Am I Giving Myself Grace or Making an Excuse?

With my previous post, I discussed my Lenten journey. One thing I’m focusing on is being more diligent in disciplining my children. I’ve decided to:

  • Discipline them the first time when they do something they should know better
  • Only allow them 2 hours of T.V.
  • Having them cleanup before starting a new activity
  • Having them make their bed every day

Because I am focusing on this, this means my productivity level has gone down. Is it worthwhile? Of course. Is it frustrating?

Let’s just say God is teaching me about acceptance, again.

As I’ve said before, I wish I could get the same amount done everyday. Kind of like a robot. And do my routines perfectly and consistently like all the productivity gurus tell you to. But, oh yeah! I’m not God. I’m not perfect. Indeed, I am only a child of God. I need to give myself grace.

I am only a child of God.

How hard this is for me to accept! I want to always feel that sense of accomplishment that comes with doing everything on my list. But is that Gods will? No, I don’t think so. I think He wants me to do what’s important. He wants me to say yes to His will, not my own. I need growth in this way so much! I get so impatient and frustrated when things don’t go my way. But I’m human! I run out of steam, and more often than I’d like, I go to bed with my makeup still on , and my bedtime routine undone. God’s method of growth is not linear as I wish it was and how I expect it to be. It’s a roller coaster ride. But it’s better than my methods. Better than being a slave to my routine. I’d rather be a servant to God.

So, what to do with these feelings of failure and frustration? Offer them up to the Lord. Humbly accept again, that I am but a child. I have come a long way, by the grace of God, but He’s not done with me yet. If i could operate at 100% every single day, then I wouldn’t need God. God wants what’s best for me. Maybe that’s why these kinda days happen. So I remember I need Him. That I need to turn back to Him in prayer instead of relying on my own strength. Should I wallow in anguish? Nah, I have to accept my feelings and do the next right thing. Which is to pray and try again. And again. And again.

A Daily Reflection

Sometimes you need to give yourself grace when you are not as productive as you’d like to be because things happen that are out of your control. But you also need to be honest about what you can improve on. Here are some questions to ask yourself that will direct you to the next steps:

  • How are my boundaries with others?
  • Am I getting enough sleep?
  • How is my diet?
  • Am I exercising?
  • Did something unexpected happen?
  • Did I have the help I usually have?
  • Did I overestimate or underestimate how long something might take?
  • Did I allow outward distractions (youtube, social media, T.V. etc) or mental distractions (hesitation, perfectionism) zap my time?
  • Have I been following my self-care program?
  • Do I keep a schedule to the best of my ability?
  • Have I been prioritizing?

The answers to these questions will lead you to your next steps. Maybe you are doing everything right and it was just out of your control. At least now you can rest assured. But maybe you are letting distractions get the best of you, or you aren’t sleeping enough. Both of those things can have a huge effect on your productivity level.

Also, I love this print from Ruth Soukup:

Grace vs. Excuses Art Print {Digital Download}

So, what are you working on in your life? Are you giving yourself grace, or making excuses? Let me know in the comments. There’s power in bringing things into the light!


My Lenten Focus

I read something on a blog recently that struck a chord. A woman with young children was talking with a friend about her list of things to do for Lent and her friend interrupted her and said “You live Lent.” Ha! This made me realize that I can be overzealous when it comes to all the ways I want to grow spiritually and that maybe JUST MAYBE I should be a little more realistic and gracious with myself. So for Lent, I’ve decided what I need most is to live my vocation joyfully, peacefully, and diligently.

Fasting from Irritation and Anxiety, Feasting on Patience and Diligence

I really struggle with remaining patient with my kids. I also get angry when they interrupt my work. But, hello! They are more important. But with that said, this focus on my vocation as lead me to see the ways I need to take disciplining them up a notch. Having all young kids is always going to be hard, but I can do my part do make it easier and one thing is to be on top of disciplining them. Honestly I can be lazy in this realm. It is really a struggle for me. I often put up with bad behavior because it isn’t THAT BAD. Does anyone else feel me here? There’s certain behaviors I never put up with, but the little things get me because I’m busy, I don’t want to stop what I’m doing, I don’t want to get up again. But wait a second…if I love my kids, then I have to do this anyway regardless of how I feel. I just want to keep it real here so if any of you struggle in this way, you will know you are not alone and that there is hope.

What I’ve Been Doing About It

I have been practicing disciplining the first time with things my kids should already know better. If I have taught them not to leave the table without asking, then if they engage in this behavior, it’s uh-oh, corner time. Beforehand, I would have warned them if they did it again, they would get time-out. But all I was doing was teaching them that it is okay to do it once. And I have to tell you, after only a few days, it’s already bearing good fruit.

Fasting from Anxiety, Feasting on Peace

As far as anxiety goes, I am trying to be mindful of when I am having racing thoughts, and choosing thoughts that help me move forward. I tend to over-analyze which paralyzes me from taking action. For example, I do the same routine every morning, but each morning my mind wants to come up with a better way of doing it. Sounds good, right? Wrong! Because it only distracts me from what I need to do and makes me feel anxious that I will do something wrong. I am also practicing giving up my anxieties to God, to hand over the worries I have that I can’t do anything about.This is helping me have more peace.

A Great Resource

In case you were wondering, many of my discipline ideas come from this book. I highly recommend it.

On a Different Note

I am also trying to ask God each day “what would you have me do?” and I am listening to iCatholic radio in the morning to enrich my faith. I especially enjoy Dr. Ray Guarendi’s show. How about you? What are you doing for Lent?

Wildflowers, Wild Turkeys, and Barn Owls. Oh My! (A.K.A. What I’ve Been Up To Lately)

You may or may not have seen my Facebook update. We moved! We bought our first house out here in La Grange, California. I keep saying “Home, home on La Grange”. Also this theme song keeps coming to mind…

Needless to say, we’ve been super busy the last month and a half, packing, unpacking, decorating and setting up our home. I actually had a very hard time the first couple of weeks and I had to go to the doctor because my anxiety was getting out of control. Luckily my mom and dad came to stay with us for a week and that was such a blessing. For those of you who have similar struggles with anxiety, I want to share with you what my dad told me which really empowered me. I was worried that if I tried to do my normal duties I would get worse. But he told me that the fight to normal is a battle. That I couldn’t crawl into a shell. That I had to do the things I normally do. From that moment I started to feel a lot better. I found comfort in the normal.

What I’ve Been Doing in the Kitchen

I found an awesome book at the library about prepping breakfasts and lunches and I’m thinking of buying it. I hate making lunch and I never know what to make. Up until now I only plan dinner and breakfast and lunch always end up being whatever we have on hand. But this book is inspiring me to take it up a notch.

I’ve made baked oatmeal, cauliflower fried race, muffins, cajun ranch chicken salad, salmon with berries and raspberry vinaigrette, and rhubarb crisp. I have also rediscovered my Dr. Weil cookbook and I made a vegetarian shepherd’s pie. We celebrated my mother in law’s birthday , and one of our friend’s daughters birthdays so I made a bundt cake for each occasion. Note to self: don’t add too much milk to the glaze! (Otherwise it will drip everywhere including your dress. Oops!) I also made some pierogis…so delicious! Maggieothevalley inspired me.

Cauliflower fried rice.
Birthday cake with a glaze that dripped everywhere. But it still tasted good!

Mise en place for the vegetarian shepherd’s pie.

Lots of veggies.
Lining the dish with zucchini.
Filling for the shepherd’s pie.
Onion and potato pierogi.

Homemaking Progress

I have been enjoying setting spaces and hanging up artwork in our home. Take a look!

Kid’s playroom.
Living room
Corner in the kitchen
Playroom decor
Dining room. This display is my favorite.
Closeup of this cute greeting cards that I decided to hang up.
Got a piece of mudroom furniture

New Adventures

We have been enjoying exploring the area near our house. We often see wild turkeys and occasionally deer done the road. There are many wildflowers in bloom now, especially by the river, where we picked some. Besides La Grange, we have been exploring Coulterville, Waterford, and Sonora. And I felt like I was initiated into this country lifestyle when an owl met it’s end on my windshield, poor thing. I also had a Mother’s Sabbath where I enjoyed coffee with Maggieothevalley and shopped in downtown Turlock.

Sonora’s amazing library. It’s like Barnes and Noble!
Story time circle at the Sonora library.
Beautiful mural in the Sonora library.
The kids got haircuts!
From Ash Wednesday!
At an awesome park in Waterford.
Beans coffee in Waterford…love how they have a few toys and puzzles for kids. A real lifesaver!
Someone found mommy’s lipstick…! Ha ha
Tire swing at the park here in La Grange.
Wildflowers found near the river.
Cute stuff found on my day off
Window shopping downtown Turlock
Love this
Beautiful lavender latte from Cafe La Mo.

So yeah I’ve been busy…

Even though it’s been especially stressful the last two months with moving, and the kids being sick twice, and just trying to adjust to living further away, there is still much beauty to be found and writing a post like this helps me to see that. Praise God!

Get Up and Do Something (Even if You Feel Inadequate)

Do you ever feel that you are failing? That you aren’t enough? I know I do, and I get these kinds of thoughts often as a person who suffers from anxiety. But I don’t think living in fear is God’s plan for me or anyone else. Remember the man by the pool?

John 5:8 Then Jesus told him, “Get up! Pick up your mat and walk.”

Let’s reflect on this for a moment. Jesus was talking to the man by the pool, who would see all the other people getting water in the pool, and he was paralyzed by his thoughts and beliefs about who he was. Jesus saw him wallowing in his pity and told him to get up!

We all have lies we believe about ourselves that come from the devil himself. They may sound like:

  • I’m not pretty enough
  • I’m not naturally (insert virtue here)
  • I’m not good enough
  • I’m not enough
  • I’m not capable
  • I don’t have anything to give
  • I don’t have time
  • I’m too fat
  • I’m too thin
  • My kids aren’t well behaved enough
  • I’m not doing enough for my kids
  • I should work outside the home
  • I should be a stay-at-home mom
  • I should certain life milestones done by now
  • Too many people are already doing it
  • No one is interested in this
  • I’m not pretty enough
  • I need to wait until (…)
  • I don’t have the right tools yet.

Some of us need to hear this message, some of us don’t. Some of us are Marthas, some of us are Marys. And at different times we need different things. But I think we can both agree that if you have been venting about the same thing for years and years, and you can change it, but you are afraid, it’s time to “get up”! We need not be capable, only willing, Remember Mary’s fiat?

Image result for mary's fiat

I certainly have all of these limiting thoughts going through my head from time to time, especially when I’M TIRED. I put off creating this blog for some time because I was waiting for the perfect circumstances to arrive. I was believing the lie of “you can’t blog until you have 2 + hours a day of completely uninterrupted time and have a regular baby sitter in place”. I was comparing myself to other moms online who had regular childcare, and while that would be great, it isn’t possible in my current circumstance. Thankfully, I found a mom who inspired me to write when my kids were asleep, and another mom who would just write for 15 minutes at a time. From these two women’s separate circumstances, I was able to tailor my writing to a schedule that works for my life. It doesn’t matter that my life doesn’t look like someone else’s.

You see what I want to tell you is you can do it. You can get up. You can change your life. You can’t change everything but the good Lord has given you many gifts and talents, and please don’t bury them in the ground. And when you don’t use them, you must know that you are not only short-changing yourself, but also those closest to you. For example, Jennifer Fulwiler said that she dedicated her first book to her grandfather, who died shortly thereafter. Had she not got up, and got writing, she would have denied her grandfather that beautiful gift.

So specifically, what can you do?

Before you give up completely that you can ever be happy with you life, try to get the basics in, then see how you feel. Then you can REALLY determine if certain things are unchangeable. Do things like:

  • Pray
  • Go to confession
  • Seek spiritual direction
  • Read spiritual books
  • Read the Bible
  • Watch spiritual videos
  • Sleep
  • Eat properly and regularly
  • Attend to any anger issues you may have
  • See a friend regularly for coffee, set a recurring date
  • Take time for your personal interests even if it’s 10-15 minutes
  • Practice gratitude

These things will all help you get in touch with who God created you to be, and see your life in a different way. You will gain the clarity you need to start changing what needs changing. You will realize you might have everything you need to do what you need to do, you just need to do it. So get up, please. Stop saying I can’t, and say with God, I can.

So get up, please. Stop saying I can’t, and say with God, I can.

I think we can all be such perfectionists about the call to use our time, talents, and treasure to build up the kingdom of God. We get an all or nothing mentality. So, we do nothing. We waste away staring our phones,the TV, or computer.

I just had a revelation though.

What if we just did SOMETHING. It doesn’t have to be perfect, and you don’t have to discover what exact talent you should be using, just do something. And keep doing somethings. And do as many somethings as you can. Maybe you will discover your blue flame, maybe you won’t, or maybe your blue flame is a bunch of little somethings. Like Saint Therese. But please, do something!


How to Konmari Kid Stuff

So, have you guys started watching Marie Kondo’s new show on Netlix? Well, I have. I may or may not have already watched the entire thing…so, what?

once upon a time shrug GIF

Before we begin

First of all, if this is your first time konmari-ing, you may have thoughts during the process like:

  • How did I ever let my home get like this?
  • Why did I waste all of this money?
  • I can’t get rid of these things, because I spent good money on them.
  • But so-and-so got me this thing, they would be upset if I got rid of it.
Sound familiar? It’s okay. Take a deep breath and proceed anyway.

There is hope

Also, I want you to know my house is quite tidy. It gets messy all the time, but things have a home and it’s easy to reset. But I wasn’t born that way! Oh no, just ask my sister, whom I shared a room with for 18 years.

Left, my sister and I am right next to her. This was my birthday party with some friends circa 1998. Good times!

I have always been a hoarder and a creative-type who loved posters and drawings all over my wall growing up, and the top drawer of my dresser was full of who knows what and it barely closed. I never got rid of a single stuffed animal. But,I was always interested in organizing, I just didn’t know that you had to de-clutter first. I am learning and practicing on a regular basis, and you can too.

I am learning and practicing on a regular basis, and you can too.

A few pictures of my previous konmari adventures.

Now for the kid stuff…

Here are some tips and tricks to help you navigate going through all the kid stuff! Also, one great thing about the konmari method is you will find you probably have all the space and storage products you need, because you will end up having so much less stuff. Let’s go!

  1. Do it as a family on a weekend day you are all home.
  2. Have someone to hold you accountable (I am weird with toys)
  3. Remove the toys you know are their favorites.
  4. Don’t ask your kids what they want to keep, because they will say everything , instead find two items that are similar and ask them to pick between them. Ask, “which one do you want more?” This truly worked so well with my kids, ages 2 &3. I thought there would be resistance on their part, but when I approached it this way, it all worked out.
  5. Explain you are sharing your things with others who may need it.
  6. Immediately put it in the car. Otherwise the clutter will re-enter circulation.
  7. Do kids clothes on your own.
  8. Store seasonal items elsewhere (contrary to konmari advice )
  9. If you are saving the clothes your kids grew out of, in the hopes you will use them for future children, think about going giving some away to someone in need, who could be using them now.
  10. Try to store toys in their closet, or some other closet in smaller containers, by type and only get a few out at a time. You will see you actually can walk across the room again safely, and it will make cleanup much simpler and playtime more fun.

Instead, find two items that are similar and ask, “which one do you want more?”

Take a look at that pile! And this is when I only had one baby!
The containers you see here are from Dollar Tree.
This is a hamper that I already had the was no longer being used.

So tell me, do you have any tips and tricks for de-cluttering your children’s items?

Overcome Resentment Toward Your Husband

Ever since I read, “The Surrendered Wife“, I’ve been very in tune to what I see around me. And you know what I see? So many of us women resent our husbands, and ACCEPT that that’s the way things are (especially after children). And you know what? I get it! Because I am human too. But I also have hope that it isn’t the way things have to be.


Disclaimer: This post is intended for women in relationships that have the everyday kind of frustrations. It is NOT intended for women in relationships with someone who is abusive, struggling with an active addiction, mental illness, or some other severe problem. Obviously, learning some new relationship skills would not be enough to improve the relationship and outside help would be necessary.

But first, a story and a video

Picture this, my husband gets from work, I’m busy making dinner. We get dinner on the table and I see the kids need to wash their hands, so I take it upon myself to get them to do it even though I am DONE. But, I think of my husband and how tired he must be so I do it. And I keep going.

And going.

And going.

After dinner the kids need a bath, and they need to brush their teeth, and read a story…and meanwhile my husband is relaxing, looking at his phone and I feel angry towards him even though I am trying to be a “good wife”.

Sound familiar?

I think many of us women worry so much about what other people are feeling and thinking, when we should first and foremost be tuned in to our own feelings. It is not selfish, it is practical so we can keep on loving at our best. We can only run on empty for so long before we blow up. It’s wonderful if your husband just knows to take over with the kids automatically, but if he doesn’t don’t let that be your excuse to keep things the way they are. You can’t hold your husband accountable for your emotional state. You are the master of your own happiness. When you do everything, you send the message to your husband that you don’t need his help, and he listens.

“You can’t hold your husband accountable for your emotional state. You are the master of your own happiness.”

The ways she behaves in this video I can so relate to. When she tells her kids to clean up their toys, then to go play with them, and then to clean them up again. And oh man, when her husband asked her for a glass of iced tea. Ha! It’s a long video, but even if you just listen to it while you are working on something else, it is worth it.

After surrendering

Imagine this scenario, your husband gets home from work and you had a long hard day. You warmly greet him and tell him that you are going to take a break in the bedroom. You come out refreshed, you have dinner, and when your kids ask things at the dinner table you defer them to your husband, so you can just STOP TALKING. I know it’s hard, because it means you will have to trust your husband’s leadership. There is a time and place to disagree, but if it’s over how many bites of broccoli and chicken Timmy has to eat before he leaves the table, I think you can let your husband take this one and it won’t jeopardize all the “enlightened parenting” you have done.

After dinner, you go take a shower and wash your face. You come out to find the dishes are done. You decide you are not up to giving the kids a bath, so you say “I can’t”, and retreat to your bedroom. Your husband does the whole bedtime routine, without you nagging him, and only calls on you to come kiss them goodnight. You are delighted and you receive his help graciously. Your husband strengthens his bond with the children, feels respected, and gets to have the honor of pleasing you.

“You are delighted and you receive his help graciously. “

So, are you a resentful wife or a surrendered wife?

Have you ever found yourself:

  • Irritated towards your husband and you don’t know why
  • Less attracted to your husband
  • Annoyed about all the little things, like forgetting to put his socks in the hamper
  • Frustrated at his lack of ambition
  • Lonely because he’d rather watch T.V. or stare at his phone than be with you
  • Angry with his lack of support with the kids
  • Wishing he’d help out more around the house
  • Feeling like you have to keep going and going like the energizer bunny because your husband won’t do it.
  • You don’t extend any grace when he is sick or tired. It’s as if you think he “has no right”

Practical ways to transition from resentment to intimacy

Here are some practical ideas for you to regain intimacy with your husband. I turn to them again and again

  • Acceptance. Accept reality. Accept that your husband may never put his underwear in the hamper consistently, even though he knows it bothers you. We are all human, and have bad habits and we can all be careless at times. I know I can be!
  • When you flip out about something small your husband is doing that normally wouldn’t bother you, this is usually a red herring that you need some self care. Go take a nap, a shower, call a friend. If whatever it is is still bothering you after that, then address it when you are in the right state of mind.
  • I don’t know exactly who this quote is from, I think it is Saint Paul, but let  “Seek to outdo one another in generosity” be your mantra. If you have this mindset you won’t be so worried about what your husband is or is not doing, anyway. Also, check this out.
  • Keep your eyes on your page. No peaking at his page! Reflect on your own shortcomings and try to improve. Reflect on your husbands strengths more than you ruminate on his weaknesses. Accentuate the positive.
  • Practice gratitude. Keep a gratitude journal. Thank your husband for all the little things he does.
  • Say “I can’t”when you are too tired or overwhelmed to do something. Practice vulnerability.
  • Practice personal responsibility – he’s not responsible for your happiness, you are.

For more ideas, I highly recommend reading either The Surrendered Wife, or the Empowered Wife. Both are written by the same author. I prefer the Surrendered Wife because it has more specific scenarios. The Empowered Wife is like the updated version.

Even though you may nag your husband at times, become resentful, or disrespectful, you CAN make progress toward being the kind of wife you want to be. Even though your husband may be more distant than he used to be, you CAN restore the intimacy you once shared. Thank God, there’s hope!

Currently Enjoying January 2019 and Where I Have Been

If you haven’t noticed, I haven’t posted in awhile. That’s because we have all had terrible colds and, Christmas. My husband was on Christmas vacation , which was such a blessing, but it also meant we weren’t on our usual routine. December was all about Christmas preparations and doctors visits. I think we went to the doctor 5 times and to the emergency room once (!). My poor son hurt his ear.

Aside from telling you where I have been, I just wanted to share some things I have been enjoying lately.

Guide to Catholic Home Education

My new homeschooling friend let me borrow this book. I’m loving it so far! It is answering all of the questions I have about homeschooling.

How To Manage Your Home Without Losing Your Mind

This book is brilliant. For anyone who struggles with home management but loves projects that have a clear start and finish (artists are usually this way), this book is for you. Even though I have made much progress in the area of home management, it helped me understand why my brain works the way it does and why cleaning and organizing have been such a struggle. Also, check out her blog!

Having a Laundry Day

I now have a laundry day instead of doing some laundry every day as I posted here. I got the idea from the book I just mentioned above, and I decided to try it out as an experiment. I must say I love the sense of completion that doing all the laundry in one day has, and I love not having to think about it the rest of the days. I feel as though I have more time and I don’t have piles of clothes that need to be put away.

Image result for laundry day


The Dad Project
Image result for dad project podcAST

I’ve really been enjoying this podcast – I found it from Kendra Tierney, the blogger of Catholic All Year. Her husband is one the “”podcasters”. I really like what her husband has to say about creating a family culture and avoiding the craziness in the teenage years by starting the way you want to finish. They start discipline with their children as early as when the baby can crawl – wow!

Ben Shapiro Interview with Bishop Baron

With these two brilliant guys together, you know it’s got to be good.

How To Blog For Profit Without Losing Your Soul

This book was recommended by a blogger I found online who didn’t want to pay the high price for “The Elite Blogging Academy”. Apparently it has all the same information! It’s on my wish list.

Sourdough Roast Beef Sandwich

Quick recipe for a great sandwich. Sourdough, horse radish spread, roast beef, smoked Gouda, spinach, tomato, red onion. You’re welcome.

Some other interesting finds:

Very compelling conversion story.

Saint Names Generator– Jennifer Fulwiler created this cool site that helps you find your saint of the year.

Taylor Marshall Goals- I loved this post and especially the podcast he did about goals. He makes a good point that you should set goals in areas you need to work on, while maintaining where you are doing well.

Our New Nativity Set

You can find it on amazon! Just click the image.

False Eye Lashes

I got some false eye lashes at Grocery Outlet of all places and I have been having fun with them. This isn’t the exact brand I got but I like these and they are a good price. I recommend trimming the inner corners for a more natural look.

Netflix Shows
Image result for series of unfortunate events season 3

I greatly enjoy mystery and fantasy and just great stories and this show fits the bill.
I’m a huge fan of the Konmari method so you can bet it didn’t take me long to watch the first season of this show. It inspired me to “konmari” my kid’s toys which is difficult for me; I got rid of 3 bags!
Layering
I have been enjoying layering sweaters and dresses over my chambray shirt, as well as over my black turtleneck. It gives my outfits a quirky vibe while at the same time adding warmth.

What about you? What have you been enjoying lately? I’d love to know in the comments below!



Advent: Why We Took Our Christmas Decorations Down

My family and I are starting some new advent traditions this year. As you may know, we are a Catholic family, and traditionally Catholics actually don’t start the Christmas season until Christmas, unlike the rest of the United States who start celebrating right after Thanksgiving. I grew up celebrating like the rest of our culture in the U.S., but recently a friend brought up this book to me:

Why change?

I have already been thinking of doing the season of Advent differently, partly because of being inspired by Kendra Tierney and other Catholic bloggers. So, even though my husband and I already spent a few hours decorating for Christmas the day before Thanksgiving, we decided to take it all down and focus on Advent.

Wait, what?

Yes, yes we did. And yes, maybe we are a little bit crazy. But that’s okay. Crazy and I go way back.

Fortunately, we don’t have a TON of Christmas decorations, so when we bring them back out on Christmas Eve it won’t be too difficult. But I’m telling you, I can’t wait to see the look of joy on my children’s faces.

For the home

I also plan to buy a kid-friendly nativity scene, like this one:

A friend gave me the idea of having Mary and Joseph travel around the house, on their way to Bethlehem, and then on Christmas Eve they will have made it to the manger and baby Jesus will be born. We made an Advent wreath using a Dollar Tree wreath frame and Dollar Tree greenery. One of my dearest friends bought me some Advent candles. We will be saying an Advent prayer at least once a week as we light the candles.

For the heart

My husband and I plan to go to confession during this time. We also are using this time to reflect on our vocations as spouses and parents and getting very honest with ourselves.

Unexpected Blessing

I’ve been wanting to live more liturgically in our home, and this one change we made with waiting to celebrate Christmas has had a trans-formative effect. This past week when I meal planned I check the calendar and I noticed two feast days – Saint Francis Xavier and Feast of the Immaculate Conception, so I decided to celebrate! I planned for us to have takeout for Saint Francis Xavier’s feast day and for the Feast of the Immaculate Conception, we are going to have Fettuccine Alfredo since it is white, which represents purity.

Christmastide

On Christmas Eve we will go through our local Christmas tree lane and then put out all of the presents and Christmas decorations while our children are asleep. We will talk about the birth of Jesus and read some Christmas stories. We will attend mass either Christmas Eve or Christmas morning. We will keep our decorations up for the next 12 days (or more). We will turn up the Christmas music and sing Christmas carols. We will have a feast with family and friends. The twelve days of Christmas we will have special treats, and watch our favorite movies (Prancer, It’s A Wonderful Life). Maybe we will even have a little Twelth Night Party.

So basically, we are going to do the things we always do, cook, bake, and read stories but tailor it to whatever part of Advent we are celebrating. We won’t be declining invitations to Christmas parties during Advent or anything like that. We will just control what we do in our home.

You May Also Be Interested In:

Advent: How We Try to Celebrate Things in Their Proper Season Without Feeling Like Total Jerks

Radical Hospitality

8 Ways to Be an Everyday Saint

What are some special traditions you have during Advent? Please let me know in the comments below!

Balance In The Chaos of Family Life: Is It Even Possible?

chaos family balance

The Search for Balance

Family life is so chaotic, especially this time of year, but we are committed to learning how to balance “it all”.

My husband is a dad, Special Ed teacher, Grad student, singer, and runner.  I am a mom, blogger, artist, and walker. I also occasionally meet friends for coffee…by myself.  My husband and I go on dates from time to time, and sometimes have someone over for dinner. Our home is constantly one mess after another but it is simple to reset (due to organizing systems I have set in place) even though we have two kids and a dog.

In other words, we are busy. And though we don’t have it all figured out, I wanted to share some things we have found that help us achieve some kind of balance.

How We Do It

First of all, we embrace a “a progress not perfection” mindset. For example, if it’s 8 pm and it’s time for me to blog and the dishes weren’t done yet, oh well. That was all I could do today. I truly work on not beating myself up about it. Honestly, it’s a great lesson in humility.

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I Put the Big Rocks in First

Here’s a story I heard at mass about how we should use our time, talents, and treasure. I learned you have to put the big rocks in more. What I mean by this is, we prioritize.  When I think about my next course of action, I try to think in terms of reality and not what my schedule says, (this is so hard for me) and do the next right thing based on my circumstances. So many things in life are important, but they are not urgent every single day. This quote helps me to  have peace when I didn’t accomplish as much as I set out to:

“Let God tend to the hopeless-looking things…You can’t get everything done in a day, nor can you get any part of it done as well as you’d like it; so, like the rest of us, you putter at your job with a normal amount of energy, for a reasonable amount of time, and go to bed with the humiliating yet exhilarating knowledge that you are only a child of God and not God.” – Fr. Walter Farrell, O.P.

 

I Check My Emotional State

If little things are starting to bother me that my husband, children, or even dog do, it’s probably a red herring for the real problem: I’m in need of self-care. It could mean I need to eat something, take a nap, drink some water, call a friend, do some exercise, or do something creative. Usually, if I stop and think about what I need, and take action, I feel much more in balance. In fact, that’s the best way to know you have balance – check how you are feeling.

I Keep a Schedule

I have a Mother’s Rule, my daily schedule which I update on a regular basis. I view it as a guideline of which to live out my goals for my faith, myself, my husband, my children, and my work. I block out my time and leave plenty of margin for activities like meal times or bed times. I want you to know that I normally don’t complete every single thing on my schedule. I fail every single day. But that only makes me rely on God more. I am only human, after all. And life happens. And sometimes I get distracted.

I Reflect

I try to reflect on how I am doing in my vocation on a regular basis. Besides going to confession and doing an examination of conscience, I also think in practical ways how I could have been more productive or attentive on any given day and apply that to the next day.

 

I’m Learning to Surrender to My Husband

This might be one of the most important things that keeps everything in balance. I have to stop myself from trying to be super-woman and doing everything and controlling everything. I have to say “I can’t” and let my husband see my vulnerability and receive his help and gifts graciously. This is very hard for me, but this book has been life-giving for our marriage and family.

We Believe Our Marriage Comes First

If my children interrupt me, or my husband, when we are talking, we try to teach them to wait and say “excuse me”. We want them to know how to respect us and the bond we share. I set aside time each day to be available for my husband. Am I perfect about it? No, but as with any goal I have, I am more likely to get closer to it when I put it on my schedule. I try to write my husband a love letter every Sunday and we go on a date night at least once a month, we are blessed to have in-laws who are willing to do that for us.

We Use Technology to Help us Reach Our Goals

Sometimes my kids watch more T.V. than I prefer, but it is for the sake of my sanity. The rest of the time I do my best to involve them in chores and other activities. It’s all a matter of balance. I have an app on my phone that reminds me of certain habits I am working on. It helps me stay accountable to my goals and not forget to keep in touch with friends and family.

We Prioritize Every Family Member’s Health, Not Just Our Children’s

My husband and I have set up our home life in such a way that each of us can have some dedicated, uninterrupted time on a regular basis. This is for our mental and emotional health. For our physical health, I usually take walks with my kids or dance around with them. I try to keep track of what I eat on myfitnesspal. I don’t skip meals unless intentionally (i.e. intermittent fasting). I consider it my duty and responsibility to stay sound in mind and body for the sake of serving them. My husband goes on a run during his work day. I meal plan and do Walmart grocery pickup.  We take care of our spiritual health by praying, attending mass, and making it to confession as often as we can. We sleep trained our children so we would all be able to have adequate sleep. I take a quiet time each afternoon alongside my children. All of these things together help us manage the stress of such a busy life.

We Are Always Growing

My husband and I don’t stay stuck in a rut. While I am definitely the self-help junkie of the two of us, he is definitely committed to growing as a person. I’m always reading books, working towards goals, tweaking my routine.

I Protect My Peace

I say “no” based on the commitments I have in my schedule. I know what those commitments are because I have a schedule. I have already discerned that I cannot forgo quiet time without bankrupting myself emotionally. I say “I can’t”. (For example, I can’t do the dishes when I have a headache.) I let myself take breaks. After dinner, I go directly to the bathroom and take a shower. That way I get one before I am too tired to do it. I don’t ask my husband to watch the kids. I just say “I’m going to take a shower”. He’s smart. He realizes that means he will be watching them. And guess what? Everything is okay without me.

We Nurture Friendships

Recently, both my husband and I have set up a recurring meetings with one of our closest friends, he sees his friend on Wednesdays after we put the kids to bed, and I see my friend on Thursdays. We are also slowly becoming more hospitable and opening our home more often to friends and family for visits. I make a habit of reaching out to my friends, just to say hi and see how they are, even if it isn’t reciprocated 100% equally. The way I see it, if I miss them it’s my responsibility to say hi and not wait around for them to do so. I also accept that if I want to have a vibrant social calendar, I need to be prepared to be the one doing the inviting 99 % of the time, it’s just reality. We are all so busy and it is so hard to be intentional. I can’t make people invite me, but I can invite them! It’s not so much about what you get from social interactions as it is what you give.

We Do “Special Time”

We try to spend one-on-one time with each of our kids. It could be simple like just reading a book together, or going on an ice cream date. The idea is that each of our children gets some individualized attention so they know how special and precious they are. Do we do this everyday? No, but since it’s on our radar it happens more often than if it wasn’t a goal to begin with.

Even though we are busy, we feel as though we do have a sense of balance

So as you see, the way we make all of things work is both being blessed but also through being intentional. You can have it all, but you have to let go of perfectionism and you have to understand that all the things you want to have in your life may not happen every single day, but over time. You have to accept that most of the time, you will be off track and life will be a roller coaster ride with ups and downs, but when you have your goals set, you will still be going the right direction, and you will still be making progress.

On Being a Stay-At-Home Mom: Is It Worth It?

mom and son in sun

Recently, a friend of mine asked me:

“Do you like being a stay-at-home mom?”

What a poignant question, and I thought later on…that would make a great blog post!

I love being  stay-at-home mom, but it does come with it’s challenges. I am committed to thrive, however, despite the challenges!

Disclaimer: In this post when I say “stay-at-mom” I am referring to women who do not go to a job outside the home. All moms work, paycheck or not.

Inadequacy, Superiority , and Holiness

But let me get this out of the way. If you have feelings of inadequacy because you aren’t a stay-at-home mom or because you are, that ain’t nothin’ but the devil (as Kalen Allen would say.)

And something else that ain’t nothin’ but the devil? Feeling superior to other women because you are a stay-at-home mom.

We all have different circumstances and we must discern what is best for our family and our situation. The beauty of the modern world is all the options women now have, we are free to be stay-at-home moms (or dads) if our finances allow, work from home, work outside the home,  whatever. And holiness can be achieved no matter where you do your work, God will provide based on your circumstances, so if you have discerned working outside the home is best for you and your family, Amen sister, more power to you! I think work-outside-the-home moms are heroic to spin so many plates. And if you wish you were a stay-at-home mom, and think you can’t be, please take some time and re-evaluate your financial situation. With some sacrifices, you may be able to find a way! (The book Miserly Moms is a great resource for this.)

My Family’s Current Circumstance

I desired to be a stay-at-home mom before we got married and my husband and I both agreed we’d want one of us to be a stay-at-home parent once children came, before we got married. Since we knew we’d want several children, he wanted to be the main provider for our family, and I was happy to stay-at-home, it just works for us. We have to make a lot of sacrifices to make it happen, however. I watch our food budget very closely and I normally cook 6 days out of the week, and I practice other frugal habits. And now that I have a blog, I have transitioned to being a work-at-home mom, and I do my work when my kids are asleep and as my family’s needs allow.

Here’s a list of the pros and cons:

The Pros

  • Seeing all of the milestones.
  • Being highly involved in my children’s discipline and development.
  • Getting to be the primary influence over my children.
  • More capacity for quality time.
  • Flexibility with household duties and ample time for them – it’s easier to be the kind of homemaker I want be,
  • Opportunities for flexible, creative work like blogging.
  • Not having to call out from work when my kids are sick.
  • Not having to worry about the quality of their childcare providers.
  • Not having to pay for childcare.

The Cons

  • No paycheck.
  • Less social interaction.
  • Must be very disciplined.
  • Feeling like I wasted time and money on my college education.
  • Wondering if I am a weirdo because of the choice I’ve made.
  • Being under scrutiny by people who have no idea what I do all day.
  • More pressure to limit screen time because I am the main care provider.

Make the Most of Your Situation

I view the cons of being a stay-at-home mom as opportunities, not unchangeable circumstances :

  • No paycheck. Get creative and find ways to save money.
  • Less social interaction. Join a local moms group, make friends with moms at the park, nurture relationships with your single friends.
  • Must be very disciplined. Grow in self-discipline. Design a schedule that suits your and your family’s unique needs.
  • Feeling like I wasted time and money on my college education. Your education could never be a waste. All you’ve learned you can share with your children. Also, read this.
  • Wondering if I am a weirdo because of the choice I’ve made. Make friends with like-minded women. Read blogs of like-minded women. But do not exclude women of different circumstances. We need friends of all kinds, not just those who share the exact same life situation.
  • Being under scrutiny by people who have no idea what I do all day. Pray for and bless these people. They don’t understand and that’s okay. 
  • More pressure to limit screen time. Give yourself grace about this. You are likely the only one in charge of your kids all day, to keep your sanity you may have to have the T.V. on more than you’d like. Just do your best to try to increase healthier activities and the screen time will decrease as a result.
just a mom
A design I made that outlines the many hats a mom may wear.

What if IClear‘ve done all the above and I’m still not happy?

If you’ve tried everything and you’re not happy, maybe God has called you to work outside the home, or find some other setup that works better for you. If you or your spouse has been trying to make everything work for some time and it’s just not working, then it’s probably not God’s will for your family but that’s good! Exciting things happen when you seek God’s will.

Additional Resources

Books:

A Mother's Rule of Life: How to Bring Order to Your Home and Peace to Your Soul
Delightful book about how to craft your schedule as a stay-at-home mom.
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This mom learned how to live on one income in San Francisco, California by implementing frugal habits.
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This mom learned what “having it all” can look like in the chaos of having 6 kids in 8 years.

Stay-at-home/work-from-home mom blogs:

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Catholic All Year is the first Catholic mom blog I ever read. Kendra Tierney talks about everything from discipline, to being an introvert, to liturgical living and she even has a few books and some printable prayers.
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On Jennifer Fulwiler’s blog you will find hilarious tales of her family life which may include scorpions and a fiesty Texan mother-in-law. You’ll also receive some great insight and relief that you aren’t alone.
On Haley Stewart’s blog, you can find inspiration for juggling family life in an unconventional way, as well as have some bookish fun.

And let’s not forget the great and holy moms of different circumstances:

St. Gianna and the working Catholic mom

Great post about what holiness might look like for a work-outside-the-home mom.

For single moms in the Church 

Although this post fails to mention women who have never been married that are single moms, it still gives great insight into what it is like to be a single mom in the Church. My favorite part was this idea: Instead of placing judgement on others, why don’t we offer help?

All this talk about accepting differences reminded me of a song! Just check out that awesome 90’s style and great lyrics.

So, is it worth it?

Even though being a stay-at-home mom, and doing it well, is a daunting task, if it’s your heart’s desire you can find ways to overcome the challenges. And for me, it is worth it. But only you can decide what is best for you and your family.