family · kids · motherhood · parenting · teenagers

Brace Yourself


Today Adalay got her braces off.  How exciting.  We went for cheese burgers afterwards and shopping for girly stuff…makeup, soaps, and hair products.  I love my time with Addy.  It is wonderful to parent teens….enjoying the journey today.  
faith · family · motherhood · Orthodoxy · saints

Less Stress

Mark Zuckerberg is a genius, but not for the obvious reason of being one of the co-founders of Facebook. He is also the networking website’s CEO, and is said to have a net worth of over $30 billion…still not why I think he is a genius.  His one dollar salary from Facebook is pretty great, but again I am not all that impressed by numbers, big or small.

What I am impressed by are his habits, the habits that are the foundation for his success.  When my husband told me that Zuckerberg wears a gray t-shirt almost everyday my ears perked up, and not because my husband was making a case for his own gray t-shirt, the t-shirt he says is lucky, the t-shirt he wears every time it is clean, the t-shirt that I don’t “get”.

My wheels began to turn because of the reason Zuckerberg gives for this very quirky habit.  He says that deciding what to wear everyday is a “silly” thing that he would rather not waste time on.  After a quick search I came up with a quote of his concerning his gray t-shirt that I thought was what embodied this young entrepreneur’s real genius,

“I really want to clear my life so that I have to make as few decisions as possible about anything except how to best serve this community.”

He also thinks deciding what he will eat for breakfast is a waste of time.  And I could not agree more.  How did this young fella learn this at such a young age…how to manage energy in this way?  I am just now learning the principal of energy conservation and how to manage stress from the inside out not the outside in.

When I was a young mother and wife I thought that managing time, stress, and energy meant I needed to overhaul my house, make strict schedules, and crack down on discipline.  After stumping my toe on that perfectionist bed post enough times I have slowly become aware of where the stress that makes life un-doable comes from and how to go about managing my life in a real and sustainable way.

The most important thing I have learned is that stress is an internal battle, not an external problem.  There are real external challenges that we face as human beings living on this flawed planet; sickness, disease, poverty, conflict, and pain. But the stress we feel as we live among the thorns and thistles is something of a phenomenon that occurs when we cannot surrender.  Being out of control, in any shape or form is what stress is all about.  The real trick of living in this world is to become aware of what we can and cannot control and act accordingly.

Over and over again I notice that successful people live the serenity prayer:

The serenity to accept the things I cannot change, 
The courage to change the things I can, 
and especially, The wisdom to know the difference.

To know the difference…that is key.
To know the difference between what I can and cannot control.

What I wear, what I eat for breakfast are all under my control-for now.  These are simple decisions that do not have to be a stress- they can become passionless.  And when the ascetics speak of passionlessness I wonder if this is how to walk that out in everyday life?  Passionlessness for a mother and wife is about doing without passion.  What I wear should not make me anxious or lustful or prideful.  And this is where a gray t-shirt everyday comes in handy.  Simplicity practiced on a regular basis is a great tool in calming of the passions.

Simple habits of success.
Simple habits that eliminate unnecessary passion.
Simple habits that conserve energy that would best be spent elsewhere.

It is hard for me to admit that stress is a passion.  It is hard for me to imagine a life without stress…is it even possible?  And then I ponder the Panagia and her life. Her fiat makes it all clear, “Be it unto me according to Thy word.”

Her habit, her way, her pondering, her perfection…made perfect in surrender.

Stress is not a habit of the Kingdom.

Lately I have been pondering where my stress really comes from, and the passions that cause it.  I am also learning to accept  what I cannot change and stop wasting energy on those things.  I am learning to recognize the sources of my stress…things like perfectionism, sentimentalism, pride, greed, and unbelief…learning to stop sinful thoughts and thought patterns.  Stress begins with imaginations.

Managing a home is a lot like managing a corporation, and I am the CEO of this enterprise.  What kind of a leader am I?  Home management is not about perfectionism…it is about creating an environment where stress is at a minimum… where passionlessness is a goal.  It is about creating a haven from the world of pain and sorrow, a place where those who need rest find receive it, body and soul.

I like Zuckerman’s attitude.  He wants to eliminate stress to be able to serve his community better.  I like that-eliminating stress is not about making me feel better.

Eliminating stress is about having the energy to serve God and my family better.

It’s what I work towards.  What I seek. What I hope for. Passionless passion.

Prayer to Our Lord Jesus Christ

O Ruler of all, Word of the Father, O Jesus Christ, Thou Who art perfect: For the sake of the plenitude of Thy mercy, never depart from me, but always remain in me Thy servant. O Jesus, Good Shepherd of Thy sheep, deliver me not over to the sedition of the serpent, and leave me not to the will of Satan, for the seed of corruption is in me. But do Thou, O Lord, worshipful God, holy King, Jesus Christ, as I sleep, guard me by the Unwaning Light, Thy Holy Spirit, by Whom Thou didst sanctify Thy disciples. O Lord, grant me, Thine unworthy servant, Thy salvation upon my bed. Enlighten my mind with the light of understanding of Thy Holy Gospel; my soul, with the love of Thy Cross; my heart, with the purity of Thy word; my body, with Thy passionless Passion. Keep my thought in Thy humility, and raise me up at the proper time for Thy glorification. For most glorified art Thou together with Thine unoriginate Father, and the Most-holy Spirit, unto the ages. Amen.

– Prayer of St. Antiochus

cooking · faith · family · homeschooling · · learning · motherhood · Orthodoxy · parenting

Feeling Better

Over the Christmas holiday I have been as sick as I can remember.  Samuel , sadly, has been just as bad and even worse.  We had a virus run through the house, but it hit Samuel and I the hardest.  After one trip to the doctor, two trips to the urgent care, three different antibiotics for secondary infections, and every home remedy we could throw at this bug we are finally feeling a bit like our normal selves.   I am still fighting an ear infection, but it seems to be healing slowly. 

Somewhere around day five of this quarantine I began to relax, and then it hit me.  Maybe my lack of rest in general is why my body is not recovering like the others.  Sam and I have not slept well in months and months…and I think it just finally caught up with us. When I gave in and just let things be what they were going to be I began to see the tight knot that is wound up inside of me.  I am just plain tired, but the adrenaline I am addicted to that makes it possible for me to function is hard to resist.

And when Mamas get this run down we must resist adrenaline.
We must stop pushing through and rest.

Resting has been very good, and I have been eating nourishing food, sleeping late, and going very slow.  This has given me much time to think about my health.  I have also had plenty of time to sit and contemplate ways to better care for myself and my family.

When I look ahead at 2015 I can see some major projects, possibly a move, a heavy work load, and schedule.  And all these things are good.  However, I can also see that my inward state needs some nurturing if I am going to enjoy health and happiness this year.  I need better strategies to help me not feel so overwhelmed.

Here are a few things I am going to try…

Leaving Facebook

One giant step toward health for me is the choice to leave social media, Facebook in particular.  I once left Facebook for seven years, and I did much better with my inner life.  It has taken me a while to understand why I have this love/hate relationship with it.  It is not that Facebook is evil or wrong or anything like that.  I love the interaction and the keeping up with friends and family.  For me it is neurological. Something about the format makes me nervous…the scrolling and how my eyes jump from one thing to the next.  The amount of information is too much for me.  And once I start on this feast of information I get bogged down in it, and I spend way too much time on this site.  I know, I know, I could be more mature and set limits and all that…but I don’t.  I think the site’s design (the actual layout, advertisements, colors, lines, etc.) is very addictive for me.

Redefining my morning routine  

For a year I have been very angry that I cannot have the solitude that I think I need in the mornings. During this illness I came to terms with this and had a sort of funeral for my mornings in my mind…I must let that go and get into the groove of my baby.  That means I will have a new morning routine.  Instead of books and coffee and even lengthy prayers I am going to enjoy Sam.  A friend who had six kids  (I only had three at the time) told me that someday my mornings would be different…she was right.  She told me that she prayed a morning offering prayer before her feet ever hit the ground, and that was the foundation for her day.  She too was a lover of contemplation and books and coffee.  However, her life demanded that she take advantage of her mornings in a different way.  I am going to follow my friend and quiet my soul in this area.  I holler calf-rope, and it feels so good.

Revisiting my menu planning

My grocery budget is insane.  I know that food is expensive, but I could do better in this area.  My menus need to be simplified.  I have a five week menu cycle that I made when I had three kids, none of which ate like adults.  With two teenagers in the house and a tween that eats as much as her sisters, it is time to remake my menus to be more frugal.  What I spend on groceries stresses me, and it should…it’s too much!  I know my lack of planning and organization is the major problem.  Some ideas I have are to make double batches of soups, beans, casseroles, etc. and freeze them.  Also, I need to take advantage of sales and stock up on things we use more often.  Another strategy I have is to grocery shop early Saturday morning when the stores are quiet.  This one change would greatly reduce my stress in this area, and allow me to focus.

Refocusing our homeschool 

I have been in serous homeschool burn out mode this year.  It just feels so tedious and overwhelming.  And the truth is, it is!  Homeschooling this many kids, all at different ages and stages is a hard work.  But, it is my work…it is what I am called to do.  Through the prayers of the Panagia and Righteous Anna I am strengthened…  I do not labor alone or in vain.  I am reorganizing the school room, refreshing books, and working toward a more peaceful atmosphere.

Vespers on Wednesday nights

I would love to have this time of prayer on a weekly basis, but the long drive to the Hermitage or our Parish might makes this unrealistic.  For now I want to attempt once a month.

I told Slade today that the illness during Christmas was a blessing.  It forced me to stop…stop everything and really listen, really see.  I am thankful that we are all on the mend and that the new year has come.  What goals or resolutions do you have for the New Year?  I hope you are feeling the peace of Christ this season and the joy of His abiding love.  He is always with us.

Happy New Year friends!  

cleaning · cooking · family · fun · homeschooling · kids · motherhood · organizing

Christmas Gifts for a Homeschool Mom

The average “gifts for mom” list is not necessarily a good fit for a homeschool mom.  Don’t get me wrong…I love perfume and scarves and expensive handbags just like the average girl, but if you really want the wow factor for this homeschool mom of five I have a better list.  Maybe you can forward this post to your hubby or whoever is asking you that pressing question, “What do you want for Christmas?”  I hope this list will inspire you to answer with every bit of the quirkiness that defines a homeschool mom.  

Just a bit fun…happy shopping everyone.

My large crock pot has a hairline crack in the removable porcelain crock.  I am afraid to do too much in it, and I am for sure not transporting it anywhere.  Crock pots are a homeschool mom’s best friend in the kitchen.  We can start dinner at breakfast and as the house is permeated with the smell of lemony chicken it is so reassuring to know supper is on. 

My coffee pot is trying to peter out on me…and that just cannot happen.  I currently have to jiggle the cord to get the green power light to appear.  I wait every morning in suspense…it’s just too stressful.

This is such a great gift for a homeschool mom.  This tote can be used for picnics, as a library tote, camping, day trips, etc.  One use I would like it for is to stock my car with a mommy survival kit.

I already have this gift, but I had to include it.  Free Shipping for books!  Are you kidding…this is a homeschool mom’s dream!    

This gift is over the top.  The one I want is a little pricey, but oh so cool.  I would love it to make dry erase activities for my littles, flashcards specific to the things we are learning, saving works of art…the possibilities are endless.  

What a tongue twister…but never mind that.  This little beauty makes the homeschool day to day much easier.  The copier is a godsend. 

This is so dreamy…now I can spend my summer making the kind of workbooks we love…suited just for us.  I would trill with delight if I opened this gift.

And for the stocking… 

I love the feel, the smell, and the size of the Moleskine notebooks.  It is very inspirational to write in something of this quality.  Keeping a daily journal is a great way that homeschool moms can unwind and reflect.  

 Free Time Coupons 
This could come in the form of a coupon booklet if you would like something to unwrap.  It’s easy to make them on the computer or just make them with colored pencils and crayons.  12 would be perfect…12 Free Time coupons that I can spend…like say once a month.  It is nice to have time alone sometimes.  

Yes…I said Sharpies.  I love to have those around, but I am always too cheap to buy them for myself.  I want a big set…just love office supplies.

cooking · family · food · motherhood · nutrition · parenting

Our Family Cookbook

The best recipes are the ones your mother made….the ones found on the family tree.  The other day I was perusing a cookbook that my Granny authored, and I was struck by it’s prose and meditations.  It tells a story, as do all good cookbooks.  No fat grams, or calories, or nutrition facts…no, just good food made by hands and seasoned with the heart.

I love a good cookbook, but what I love more is knowing how to cook…I have a long line of matriarchs to thank for that…I think my husband and children join me in thanksgiving.

A good home cook can transform whatever is in the pantry into a feast, even if the ingredients are not the best money can buy. And resourcefulness and creativity are a home cook’s pleasure…what makes cooking fun.  It is amazing what my mom could do with a whole chicken back when she did not have a whole lot of money to spend at the grocery store.  We used to tease her and say that she could make four meals for five with one bird. Funny story, but when I really think about the wonderful meals my mother cooked when we were poor as church mice…well, I just stand in awe.

 I made a pumpkin and buttermilk pie today.  As I cooked these family recipes, I reflected on my Granny…now in a nursing home.  She is a great cook…the best kind.  Below is the cookbook’s dedication in her words,

…to Mama (Bertie Jayroe) for keeping the tradition of family meals and foods alive.  Mother’s farsightedness and commitment created this multigenerational history of family eats.  It contains a personal family tree from which nurturing and incredible resourcefulness is found in the skill of the kitchen and pantry…few women of today manage to create lunches and dinners from scratch every day, including desserts. 

She (Mama) made the best chicken and dumplings.  Her famous (from scratch) blackberry cobbler was the best there ever was.  Daddy liked her cobbler the best of all.  The berries were hand picked by Daddy from his blackberry patch in the orchard.  Mama and Daddy raised there own chickens then.  One was caught, killed, and plucked for the chicken and dumplings.  All this required time, so my parents always rose early.  As her children, we are very fortunate to have smelled, tasted, and eaten so well.  But more so to have the values of a good home so deeply engraved.  Again, thanks Mama.

Happy Thanksgiving everyone…may we offer true thanks for what the earth has given and human hands have made.   
baby · books · cleaning · faith · family · food · · kids · learning · marriage · motherhood · organizing · Orthodoxy · parenting

Christ in Our Midst

Tonight I headed out to the art shed to look for a set of Logic books that I need for a class I am thinking about teaching in the spring.  When I opened the door to this small space I was aghast at it’s condition.  My two oldest daughters use this space the most, and it was amazing to me that such little care is taken with all the very expensive art supplies in their room.  This space is intended to be an artist’s retreat…a renovated plant shed fully furnished with oils, canvases, watercolors, chalks, charcoal, drawing pencils, instruction books, etc.  I left the little wreck of a room quite angry.  Before prayers I had a chat with the girls about caring for our home and respecting the things in it as objects of great value.  Because things do have value…and not just monetary value. They have value in themselves.

In a world that has gone spiritually mad it is often difficult to understand the material world…to value it in such a way that elevates it as holy.  And yes, I believe paint and pencils and books are holy things, along with everything else in the created world.  One of my favorite authors, Madeleine L’Engle, sums it up quite nicely in her wonderful book Walking on Water

 “There is nothing so secular that it cannot be sacred, and that is one of the deepest messages of the Incarnation.” (And if you love the subjects of art and faith this is a must read…a must purchase.)

When I first read that book in my early twenties it was like a butterfly effect in my life…a small change that created an earthquake later down the road.  And since, I have been utterly undone by the knowledge of the Incarnation and its implications.  A simple shift, yet so profound…no longer must the material world be subject to the murderous accusation of being evil, or worse, mundane. No longer must men decide if some thing is good…if some thing is evil.  Everything God created is good!

Christ became man, taking on flesh, showing that man can become by grace what Christ is by nature…we become the body of Christ.  Christ showed us that the material world is good, and real, and valuable.  It’s all very deep, and I do not intend to get in over my head in theology.  But, at the same time I know that this knowledge, however limited and shallow, has changed my life. This knowledge can change one’s entire inner posture and experience.  Because of Christ man has the power to redeem his world….to live the incarnation.  Every good work is essentially an incarnational work.  And what we would deem as bad works, or sin, have no material value because evil cannot create anything.

But, I am a common housewife…busy with so-called mundane tasks…tasks that go unnoticed and undervalued by a world that is high on ideological promises and rhetoric.  A world that believes ideas change the world, not home cooked meals and prayers before bed.  How can this common housewife be anything more than the one saddled with all the unpleasant necessaries…the stuff that has to be done so we can get on with the real business of the world?  Is my work really valuable…the work of my hands?  Is it incarnational…dirty diapers, really?  

And yet, here I am tonight thinking about art supplies and how they are holy and how if my children will value them it will grow in them a heart after God.  And how lately I have been in a modern mood…not really valuing things…and barely tolerating people.  A momentary lapse of heart…that’s what it really is.

After I came in from the art shed I opened the altar cabinet doors, and I decided to take care of something valuable…something I have been neglecting…the liturgical supplies.  Incense has permeated the wood along with the earthy smell of beeswax.  It is a wonderful smell, and it did my heart good to touch the things in the cabinet, holy things.  I looked across my living room and an interesting thought crossed my mind…everything in this room is holy. This is the antidote for my modern mood…for my lack of enthusiasm.  Every thing and every person in this home has value…in and of itself.  And I am the keeper…the keeper at home…the keeper of home.

My work is holy.  And every thing I encounter in my day; the laundry, the crying, the dishes, the food, the neighbor, the phone call…every demand, every interruption, every failure, every trill of laughter is…

Christ in our midst.

Most days these kinds of thoughts do not pass through my mind. Most days I just get up and put my work boots on…one at a time.  But sometimes it is good to remember, especially when life begins to stretch me thin and and I feel like my work is drudgery.  Sometimes we keepers at home can get in a bad way.

Tomorrow I am going to help the girls make things right in the art shed.  I plan on cooking a nice dinner and finishing up the laundry.  I hope to steal away for a bit and finish my Journey to Nativity calendar.  There’s always school that needs doin’, and babies that need rockin’, and dishes that need washin’.  And I am going to read this post again in the morning…and remind myself that all of this…this big life that wears me out…it’s holy…it’s valuable…it’s incarnational.

It’s Christ in our midst.

faith · family · homeschooling · · kids · learning · motherhood · parenting

Happy Children

Happy is he who still loves something he loved in the nursery: He is not broken in two by time; he is not two men, but one, and he has saved not only his soul, but his life.” G.K. Chesterton

family · homeschooling · motherhood · organizing

Getting the Bones Right

Bones. Without them we would be a useless heap on the ground.  We would get nowhere fast.  Our bones are the structure and foundation of a body in motion.

And using that metaphor I would say the same thing about the homeschool lifestyle.  Without bones our days begin to feel like a useless heap of nothing.  We suffer from a lack of healthy structure and because of this we just spin our wheels.  After a while guilt sets in, then irritability, then panic, then burnout.  The only way I have found to avoid burnout and to live a healthy and happy life is to always make sure we are…getting the bones right.  This job is never completed, it is the joyous repetition of a life built one moment at a time…one day at a time.  What is done today has to be repeated tomorrow, and through the habit of good living we find true fulfillment and happiness.  And the homeschool lifestyle makes this process so easy…it is the main reason I have continued to homeschool all these years.  I love the lifestyle it affords.

When I find myself in any of the various burnout stages I listed above, it may take me awhile, but eventually I begin again.  I recommit to bone health, and before I know it things are running smoothly. (As smooth as things can in a household of seven.) As I begin the very fulfilling process of building healthy bones I have a few principles I try to follow.  They are simple, but they are the most important for me as I work because I could very easily succumb to idol fashioning and perfectionism.  And those two things give the appearance of health and happiness, but in reality they produce the exact opposites…anxiety, stress, covetousness, envy, and strife.  It is a real temptation when things on the homeschool front feel completely out of control and chaotic, to go at our lives in a frenzied panic and try the fix everything. This is not what I am speaking of when I say I begin again, and the principles I follow ensure that I keep my true desires, which are health and happiness, as my goal.  They are:

  • Do not try to be someone I am not.
  • Accept the family personality and natural environment of our home.
  • Lower my expectations…less is more. 

These three principles were hard fought…it has taken me years to know and accept.  I still struggle, but at least now I know what my true enemies are, and they do not include schedules, curriculum, or the lack thereof.  As I look at each of these principles I am filled with a wisdom that only personal struggle could produce, and I know I still have so much to learn and work out in my own heart.  However, the principles are full of potential and they bring a sense of freedom into my life that can only be characterized as JOY!

When I accept that I do not have to be scared, when I open my arms to the gladsome lights and let the sun set in my heart, I do not fear the dark..the unknown.  Because the sun rises in the east, and our days are redeemed because of the resurrection…every morning is a new PASCHA!  We live Pascha everyday in our hearts…every day is full of life generating potential.

So how can I refocus and let the principles guide me?  Before I begin any real work it is essential for me to center my heart on the principles…then the work is fun and easy!

Do not try to be someone I am not.  The first word that warrants considering in that sentence is try.  I can try to be someone else, thinking I am the real problem in the home…my tendencies, my weaknesses, my personality, my expectations, my interests, they ALL have to change.  I can try to change the core of who I am, but I will fail.  And this trying will be like beating my head against a brick wall until it is bloody.

Know thyself, accept thyself, better thyself.
A few things I know and accept about myself.
-I work good under deadlines.
-I need time outside of the home on a weekly basis to interact with people.
-I am not a rule person.
-I do not enjoy schedules, but prefer routines.
-I am slow and contemplative in the morning.
-I like to get up before everyone else is awake.

Accept the personality of my family and the natural environment of the home.
The same guiding principle can be applied to the family.  It is fruitless to try and make my family be something we are not, or to fashion the home environment in a way that does not speak to the core of our family style.  When I try it is a bit like herding cats.  However, when I settle in and find the natural rhythm and energy of our family lifestyle everyone in the home flourishes.
A few things I know about my family.
-We like good, wholesome, tasty food.
-We like to relax in the evenings with uninterrupted free time.
-We are social, but value time alone as well.
-We are not black and white rule people.
-We like to watch movies together.
-We love to be spontaneous and explore.
-Our core belief system is found in finding the middle way.  We believe that virtue is in the center of two extremes.
-We like to work together.
-We live at a slower pace…but we are steadfast and consistent.  
-Nobody in this house likes schedules…but thrive on routine.
-We get burned out and irritable if there are no groceries in the house, if the calendar gets too full, or there is too much drama in the house.

Lower my expectations…less is more.  I am not advocating mediocrity.  However, I have come to realize that the plan in my head is a plan on steroids.  In reality the plan for our family, including our homeschool day, needs to be brought down about three or four notches before I try to implement any requirements or routines.  The guiding principle is…less is more.  And this cliche is popular because IT WORKS!  I would rather do small simple things with full attention and heart, than fail at big things because they were just too big!  When I consider the first two principles, my personality…my family’s personality, I know that there are some things that are just TOO BIG for us.

For example:
-A 5 AM wake time…or even 6, maybe 7…8 AM is more doable.
-Scheduled school that lasts past 2 PM.
-Educational activities in the evenings.  We like to relax and do leisure activities.
-A schedule that has time blocked off in thirty minute intervals or even hourly.
-Scheduled activities in the evenings more than one or two nights a week.  Two is pushing it.
-Family read aloud.

You get the idea.  Before I begin any real work, ordering books, making plans, arranging schedules, making commitments I have to remind myself of my three guiding principles.  And I have to hold myself accountable to what I know and accept about real life in this family.  What is interesting about this exercise is that it almost eliminates fear and control.  Instead of living our lives in blocks of time, measuring success by the accomplishments of the hour, our life takes on a more fluid and peaceful feeling of being REAL.  And that feels good.

faith · family · homeschooling · kids · learning · motherhood · Orthodoxy · parenting

Homeschooling: Just keep practicing.

This is the time of year that I reflect on our home school journey… I evaluate, I ponder, and I make decisions.  I think it is better to do this now… at the end of the school year… rather than wait until fall when I will be hopelessly idealistic….right now I am a realist.  The end of a school year makes realists of most homeschool families.  This year we welcomed a new little fella into our lives, and man did I have a time trying to manage all of the schoolwork, housework, and activities with the joys and concerns of an infant. However, we did manage…we made it, and it was a great year! We are very blessed.

Homeschooling is a never-ending learning experience on so many levels.  It really is a lifestyle.  That is why home school articles are so peculiar.  Among articles detailing curriculum, schedules, and methods an inquirer will also find plenty of advice on relationships, homemaking, and spirituality.  And that really is the best home school advice..the kind that gets down to the reality of home life. I have often wanted to express to new homeschooling mothers the importance of getting the bones right, then worry about the books!  I am still working on the bones…it is my daily work.

One hard lesson I have learned this year is that juggling all the balls takes practice.  I keep dropping the balls… fumbling around with awkward hands. That means I have to stop, pick them up again, and keep practicing.

Do you ever feel like you drop the ball?

It is just part of the experience.  It takes humility to keep practicing…I pray for humility.

A friend once told me that four children were manageable by her own strength, but the fifth took God’s strength.  This mom has since graduated from nursing school…while homeschooling and raising five kiddos.  I am learning this lesson as I stubbornly try to manage by my own strength.

How does a mom learn to lean on God’s strength?  Isn’t that just an overused cliche…some pat answer we spout when no meaningful solution presents itself?


However, many times this year I have been at my rope’s end. And in those moments, among the chaotic emotional noise, there is also peace…it’s like a deep well that I must descend.  Go deeper..dig deeper..into the peace of God.  In those moments I have a choice. I can accept my imperfection, stand before God with an honest heart, and pray, “Lord, help me.”  Leaning on God’s strength does not mean that He rescues me from this life..this life I chose.  No, it means that He helps me.  He just helps me.  And this co-op…this cooperation… is what homeschooling is ALL about.

In the spirit of humility we take on the task of Raising Them Right…it is hard work.  It takes strength beyond ourselves.  As I make plans for next year I feel more than ever before that I will need help.  Join me here as I take you through my process…maybe we can inspire one another, pray for one another, and encourage one another to keep practicing.  Check back for a few inspiring topics!

Would the Perfect Mother Please Stand Up?
When to Call in Reinforcements
Is Technology My Friend?
Babies First
Homeschooling Tweens & Teens
Where is Sophie?  How not to forget the middle children.
The Domestic Church  

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family · · kids · learning · motherhood · parenting

Caring for a Sensitive Baby

It is 4 AM.  I know my husband has to get up for work soon, but I cannot help it.  As I crawl back in bed I begin to cry, and I tell him, “I cannot hold that baby anymore tonight.”  He replies, “Do you want me to rock him?”  The tears are coming down hard now.  “It won’t do any good, but you can if you want.”  In his slow and quiet way I feel Slade get up.  I pick up the monitor and listen, a rustle and then the crying stops.  And that is all I heard.  When Slade comes back to bed he warns me, “Don’t expect to sleep long.  He was tense. I am amazed he is asleep.”  I have no idea what time it is as we drift off to sleep, I have no idea how our conversation drifted off as well.  I do remember saying, “My skin hurts.”

This morning Slade said with a big grin on his face, “So, he slept from five until seven.”  I snapped back, “That’s after being awake from three until five.”  I snap back at Slade a lot these days.  Oh how I want to be more patient.  You would think after five kids I would know how to manage my emotions under pressure.  And I am more patient than when I was at twenty-two.  But I am not perfect.

Sleep is by far the hardest struggle when it comes to caring for a sensitive baby. I used to tell people that I could do anything in the day as long as I got good sleep at night.  Well, I am still that girl…that woman….that mom who needs a fair amount of sleep.  It would be easier if I didn’t, but I do.

Know thyself,
Accept thyself,
Better thyself.

Caring for Sam is a difficult job, I have even called him a difficult baby. If you have or have had a difficult baby-you KNOW it! If you have never experienced a difficult baby you may be offended by my label.  Just know this, Sam is not a bad baby.  He is what he is, and we love him the way he is.  He brings more joy to our lives than he does hardship.  In a very real way I am thankful I have a baby like Sam. I have had two very difficult babies out of the five, and I can honestly say the two of them have made me a better mother all around.  My struggles with Sam are not really about making him act a certain way (although I do try) or be something he is not…my struggles are with stamina, and consistency, and most of all patience.

Below is a list of characteristics of my sensitive boy.  Maybe you can identify.  Here is the reason I need stamina, consistency, and patience…always more patience.

  • The crying. Sam cries a lot.  And the cry is not a whimper or normal cry, it is high pitched and LOUD!  (My older girls call it the Nazgul scream.)  

  • The feeding.  Non- nutritional sucking is very important to a sensitive baby.  This can be very draining for mom, and misunderstood by those who think you are creating this situation by nursing too much.  I disagree that nursing frequently makes sensitive infants worse.  It is hard to satisfy a sensitive baby, but I do not think nursing frequently is to blame for highly demanding infants.  Sam also had what I call the on/off syndrome.  While nursing he was on, off, on, off, on, off.  This makes public nursing a challenge.  Bottle feeding is also frequent, and Sam does not eat much in one sitting.

  • The energy.  His fists are almost always clenched.  He bows his back, and his muscles feel tense like he is on go most of the time. It is difficult to hold him because of this.  Sometimes Sam will be jumping up and down in my lap, bowing his back into a back bend, diving for the floor, and hitting me with his fists, and I think He wants down.  So, I set him on the floor or in his jumper and he screams uncontrollably. So I pick him back up, and we start the process over again.  This goes on for most of his waking hours.  Most of the time I just go through the up and down routine with the hope that he will set alone for a few minutes.  Sometimes he does, but most often he does not.  By the end of the day my skin feels like someone has rubbed me down with coarse sand paper, and my muscles are sore.

  • The sleep.  It seems that for sensitive babies sleep is the most difficult.  Sam does not have the ability to calm himself or comfort himself.  He is very sensitive to noise and light as well.  When he wakes at night he can be almost inconsolable.  Nap times are hit and miss, sometimes he rests well (1-2 hours) and other times he may only sleep 30 minutes at a time.  Elinor, my other sensitive child, did not sleep through the night consistently until she was two years old.

  • The aggression.  Sam loves to growl, babble loudly, laugh loudly, scream and squeal, jump, hit, bang, scratch, pull, crawl everywhere, tear paper, dive, be tossed in the air, rock, on and on he goes.  On the flip side this makes for some fun times.  He also loves people, and can connect easily with others.  But after holding Sam for a while you might feel as if you have just gone 12 rounds with Mike Tyson.  It’s intense.

  • The routine.  My first three babies loved their routine, and thrived on it.  Sam is different.  He eats, poops, sleeps, and plays at different times.  This is hard to manage, but a blessing as well.  He is somewhat adaptable to our schedule, but he gets over stimulated easily with all the activity in and out of the house.  When I first experienced a baby that I could not put on a schedule I thought it was my fault….that I was unorganized and undisciplined.  I have come to realize that I am a responder mother, and the lack of scheduling with Sam is in response to him.  
I saw a blurb on the internet that read Cultures Where Babies Seldom Cry.  I was curious, and I clicked. And I admit I shouldn’t have…it did not help things at all. After reading the article I felt frustrated to no end.  I am NOT African, or whatever other culture where the mothers do everything right.  I am an American…does that make me a bad mother?  They say we are too self identified, and we don’t breastfeed right, or hold our babies right, or (and this one hurts the most) we do not connect deeply with our babies. I admit that I have questioned myself in all of these this the reason Sam is so difficult?  I have even asked my husband if he thinks I am causing this.  In the end I know in my heart that even if it is somewhat true, that Sam is only acting out my bad mothering, well it’s all I got.  I am doing my best.  And each day I get up, and I love him another day. I give myself to him, all my children, my family…my whole self.
Down deep I know that Sam is a healthy and happy baby, full of life and energy and zest. I have done nothing wrong.  I just need to keep plugging away, and hopefully not get lost in my exhaustion.  I want to be in the moment…not wishing the moments away.
As an older mother I live with this knowledge…and I tell myself…Mandy, you are going to miss this.  You’re gonna want this back.  You’re gonna wish these days hadn’t gone by so fast.
These are some good times.  

Notwithstanding she shall be saved in childbearing, if they continue in faith and charity and holiness with sobriety.                                          1 Timothy 2:15