Why have a routine?

In yesterday’s post, Mau reminds me that we need to be flexible, especially when considering the typical military man’s schedule, which is not very family friendly.

I agree! (One of the reasons I homeschool is to take advantage of family time when we can, not when the school system and the military schedule happen to mesh.)

But I don’t think having a routine means slaving over school work on Dad’s day off. I think having a routine means ensuring the family’s needs and priorities are met.

If I stay on top of the laundry every day, we can take a day off (even two) for family fun and still find clean underwear in the drawers.

If there is a set time during the day to do chores, the entire family focuses on getting the house in order, so that when we decide to go to a free outdoor concert after dinner, the condition of the house at our very late return doesn’t make me regret that choice.

If there is a set time in the morning for breakfast and other things, I don’t feel guilty at 630 am telling my early birds to leave me alone while I type a blog entry. I will give them my attention at 7 am.

If there is a set bedtime for the kids, there is a set mom-dad time afterward.

I don’t want to be a slave to a routine, but I also don’t want to be overwhelmed with basic household maintenance. Not prepping dinner, a family necessity, means not having a healthy dinner or means eating late. Not expecting my children to do chores at regular intervals means raising children with very bad habits and expectations and means having parents who are angry that the kids make messes and don’t clean. Not doing the bills on time means paying late fees.

None of these options are good choices.

Later today or tomorrow, I’ll share my schedule. I think it’s fairly loose – has a lot of “margins” – and really just lays out family expectations and priorities.

Gearing up for the new school year…

…and for life in general.

I’ve been reading this free e-book (Education is…) as well as the instruction manual for this P.E.G.S system, and I’ve been feeling like a bad mother.

In that e-book on Charlotte Mason-esque education, it lists 60 or so good habits and suggests working on them one at a time for about 2 months each. It also points out that at that rate it would take you ten years to get through the list. For someone like me who wants instant results, that seems like an awfully long time. But it serves as an excellent reminder that raising children into decent adults is an awfully long process.

Among the habits is listed Use of Time. Since our move last year, followed a few months later by the birth of Mary, my personal use of time has been less than stellar. And, unfortunately, when I fall apart (in one sense), it is unrealistic to expect my little children to keep things together. So meal times have not been at a regular hour, laundry is often done “as needed,” and bedtimes for me and the children have been later than I want.

I’ve been working on a schedule (with plenty of “margins”), and plan to implement some changes with the children beginning next week and taking a few weeks to fully affect. But this week, I’m working on me. I must, as much as possible, keep my own priorities in mind as I choose how to spend these lazy summer days. Is the laundry rotated? Is dinner prepped? Have the children done their chores? Did I spend any time reading to the children or playing a game with them?

Interestingly enough, I began my planning by first outlining a school day. I think a non-school day should resemble a school day as much as possible for consistency. The difference, of course, is that school work hours become free time.

And now, as the hour approaches 7 am, I must get off the computer and make some pancakes for my kiddos. If I’m really good and get my chores done, I’ll get to come back later!

A Royal Procession

The parade passes through the kitchen.

“All Hail, Mary the Baby.”

The infant is carried, her royal entourage follows waving arms and beaming their adoration.

“All Hail, Mary the Baby.”

The parade moves on to another part of the house.

There was a time I worried that my younger children would never have the same love and attention I gave to my older ones. I was right. It’s not the same. But I’m no longer worried about that.

I’m now worried about how I could ever possibly keep that little girl from being spoiled.

Near enough to death experience

We left four kids at a friend’s house and headed to the grocery store.

The mom joked if we weren’t back in 48 hours, she would sell the kids.

We advised her that Fritz should fetch a good price, since he was a good worker.

Ten minutes later, we were nearly hit head on by a driver who inexplicably crossed into our lane.

As Bill calmly got back on the road, I asked him, “How’s your adrenaline level?”

“Oh, it’s pumping,” he replied.

Mine was, too. It’s amazing to me how in those split seconds there isn’t time to think. You just react. After a minute, I was able to thank God for His protection. I think, had we been hit, I might not have thought to pray.

My friend assured me she wouldn’t really have sold the kids.

It’s small wonder that my husband was pondering heavy topics last night. Lest you think I have the emotional maturity of a 12 year old, I’d like to say that I don’t always break out in song when discussing death.

I only do it when it’s funny.

Time for a diaper change

Mary has chicken pox now.

Or perhaps it’s just mosquito bites.

I think the only difference between the first child and the sixth is the degree of worry. With Fritz, I thought perhaps he was really sick, too, only with him, I took him to the pediatrician.

Now I just blog about it: I think my daughter’s dying, but I’m going to wait and see.

But seriously, she does have a diaper rash (and some other bumps that are probably mosquito bites…or chicken pox), and it just won’t quit. The creams work, but only if I keep putting it on. I think the heat is making is worse, but I know these disposable diapers with no air circulation aren’t helping a bit.

And so, a bleg, for all you eco-friendly, thrifty, superwomen moms out there who cloth-diaper their babies’ tender bottoms. Tell me what I need and where to get it and how many and what a good price is.

Freedom!

I’m still trying to get used to this metal-free smile. We tried to return to the same orthodontist we originally had, but she had retired. Her replacement just could not grasp the magnitude of my joy when I saw his latest dental photos showing fairly straight teeth coming in. There was one adult tooth on the bottom right that had been nearly perpendicular to its proper direction, and everyone was sure he was going to lose it.
You can read all about the cyst that caused us so much grief here.
God is good.
And now all I seem to hear these days is, “Mom, can I have some gum?”

On moving

Things that are more likely to happen in the weeks leading up to and after a big household move:

  • Something you meant to keep away from the packers being taped up
  • Something you were sure you wouldn’t need (so you let it get packed up) being needed
  • Something noisy like a toy or a battery powered alarm clock being taped up
  • Damage to a vehicle (yours or one you are driving)
  • Emergency room visits
  • Other significant injuries (especially back aches)
  • Lost wallet, purse or ID card
  • Lost cellphone
  • Lost paperwork
  • Lost in transit (as in, “I thought we were supposed to go north, not south, to get to the interstate…”)
  • Lost locally (as in, “I thought there was a grocery store here…”)
  • Lost driver (as in, “I won’t be delivering your stuff until next week…”)
  • Lost hardware (as in, “Where would they pack those brackets?”)
  • Lost tools (as in, “I just had the hammer, where did I put it?”)
  • Lost children (as in, “I thought you were watching him…”)
  • Having a credit card denied due to unusual activity
  • Having a bank card swallowed because you used the wrong pin too many times
  • Confusion over day of the week, time of day, or current location
  • Upset tummies due to poor diet
  • Headaches due to dehydration
  • Dark circles under eyes due to lack of sleep
  • Sunburn (since you taped up something you didn’t think you would need)
  • Excessive reliance on restaurants or prepackaged foods
  • Money spend on things you don’t need (like souvenirs)
  • Money spend on things you shouldn’t need (but need to buy because you can’t find or get to the ones you have…like brackets…or sunscreen)

Items in bold happened this time around. Bill probably has a few more things to add. I’m sure I’ve already repressed a few memories.

Humility and Acts of Mercy

I’ve been feeling pretty badly for Kate Wicker who is taking lots of heat for having the nerve to feed her baby the way God intended.

I’m also angry that that statement would be viewed as controversial. I do not care what your personal choice is, nor do I mean to disparage those who could not breastfeed. But having the technology to safely raise healthy babies (intelligence and creativity being wonderful gifts from God) does not negate the fact that we are mammals and mammals feed their young with mother’s milk. I have had my own difficulties in breastfeeding (you can search my blog for my many posts on this topic), and I am grateful for bottles, formula and safe drinking water that got me and my daughters through several rough months.

You can read all about Kate’s issues on her blog. It started here (long post), continued here with a link to her column at Inside Catholic (this really got the fire going), and has more here and here.

If you have time, I also recommend this article which talks about the Vatican calling for more images of the Blessed Virgin breastfeeding the baby Jesus. Kate linked to it as well.

What’s the hullabaloo? Kate confessed that she nurses her babies at Mass.

And now she’s getting hate mail. Apparently, she is a stumbling block of sin for those attending Mass with her. I wrote about stumbling blocks of sin one other time. I think I need to expand on that topic.

If you read no other works by G. K. Chesterton, I suggest at least that you read his Father Brown mysteries. Father Brown is a Catholic Sherlock Holmes, solving crimes with reason, humor and, above all, with charity. Packed in each short story are lessons in Church teaching as well as the practical application of the virtues.

In Hammer of God, which I quote in the header of my blog, Father Brown is investigating the death of an evil man, crushed with incredible force by a blacksmith’s anvil.

“Look at that blacksmith, for instance,” went on Father Brown calmly; “a good man, but not a Christian–hard, imperious, unforgiving. Well, his Scotch religion was made up by men who prayed on hills and high crags, and learnt to look down on the world more than to look up at heaven. Humility is the mother of giants. One sees great things from the valley; only small things from the peak.”



But it isn’t the blacksmith who committed murder, it was the dead man’s brother, a pastor, who loathed his brother’s arrogant sins.

After a moment he resumed, looking tranquilly out over the plain with his pale grey eyes. “I knew a man,” he said, “who began by worshipping with others before the altar, but who grew fond of high and lonely places to pray from, corners or niches in the belfry or the spire. And once in one of those dizzy places, where the whole world seemed to turn under him like a wheel, his brain turned also, and he fancied he was God. So that, though he was a good man, he committed a great crime.”

Wilfred’s face was turned away, but his bony hands turned blue and white as they tightened on the parapet of stone.

“He thought it was given to him to judge the world and strike down the sinner. He would never have had such a thought if he had been kneeling with other men upon a floor. But he saw all men walking about like insects. He saw one especially strutting just below him, insolent and evident by a bright green hat–a poisonous insect.”

Rooks cawed round the corners of the belfry; but there was no other sound till Father Brown went on.

“This also tempted him, that he had in his hand one of the most awful engines of nature; I mean gravitation, that mad and quickening rush by which all earth’s creatures fly back to her heart when released. See, the inspector is strutting just below us in the smithy. If I were to toss a pebble over this parapet it would be something like a bullet by the time it struck him. If I were to drop a hammer–even a small hammer–“

Wilfred Bohun threw one leg over the parapet, and Father Brown had him in a minute by the collar.

“Not by that door,” he said quite gently; “that door leads to hell.”

Bohun staggered back against the wall, and stared at him with frightful eyes.

“How do you know all this?” he cried. “Are you a devil?”

“I am a man,” answered Father Brown gravely; “and therefore have all devils in my heart. Listen to me,” he said after a short pause. “I know what you did–at least, I can guess the great part of it. When you left your brother you were racked with no
unrighteous rage, to the extent even that you snatched up a small hammer, half inclined to kill him with his foulness on his mouth. Recoiling, you thrust it under your buttoned coat instead, and rushed into the church. You pray wildly in many places, under the angel window, upon the platform above, and a higher platform still, from which you could see the colonel’s Eastern hat like the back of a green beetle crawling about. Then something snapped in your soul, and you let God’s thunderbolt fall.”

In Catholic catechism, we learn the Spiritual Works of Mercy:

  • instruct the ignorant
  • counsel the doubtful
  • admonish sinners
  • bear wrongs patiently
  • forgive offenses willingly
  • comfort the afflicted
  • pray for the living and the dead

Too often, it seems that good, holy men and women are willing to stand up and do the first three, but are less noticeable in their practice of the latter four. It seems that those most upset at the concept of women nursing during Mass took personal offense that a woman might arouse lustful thoughts by her actions. Sinner! they admonished. Did they stop to pray first, both for Kate and for themselves that their words would be of the Holy Spirit? Did they patiently accept that Kate was wrong and hope to soften her heart to the Truth, or did they blaze on ahead in full confidence of their position and with no regard for Kate’s feelings and those of other mothers?

Good evangelization meets someone where she is and shows her the direction to go. This can never be accomplished in the comments section of an article or blog post. This requires dialogue. Kate, don’t you think it would be better to go to the restroom? Aren’t you concerned about someone seeing your breast? Aren’t you distracted from the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass? What about those around you?

Interestingly enough, I didn’t notice any anecdotal arguments. Nobody said they saw a woman nursing her child and was distracted. Nobody said their teen aged son was gawking at a woman breastfeeding. I wonder if any of these complainers have ever actually seen a woman nurse her child discreetly. My guess is that they have, they just don’t know it.

Personally, the few times I am able to attend Mass without the distraction of my own little children, I hardly notice the antics of others. My focus is on the ambo or the altar, or my head is bowed in reverence. I am not looking around, at least I shouldn’t be. If I am, it is my problem, and it is up to me to refocus. Yes, the screaming child is difficult to ignore. Yes, the toy banging on the pew is irritating. So, too, are the women whispering through the consecration as they make plans for after Mass. So, too, is the man with the hacking cough. So, too, is the altar serving snoozing through the homily. Deal with it. You can let the distractions keep you from worshipping God by festering anger in your heart toward those around you, or you can thank God for the opportunity to offer an even greater sacrifice than simply your attendance at Mass.

As for me, I did not nurse my first child at Mass. I spent the majority of Mass in the bathroom where there was no chair. I balanced against the wall, holding the baby in my fatigued arms.

I did not nurse my second child at Mass. I went to the bathroom, and my older son threw a fit because mommy was gone. On the frequent weekends when my husband was off serving the country, I tearfully did not attend Mass at all, because I would have to wrangle a screaming infant and a toddler by myself.

I nursed my third child in the pew, and everybody was happy.

To not nurse during Mass means that I miss Mass. And I would have missed most Masses for the last ten years. That just doesn’t seem right. In fact, I have been commanded by God and the Church to attend Mass with no excuse for nursing a baby that I see mentioned. Does not that command trump my obligation to avoid causing others the near occasion of sin?

There must be something about the month of July that gets people all in a dander about breasts. Perhaps they recoil from too much skin at the pool, and they take it out on nursing mothers. Last year, there was furor over a magazine cover. I wrote about it here (pretty good stuff, if I do say so myself). I’m tired of the Puritan mindset which seeks not only to label every innocent act as sinful, but which also places the blame of personal sin on the behavior of others. Although I need to be discreet in nursing, I should not have to shut myself off from society to take care of my child. The casual observer has an obligation to put my child’s legitimate need for food above his personal standard of modesty. Look away, say a prayer, and get a grip.

And how does one admonish sinners without becoming a stumbling block of sin oneself? That is the power of the virtue of humility. Once we can stop looking down from on high at the annoying bugs committing sins, we can direct our friends’ attention to the glory up above.

Budding Exterminator

We have sugar ants having a grand time in my kitchen. Bill asked at the pharmacy for boric acid, but they were out. Odd.

I really can’t stand the ants, but Petey loves them.

“They’re my friends,” he says. “See, they’re friendly!” Not only does he enjoy letting them crawl up his arm, he’s actually lain down on the floor in the middle of the swarm.

Does that make you queasy? Trust me, it is much much worse to actually witness it than to simply read about it.

Pete went with me to the grocery store, and I picked up some of those Raid ant baits. He wanted to know what they were. How could I tell them they were poison? I lied. Yes, I lied, and I don’t feel bad about it at all. I said it was ant food.

He saw the box earlier today and expressed a desire to feed his little friends. I told him to wait until Daddy came home. When Bill got back from his errand (he’s off today), Peter remembered right away.

So, Peter helped Daddy kill feed the ants.

I really hope he doesn’t remember this when he’s older.