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.

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Cousin Time!

Last week we had our third annual summer visit from my sister and her family. I love these visits and wish we could have them more and more. (I am told that 6.5 hours in the car is not an "easy distance," but I say what is 6.5 hours of good road?)

We do them as we can as families grow. My parents are up to 8 grandchildren now, with my other sister's wedding next summer and a strong desire for more cousins expressed weekly around here.
It is fun how a break from normal life impacts the children. Suddenly G wants to read chapter books and is imitating her bookwormish oldest cousin in reading every free minute. L, when she had her closest aged cousin around was suddenly much less into mischief and playing elaborate games. I love that my children have cousins so close in age and hope that they keep the bond strong.
And I loved spending time with my sister. Meals were easier with my sister in the kitchen. We planned and cooked and chatted. Phone calls are nice, but three days together is a great way to pick each others' brains on just about everything. So, while living next door would be crazy fun, vacations to each others' homes are the next best thing.

It is visits like these to relatives and cousins that I remember most fondly from childhood, and I am glad my children get to experience them as well.

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