Motherhood & Parenting

When Darkness Creeps In

It’s been incredibly difficult over the last few months to navigate these uncharted waters of no piano lessons, no Chess Clubs, no Moms’ Nights Out, or no anything.  One would think that with the Government Lock-Down and cessation of all social activities that stay-at-home mothers wouldn’t be affected, for they stay at home after all.  But I know that they are.

Even as restaurants and other stores begin opening up, nothing is the same.  And sometimes, it’s just downright difficult.  Sometimes darkness comes creeping in, whether or not we invite it.

By darkness, I suppose I mean feelings of loneliness, sadness, helplessness, or hopelessness.  Depression maybe.  Anxiety.  Feelings of worthlessness or incompetency–a whole host of dark sentiments.

These things are difficult, and mothers are suffering.  If you’re one of them, today I want to encourage you and offer a few things that have helped me out from time-to-time.  Maybe you’ll find one or two helpful.

Have a Daily Schedule

If life is feeling dark right now, take a look at your day.  Is chaos reigning?  Do your children not know what to expect from day-to-day?  If you’ve never had a daily schedule, it might seem daunting or restrictive to do so, but I can only say from experience that it’s freeing.  For I know at all times what I ought to be doing, and so do my children.  Children thrive in routine, and I find that I do too.

Ah, but it’s not easy when the alarm goes off at 6am…

If this is something new to you, I highly recommend Holly Pierlot’s A Mother’s Rule of Life.  I’ve said it before, this book literally changed my life.

Set Aside Time For Prayer Every Day

I probably should have put this one first.  Don’t let any feelings of darkness take time away that would be normally spent with Jesus.  He is the Light, even if you don’t feel anything.  He is always with you.  Don’t listen to any lie saying that He doesn’t care; He does.

Prayer is so important that it needs to be a fixed thing in your day.  Pick the same time every single day to pray.  Lauds or morning prayer and a family rosary are great places to start.  And let me tell you, Satan loathes families that pray every day.  You will be attacked and tempted to cease your daily prayer, but don’t give in–no matter how loud or raucous the children may be, or how low you may feel.

Go For a Walk

Go for a walk or get some form of exercise every day, if you can.  And without your phone or any other technology, if possible.  Disconnect.

It’s amazing what 20 minutes will do for a gal who’s down in the dumps.  I personally prefer to do this in the evening after supper while the children are (loudly) cleaning up. It’s a perfect time for me to escape, even if it’s 90 degrees outside.  I’ve never regretted a walk or a run, have you?

And no, exercise is not about having the “perfect” body or any other such worldly nonsense.  Our culture takes exercise to the extreme–one must always look young and beautiful!  Garbage.  No, going for a brisk walk gives a body life.  It clears the mind.  Just do it.

Are You Getting Time To Yourself?

I mean, are you getting any time to yourself during the day?  Not prayer time, but just time doing whatever it is that recharges you?  A nap, a cup of coffee, twenty minutes of rereading a Jane Austen novel…anything.  Make it happen, if you can.  There’s a reason why at a 8-5 job there are two mini-breaks and a lunch break.  How much more does a stay-at-home mother need a few minutes to herself?

When I put the toddler down for a nap, I require the older children to stay in the basement for about 45 minutes of “Quiet Time.”  I lie down myself for the first 20 or so minutes, and then I drink a cup of coffee or tea.  By myself.  The children are not allowed to come upstairs, and that’s it.

When this doesn’t happen, I notice that I’m grouchier.  Touchier.  Maybe frazzled.  I know sometimes it can’t be helped like when the toddler wakes up early or another kid chops her fingers off, but most days, this can be done, if you’re children are old enough to follow directions.

Are Your Children Whiners?

Ah, this is a difficult one, and something that always requires work.  Indeed, if you’re in a really dark place, this is the one thing that absolutely must be fixed.  It will take a lot of effort and support from your husband, if possible.  But it needs to be done.  Now.

Truly, whining is about the worst thing in the world.  I’d institute Black Out for it.  One whine from little Charity, and its, “I’m sorry, Honey, but now you will have to go to your room for Black Out.  That means no books, no toys, no anything until I come and get you.”  If your children can’t resister the temptation to play with their things, just remove their “things” from their room.

A Word About Black Out

I’ve been asked, how long should Black Out last?

It depends on the situation, the age of the child, your family life…

Just the other day, The Eldest said something incredibly sassy, so she was in Black Out the rest of the afternoon.  After an hour or so, she was incredibly bored.  And I knew it, so I went in there and said, “My kitchen and dining room floors need scrubbing.  If you want, you may come out of Black Out and do that.  Or just sit here until supper time…”  She came out and washed away, very slowly and meticulously, so as to enjoy her time out of Prison.  For she had to return to Black Out when she was finished.

The point is, all families are different, but human nature isn’t.  The Bible is replete with verses warning parents about the dangers about “sparing the rod.”

My favorite?  Proverbs 13:24:

“He who spares the rod hates his son, but he who loves him is diligent to discipline him.”

And, oh, it’s hard, especially when you’re down, for one must keep a clear head and not yell.

Lastly

Lastly, dear Reader, Jesus loves you so much.  If you’re in a dark place and you need further help, consider reading two things:

  1. The Catholic Guide to Depression by Dr. Aaron Kheriary.
  2. The Gospel of St. John.

“In the world you have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.”

I always want to put an exclamation point at the end of that John 16:33 verse.  “…but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world!

 

Homeschooling

A Weekend Get-Away at UST

After the recent stress of trying to sell our home, my husband and I thought a little weekend get-away would be the ticket.  Now I’d like to say that this “get-away” involved fine dining and elegant lodgings, but that would be a lie.  Being the practical parents that we are, we “got away” to attend the annual Minnesota Catholic Homeschool Conference being held at University of St. Thomas in St. Paul, MN.

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This is my husband.  He’s excited to be driving with only me and the baby in the vehicle.  A quiet ride, really.

So, we loaded up everything: suitcase for our things, empty suitcase to fill with books from the conference, pack-n-play for the nursing baby, stroller, diapers, wipes, extra blankies, baby clothes, pacifiers…

On the six and half hour drive to St. Paul, we listened to Wives and Daughters by Elizabeth Gaskell on Audible.  (If you need a good book, I strongly recommend it.)  We also drank a lot of coffee.  It was a great, uneventful drive.  I even closed my eyes a time or two, as there were no loud children in the back, only a sleeping baby.

Homeschool Conference at University of St. Thomas

As the conference was two days long, we stayed on campus in the dorms for the first night.  This was convenient for two reasons:  1. If the baby was crabby, one of us could take her back to the room for a nap.  2.  If one of us was crabby, we could take ourselves back to the room for a nap.

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Here I am with a friend, waiting for the doors to open.  I’m on the right and in my homeschooling uniform: jean skirt.  My husband was disappointed that it didn’t reach my ankles.  Ha!

The first day I bought a lot of used books.  The most exciting thing I found was my eldest daughter’s Saxon Math Curriculum for $20.  (Normally it’s around $100.)

Then I attended a blogger workshop where I met Sterling Jaquith, Jennifer Macintosh from Wildflowers and Marbles, and Kirby – all great bloggers.  In this workshop I learned:

  1. Instagram is very important if you’d like to grow your readership.  (I don’t even know what instagram is.)
  2. One should never type anything that would embarrass one’s children when they’re older.  (A good piece of advice.  Mea culpa.)
  3. And one should always back up your site in the event that it crashes, and it will.  (Yikes.  I better get my Web Master on that one.)

We didn’t attend any other talks the first night because we had to meet some good friends in South St. Paul and drink wine.

But the next day we did attend Dr. Ray Guarendi’s talks.  He’s hilarious.  Do yourself a favor and read all of his books and listen to him on the radio.  At one point, when Dr. Ray was telling about his son trying to cover up urine on his Sunday shirt by pulling up his pants over the spot, I thought the bleachers were going to collapse, as my husband was laughing so hard and shaking everyone around him.  I guess the story hit really close to home, as the saying goes.

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My children love Dr. Ray’s wonderful ideas for discipline, especially Black Out…

Later in the morning I made my way to the RC History table and purchased my books from Sonia for next year.  Sonia, by the way, is the brains behind this excellent program.

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Sonia.  Smart, smart woman.  I thought that if I took a photo with her, it might rub off on me.

Finally, it was time for lunch.  We met a couple of good friends at the Groveland Tap in St. Paul and had a good time catching up and laughing.  I also learned about sour beer.  Who knew such a thing existed?  And that it can be pink?  My goodness this was an educational weekend.

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Which drink is mine?
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This is my good friend.  She likes “sour” beer.

Well, after filling up the empty suitcase with lots of books, we departed from the conference and headed to St. Cloud for the night.

Why did we drive to St. Cloud?

  1. I’ve never been there.
  2. It would get us a little closer to home, for a shorter drive the next day.
  3. There was a Traditional Latin Mass being celebrated at St. John Cantius.

And that was that.  In all, it was a fun little get-away.

 

Most Popular Posts, Motherhood & Parenting

A Day of Not Yelling?

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.

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My son drew a picture of me yelling.  Flattering, no?

4 Tips For Not Yelling at Your Children:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.)
  3. 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.)
  4. 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.

 

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My other son drew this.  He says to note the baby in the background in his diaper tearing books off the shelf.  Can anyone relate to that?

 

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.

Conclusion

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.