beautiful family time through it all.

When we head out on our travels, I hope that we do so united with the Holy Family who were far from home that first Christmas day. (Though I suppose we could say that Bethlehem was their real home, just as our family is traveling back to where we came from.) And if my baby has trouble sleeping on the road, I can just think of baby Jesus waking to the cattle in the stable.
And maybe that is what Advent really should be like, being like Mary and learning to continually accept God's will whether we are so busy we barely have time to pray or are nursing a newborn on the couch all December. It is accepting God's will that matters most, and preparing our hearts to receive with joy the Infant King.

I hope that the rest of your Advent is blessed and full of grace!

Monday, December 7, 2015

She Just Had to Know

The dresses arrived in the mail, and I decided I might as well try them on. My 6 year old daughter decided to come and watch. I don't normally change in front of my daughters; maybe I should more often.

"Why does your belly look like that, Mom? Why does it have wrinkles and brown marks? Mine does not look like that."

"It looks like this because I had babies. I once had a smooth belly like yours."

"Oh. Okay."

I put on the dress. I am going to be in my sister's wedding next summer and we have been hunting down the right dress for her bridesmaids, most of them being the mother of at least two children. It seems that the average bridesmaid dress was not designed to flatter the postpartum body. But we found a dress at a chain store which flattered me at 6 months postpartum after my fourth monster baby.

So, I am in this dress, and my six year old wants to show her sisters.

"Here comes the queen! Wave to the queen as she walks by!"

 I snap a few pictures to send to my sister, to see if she likes the dress. And we go back to change. My three year old tags along.

"See Mom's belly!" my six year old tells her.

"Mom, do you ever wish that you did not have babies so that you could have a smooth belly?"
"No dear. I would much rather have four babies than a smooth belly. My four babies are much more important than what my belly looks like."

"Children are more important?"


These four people are worth any amount of shrunken, funny looking postpartum stretch marks and extra squishy belly.

If I ever forget that, may my right hand whither.

Thursday, December 3, 2015

A Day with Morning Mass

Things have been busy here, and when things get busy my personal, random thoughts writing time goes by the wayside. Naptime turns into catch up time on everything or cooking Thanksgiving dinner time or frosting birthday cake time or talking to my mom because she is visiting time, etc.

Well, last night, I decided I was going to write this afternoon, no matter what. So, here I am squeezing it in, with a messy kitchen and the children's toys everywhere. And it is okay, because my dirty house is a grace.

I wonder if my cluttered mind is also a grace?
This morning we finally all were feeling well enough from the latest cold to get out of bed for daily Mass. Daily Mass here is 7:30 am. And if it is going to work on a day the Professor teaches or really any day, we have to get ourselves out of bed at 5:45am and get that breakfast eaten and coffee in us by 6:30, so we can get the kids up to eat, so we can leave on time.

We went through the morning routine in the typical pre-caffine fog (coffee takes time to kick in), and finally we were sitting in the pew at Mass. The kids were not in their most prayerful behavior this morning and it was a struggle. But it dawned on me that besides the obvious Sacramental graces of receiving communion at a daily Mass, there are other reasons that it makes my day so much better when we do go.

I realized that I love being in a church full of people (the church in our neighborhood has like 100 people at morning Mass daily), but not be expected to talk to anyone. I like the community of silent praying (and verbal responses). The prayerful silence in a community of believers being led through the quiet liturgy of a morning daily Mass by a priest is so soothing to my whole being. And then we top it off with Jesus' sacrifice and receiving communion.

Then I am ready to really face my day. Coffee, quiet communal prayer, Jesus, and I can do this thing.

When we don't go, I struggle harder to make it through the day even if I have slept an hour extra. Call me needy or something, I need my daily Mass, and I need it quiet.

*By quiet I mean me not talking to other people, no music. Quiet does not mean that my children have not made noise. I can pray through shushing my children; I have been at it for 6.5 years!

Monday, November 30, 2015

Pink and Five

My Dear L,

You have grown so much in the last year, and now you are five. Your birthday always comes in the whirlwind that is Thanksgiving and the beginning of Advent. You were born on the First Sunday of Advent, you labor beginning early in the morning and ending just before dinner, quite the opposite of your older sister who made us stay up all night, but setting the standard for everyone else.

What would life be without the middle sister? For G, she cannot remember life before you, and after the first strange weeks your presence became so necessary. For F, you have always been the caring, sensitive sister. And baby T has a special smile and squeal of delight just for you.
You strive hard to wear all pink everyday, and if not pink, it has to be something pretty, like stars. Your school (besides the occasional reading lesson) and quiet time this year has been devoted wholly to the making of paper dolls: princesses with pretty crowns and large extended families. And in your generous nature you make paper things for everyone in the house (except the baby). Who needs toys when you have tape, scissors, paper, and crayons?
You told us last week that when you grow up you are going to be a Pink Sister, a mom, or a ballet dancer. I suppose in any of those vocations you could still pull off wearing pink everyday.

Love you Always,

Friday, November 13, 2015

Seven Quick Takes, Friday, Nov. 13

1. I have not done quick takes in over a month. The thing is, they are not exactly quick to write, but I have about 30 minutes if the baby stays asleep, so I am going to give it a go.

2. A month ago, I was dying of lack of sleep. Seriously. Well, not really, but since then the baby has popped in two teeth, we did a bit of sleep training/letting him learn how to fall asleep without being bounced vigorously (yes, it was that bad). And instead of waking every 90 minutes and taking 40 to get back to sleep, he is we are getting stretches as long as 5 hours, and I am only waking most nights 2 times to nurse him. Guys, it is amazing. I feel like a person again.

3. Now that I am no longer a zombie, I am thinking a lot more clearly. When we finish a school day I can manage a chore or two before lunch rather than just staring off. When we make it to quiet time I am actually able to write things instead of a mindless Facebook experience. And we are getting at least one long nap a day out of the baby, the other one is usually not as good, but still.

4. Someone woke up.

It is tricky to type with a baby on your lap, but I am going to give it a go. Also, here you see my haircut I just got literally an hour ago. I always say two inches and add some layers and I feel like after the layers they have shorn off at least 4 inches.

5. I realized that I was getting boring back when T would not sleep as I was only and always talking about it, so I am going to really try to think of something else to write about, like how G finally got that one math concept down this week that we spent three agonizing days on and I finally asked M to explain it to her and she got it in five minutes. Or how the kids stopped screaming as much, well for like two days. My mom and dad are coming next week. I have not seen them since June, so we are pretty excited to see them. I think they are excited to see this baby who has doubled in weight since they last saw him. Oh, baby again. Sorry.

6. I finished two books in the last week. The first was Martin Chuzzlewit by Charles Dickens which was about as Dickensesque as you could want. He has a way of describing grimy, dirty places that just makes me feel icky and gritty and sometimes even nauseated. M suggested that I write about our free system of English laws, but I am not going to. Second book, the letters of Sts. Louis and Zelie Martin (A Call to a Deeper Love). It was soooo good. I am writing something up on it, so look for that soon. But really, just read it yourself, especially if you are married and a mom.

7. This week I started In This House of Brede by Rumor Godden. We found it at Loomes over Labor Day weekend, and it is beautiful so far. I like books that make me a better person, and this seems to be one of them. So were the letters. M this week finished Emma by Jane Austen and has decided that it is one of the most brilliant English language novels ever, and then he started Infinite Jest by David Foster Wallace.

And that about sums up life lately, baby, homeschooling, books, and writing projects. There are few coming out soon, stay tuned...

Linking up with Kelly at This Ain't the Lyceum!

Saturday, November 7, 2015

Now We Are Three

 My dear F,

Today you are three. Three. Three years ago, I woke up at 4:30 am in labor with you, and you took another 15 hours to come out. You were so worth it, but you know that. You tell us all confidently daily, "I am a pwin-CESS!" You spend your days going from intensely serious about whatever you are doing to trying to make us all laugh by being silly.
You love playing with your big sisters, and you love your baby brother. You also like to scream. A lot. You screamed a lot at the farm this summer. You were afraid of the dog. But after a couple of days you were okay with her, and when we went back to the farm last week you were not scared of her at all. "That's Rosie. She is my favorite."

I do not think you that you feel supplanted by your baby brother, and I am glad. You are so confident that you are loved. Of course your Uncle P will like the card you made him for his birthday, because "He likes purple and he likes ME!"

Happy birthday to you, my sweet, silly girl. And thanks for all your "help" in the kitchen. Maybe one day we will actually make your peanut-butter cup filled and covered chocolate cake together without any mishaps.

Love you forever,

Monday, November 2, 2015

What We Did for All Saints and What We are Doing for All Souls

Every year I pull out the sewing machine in October to make costumes. Our kids dress up as saints and go to a really cute All Saints party on All Hallows Eve (like a Christmas party on Christmas Eve), and play games for candy.
Left to Right: St. Felicity, St. Perpetua, and St. Kateri
I squeezed all of the sewing into the Saturday a week before the party, because I knew it would be the only time I could sew. M has been taking the girls to the grocery store on Saturday mornings and I am left in silent-house-only-the-baby-bliss for however long he takes. That is how I started my sewing, and I ended it by mid-afternoon. So, not so bad.
This is what they did when I asked them to look prayerful. Apparently it is prayerful to eat plants...
Our saints this year: Sts. Felicity and Perpetua who were martyred together in Carthage in the 3rd century and the Native American St. Kateri Tekakwitha.
I asked them to pose with the pumpkin, but St. Perpetua was done and wanted to get in the house.
For St. Kateri, I was asked to base the costume on the image here and found this simple tutorial for making a costume. I also bought fabric that would not fray, so no hem was required.

For the Carthage martyrs, I looked up how to make a Roman stola, stuck t shirts underneath, and used our hand dyed play scarves for on top.  And in Minnesota, the appropriate food wear of sandals would not work, so we went with church shoes for the martyrs and moccasin slippers for St. Kateri.
On Halloween, due to sleep issues/bedtime, we decided on T and I staying home from the party so he could have his bedtime. And by a miracle of St. Jude (we prayed the novena), this baby has only woken up once each the last two nights! Also, his teeth finally broke through!
We all woke up refreshed for the 7:30 am Traditional Latin Low Mass, and T wore his adorable All Saints outfit. Seriously, whoever designs baby dress clothes is a genius.
Please, pardon the adorable baby photo dump. I can't help it.
Now, as much as I love a feast for all the Saints, I think I like today, All Souls day, better. I wrote the devotion today over at Blessed is She, and I am so happy that I got to do it. Because I got to spread the word about how we can earn indulgences today and this week for the poor souls in purgatory. Check it out.

We were able to wake up for morning Mass today to pray for the souls, and are going to be praying in a cemetery for them later this week. If I feel so inspired, we might make a batch of Soul Cakes today as well, but maybe not.

Thursday, October 22, 2015

A Name Day for John Paul

Today is the Feast of Pope St. John Paul II. Very cool day and very cool saint. But what makes it so significant in our house is that it is the name day for the baby we lost last year at 9 weeks gestation. And since October is baby loss awareness month, I would like to make a tribute to our little one.

He stopped growing around 6 weeks. But it was not until Divine Mercy Sunday (2014) and the day that Pope St. John Paul II was canonized that my bleeding began. It took a few more days for him to fully pass.
We had already been thinking about naming the baby John Paul, and the canonization date so close to the day the baby passed from inside me made it so much more significant. I still think about our little lost baby a lot. And I do pray to him, especially for his little brother.

These days I feel surrounded by the saints, especially the newly canonized St. Zelie Martin. This is what she said about her children who died in infancy:

"When I closed the eyes of my dear little children and when I buried them, I felt great pain, but it was always with resignation. I didn't regret the sorrows and the problems I had endured for them. Several people said to me, "It would be better to never have had them." I can't bear that kind of talk. I don't think the sorrows and problems could be weighed against the eternal happiness of my children. So they weren't lost forever. Life is short and full of misery. We'll see them again in Heaven.
Above all, it was on the death of my first child that I felt more deeply the happiness of having a child in Heaven, for God showed me in a noticeable way that He accepted my sacrifice. Through the intercession of my little angel, I received a very extraordinary grace."
And today is our little (can I still call him little?) John Paul's name day. And like all name days around here, we made chocolate cake.

Pope St. John Paul II, pray for us! And little baby John Paul, we love you, and entrust you always to the mercy of God!

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Teething and Overflowing Grace

Why, oh why, does the devotion I write always happen on the right date? What I mean is that it has to be providential or something. I wrote about needing grace so desperately and even losing myself to grace, especially in overcoming my own weaknesses, and this week I have felt more stripped than ever due to feeling helpless as to how to help my teething baby sleep at night.

T is the sweetest teething baby there ever was. During the day I can't even tell they are bothering him, unless I pay attention and notice that he is cheerfully stuffing everything into his mouth. Cheerfully, I tell you.

Then we put him to bed and he goes down easily. Then he wakes up, nurses back to sleep, but won't let us lay him down. He is sound asleep, and we lay him down, and immediately he fusses. So, this is what teething looks like for him: he wants to be held to stay asleep at night.

So, I need the overflowing grace; you know, grace that hits me like a projectile-spitting up baby at 4 in the morning. That kind.
I am much more eloquent over at Blessed is She writing on the daily Mass readings...

Monday, October 12, 2015

When the Professor went to Boston in the Fall...

I don't know how some moms do it all the time: parent for days without their husband or even make it through the night with an infant without their husband home and available for backup.
Some cute kid in Boston in the Summer of 2010.
The Professor went to a conference last weekend, and his wonderful mother cheerfully agreed to fly out from Michigan and help me while he was gone. The great thing about my MIL being here is that she makes not just bedtime and mealtime easier without M, but she makes all day long easier. The kids are happy to play with her, she is happy to give them all of her attention, but she also helps keep them disciplined. She even held baby T more than he normally gets held.

When I picked M up from the airport (30 minutes after dropping off his mother for her return flight), he said, "You know, it sounds like you actually had a good weekend." And he was right, I think that I did. But I did because I put myself into survival mode, and anything beyond the minimum was a bonus. And we got beyond the minimum after the first day.

My biggest worries when M is gone revolve around sleeping. I worried the whole week leading up to his conference whether I would be able to handle the baby at night without him. I have said this before, but this baby is not the best at nursing right back down at night and often requires means beyond nursing to get to sleep. So, I was imagining being up ALL NIGHT, EVERY NIGHT and not being able to get the baby to sleep. (Keep in mind he has had teething bumps in his mouth getting bigger daily.)

But this was not the case Thursday night. Thursday night, I had no trouble getting T to go back to sleep when he woke up. The trouble was that he woke up every hour. I was such a zombie when he woke, that I did not think: maybe he is waking up because his diaper is full since he has nurse like 6 times already since 7pm or I am cold and maybe I should turn the furnace on and the baby might sleep better.

So, Friday it was the minimum, well even less than the minimum. The minimum required the morning at our twice a month co-op. I left F(normally I fight her to stay in the nursery classroom) at home with Grandma, and spent all of the co-op holding the baby and drinking coffee in the mom's hangout/discussion part of co-op. In the afternoon I took a nap, and ordered pizza for dinner. I had planned a dinner that takes about 15 minutes to put together, but I could not even do that. That would mean explaining it to my MIL and I had no ability to do so. So, we ordered pizza. That was good.

I started asking people for prayers that T would let me get some sleep that night, and took a few precautionary measures for Friday night. I turned the furnace on so the baby would not get cold, and made a plan to not nurse him if he woke every hour but try walking and bouncing him instead. But he only woke every 2 hours, only requiring nursing, which was great in my book. And I got him back down every time!

Saturday went well. My goals for me were: grocery shopping, running, and showering. And we got them all done around playing with the girls, getting T to nap, and the afternoon quiet times. We went out to our favorite family restaurant for dinner and T slept the whole time there.

Saturday night: I had been reading Bl. Zelie Martin's letters. In one she talked about how she had her daughter pray to the baby brother who had died in infancy to intercede for the healing of a two week long awful ear infection. The ear was better the next day. So, I thought, why not pray to our little one, JP, and ask for him to intercede for T to sleep comfortably, because I have been attributing bad sleep to teething. Well, we had three longer stretches, including a 3.5 hour one.

Then, Sunday Mass: WE ALL STAYED IN THE PEW! There may have been a lot of whispering from the younger girls, but for the most part, everyone behaved well. Hooray!

In the afternoon, we picked up the Professor, and as we were circling through the passenger pick up, waiting for M to be let off his plane, the girls reflected on how it is "just not the same with Daddy gone."

And now my survival mode is over; we made it! This morning (thanks to academic schedules M was home most of today), we sat and drank our coffee chatting for about a half an hour before I had to start school. It was so pleasant to have a normal day begin, and I feel about 10x less stressed this week than I did last week, like I might be able to do something beyond home schooling this week.

I realized that the impending conference had been weighing on me, but I also realized that I can do the baby care alone at night if I need to. But it is still really nice at 5:30am when the baby won't quite settle to be laying in bed, knowing that he will be put back to sleep by his father. What is even nicer is that M has such a good touch with this baby that he resettled him at nap (while I was running) and extended the baby's nap by two hours. Baby is awake and kicking now, but and awake baby is much easier to blog next to than anyone else around here...

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Applicious: Canning Weekend!!

We canned all weekend, which is kind of tiring when your baby is waking up from 4ish-6ish every morning and you have to wake up by 6 to get to Mass on time. I love the 7:30 Low Mass on Sunday, but you do need to drink coffee all day when you get up at 4am. 
We started with three times this. 1/2 bushel of Cortland and 1 bushel of Regent.
On the plus side, things might be looking up, because baby slept 8:20pm-2:30am last night. Nursed. Would not go back to sleep. So we stuck him swaddled and awake in his bassinet and dozed ourselves. I peeked at him an hour later and he was asleep. I am not getting my hopes up, because he had shots yesterday and probably is sleepier because of them, but, but, maybe?
Speaking of shots. I have been reading the letters of Bl. Zelie Martin (A Call to a Deeper Love), and her life was full of heartbreak and worry over her children's illnesses. I am so thankful for vaccines and antibiotics that keep me from worrying about my babies dying with every illness. They had two babies die 18 months apart from infections.

It is heartbreaking to read her tell about it to her sister-in-law. But she also took it all so gracefully with such faith in God. She is truly an inspiration to me in my struggles with homeschooling and house keeping and baby sleep.
You have to stir continuously or the applesauce will burn. My arms are still sore. M's are not apparently.
Back to canning. We washed, cut, blanched and strained our apples to make sauce on Saturday. I used some of the peelings boiled in water to make apple juice for jelly.
Stirring three canner loads of applesauce for hours is hard work!
And on Sunday, we brought the applesauce to a boil and canned it. And we made the jelly with sugar and pectin.
Totals: 16 quarts of sauce canned (including 4 pints), 6 half and 1 pint of jelly.
This combination of apples is less exciting in flavor than last years', but it makes a pleasant mild sauce.
And the jelly is soooo applely. I am going to give some jelly and sauce to the St. Agnes Fall Festival in a few weeks, so head on over there for your chance to buy some!

Friday, October 2, 2015

Seven Quick Takes, Friday Oct, 2--Baby (not)Sleep(ing) Edition

1. In honor of seven years of the seven quick takes link up, I am spending naptime writing them. Kelly, the current quick take host, is asking a question each week in October to be answered each week. I like this a lot, because it is like a free quick take that I do not have to think up, and thinking has not been my strength this week because I have not really been sleeping much.

This week's question: When did you post your first Seven Quick Takes?

Answer: Friday, August 24, 2012. But I did not link up that first link up was October 26.

2. So, I have been thinking about blogs and blogging and the wide variety of blogs that there are and stating the obvious. But I realized something important for me about my blog. I love to read blogs that give 7 helpful tips or ways to do such and such in your life, especially from other Catholic bloggers, but my blog is more for me. I am happy to share ideas, but my primary reason for writing is to do something I enjoy. So, welcome to my blog where I talk about things in my life... I hope you enjoy it as much as I do.

3. I wanted to post it on Facebook when it happened,
but I figured if I did all the kids would wake up. So, will post it now:

Hear ye, hear ye! Let it be known that I, Susanna Spencer, put ALL FOUR KIDS to bed BY MYSELF not one night but TWO NIGHTS in a row.

First night, we did a movie night and stayed up for the Super Blood Moon, and I got T to bed by 8:15pm, F to bed by 8:45, T resettled by 9:15, and then L, G, and I looked at the moon and I put them to bed.

Second night, all the bigger kids to bed by 7:45pm, T to bed by 8:30 (meaning I left the room then).

4. On top of that T has been pushing for an earlier bedtime for a few weeks now. Wednesday night he got really cranky at 6:30 pm. And we were like, really, you want to go to bed already? I was hesitant to do it so early. So, instead I put him in the stroller and let his sister push him around the backyard part of the driveway. And by 7, he was sound asleep. And we were like, um, let's just put him in the room and see what happens. So, he slept until 7:45pm, at which time, I went in, put him in an overnight diaper, and spent 50 minutes getting him back to sleep. But he stayed asleep until midnightish at which time we got him back to sleep, soooo... Thursday he was ready to go to sleep by 7pm, and I got him down by 7:40pm, but he had to be resettled 10 minutes later by M after which he slept 4 hours straight... It was really strange to have NO KIDS AWAKE from 8pm on...

5. I think I am going to name this "baby sleep edition"
, because, that is all I am talking about. T is my first baby who will not nurse right back to sleep everytime. In fact, a lot of the times he wakes, I am not convinced that he actually wants to nurse. Let me backtrack a minute. Until last week, most nights he would sleep nice long stretches of 4-5 hours and wake up once, nurse back down immediately. But on nights he does not sleep 4-5 hour stretches, like, wakes every 1-2 hours, he won't nurse back down. So, it turns into M rocking and bouncing and soothing him back to sleep.

The last week of nights has been the more frequent wake ups. I blame stomach upsetting antibiotics, two teeth still not coming in, and a lingering cold with congestion. This means we are getting even less sleep than usual. So, now that he is almost 4 months, seems inclined to an earlier bedtime, I am going to sleep train. I am so ready for this. Pray for us. Sleep training here is along the lines of the No Cry Sleep Solution and if that does not work we'll step it up.

6. Are we the only parents who measure how settled a baby is in Hail Marys?
When M resettles T we speak in terms of decades of the rosary. "How many decades did you bounce him for?" "I bounced him a whole decade, and then laid him down and patted him a whole decade. He was still the whole time." Or yesterday I told my mom, "I patted him for three Hail Marys and he stayed stopped fussing and went right back to sleep." It is not just a time measure, it is a patience builder, and a prayer that the baby will stay asleep.

7. Finally, check out this carrot we grew. It was supposed to be all white, but half of it grew above ground level and ended up green:
She would not get in the photo below due to a tantrum...

Linking up with Kelly at This Ain't the Lyceum.

Thursday, September 24, 2015

My Dirty House is a Grace

I have not left the house since Monday (on which I took a feverish baby to the doctor to discover he has an ear infection). I did go outside yesterday when it was not raining.

Anyway, I was climbing the steps after a squeezed in laundry switch, thinking about how I have way to much to do these days, and how the house is a mess (by my standards), and how I am somehow keeping my cool (though impatience still reigns strong internally), when St. Therese of Lisiuex's beautiful words came into my head, Everything is a grace. And I realized, it is all Grace, everything I struggle with, the breaking down of all my ideas of how my house should be run is really a grace.

And it is sooo hard for me to let go of the cleaning things. It is an internal stripping of my attachment to order. I hate to let go. But I have no choice. If I don't let go, my child's education suffers. My vocation suffers.

So, I looked up the full quotation of St. Therese, and realized, my understanding of everything as grace was the same as hers:
Everything is a grace, everything is the direct effect of our Father's love—difficulties, contradictions, humiliations, all the soul's miseries, her burdens, her needs - everything, because through them, she learns humility, realizes her weakness - Everything is a grace because everything is God's gift. Whatever be the character of life or its unexpected events—to the heart that loves, all is well.
Ever since we started school, I am feeling myself being stripped away. It may sound dramatic, but it is life-changing for me.

And it will be so good for the kids once I get past all of my letting go. Instead of me cleaning half my mornings and sending them off to play, I am spending hours every morning WITH them. I am teaching them, talking to them, trying to be patient. And it is all a GRACE.

And the baby wakes needing to be nursed AGAIN to sleep as I try to finish my blog writing and finally get to the kitchen, and it is another surrender. It is a grace. I am being stripped.

Everything is a grace because everthing is God's gift.

And I can hear the knowing thoughts of people who have laughed at/with me for years about my dusting habits. They understand how hard it is for me to not squeeze my dusting into my weekly routine. And it sounds ridiculous to say that I am "settling" for twice a month dusting. 

...everything is the direct effect of our Father's love—difficulties, contradictions, humiliations, all the soul's miseries, her burdens, her needs - everything, because through them, she learns humility, realizes her weakness...

His grace is doing this to me. My vocation is bringing me to God. It is making me more like Him.

And maybe one day I will be like this:

 Whatever be the character of life or its unexpected events—to the heart that loves, all is well.

You see, the letting go, is teaching me to love. To love. And is not that what we are all meant for, love? If my house is clean but I have not love to give to my children and my husband, it is nothing. But if I love, all will be well. And to learn to love I must be stripped away and give myself up to Grace.

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

A Year of Existence: A Letter to my Son

My Dear Sweet T,

A year ago this week we learned that you existed. A little line in a small round window told us that you were here. Tiny little you existed, implanted in my womb. We were so happy, so anxious, so thankful for you. We were happy because we, with the help of God, had brought another human being into the world. You have added to the perfection of the universe by your very act of existing. And you have been doing it for a year.

So, I gave my body and my heart to you. I cared for you from the beginning. We went to the doctor, learned that I had low progesterone and, with care, did twice weekly injections to help you live inside me. 
When we had the early ultrasound and saw your little heart beating, we were so thankful. You were alive. So, I gave myself to you through all the discomforts of nausea, sore injection sites, blood draws, fatigue. I loved you from the beginning. 

I prayed for you. I knew what life with a new baby would be like, and I anticipated your arrival. 

Another labor of love was the labor it took for you to come out. You were ready, and childbirth happened. Nine hours of labor, 25 minutes of hard pushing, and you came out after so many weeks of growing. All 10 lbs, 3 oz of you came out. It took all my strength to get you out. And then I held you in my arms. I saw your little face looking into mine and smelled your newborn smell.

Life is so busy, centered around you. Family life is always centered around the baby's needs, isn't it? If we stretch you one way, we know we will have to give you more care later. But you are so delightful, your existence is a gift for us all.

And here you are now. We have had a whole year together. I have nourished you and helped you grow a whole year. You are a whole 16.5 pounds of cuddly, lovable, little personhood. There is so much more growing and loving to do, and now that you exist, you always will, you with your immortal soul...and I am so glad to exist knowing you.

Love Always,
Under His Mercy,

Friday, September 18, 2015

Seven Quick Takes, Friday, September 18--brought to you by Quiet Time

1. Nine years ago today I woke up to go to the 6:30 am Mass in Christ the King Chapel. I woke at 6:07, got dressed in running clothes, stumbled down the second floor Marian Hall to the bathroom, popped in my contacts, and pulled my hair up. Then I rushed quickly back to my room to grab my phone and raced off to Mass. I noticed my phone light up with a call as I was walking. My sister was in labor. In labor! A couple of weeks early! I promised to pray, especially at Mass. After Mass, I went for a short run. This was back when I convinced M to go running with me. I think it lasted about two runs. But anyway, I was trying to get into running. It was a tough jog, but I offered it up for my laboring sister. And by the time we were walking to the cafeteria for breakfast, my new baby niece was born. Hooray! And now she is nine years old. Happy Birthday to my first niece!

2. The garden is still going strong, though our tomatoes are not ripening as quickly as they had been, and our cucumbers are down to once a week or so. I picked this carrot yesterday.

I think it is part Twi'lek or at least distantly related to Bib Fortuna. (Please, please, catch my Star Wars reference.)

3. Our morning glories on the side of the house have really taken off.

This was a winning experiment, so we plan to do it again next year. I am going to let each girl pick a seed packet. Not pictured are our annuals. I have a sense for what works in our side garden and what does not. I am forming a plan beyond, "lets try some random flowers."

4. Fall clothes... I need some jeans that fit. I found a great pair last September while thrifting, but my PP midsection is far from being ready for those... so I need to go out and find new ones. M promised me some shopping time soon, but I am not sure that the baby will let me go... I also am going to hunt down a cute trench coat, because we have enough chilly days that are not freezing that I am ready in find a nice cool weather jacket that will last and fit my varying sizes.

5. Guess who has been irritable, drooling, having trouble napping for long stretches and has two swollen bumps on his bottom gum?
This guy...wish us luck...

6. Quiet time has been my saving grace these days. Even quiet time with T is awake is so so necessary. The rules for the non-nappers are: stay in your quiet time space and play quietly until I say you can get up... we may or may not milk two hours out of them most afternoons. T sleeps whenever he is tired still, but F (almost 3) sleeps habitually at 1:30pm or stays in her crib. If you have little kids who don't nap and don't do quiet time, I highly recommend it...

7. And check out this artsy shot. It cracks me up...

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Middle of the week ramblings...

Okay, so it's Wednesday.

For some reason school is taking like no time this week. I think it has something to do with math not taking an hour a day. We got stuck on number bonds and number bond games...So, I looked at my math planning over the weekend and made it more doable.

I am all over Google drive these days, especially since I realized I can use it on the iPad with apps. It is great! I can write on both my devices now!

I also use a Google spreadsheet for lesson planning. It tells us what to do each day. I love having my schedule right there. I do the planned pages and we are done. Yep.

Our Art and Music curriculum are also being put in Google Docs. So, when we have them finished, maybe we will market them...though you can make your own with the help of iTunes and Wikipedia...

School has also forced me to change my weekly chores around. I decided to only do dusting and vacuuming during the week and do the sheet and towel laundry on Saturday. Which means that yesterday, when the kids all wanted to go to the park after school, we could. 

I look at this picture and am like, when and how did I get four kids? Seriously...four seems like way more than three to look at. I am not even 30 and I have four kids... 

But basically, if I do not internally pray all day and focus on being silly with the kids, I am a huge grump. On days I am laid back and give of myself more fully, we are all happy.

Hi, I am Susanna. I am a perfectionist. Being laid back is hard work. My two year old takes after me. Which means she will stay in her nap, but screams if her bib is not on right.

The baby is getting more touchy about sleeping. If he is dosing off and a sister walks by or talks, he pops his eyes open and looks for them. So, we might be needing to get him asleep in a quiet room soon, which will be less convenient than him dropping off while we are doing school in my arms and happily laying down for a dose.

We are all set for a busy weekend, and I am wondering how it is going to go with baby.

We have our first Little Flowers on Thursday, and G and L are both in it this year. This means M and F get some father-daughter bonding time while I take everyone else to LF until 8:30pm. We get home at 9pm, the big girls go to bed, and then I am like, what happened to my evening? Well it should be fun and is only once a month, so... hopefully T will not be thrown off sleepwise by riding in the car at 8:30pm.

Then the philosophy department party is on Friday which will be until bedtime again.

Then another late night on Saturday. And Sunday is our co-op kick-off picnic probably until bedtime... so busy weekend.

I really liked last weekend. M took the girls shopping for 2.5 hours, T napped, and I enjoyed a quiet morning doing some sewing that had to get done. Maybe we will have another quiet weekend at some point. But for now, we press on into busy school time!

Saturday, September 12, 2015

I Miss Myself: Why I Need to Write

We started first grade two weeks ago, G and I. We are doing it together. Me the teacher; she the student. Gone are the leisurely mornings of kindergarten where we dabbled in letters, and reading, and numbers. Now are the days of making sure we get it all done.

In my perfect little schedule, we fit it into a two hour window. The baby takes his nap. The other two do a bit of coloring, a bit of letters, and play nicely besides.

But in reality, some days it is less than two hours. She is interested in her work and does it quickly. Other days she is Anne of Green Gables, with her head in the clouds, preferring her books to school which she can grasp so easily but prefers not to do. And school takes FOREVER.

I try to rush her, with my to-do list in my head. I get annoyed at the baby for not napping, even though he is happy on his play mat. I snap at the other two for playing too loudly and for G for paying more attention to their game than her work.

I complain to my husband, and he reminds me that this is why we are home schooling, so the kids can take the time the need or go as quickly as they wish. And I realize that this schooling is again a loss of myself and my desires.

Every new stage, every new baby has stripped me of time to do what I want, but I also have realized that I do need to do the things that I love. I need to things for myself in the cracks of time I have.

I am working on making time for what I love so that I am a fulfilled person. Motherhood is about losing myself, but it is also about being who I am meant to be, it is about being my full self. My motherhood is part of my vocation, but so is my writing. When I write, I am doing something that I am called to do. 

But the problem is, I don't always take time to write. Before T was born I had a set writing time: afternoon quiet times when M worked on campus. Days he works at home I exercise during quiet time.  Since T was born, I have not reestablished my writing habit very well. I am not taking the time I need for writing.

I am finding the time now. I am nursing T to sleep, the girls are having "recess", and one handed iPad blogging it is. My plan is to write everyday while nursing. So maybe I will be rambling half the time, maybe I will just tell you about my day. But I think the writing time as opposed to the thousandth daily perusal of my Facebook feed and Instagram feed will make me happier. 

It will make me more me. If the daily grind of homeschooling a first grader while three younger children make a ruckus in the background is really right for our family, then giving myself the writing outlet is what I need. 

And if my writing does not show up here, that means that I am writing elsewhere and will let you know.
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...