Now I know that some of you live in warmer climates. You know who you are. You’re probably reading this on your iPhone, sitting on your deck, listening to birds sing, while the rest of us are freezing our tushies off and drinking anything hot to stay alive. I’ll have you know that the windchill was zero this morning. Zero. (Yes, it called for an extra cup of coffee just for coping reasons.)
Anyway, I wanted to brighten everyone’s day with a little poetry. My daughter recently came across a lovely poem in an obscure South Dakota centennial book.* The author is unknown, and I’ve typed it below for your enjoyment. Of course one might substitute “South Dakota” for “North Dakota.”
And I must warn my sensitive readers, this anonymous author uses the word butt. Goodness, the language some people use these days.
Winter in South Dakota
It’s winter in South Dakota
And the gentle breezes blow
Seventy miles an hour,
At thirty-five below.
Oh, how I love South Dakota,
When the snow’s up to your butt.
You take a breath of winter in
And your nose gets frozen shut.
Yes, the weather here is wonderful.
So I guess I’ll hang around.
I could never leave South Dakota
I’m frozen to the ground!
*Celebrating 125 Years of History and Growth, pg. 17. Email me later if you actually want the publisher, etc. I don’t have the book in front of me at the moment, and I’m too cold to get off the couch right now. Happy Winter!
I’ve never paid for the children to have a haircut. Or my husband. We just line ’em up and start clipping.
Early on in our marriage, my husband bought a clippers and begged me to cut his hair. He hated wasting time at a salon and despised fancy haircuts. All he wanted was his hair to be buzzed off as short as possible. So, I snapped on a #1 and went at it.
There are eight attachments with our clippers that are numbered 1-8. 1 is the shortest; 8 is the longest. My husband insists on a #1 for him. The boys, however, don’t care. I generally buzz the bottom off with a 1, shear the top with a 3, and blend the edges with a 2. I learned that trick from my sister. She went to hair school and worked in a salon for a few years.
Now normally I do all the clipping, but occasionally my husband likes to “help out.” He thinks it’s funny to tonsure all the boys first and then chase after them with the clippers to finish it off. (Don’t know what a tonsure is? Click HERE.)
And how about the girls?
Every now and then I trim the girls’ hair, but that’s trickier and requires a bit more skill. Again my sister showed me a few haircutting tricks, but I’m just not that good at it. So, every year or so, I bribe her with coffee to fix their hair, which she gladly does. (May God bless her soul.)
And what about me?
I’m the only spoiled rotten one in this family. So I go to a salon where my hairdresser washes, cuts, and styles my hair beautifully. If I lived anywhere near my sister, however, I would bribe her to cut my hair too, but alas, she’s 6 hours away. And when I do see her, I’ve got so many girls with uneven hair that there just isn’t time for me.
If you don’t own a clippers, buy one. I promise it’s a lot of fun.
As we’re now in the middle of Holy Week and most of us are trying to step it up a notch, I want to strongly encourage all of you to sign yourselves up for a silent retreat this year. Yep, just look at your spring and summer calendars, and do it.
Unfortunately for me, I’ll have to wait until my latest baby is done nursing before I can go, but for the rest of you, just do it!
You all know how important it is to step back in silence from time to time to be with God. I’m sure I don’t need to convince you. The hardest part, however, is actually going. Of course Satan hates silent retreats. He’ll do anything to prevent you from spending time with God. In fact, retreat masters will tell you to expect all kinds of obstacles to appear, especially at the last minute.
Let me give you an example. Last year I was signed up to attend a private silent retreat with a small group of mothers, but just hours before the retreat was to begin, our Retreat Master was forced to cancel. So we were left wondering if we should still go, without a Retreat Master? Well, we decided yes. After all, what harm could come from spending time alone with God for a weekend, even if it wasn’t directed? And I am so glad we did! For God always provides, and He sent an excellent priest at the last minute to replace the previous one. We had a Shepherd and the Sacraments.
As an aside, It should also be noted that we had coffee available all day too. This is important because during day two or three, when you’ve already put in a few holy hours, read your Bible, prayed a rosary, walked a few miles, and spent an hour sitting on a rock pile at the end of a tree row, you will need coffee.
In any case, you all need to go on retreat, or into the desert, if you like. And since I can’t get enough of Cardinal Sarah lately, I’ll leave you with a small quotation from his latest book The Power of Silence. (Click HERE for it on Amazon.)
“It is vitally important to withdraw to the desert in order to combat the dictatorship of a world filled with idols that gorge themselves on technology and material goods, a world dominated and manipulated by the media, a world that flees God by taking refuge in noise.”
By the way, have you ever read anything by Cardinal Sarah? He’s got two of the greatest books ever written out now – God or Nothing and The Power of Silence. Buy a copy for yourself and your priest. You won’t regret it.
As part of my Lenten sacrifices, I am committed to meditating on Philippians 4:8.
“Finally brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is gracious, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think of these things.”
My husband gave this penance to me, as I tend to dwell on negative things. So this morning, instead of lamenting the fact that I’m still pregnant (oh when will this baby come?) and it’s still cold outside and I still can’t get enough sleep, I thought I’d think about something lovely, gracious, and worthy of praise–my coffee pot!
But I don’t actually know how to write poetry properly. So let’s consider this Modern, Free Verse. (Whatever that means.)
Ode to My Coffee Pot
Oh my dear, loyal Coffee Pot,
Every night my husband programs you.
In fact, your Faithful Timer is my husband’s Favorite Feature.
For at 6am we say good morning to Jesus,
and then at 6:45,
as you graciously beep to signal the end of Morning Prayer,
we desperately stumble over to you.
O Brewer of Buzzes!
O Terror of Yawns!
Our children know that they ought not to disturb this Sacred Moment
of drinking your hot liquid blackness.
Because if they do, they might be greeted thus:
For you see, I am weak and have an addiction that must be satiated.
But since I am a good Catholic,
and know that everything must be enjoyed in moderation,
I sacrificially limit myself to just one pot.*
O thou Dearest Machine and Giver of Joy!
O Bestower of Wakefulness!
May God strengthen you, Dear Coffee Pot
and reward you with long, long life!
*I don’t actually drink a whole pot…I do share it with my husband.
A week or so ago, I mentioned something very important in my post on How to Survive Barfing Children. (Click HERE for it.) You’ll notice that Point Number 2 mentions Lipstick.
It occurred to me yesterday afternoon that many of you may not understand this one. You see, I grew up around a grandmother who was convinced that lipstick was the key to a great life. Ok, other things were important to her too, like family and big jewelry, but there is something simple here that she taught me.
While of course one can go overboard with relying on material things for happiness, there is something to say about a little dash of color and an attempt at looking well put together. I always go back to what Paul Harvey, the decades-long, iconic radio broadcaster, had to say about it all. You will always perform better if you dress the part. Statistics prove it. (Click HERE for a Wall Street Journal article on that.)
Paul Harvey. My grandmother named my father after him, literally.
My grandmother knew this secret—attempt to dress well, throw a little lipstick on, and Bam! Most of the time, you’ll feel better. No, it won’t solve all your problems, but it might help.
Now I know that many of you do not wear lipstick. In fact you may not even own any brightly-colored fun-in-a-tube. This is too bad because after all, St. Thomas himself speaks of it in his Summa Theologiae. (Click HERE for that one.) If there are any further lipstick naysayers, please know that I understand. I was once one of you, as I gave it up for a time, just to see what it was like. (I was miserable.) And truly, I suppose it’s not for everyone. (Like those with a vocation to the Carmelites?) But for me, I had to go back to lipstick, because it’s just that fun.*
Some of you, however, may be thinking, “Yes, yes, lipstick is fun and all, but what will my husband think?” Well, try it out. Tonight when he arrives home, greet him at the door with your lipstick on and his favorite drink in your hand. It will be impossible to not smile at that moment. Lipstick is so powerful, after all, that you may even be wearing sweatpants, and you’ll still have fun.
So, when there just isn’t enough coffee in the house and your hairspray runs out and it’s -20 degrees outside and your children are all screaming…quietly walk to a mirror and brighten your day with a splash of hot pink.
*Do I need to say, “all things in moderation?” One probably shouldn’t own bags and bags of makeup? You know that, right?
Some of you may be wondering how it might be possible to survive sickness in your household and teach school all day? Yes? Then read on.
Since I am in the midst of caring for Barfing Children right now, I thought I’d offer a few tips of advice. This is mostly to encourage myself and cheer on the rest of you, who may be suffering from this most taxing and exhausting dilemma.
8 Tips to Survive Barfing Children, Ear Infections & Other Nasty Stuff While Teaching School, Cooking for a Family, and Cleaning a House:
1.Don’t clean your house. Or if you must, just make your bed and call it good. Heck, your bed is probably still made from yesterday because you didn’t sleep in it anyway. You were sitting in the rocking chair, holding a screaming baby all night. I know it’s a big deal in this household to get a load of laundry done every day too, but I guess it won’t go anywhere, so that can be left alone.* (See note below.) The children can turn their clothes inside-out and wear them again, for the 3rd day in a row, unless of course there’s vomit on them…
2. Put lipstick on. This should go without saying. Not only is lipstick fun, but it brightens everyone’s day. Especially if you’re not in the habit of wearing it. Your husband and children will wonder what came over you. And when you look in the mirror, you will not notice the dark circles around your eyes, but will instead, be stunned by the awesomeness of Hot Pink Lips. You might even laugh at yourself, which is good.
3. Reduce school to a minimum. This is a very good time to renew your subscription to Audible, purchase The Story of Civilization, and commence History Class. When your children are finished with this, send the healthy ones outside for the remainder of the day for Nature Study. If the healthy children do not want to do Nature Study, offer House-Cleaning 101, wherein all children scrub floors, walls, and toilets.
4. Spend an extra amount of time styling your hair. Why? Because you’re sleep deprived and look like it. There are statistics out there saying that if you look put-together, you will feel put-together. Paul Harvey, the decades-long iconic radio broadcaster, used to wear a suit and tie every day for his program. And his studio was in his house, where virtually no one saw him. But he knew that his performance was always better if he dressed the part. So, this morning, I dug out my curling iron and spent five extra minutes curling my hair. Then, I sprayed it with lots of hair spray. And yes, it made me feel better about not sleeping last night.
Paul Harvey. Great guy. My dad was named after him, literally.
5. Decide not to yell at your children. You are going to have a demanding day. Just face it. If the baby was up all night crying, he’s going to be crabby and cry all day too. So, your nerves are shot. You will be seriously tempted to yell at your other children. Just don’t do it. This will take a tremendous amount of effort and a lot of prayer. And in some cases, like mine, it will take a minor miracle. See my post HERE on that one.
6. Eat takeout or something frozen for supper. Eating Little Caesar’s Pizza every once in awhile won’t kill you. In fact, it might save your sanity. And I’ve found that those $4.98 rotisserie chickens from Sam’s Club are handy too. The best part is, they’re hot and ready to eat, and I’ve done nothing to prepare them. Someone I know gave me that great bit of advice. She also said to top it off with a bag of baby carrots and a bag of buns. Smart, smart woman.
7. Spend more time in prayer. Why? Because you’re sleep-deprived and well, crazy from holding a screaming baby all night. All sleep-deprived, crazy people need a lot of prayer. I know this from experience. The tricky part is making time to do it. I suggest leaving your house and spending an hour in silent Adoration. Hire a babysitter, call grandma, ask your husband to take sick leave…anything. This hour of Adoration may be the only time you will get to sleep, until the illnesses go away. And yes, sleeping in Adoration still counts as prayer.
8. Drink More Coffee. It’s a given that this helps, right?
I’ve also heard that having a teenager helps too, because then she can babysit. Well, I’m working on that one. But I’m afraid it’s still going to be two more years until that one becomes a reality.
I have a friend who got a day behind on laundry. So the next day, she washed and dried multiple loads and then carried them to her bed. She made a nice, heaping pile and then promptly forgot about them until bedtime. Well, what to do then? Spend six hours folding them? No! She smartly remembered her clean bathtub and quickly deposited them there and pulled the shower curtain shut until the following day. Then she didn’t have to stare at it. Just an idea.
Know of anyone else experiencing Sick Children? If so, share these tips with them?
I might be a Crazy Fool. After all, I have 6 children under the age of 12, I’m a Catholic, I homeschool, and I’m pregnant. Goodness gracious! To most in our culture, I am a crazy fool. Why would I do such things?
The short answer? Because my heart is full of love. The long answer? Uh, I don’t have time for that because I have 6 children under the age of 12, and I homeschool.
In any case, I was asked if I might elaborate on what a Typical Day looks like in my household, and so today is Part 1. The other parts will come over the next week or so.
BEEP! The alarm goes off, and my husband and I roll out of bed, grab our Liturgy of the Hours, and begin the day with prayer in the living room. We do this in the semi-dark, with just a lamp and a few candles. Why? Because there’s something mysterious about flickering candlelight, and it’s cool.
We have 45 minutes set aside for this. The first half is prayed aloud with Morning Prayer. The second half is spent in silence. During this time the children are also waking up, and slowly they join us. They grab a blanket and crawl up on the couch in silence. I’d like to think they’re praying too, but probably, they’re just zoning out.
So as not to worry when this time is up, and for very practical reasons, we program our coffee pot to be done at 6:45. When it beeps, we’re done.
At this point, many things happen. Of course my top priority is the coffee. So, I grab my cup and head to the computer for a half an hour of work. My husband, Blessed Saint That He Is, commences Math with the eldest. (I hate math. See HERE for that one.) Children 2,3, and 4 begin handwriting and math facts. Children 5 & 6 wander around and mess with stuff. You know, like tear books off of shelves.
My husband showers, I shower, and the older children finish up their Early Morning School and begin their next task. Child #2 makes the toast. (Click HERE for an account of that.) Child #3 practices piano. Children 4 & 5 set the table. The Eldest finishes her math. And the toddler? Uh, she’s busy wrecking something else.
Breakfast and Morning Time. Stay tuned for more on that in…A Day in the Life of Crazy Fool: Part 2.
*Hmmm, Yelling? Guess I should reread my post about that…
Anyone need a bit of joy on this cold, cold day? If so, check out My Sweet Ride, which should be enough to cheer any dreary heart.
Top 7 Reasons Why My Van is Awesome
1.The Hail Damage.
We purchased our van very cheaply because there was hail damage on one side, which is awesome. I recommend seeking out vehicles with hail damage. They still run perfectly well and are easier on your pocketbooks. Of course this is also educational because it teaches your children about How to Save Money. When we were looking at this Great, Wondrous Van, I just asked myself, “Kim, would you rather have a respectable, good-looking van and drink no lattes for the rest of your life, or could you be satisfied with This Thing and feel free to cruise the Caribou Drive-Thru every now and then?” Hmmm…not a difficult decision.
2. The Seam Rip.
The seat on the driver’s side had a huge, 4-inch rip along it’s edge. This was also awesome and educational because I had to dust off my sewing box to find a heavy-duty needle and thread, and then I had to actually sew it shut. This was heroic and virtuous behavior on my part too because I hate sewing. And it was great for my children to see their mother sacrificially laboring away.
3. No Interior Carpet Whatsoever.
Yep, there is no carpet to be found in our van. This is great because then the children can spill all they want, on the floor anyway. And what about vomiting? No problem! Easy, fast clean-up.
4. The Extra Cup Holders.
When I cruise around town with my posse in tow, I have three cup holders all to myself up front. One coffee for me. One for my husband, to drop off to him at work. And one for my Coffee-Loving Friend. (Nothing for the children of course. They can drink water.) It’s good to teach your children to sacrifice and to share.
5. The Cigarette Burn Hole.
No, I do not smoke, but yes, there is a gigantic cigarette burn hole on the passenger-side seat. Come to think of it, it might be a cigar burn hole because it’s so big. In any case, this is educational because I can point to it and tell the children about the hazards of smoking. “Look, children, see this hole? This is what happens when you try to flick a cigarette out the window, but the window is still up. Always make sure your window is down before throwing things out of it. Or you’ll wreck your interior.”
6. No GPS.
Of course this van does not have GPS. You had better know where you’re going or how to read an Old-Fashioned Map, which we keep in the cubbyhole. We are terribly behind the times, but this way the children can more easily relate to and understand what it was like for Charles and Caroline Ingalls, as they drove all over the prairie looking for a place to live because they didn’t have GPS. Or cell phones.
7. It’s Like a Public School Bus.
This van is so big that I can haul around all the neighborhood kids in addition to my own. We are like a Party Bus, even though I’m convinced that most people think that my van is a Public School Bus, as I’m forever answering such questions as, “Are all those children yours?” Yes, ma’am. All of ’em. And, “Don’t you have a TV?” Uh, no, actually we don’t…why do you ask?
If any of you are out in the cold, cold dark, I hope that cheers you up a bit! Please feel free to ask any other burning questions that you may have about our van.
Oh yes, and my husband’s favorite thing about The Van? It’s hitch. He uses it to drag stuff around, like huge telephone poles to make ice skating rinks in our backyard.
Today is Tuesday, and I have not yelled at my children at all. So far. Yes, I know it’s 6am, and they’re not up yet, but hey, I’ve got to start somewhere, right?
Last week I was listening to a great show on the Sin of Wrath, and it got me thinking that I should schedule a Day of Not Yelling. And that’s today. So, I came up with some tips for this special day.
4 Tips For Not Yelling at Your Children:
Begin the day with prayer. Beg for the grace to be meek and patient. For God will certainly provide opportunities to practice these virtues. (Ugh.) And we will need Him desperately.
Drink lots of coffee. After all, when I’m tired, I cannot think clearly, and so I yell more. Therefore, if I drink an extra cup of coffee, I’ll should be very awake, and the day might go more smoothly. (Just kidding, of course.)
Make the decision to just not yell. (Not kidding about this one.) I’m just not going to do it. Period. (If you’re anything like me, this will take a lot of self-control. And grace. And prayer. See Tip #1.)
Let the consequences speak, not my loud rantings. In the case of discipline, I agree with Dr. Ray Guarendi, actions really do speak louder than words.
Let me give an example of when I actually practiced the above-mentioned Tips.
Last week the three girls were happily playing house together in a fort they had made. But then, Brother #1, obviously bored, rushed in and ransacked the thing. Of course Sister #1 immediately jumped off the top bunk, ran after him, and tackled him. She then held him down, while Sister #2 bit him, right on his bottom.
The result? Complete Mayhem. Crying. Screaming. And laughing. (Brother #3 thought the whole thing was all very funny, especially the biting part.)
Well, I had a choice. I could angrily yell and lecture away about any number of things – the inconsiderateness of destroying other people’s things, the irrationality of tackling and hitting siblings, or the inappropriateness of biting. But they weren’t going to listen. It would only be a waste of breath and time. Besides, they already know that these things are wrong anyway.
Therefore, I knew it would be better to calmly hand out consequences, which I miraculously did in that moment. So all those involved received one hour of Black Out.* And you know what? I felt pretty good about it all, even if they didn’t.
I’ve noticed that every time I do handle things calmly, I always feel better. When I don’t handle things calmly, I feel terribly and struggle with black thoughts of what a terrible mother I am.
I’d like to say that I handle stressful situations at all times with grace and dignity, but that would be a big, fat lie. Hence today’s Day of Not Yelling. So I need to work on this. How about you?
*Black Out: A disciplinary action involving time spent on a bed with nothing. No toys, books, or talking. Just nothing. It’s really boring. And I find it effective. I got the idea from Dr. Ray Guarendi. Click HERE for his website that contains more ideas that your children will not like.