Book Review

Book Review: Perfectly Yourself by Matthew Kelly

A while back a friend of mine gave me Matthew Kelly’s latest book Perfectly Yourself, so I read it over Lent.  It was exactly what I needed.

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Let me begin by quoting a funny, but insightful passage from the book:

I have seven brothers, and as you can imagine, as children we could be quite a handful from time to time.  When we went altogether too far, my mother would send us all to the laundry room.  That meant we were going to get a spanking, usually with a wooden spoon.  We couldn’t all fit into the laundry room , so some of us would sit around outside.  Nobody wanted to be first, because everybody knew she would be tired by the time she got to the end, but sometimes she started with those inside the laundry room and sometimes with those outside.
Having sent us to the laundry room, my mother would then go and make herself a cup of coffee and sit at the kitchen table and drink it slowly before coming to spank us.  I asked her several years later why she used to do this, and she told me that she used to get so angry at times and that she never wanted to beat us out of anger, but she needed to spank us out of love.

This passage really struck me.  How many times do I discipline my children out of anger and frustration?  (Click HERE for my post on Yelling.)  All the time.  Sigh.  I’m always confessing it and always vowing to improve, but am I really working on this?  Nope.  Kelly convinced me that I need an action plan.

Thumbing Noses

Now I know that in some circles Kelly is scoffed at.  I’ve personally come across it, and I’m not really sure why.  Perhaps for some he’s not “Catholic” enough in his approach to writing and speaking?  For it is true; he appeals to all kinds of people – Christians and nonChristians alike.  I guess I would argue that it’s not his mission to explain or defend Catholic doctrine and theology, but rather, his mission is to inspire everyone to live better lives, which is appealing to all people, at all times.

And I need to hear his message from time to time.  And I need his practical advice, which this book gives.  If you find yourself in a similar position, I strongly recommend reading Perfectly Yourself.  This is not a book to thumb your nose at.  Rather, put your nose in it, and read it.

By the way this book isn’t all about discipling your children either.  It’s set up as nine chapters or lessons that help you take a good, hard look at your habits and lifestyle.  Kelly encourages you to do the next right thing.  He wants you to grow in virtue.  He tells you to simplify your life and quit with all the worrying.  And all along there are practical suggestions and interesting stories.  It’s truly inspiring.

Like Matthew Kelly?

My brother, Rodney,  is a avid Matthew Kelly fan.  In fact he’s an ambassador for Kelly’s Dynamic Catholic program.  (Click HERE for the Dynamic Catholic website.)  Rodney insists that it was Kelly’s website, daily videos, and books that saved him from the cesspools of our culture.

I asked him what he thought of Kelly’s work.  He said, “Nobody teaches you anything any more.  You go to Mass, which is of course a good thing, but it’s meaningless unless you know what’s going on.  And I was sick and tired of not knowing anything.  Then I came across Kelly’s books and website, and they are the best thing ever.  And he’s not boring.  It’s all engaging.”  And Rodney went on and on and on…  This all coming from a young man with a rocky past – a marriage, two children, a divorce, and an annulment – all by the age of 27.

My point is that Kelly’s writing appeals to all walks of life.

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I also recommend all three of these Kelly books, especially The Seven Levels of Intimacy.  My husband and I read that one together.  It was excellent.  It inspired us to have regular Date Nights.

 

Life is Worth Living

Ode to My Coffee Pot

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.)

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O Bestower of Wakefulness!  O Terror of Yawns!  You are a beauty!

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:

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Mommy has not yet had enough coffee.

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.

 

Homeschooling, Life is Worth Living, Motherhood & Parenting

How to Survive Barfing Children, Ear Infections, & Other Nasty Stuff

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.

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Crabby Baby.

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.

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Survival Gear.  Must Haves.

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.

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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?

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O Brewer of Buzzes!  O Terror of Yawns!  How I love thee!

 

Bonus Tip

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.

*Note:

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.

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This is an actual picture of my friend’s Laundry Solution.  Smart Woman.

 

Know of anyone else experiencing Sick Children?  If so, share these tips with them?

Homeschooling

A Day in the Life of a Crazy Fool: Part 1

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.

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This is where it all begins.  Note the candles.  Everybody likes candles because they’re fun and potentially dangerous.  We probably need more.

6:00 am

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.

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Coffee’s done!  Let’s get this party started!

6:45 am

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.

7:15 am

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.

8:15 am

Breakfast and Morning Time.  Stay tuned for more on that in…A Day in the Life of Crazy Fool: Part 2.

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“Quick, Mom’s not looking!”  Mom from the other room yells, “I heard that!  Get back to work!  Somebody get that baby away from the bookshelf!”*

*Hmmm, Yelling?  Guess I should reread my post about that…

 

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.