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The Worst Best Advice I Got as a New Mom

The Worst Best Advice I Got as a New Mom

Time, it goes by so fast – enjoy her while she’s little.

That bit of advice came from a virtual stranger at my cousin’s high school graduation. I remember like it was yesterday. A new mom, I held my then three-week old baby in my arms. I knew it all and that comment just rolled off my back. Time did NOT go by fast in my world, kind stranger. It felt like it went by painstakingly SLOW. Each moment felt dragged on, but my youth and immaturity were to blame in how I viewed the world at the time.

Today, as I sit here writing this, it is my youngest daughter’s second birthday – January 14. My sweet Emmaleine Rose, whose birth we awaited with quiet anticipation and anxiety, as she was our first baby after three consecutive losses. She is number 7 to the world, and number 10 in our family, after Felicity Gertrude (Gertie), Michael Christopher, and Sarah Olivia.

Time – it does go by fast. In my head, I’m still the young mom, even though the mirror tells a cruel contradictory story. But you know what? I wouldn’t trade any of it. Time goes by entirely too fast. It reminds me of another common phrase heard among veteran parents:

the days are long, but the years are short.

Somewhere along the way, time just sped up with no regard for how I felt. Rude. As it stands now, I have an almost 23 year old daughter (who is closer in age to ME than she is to her youngest sister), followed by a 17 year old son who will soon be 18. Two adult children, and five more in the pipeline. The next one down the line will be 14 in less than three weeks, but my youngest keeps me grounded. She’s barely two. She reminds me to slow down, to appreciate the small things because she, too, will be 22 one day. And when that happens, I will be the one saying to my children of their babies:

Time, it goes by so fast – enjoy her while she’s little.

TheWorstBestAdviceIGotasaNewMom


A Parent’s Prayer

Loving God,
You are the giver of all we possess,
the source of all of our blessings.
We thank and praise you.

Thank you for the gift of our children.

Help us to set boundaries for them,
and yet encourage them to explore.
Give us the strength and courage to treat
each day as a fresh start.

May our children come to know you, the one true God,
and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent.

May your Holy Spirit help them to grow
in faith, hope, and love,
so they may know peace, truth, and goodness.

May their ears hear your voice.
May their eyes see your presence in all things.
May their lips proclaim your word.
May their hearts be your dwelling place.
May their hands do works of charity.
May their feet walk in the way of Jesus Christ,
your Son and our Lord.
Amen.

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Anni Ink Slingers Marriage Matrimony Sacraments Vocations

Working Toward Sainthood: 5 Steps to Enhancing Your Catholic Christian Marriage

 

Like many military couples, my husband and I were first married by the local Justice of the Peace. We already had our “church wedding” date set, so we chose the same month and day, only a year early, in order to make everything legal. In the year leading up to our Convalidation, we took part in the local diocese’s mandatory pre-marriage classes, meeting as a couple with another couple, a few times each month.

Looking back on it now, almost a decade later, I realize our learning and growth, both as individuals and as a couple, did not stop at either wedding. And, there is immense value, wisdom, and love in the teachings of the Catholic Church, as it pertains to Sacramental unions. From my years of study and lived experience, allow me to impart some wisdom to those just starting out, and perhaps remind those of us solidly entrenched in this sacrament.

1.) Pray for your spouse. Many couples, and the Church itself, advocates family prayer – the family is known as the Domestic Church, after all! But, just as important as praying together, is the act of praying individually for our spouses. A wiser Catholic wife shared once she has an alarm set, and I took her recommendation to do the same. My phone reminds me every day, usually set for a time my husband would be headed home (if he had a typical 9-5 job) to pray for him. Sometimes, the prayer is lengthy; other times, it is a brief, “Jesus, watch over my husband on his way home.”

2.) Familiarize yourself with the concept and beauty of the teaching of Theology of the Body. St. John Paul II wrote extensively on the beauty and dignity of women… and the Sacrament of Matrimony. He reassured Catholics that sex is a pleasurable act, to be saved until marriage so that we are able to join with God as co-creators of life – because at the moment we are giving ourself wholly to our spouse, God is with us. Realizing God is truly in that moment is a beautiful and powerful realization… which is also a difficult one to remember when we internalize our secular culture’s view on sex as being solely an act of pleasure. It is so much more than pleasure-based, which is part of the added beauty of the procreative act.

3.) Learn about love – from Catholic writers and speakers… and, the Catholic saints! Christopher West, renowned for his work on Theology of the Body explains how our marital love is but a foreshadow of the love we experience from God. So, what we give to, and receive from our spouse is just a taste of what we aim to receive in our life after death. St. Teresa of Calcutta, a woman who lived in the world, giving herself entirely and devotedly to the world, reminds us that, while “Not all of us can do great things, but we can do small things with great love…” She also directs us to, “Wash the plate not because it is dirty, nor because you are told to wash it, but because you love the person who will use it next.” St. Frances of Rome also shares wisdom with wives, reminding us, “It is most laudable in a married woman that she be devout, but she must never forget that she is a housewife. And sometimes she must leave God at the altar to find Him in her housekeeping.” The saints wrote about love extensively – both God’s love for us, and ways in which we can better love our own spouses.

4.) Model God’s love and mercy for us, to our spouse. God doesn’t always like the choices we make. Sometimes, He wonders what we are thinking, and He shakes His head disapprovingly. But, He also recognizes our free will and has infinite love, and more importantly, mercy – if we are willing to seek it. Because we are called to sanctification through our vocation of marriage, we are challenged to be God’s tangible love and mercy to our spouse. This is not to say there aren’t consequences for our behavior or actions, but we are called to be loving and merciful to our spouse, even if we may not like their choices or actions. This advice also presupposes the Sacrament of Matrimony is healthy, and there is no physical, sexual, or emotional abuse – because abuse is never justifiable. The Church even acknowledges there is no room for abuse in a sacramental marriage.

5.) Manage your roles and expectations. Keep in mind, the roles and expectations you have at the outset of the marriage may shift. Every change during a marriage, i.e. change in employment, adding a family member, moving, etc., brings the necessity to manage the roles and expectations each person has in their marriage. Your roles and expectations may change over time. And, that is okay! Keeping an open dialogue, and being honest with yourself and your spouse, is a guaranteed way to meet the ebb and flow of marriage. Because you are a team, united with God, it is important to keep the avenues of communication open, and have the discussions of each others’ roles and expectations (for both yourself, and your spouse) together.

In our culture, it is easy to lose focus on the beauty of the Sacrament of Matrimony. It is easy to get stuck in noticing the imperfections of our spouse, while overlooking our own contribution to the state of our marriage. But, as Catholic Christians, we are striving to achieve sainthood.

As married couples, we are called to the path of sainthood through our vocation as wives or husbands. Furthermore, we are challenged, sometimes more than others, to help our spouse achieve sainthood with us. Yet, putting these five steps in the forefront of your mind may just help ease some of the work toward sainthood, and may in fact help enhance the journey!

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Ink Slingers Marriage Matrimony Misty Sacraments Vocations

Five Tips for a Long, Strong Marriage

Five Tips for a Long, Strong MarriageOn February 28, I will have been married for 18 years to a man who can still make my heart flutter when I look at him. (Except when he leaves his dishes on the couch.) Approaching our 20-year anniversary has made me think about the lessons we’ve learned over the years about marriage. Our relationship isn’t perfect, of course; we’ve even needed counseling a few times to help us navigate difficult issues. But we’ve held onto each other for nearly two decades, through suffering and struggle, so I humbly share our hard-won wisdom for a lasting, edifying, and satisfying marriage. 

  1. Accept that your mission in marriage isn’t to always be happy, but to become HOLY and help each other get to heaven. My husband and I converted together three years into our marriage. We have always been very compatible and our first years together sans children were a lot of fun. But in RCIA, our first priest emphasized that marriage is a partnership designed to help us become the best versions of ourselves. And that more than anything, we’re to help each other get to heaven. This challenged us to hold each other accountable, to encourage each other spiritually, and to see our union as something bigger than our individual selves. This mindset has also helped us weather those “for worse” times, because it framed them as periods of training in forgiveness and virtue, instead of proof that our relationship was failing. 
  2. Get on the same page financially. Almost every couple I know has struggled with differing habits and expectations about finances, including us. My husband grew up in a wealthy family; I grew up impoverished. To say we had different approaches to money would be an understatement. In past generations, frugality and budgeting were passed on to children from parents who understood the value of “home economics.” If you weren’t taught how to be a good steward of your money, learn how BEFORE you get married, and save yourself the wrangling with your spouse over it. For us, Dave Ramsey’s Total Money Makeover was a godsend, but Crown Financial Ministries has a good program, too.
  3. Five Tips for a Long, Strong MarriageMake sex a priority and get counseling if it isn’t. Sex is important because it’s how we renew the marriage covenant; it’s a source of great graces for a couple. Sadly, my sexual hangups often caused me to increasingly avoid intimacy, which sent the message to my husband that I didn’t value being with him. I allowed fear–of being used, being rejected, not looking perfect–to keep me from getting closer to him. My fear of being vulnerable became glaring during an especially rough patch and it wasn’t until I worked through my issues in counseling that I learned to treasure the gift of sex. Beyond grace, sex has a subtle but important effect: It helps you don those “rose-colored glasses” that keep the daily, minor irritations of living together from becoming major annoyances that drive you apart. This is one reason premarital sex is dangerous–those “sexy” glasses make the person seem so wonderful that we’re willing to overlook warnings the person isn’t right for us. 
  4. Keep the marriage relationship a priority, even over the kids. A few years ago, an insurance company surveyed 1,000 couples about their communication. The results were shocking: excluding time asleep, couples now average less than four hours together each week, an hour of which is spent in silence in front TV and 40 minutes doing chores together. Nearly 30 percent said they don’t actually talk until the weekend and one in 10 only talk via phone or by email! Thirteen percent even admitted to using Facebook to learn about their spouse’s life. Maybe you think this won’t happen to you, but even the most in-love, committed couples can fall into the trap of being “too tired” from childrearing or “too busy” with work to nurture the marriage. (Ask me how I know this.) Remember: God made marriage the sacrament, not raising kids. You’re not just roommates; you’re lovers, so act like it. And ladies, don’t always expect him to initiate time together, either. Plan a date night every single week and carve it in stone on your calendar; surely, if dental appointments get a time slot, your marriage should. Just as importantly, plan time together at the end of each day. Go to bed 20 minutes early and just lay there holding hands and talk. Trust me on this. 
  5. Five Tips for a Long, Strong MarriageAgree to trust each other’s judgment when it comes to mental illness or needing outside help. Both my husband and I have periodically suffered from depression and anxiety that necessitated medication and/or counseling. We also needed counseling to help us cope with his PTSD. (See, I told you we weren’t perfect.) Most couples wait until they’re on the brink of divorce before they even consider seeking treatment for problems and then, it’s common for one spouse to refuse outside help. The truth is, it’s hard to think clearly when you’re anxious or depressed. And prolonged strife and emotional estrangement can overwhelm you with fear, anger, and hopelessness. My husband and I have been able to repair our relationship before it’s irrevocably damaged because we’ve agreed to trust each the other when one of us says to the other, “I think you’re depressed and may need medication/counseling” or “I think we need a counselor to help us reconnect and better support each other.” You can’t know what life may bring, so agree ahead of time to use whatever tools are necessary to preserve and heal your marriage–even counseling. 

RESOURCES

DBSA {Depression, Bipolar Support Alliance}

NAMI {National Alliance of Mental Illness}

NATIONAL SUICIDE PREVENTION HOTLINE

MTHFR {genetic mutation associated with depression, bipolar, and schizophrenia}

BOOK: THE CATHOLIC GUIDE TO DEPRESSION by Dr. Aaron Kheriaty

REVIEW OF THE CATHOLIC GUIDE TO DEPRESSION

Categories
Domestic Church Homeschool Ink Slingers Martina

Homeschool Moms Share the Best Advice They Ever Received

HomeschoolMoms

If you are discerning homeschooling, this post is for you! On Facebook, there is a crazy big homeschooling momma group that gets some of the best conversations going. One day, Bonnie Landry asked moms to share the best advice they had ever received about homeschooling. The following is a collection of those responses:

  1. Our number one job as parents is to help our kids get to Heaven….to me it puts all our homeschooling efforts into proper perspective.
  2. Strive for mastery learning. Stay on something and keep teaching until he/she gets it; otherwise, why not just send him to public school if we can’t teach to the mastery level as homeschoolers? My husband said this, and I’ve been less interested in hitting deadlines and more interested in my son getting the information completely.
  3. Take each year at a time…that helped me make the original decision to homeschool. Also, that your child’s religious formation is the most important and they wouldn’t get what you are giving in school.
  4. Never make a big decision in February. It tends to be among the worst burnout months when we are trapped inside because of the cold and illness and lack of sunshine makes everything seem so much darker.
  5. ‘No one is watching.’ Meaning, no one is keeping tabs on every little thing you do throughout your homeschooling days. Feel free to do as your heart and soul leads you with your precious family!
  6. I don’t know if this was intended to be advice but looking back, I totally think it’s shaped my home schooling. When my now 15 year old was about 3 or 4, I thought I had to get involved quickly. I joined a co-op that did art projects once or twice a month. I met some great ladies, but I remember them basically saying that it was okay for me to join but to keep in mind that my daughter was young and I really didn’t have to. I really think that has shaped a lot of who I am as a homeschooler. I really think we push kids way too young. And that includes the five year old or six year old who can’t read yet. Many of our kids are just not developmentally ready for what we think the schools would force them to do. And that is a big reason why we homeschool.
  7. Two things–daily Mass if at all possible and remember that life sometimes gets in the way of homeschooling. That was great advice for me as we had our seventh child when we started and continued to have a baby every couple of years and it was necessary to take some time off with each baby. It is amazing how much learning gets done in the unstructured time if you are reading good books.
  8. Don’t try to make your homeschool like public/private school…make it your own.
  9. Your first priority is their soul.
  10. Don’t do kindergarten.
  11. I decided early on not to buy anything until I knew we needed it. Money was tight, and this saved money as well as made it so we did not try every new thing that came along. The best advice I ever got…choose a curriculum that works for you the parent. You can tweak anything to better suit your kids but if it doesn’t work for you it will be very hard for you to teach. That changed the way I looked at curriculum and eliminated my own frustration with using programs that just weren’t my style. My kids all have different styles and I’ve been able to tailor what works for me to work for them in their own ways.
  12. I loved doing school on my bed while nursing a newborn several times per day. When I needed to nurse, we did more school! It was great! I miss those days! It seems like we got more school done then than we do now that she is one!
  13. Nursing the baby has always been my excuse to sit: I figured I could use that time to read to the kids or have them read to me.
  14. Breathe more. And you’ll never teach them everything they need to know. It’s okay.
  15. You are the captain of your own ship…you don’t have to keep up with public school or any other homeschooling family.
  16. Love before discipline. Go on field trips and enjoy yourself. See the world through your children’s eyes. If you want to prevent your children from being passive aggressive, make sure they exercise daily.
  17. Relationships trump academics. Always.
  18. My son was having difficulty because of epileptic seizures, his online teacher told me, “Forget what the state thinks he should know, as long as you are seeing improvements year to year, he is doing fine.”
  19. If it’s not broken, don’t fix it.
  20. What are YOUR reasons for homeschooling? Write them down and put them on the fridge. Look at your list on the ‘hard’ days. Put things you need (for your life to be balanced) in place to avoid ‘burnout’. If you burn out, there’s no homeschool so taking care of yourself is of primary importance. Do you need weekly adoration? Dates with your spouse? Mom’s Night Out? Do you need books each year to encourage you as a teacher? A vacation (with kids/without)? A get-a-way? Do you need quiet time for you? A regular gym time for you? To splurge on yourself once in a while? Daily Bible reading? You HAVE to take care of YOU – or you won’t be any good for anyone else.
  21. Best advice…take a breath, drink some tea and customize it to fit ‘your’ family. After I did that, it all fell into place.
  22. It took me FOREVER (like 10 years) to figure out that I could make our school week “start” and “end” on whatever day fit us best for that year. We have a co-op that meets Wednesday for scheduling, but it actually winds up and “ends” our school for the week. And I suck at grading things on Fridays, so I have them turn in spelling tests, math tests, papers, etc on Wed. Then we “start” the week (new chapters, new spelling words, etc.) on Thursdays. I’m so much more likely to get grading done on a Wed afternoon (or Thursday afternoon of a bad week) than a Friday night when I forget until Monday morning and am stuck with trying to catch them up from last week!
  23. Don’t just copy “normal” school at home. Make it what you want. That’s the beauty of homeschooling. You are in charge of directing your family life instead of the world revolving around a school schedule. I just came up with this one this summer for myself: “If you are going to laugh about it in 20 years, you might as well laugh about it now.” This usually applies to baby and toddler messes, preteen weirdness, schoolwork freak outs, messy house but fabulous homeschooling weeks, sickness when everybody is puking and you wish you were in the Caribbean, etc. We are like teabags, fellow homeschooling moms…the more hot water we get into in this crazy journey of homeschooling, the stronger we get. Do what is best for you and yours, and don’t compare anyone to anyone else.
SOUND OFF
What’s the best advice you’ve ever received about homeschooling?