Sunday, August 24, 2014

A Lesson in Limits & Staying Put

This lesson on limits and staying put isn't necessarily for you. I have to write these life situations down. I'm tucking it away under my Large Family Vision because it seems perfect there. I understand things through talking. Such is the way with extroverts, but if I've already put myself through some of this maybe you can learn from my failures.

We've had the August rains here in Juneau and we were blessed this past week, during the later half, with some beautiful sunny days. This was wonderful because my third daughter turned five and there was just lots of celebrating outside to do....

We ate outside.

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We swam in lakes outside.

Played on outside playgrounds.

Being 30 weeks pregnant, I usually find a spot outside to sit and watch my littles enjoying themselves. My belly is a good resting place...

Except...after three days of outside in a row...going places...and sitting...I find myself...well...exhausted.

I'm reading this laughing, "I get exhausted sitting?"

Well, I do. 

Every time we leave our home, there is just the whole "leaving" dance and that takes energy. Physical energy but also a whole planning/disaster preparedness mindset that takes thought and more energy as one packs. I love the playing and enjoying part and narrate in my head to myself how awesome my outdoor littles are but then there is the whole "pack up and go home" dance. There are wet clothes. I'm thirsties. Counting to __ with some threat if they don't obey. Energy my friends.

It doesn't sound like anything too exciting...but there I am all spent... exhausted.

Not just exhausted. I start getting irritable. The words out of my mouth have a certain...edge to them. I am honestly like a ticking bomb, ready to go off on terribly minor things. I resemble a three year old who desperately needs a nap and some quiet time.

I could blame it on pregnancy hormones, which...I do....BUT these situations of mommy cranky-ness are so often at times I would say there is a certain PREDICTABILITY to it all.

I am old enough, by now, to KNOW MY LIMITS.

Friday night after all of our shenanigans of running around so that we could "enjoy" the outdoors was over, I decided Saturday we were not going ANYWHERE. We have a pretty nice set up right here at our home. I was relieved with how doable this no car day seemed as I awoke that morning to a slight chill in the air with a bit of an overcast sky. Perfect!

Late morning I sat in an oversized preggo turtle neck and fleece leggings with my daily mug of creamer with a tad bit of coffee and watched my two year old son play in the driveway. My son's godmother stopped by to sit awhile and chat. How nice that I was here and that when she called I could say, "Yes, please swing by we are here all day."  Even my eldest daughter announced, as she went back to her room to paint and listen to her books on cd that "We are not going anywhere today." 

The hours passed, and soon I was settling my two year old into his after lunch nap (I always put my legs up a bit then) and well...the sun...the sun came out. 

While I was in my bedroom, my daughters devised a plan in that short amount of time to earn swimming at the lake again. The sun had erased all plans to "not go anywhere." Instead, they had decided to DO SCHOOL ON THEIR OWN so they could go swimming (you read that correctly, school on their own).

I know right??? When I walked into the family room, they had put my five year old through her ABC cards and were asking where their cursive books were. They pleaded with me..."Can we PLEASE go to Twin Lakes?!? We are trying to earn it! We thought you might let us!"

I did the whole "let me think about it" routine.

My seven year old would come to me every five minutes..."have you thought about it?"

I did.

I thought about that paragraph I wrote a few lines up...about how predictable this all was, and that, by the end of this pleasant day, I would be spent...again.

So...much to their dismay...

I said no.


No and some very long faces...I believe a tear or two may have been shed.

No...followed with a ....we can have fun here.

And here it is my friend....  

Let's try to build a family culture of being able to create fun by staying put. 

It is way easier to feed them all by staying put as well.

There are so many adventures awaiting us in our own neighborhoods, in our own backyards...especially if you live here.

I think we can all pat ourselves on the backs if we are able to have a "no car" day and still have fun. News flash! This is what women did for GENERATIONS before we got our kitchen gadgets and mini vans and busy-ness.

My friend Janet said her mother of ten never went anywhere with all her children, besides Mass on Sundays, the children went to school and generally played outside. Aren't the best novels written by people who grew up as children left to their own devices?

I'm convinced we are doing our little ones a favor when we set limits and stick to them. And I don't think this lesson is only applicable during a third trimester in one's fifth pregnancy.

I think we see the energy of our children get drained when we've been to one too many Halloween costume parties. We may have entertained one night too many for our introverted husband to manage. When the housework is uncomfortably far behind, and we are giving our best to others and our loved ones get the leftovers...we have to think of our limits.


Perhaps you all are already really good at knowing your limits. Thanks for sticking with me. I'm told by mothers of teenagers that this work of staying put becomes harder as their children pursue their interests outside of the home. If we mommies of little ones see this on the horizon, maybe by exercising control over these limits now, we'll be more seasoned at saying "no" when those predictable moments (when we've reached our limit) are in front of us in the future.

God Bless You! Thank you for stopping by xxoo

Sunday, August 17, 2014

The Little Oratory and Marking Time: Chapter 7

I am so funny with this blog, I really do want to follow through on this summer book study of The Little Oratory but I keep getting interrupted....hmmm....why can't I seem to find the time to blog???

My readers say: Oh Stephanie, we KNOW you are an inconsistent blogger.

You do!?!?!

I love you all!

Chapter 7 is on devotion and, as is the tone of this whole book, it is so gentle. 

As I was reading about guiding our children into morning and night offerings, and specifically about the examination of conscience, I liked this...

"Parents have the delicate undertaking of helping their children enter into the 'interior castle,' as St. Teresa calls it, of their own inner life with God

They also start to have a sense of the day 

as a unit of grace

each day bringing its sorrows and joys."

As I start thinking of entering into our schooling days more seriously....and by seriously I am talking about how I organized some books today...

I have been thinking of the day as unit of grace. I have been thinking about what ordinary in this house looks like.

I really want a holy ordinary. 

I really want to keep to I have to keep asking, "what is the essential?"

What is the heart of the day?

I am SO grateful that God, in His goodness, has truly helped our family know and revere the heart of Sunday. The Sabbath is a solid anchor to order our time around...this Gift of the Eucharist. Then after Mass, after celebrating with our Lord, we seem to know what to do or really to just be. Yes, there is background work to be done, but my friends, it is the action of the Holy Spirit that truly makes it a restful and renewing familial day for us.

It may seem funny to make a "study" of the workings of a day, a unit of time and to try to find the heart of it...and yet, here is Chapter Seven laying out established traditions in our Church to lead us up to our Sabbath, our "little Easters."

Did you know....

Sunday  is devoted to the Resurrection, the Trinity.

Monday: the Holy Spirit

Tuesday: the Angels

Wednesday: St. Joseph ("The day the week turns on. It's no wonder that the wisdom of popular piety put St. Joseph here, in the center of daily life.")

Thursday: the Blessed Sacrament

Friday: Christ's Passion and the Sacred Heart

Saturday: the Blessed Virgin

Had I read about these daily devotions five years ago, after leaving my job as an officer in the Coast Guard, my more product oriented/over-achiever side might have skewed how I read this information and I would have immediately been on crafty Catholic blogs trying to figure out what to "do" or "make" for each day.

Thank goodness God keeps sending me these littles, they really knock the sense into me.

The larger my family grows the more I just want to get to the heart of things.

So, I have simply made up my mind that I can fit this new way of marking time into our "holy ordinary" by finding a fitting prayer for each day. We can say this prayer by our candle. Perhaps I can have a pretty image ready to prop up by the candle. This might be a nice way to start our school day. I MIGHT even see if I can find a small St. Joseph statue for Wednesdays to have on the dinner table as a Christmas gift to myself (ha!). 

Also, unlike the old me, I'm not going to get all mopey if I have a liturgical fail and "miss" a day. Geez, that's missing the essential! Life isn't a SHOW, you simply LIVE things.

The authors mention this "no fuss if you miss something" when they write about the character surrounding each wonderful that there will be a February NEXT year we can celebrate the Holy Family if we happen to have a wacky February or get distracted because life is just happening.

"Using time, we can know we're on track and not missing anything important." BUT.....

"At the same time, we can be fine with letting some things go, confident that they will turn up again. This is a far better strategy than randomly trying to get all the devotions in, which would be impossible!"

Let's always be so gentle with ourselves. 

I like this reminder as I am in my third trimester. Be gentle with yourself Stephanie, you are about to enter "the year of the baby" (Angela - ism). 

LOVE babies and Baptisms
So, I was actually getting unusually high tech (for me) and figuring out my ideal "homeschool" week in my google calender for this impending year (I have never done this will probably last two weeks). I had a tremendous peace as I decided how I want the week to go, I was thinking a lot about the day as a unit of time. 

Are you interested in what I have concluded?

Essentials of school in the morning...reading, math, writing..and wrapping up by lunch.

Ample room for play and sense getting all pouty if we don't get to our history/science/extras done everyday.

I have only three "must get in the car" days out of the seven (excluding Sunday, so really four car days, but we must get in the car on Sunday in order to stay our of the car the rest of that day...right?).

I'm excited!

Aside from these new devotions and having a bit of a feel for how I would like time for more formal learning to be spent, coming back to what the heart of the day is...I am growing more certain that it is just about being together as a family with all our goodness and flaws.

"God's plan for us is family life...The first covenant that God made with man was to establish the family in the order of days. A man cleaves to a woman to make her his wife, so that they might have children and bring all of creation into the order of sanctification.

Thus our daily life is meant to be the normal way that children grow into this relationship with God.

We learn to love by being loved by a mother and father.

This particular father thinks its ok that the birthday girl has a pinata IN the house, as it was pouring outside.

We learn to pray with our parents. Conversation in the family builds this relationship of love, as do all activities that we enjoy together.."

Like getting our first big boy hair cut...

Isn't that beautiful?

Scroll up and read through those quotes a couple of times.

Thank you for reading. 

I hope we stay on this journey together...this journey of purposeful living and seeking the holy ordinary and being open to life.

God Bless You!  

My reflections on my summer reading of The Little Oratory 

Please go here to see and read about other Little Oratories sprouting throughout the world. Please go here to listen to author Leila Lawler speak with Elizabeth Foss about her book!

Saturday, August 9, 2014

My Grandfather's Fountain of Youth

My grandfather, Robert Joseph Weidner, went Home Tuesday evening. God gave Him the grace of a happy and peaceful death. His soul was just too great for the weak body it had.

I did not cry when I got the call here late afternoon on Tuesday, as Ohio is four hours ahead of my home in Southeast Alaska. I did not cry, actually, until a full day later...when my father, his eldest son, shared how my grandfather, in conversation with people in the hospital, would say he had "eight great grandchildren."

This, at first, didn't make sense.

Doing the math, my cousin Shannon has a daughter and her sister Nikki has two sons. I have four children, which makes seven.

He said he had eight.

He has eight?

He has eight.

"Children too are a gift from the Lord, the fruit of the womb, a reward.  Like arrows in the hand of a warrior are the children born in one's youth. Blessed are they whose quivers are full." Psalm 127

When my father shared that my grandfather, as he lay dying, was counting my tiny daughter amoung his great grandchildren...the knot was in my throat and I felt a tingle in my body...of being loved and understood. My grandfather, a just and wise man, a man of greatness, shared the joy of this unborn child with me.

Thank you grandpa for affirming my vocation. 

Thank you grandpa for valuing her little life already...that she COUNTS.

In a world where so many do not value the blessings of children, my grandfather knew the pearl of great value.

And I cried. I did. On the phone, with my father...who has received the grace to be who his family needed to be in the hours that unfolded...I cried. 

Yes, I got a little choked up on Wednesday but was able to compose myself and chat some more.  I asked to speak to my grandmother. Her example of service to her husband in the past year was such holy and selfless work...I will save it for another post. 

She was beautiful on the phone, to say the least...pulling out of herself, as she has done her whole life, and asking ME questions about MY life.

Grandma Marilyn did say this...she said that my grandfather always said to, 

"Keep kids around you, they keep you young." 

She added that, "He loved having kids around."

My grandfather and I have a lot in common...

So, my friends, there will ALWAYS BE comments...when we have to make that quick stop in the store, with all the littles, who although they behave themselves will no doubt draw the..."you have your hands full"...."are they all yours?"..."you're busy"....comments out of others.

Yes, humans are rather predictable, particularly the ignorant ones with no filters, but we can smile because by having our littles around we have unlocked that great secret...our own fountain of youth.

How blessed we are!

We KNOW the littlest ones!

So, don't pay attention to the ignorant people, and there are MANY of them.  Be patient and have hope in the wise ones (I WRITE THIS FOR MEEEEEEE!).

The WISE ones who are rather unpredictable at times because they have been thinking and observing and seeking to understand. If we are privileged enough, they may speak....even as they are about to go Home...and proclaim the good news, the news you are longing to hear. 

My grandfather knew the littlest ones and he loved his children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren....he loved them all from the moment he knew they existed.

Thank you Grandpa, I find great comfort knowing that you are so near now and can be more part of this fullness.

God bless you! Go love on your families. xxoo