How Does a Mother of Four Slow Down?

So, I wanted to spend this week, Holy Week, taking it easy. You know, waking up, making breakfast, then reading Bible stories to my children and resting in a calm, slower-paced, week. It was going to draw us all into the Passion, the stories, prayer. We would have had a beautiful, serene, “pretty” experience of Holy Week.

And then God saw my thoughts, read my mind, and laughed. Maybe not laughed, but shook his head in a loving way like good fathers do when they know what their children want, and know they won’t get it. I am not getting what I wanted this week. Not in the slightest. God had other plans. His plans? To live the Passion.

Yes, our Lord sees it fit for me to live Holy Week, praying through sickness, stress, worry, myriad household chores, tummy troubles for two kids, and more. This is not serene, calm, nor slow-paced. This is my personal Passion. It is, apparently, what I need. I keep falling. I keep getting up. Soon, maybe I will get a Simon to help me, and a Veronica to comfort me. In the meantime, I pray desperately for the grace to carry my cross like Jesus, with love, humility, perseverance. I unite my cross with His.

(and I wonder, how would I slow down anyway?)


To Be a Mary, or At the Foot of the Cross

Lent is now nearly over, and it seems that nearly every day our Lord has been teaching me that my ways and plans are not His. It is not that I am deliberately turning away and saying, “nanny nanny boo boo! I don’t want to, you can’t make me!” to his plans. It is more of a father gently telling me, often by letting me fall, “that way is not meant for you…stop, slow down, let me lead. I know a better way for you on this journey. Stop trying to leap over the rocks in the path, carefully and slowly walk around or climb over. Stop leaping. You can’t leap.”

I always try to leap…do too much at once, plan to get things done quicker than I can with four small children, “bite off more than I can chew”, you get the idea. I am sure many of us homeschooling mothers find ourselves in the same trap: there is so much to do, lesson plans to keep, household duties to attend to, liturgical plans we’d like to turn into real-life rituals in our homes…and if you are like me, you want to do it all, now, perfectly. Yes, I identity with Martha more than with Mary.

Ever since my last Confession, maybe even before then (but I am not always the best listener), God has been nudging me to slow down, rest, find peace in Him. My confessor told me to read the story of Mary and Martha, dwell with it and the lessons, and begin to take more time out for me, to be a Mary. I have tried, and tiny bits of progress are occurring. Tiny. But it is happening. After all, I am listening to the promptings of the Spirit now.

I was excited for Holy Week, and all the things I would do with my kids. Then, last night, my daughter (God’s Princess) started feeling sick, and was sick in her bed twice. Two loads of laundry, one candy cane, two cups of ginger ale, and 5 total hours of sleep later, I was staying home from Mass to care for her. Surely this is also part of God’s plan. He is symbolically throwing a wrench in my plans, forcing me to slow down and ditch all hopes of a beautifully crafted and liturgically decorated Holy Week. He is calling me to deeper prayer, prayer which has me on my knees begging for the grace to make it through one more night-waking. He is calling me to the foot of the cross, where his mother stayed, praying. He is calling me to his feet, listening and faithful in prayer, as Mary, his friend, was when he visited her home. Christ is calling me to forget about lovely decorating. Forget that, and sit with me. Bring your children to me, in the chaos you feel. Rest. Pray. Live this Holy Week with Me, carrying your cross.

“Seek ye first the kingdom of God, and all these things will be added.” Jesus is speaking those words right to me, now. Yes, I will. I will (try my hardest!) to forget my ideal celebration of Holy Week, and live it at the foot of the cross. I will read Bible stories with my children in place of our regular studies, and listen to God speaking to us.

I will stop, slow down, and seek peace and rest at Jesus’ feet, and God-willing, that will be shared with my family, too.

Homeschooling and Practicing Love

My oldest is seven, completing second grade equivalent work at home. This is our second year homeschooling, after one year of preK and then Kindergarten in a public school. We chose to homeschool when we moved to California (reasons which might be detailed later). It has proved to be a special kind of learning experience for all of us, one fraught with struggle and drama lately.

These times are made for prayer, and practicing love in a truly supernatural way. If not for prayer, deep breaths (in which I literally breathe all the way to my toes and back out again…counting to ten s-l-o-w-l-y so I don’t explode from sheer frustration and exasperation), and what has become nerves of steel, I would enroll the Passionate Princess in school, right now. Or yesterday, in fact. Oh, our days would be smoother, quieter, more predictable…until she came home from an exhausting 6+ hour day, with homework to complete. Then the battles would begin. I have heard it said recently that homeschooling magnifies problems that already exist, because parent and child are always together. It’s probably true.

Even in Kindergarten, as an above-average reader and good student (read: one quiet enough to not get into trouble, liked just enough to not be forgotten or lost in the “cracks” of the system), we struggled with homework. Assigned once a week, it was a dreaded time. She just loathes (if you were a fly on my wall, you would know this is no exaggeration) to write, do things she thinks are too easy, or put her mind to a task that seems hard. She writes beautifully. Her penmanship amazes family. She pens stories on her own time. Her creativity and grasp of language exceed her age. This is not a matter of ability. It is entirely a matter of applying herself and doing her best. (If you happen to be a wiser and more experienced mother than I, please feel free to gently share your gems of wisdom with me.)

I have found homeschooling to be a test of love. Patience, yes, but more love. If it were not for love, I would not be in this epic struggle to begin with. If it were not for love, I wouldn’t care about how patient I was or wasn’t. If it were not for love, I would give up. Surely, I sound like a clanging cymbal many days, but I am trying to grow in love just as much, even more, than I am trying to be an example of virtue to my sweet offspring.

Love is my driving force. You know what? Love hurts. It hurts like labor and childbirth hurt. Love hurts like dying on the cross. Now, I have no idea what Jesus’ death felt like, but I do know that I have to carry my cross each day. Picking up my cross every morning and trying to carry it joyfully, that is love. Last week, on Catholic radio, someone said, “If the greatest man who ever lived carried a cross, so should we, and we are blessed to carry one after his example” (or something very nearly like that). What wisdom there is in this!! Christ calls us to love, he calls us to pick up our crosses, he calls us to imitate him.

And I fail, miserably. But I keep getting up, under the weight of my cross, after I fall. I keep trying. That is what matters. That is what makes a difference in my children’s lives. It hurts.

Last week, it hurt. It hurt me, it hurt my oldest, it just hurt; which now brings me back to where I started: love and homeschooling. Last week began with Drama. Yes, Drama with a capital “D”. It was an event of magnitude, a cauldron of emotion was boiling over from within my oldest, stirred up by her writing assignment. Remember, she is an excellent writer, but hates it. This spewing of emotion was so great that the resulting consequences to clean up her spew-age HURT. I really dislike the “tough” side of discipline, but it has to be done to enforce boundaries. Last Monday was one of those days. Sent to her room after spewing anger all around, she continued to scream about it, upsetting her younger brothers. After she’d calmed to a dull simmer of emotion, I took her a notebook with an apology to write and Bible verse to copy. Suffice it to say, her anger continued to boil over. It wasn’t until Tuesday afternoon, around 1pm, that the apology was carefully finished and the unfinished work started again. She had to skip gymnastics for the week, having behaved poorly and not completed work. She missed on Thursday for the parish penance service. Yes, Love hurt last week.

But Love gave new life.

Oh, did we ever see a change. For the rest of the week, I held my breath, waiting for another outburst. Instead, my oldest surprised me (and delighted me) with raising the standard on herself. She did her work, without complaint, and neater than I’ve seen yet. She asked for more to learn. When Thursday evening rolled around and my 5yr old came down with a low-grade fever, my oldest was  truly disappointed she might miss going to Confession. I dragged us all out so she wouldn’t miss it. (Lord, please give my youngest three extras graces for bearing their time quietly while waiting). By Friday afternoon, she was still joyfully completing her work, helping extra around the house, even waking early one day and cleaning the kitchen for me.


(If you are still with me by now, thank you.) I learn about love daily. I learned a lot last week, that sometimes, in loving and lovingly disciplining our children to be their best selves, sometimes the results are slow to appear. And sometimes, the fruits of our labor grow quickly. We can never tell, but we can always love, and wait patiently for God to do the rest.