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Domestic Church Ink Slingers Lisa Canning Martina Mom So Hard Parenting Prayer Resources Vocations

Mom So Hard: Finessing the Intricacies of Your Modern Catholic Family

Welcome, friends. I am SO thrilled to have you join us for this new series. Through Mom So Hard: Finessing the Intricacies of Your Modern Catholic Family, we will be taking a detailed look at the everyday practicals of the domestic Church – YOUR domestic Church – and help you incorporate time for Jesus, tips, strategies, and even wine and chocolate time – YAS – into your everyday. While the pieces will be largely written from the point-of-view of your average stay-at-home-mom (me!), I will do my best to give advice and tips that Catholic women of all walks of life – working, single, married, moms of large families, moms of small families, etc. – can glean something from the practicals shared.

Um, why you, Martina?

So, who am I and why do I want to write about this kind of stuff? Well, I am Martina and I am the creator of Catholic Sistas, a blog that is centered upon sharing the Faith. You might be wondering why a series like this fits inside the mission of the blog. The short answer is, if you’re at all like me, and not naturally organized or struggle to find some kind of organization and balance in your life, you will appreciate ALL of the mistakes I’ve made over the years. Not that I don’t make mistakes anymore – HA! – but in certain areas of my life, I really let things slide that I should have tackled and made a priority before drowning in children. 😉

Another reason for the series is a small detail that has helped keep this apostolate afloat for the past 7.5 years. As the foundress, and as a team, part of the mission of the blog has been that whatever work we do for the blog does not compromise our primary vocation as wife, and for many of us, as mothers. We respect that life happens and writers need to step back and take care of the home front – and that spiritual work ethic has lent itself toward, I believe, writing that really strikes at the core of who we are as women and mothers. It’s hard to do the things you love well when your house is “on fire”, so to speak.

At the heart of the matter

A friend and I were chatting on Facebook a few months ago and we got to talking about garage space. I was SO excited to share my newest ideas that I did a quick video and uploaded it to our chat. She was like you HAVE to write more about how you do things. Moms like me need that, she said. Moms like her being that she is a young momma in her early 30s and apparently my old, battle-scarred self might just have something of use to offer other mommas like her – and maybe you, too? 🙂

So, what makes me even qualified to speak on the matter beyond being old and learning from mistakes? I don’t really know, but maybe because I resisted the idea of being organized for many many years, insisting that I could just hobble on by with my rag tag ideas. The truth is, my methods (which were, duh, disorganized) caused a greater stress than actually coming up with a system and sticking with it. But…it’s amazing what desperation, necessity, and a little ingenuity can lead to…and now I look at my children and see the fruits of being able to gradually implement some systems that work in our large family. I’ve come to realize that my greatest stress was a result of persisting in disorganization. And maybe that’s you, too.

It starts with a witness

In my first post, I will share my story – what prompted my way of thinking in 2002, and how I manage our family of nine these days.

You might just be thinking to yourself, yeah that’s nice, but right now while I’m trying to read this for like the fifth time, my toddler is busying himself dumping flour out all over the place and my other kids are crawling the countertops and smearing peanut butter all over each other. HOW is something like this series supposed to stop the madness in my house?

Look, I get it. I really do. We’re going to cover feasible solutions that you can apply to your life and it will be a gradual process for some of you and others, it will be like a light switch. The series will be geared toward shifting a mindset towards a greater sense of peace in your home which, in turn, will lead to reducing stressors and more time to really glorify God in those mundane chores that everyone seems to have, whether you work outside the home or not.

So, I’m going to turn things over to my lovely co-conspirator in this series, Lisa Canning of Blueprints for a Beautiful Life who specializes in time management strategies for the busy momma. And aren’t we all busy? She  and I will be taking turns tackling various topics that will take your home from cray to ahhhh, from chaotic to peaceful, from scattered to intentionally prayerful.


Hey!

I’m Lisa and for the last eleven years I have balanced running my interior design business and raising small children – we have now been blessed with seven kids!

Before I became a mom, I had many preconceived notions of what being open to a large family was going to be like, and what life with lots of kids was going to be like. I thought raising a family meant that I was giving up on my personal goals and dreams, or any form of a career, and that there was just no way the pursuit of both was possible.

And what God has shown me, is that when we trust Him, and we trust that He has the BEST plans for our life, that pretty incredible things can happen. We just have to be open to what He has to say, and walk forward in faith even when it seems impossible.

I bring to this series my experience of working both outside and inside of the home, the juggle and struggle that comes with pursuing career excellence and home excellence, and how I finally figured out that time management isn’t really dictated by a clock, but by a correct ordering of your true priorities.

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Alyssa Azul Domestic Church Ink Slingers Spiritual Growth

Don’t Come In Yet, It’s A Mess!

Photo by Gades Photography on Unsplash

Have you ever had that moment of panic when someone shows up at your door unexpectedly? You invite the guest in- while your eyes and hands move quickly to remove any personal or slightly embarrassing items that may be commented on. You catch the dirty laundry basket in the corner, waiting for the perfect moment to slide it away secretly. You remember the dishes you were meant to clean…two hours ago. What if your guest is someone you you’re rather close to? You can be sure that a parent will always have something to say inside your unfiltered home.

As a young adult who still lives at home, I admit I recoil at the thought of my mom going through my personal stuff. My mother is not afraid to waltz into my room and start picking things up and digging through my closet. You want to put on the appearance that you’ve got everything handled, when in reality you’ve fallen, and are struggling to stay on top of responsibilities.

I’m willing to bet that this is how it feels when God rushes into our messy lives. We’re so used to maintaining our version of an “organized chaos” that we are on guard when someone tries to dip their hands into our business. We hold on tightly to our personal belongings (materials, comforts, sins), negotiating with God to keep some things, and nudging him away from touching others. But like a parent, God rushes in with great love, on His timing, and with the intention to rid the space of things that we don’t need. Things that will cause bigger problems if left untouched. Times passes and that “spring cleaning” reminder has crawled into the winter season, still unchecked. We tell God to help us with our messes, but we still want it cleaned our way. “Lord, throw these things out for me, but let me keep this.” Or “Lord, I’m not ready to give this away yet.” The Lord wants more than our full attention–He wants our surrender and our willingness to give up the mess so that he can do the rest.

I’ll admit, it doesn’t feel all that great when you have someone rummaging through your things without warning. Especially if they are things that you avoided. Sometimes God brings things from the past that you buried long ago. And sisters, it hurts to see those things, it really does. But these things are a part of His process. So your life will feel disturbed, shaken and complicated. But you can trust that it’s a sign God is rummaging through your room. He’s finding the hurts and the joys that you hoarded for years, and he’s taking you back through those journeys.  He’s throwing out the things you thought you couldn’t live without, and dusting off the things you took for granted. He’s looking under your bed for your biggest fears and He’s shining a light on them so that you can finally sleep at night. He’s polishing your windows so that you can see the world clearly again.

I realized how humiliating and purifying it is at the same time. A verse from Corinthians comes to mind:
But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me (2 Corinthians 12:9).

Sanctification takes a bit of shaking and shattering. We can’t expect the Lord to come into our lives and rebuild a home if we’re still holding on to the broken parts. To our comforts and our worldly desires. True sacrifice is when we surrender the things we value the most.

So next time you hear a knock on your door, perhaps it’s not house, but Heaven-keeping.

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Confession Ink Slingers Sacraments Spiritual Growth Susie

The Importance of Decluttering Your Soul

I stood at the doorway of my room, completely overwhelmed just looking at the piles I knew I finally had to deal with. I had been putting it off and letting it build up for far too long – years, in the case of some items, which made the task that much more difficult than if I had dealt with things as they came. The weight of it all was becoming unbearable, though, and so despite the discomfort I gritted my teeth and dove in.

Several hours (and multiple empty boxes and bags of trash and giveaway items) later, I could see the dent I had started to make in the piles. I felt lighter and freer, even though I still had a long way to go. I had made progress! It was possible to see how I could finish this, eventually, or at least make it all more manageable. I didn’t have to be weighed down for the rest of my life, carting around old papers and useless keepsakes and clothes that have long before deserved to be retired.

I really don’t like clutter, but it’s easy for me to let things become cluttered. Once I leave out that pile of mail without putting it where it should go, or once I leave that pair of shoes out on the floor, it’s easier to let the mail start to pile up there, and to take off more shoes and leave them by that first pair, and then add in a jacket and some books, and before I know it things have gotten out of hand.

And I can’t help but realize how much decluttering — getting rid of stuff I’ve known I need to get rid of but am always afraid to because of the finality of it — is quite similar to my spiritual journey sometimes.

I have, by the grace of God, never fallen away from the Church. My closeness to Jesus has varied depending on what’s been going on in my life, but I’ve never had the experience of a long period being away from God entirely. I have, however, had the experience of letting sins and lies from the enemy pile up in my heart, avoiding dealing with them head on, until they get worse and worse. It can be easy to let in that one little lie from the enemy, or to do that one thing little thing I know is wrong but in the moment I decide to do anyway, and it’s easy to figure that I can clean things up with God later. The trouble is that once things start to get dirty…it’s easier to keep letting things get dirtier, whether it’s our house or our souls.

While I’m not quite to the point of appearing on a show about hoarders, I can see how it’s possible to get to there — just like I know how easy it is to put off working on overcoming sins the longer we let them fester. It’s often hardest to make myself go to confession when I need it the most, and it gets even harder if I start to put it off. If we don’t prioritize cleaning the things that really need it WHEN they need it, the easier it is to let more and more pile on, whether we’re talking about clutter or sins.

The good news is that it can get easier if we work at maintaining it better. It’s also important to stick with it once we’ve made that decision to start cleaning things up. Even if our resolve is there, it can be easy to get distracted — life happens, other priorities take precedence, and before we know it the mess is right back to where it was when we started. Thankfully, God never tires of giving us second chances — we’re the ones who have to build up to the resolve to start over again (and again, and again).

Just like I have an easier time keeping things clean once I get things clean (or, at least, telling myself I won’t let things again get as bad as they were), it’s similar with sin. Once I’ve gone to confession, I never want to sin again! But, being the human that I am, unfortunately the lack of sin doesn’t last long. At first it might just be a couple of little things — getting annoyed with someone while I’m driving or letting back in those creeping doubts about my own self-worth when I see someone else getting exactly what I want, which must mean she’s better than me.

Sometimes I can get a handle on these things before they pile up or turn into something bigger; but other times I find myself, once again, standing at the doorway, overwhelmed by the amount I have to clean up and clear out, knowing that the only way to be free again is to take that first difficult step, start examining and removing piece by piece, until eventually I reach the end and hear those most wonderful words — “I absolve you from your sins in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.”

 

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Ink Slingers It Worked For Me Misty Parenting Vocations

It Worked for Us: Zone Cleaning for Teens

Our downstairs bathroom before zone cleaning.
Our downstairs bathroom before zone cleaning. (I took this to jokingly guilt my husband while he was on a mini-vacation.)

I’ll never forget the day an old friend told me she still cleans her 14-year-old daughter’s room, does her laundry, and even makes her lunches for school. She related this to me in the midst of a conversation lamenting that her daughter was a “spoiled, disrespectful brat” (her words) who takes her mother’s sacrifices for granted. She marveled that my school-aged children seemed more competent than her teenager.

I’ve noticed that many modern parents have the idea that their children will magically transform from helpless, dependent infants to self-sufficient adults at age 18 with no guidance from them. But realistically, our children need to be trained in self-discipline from the beginning and gradually given more and more responsibility for themselves and the household as they get older.

Our rule is: If they can toddle, they can contribute to keeping our home orderly. Even two-year-olds can pick up toys, hand you silverware out of the dishwasher, and carry their clothes to their drawers. By the time they’re adolescents, then, most kids should have mastered more complex, individual chores such as loading the dishwasher and cleaning a load of laundry from start to finish. Teens should know how to take care of pets and keep their rooms decent. (Not perfect, but decent–at least most of the time.) They should be intimately familiar with the family vacuum cleaner and mop. 

But there’s one more transition period that many parents forget about and that’s moving from individual tasks to cleaning whole areas. Because as every mom knows, cleaning a home efficiently and well isn’t just about what and how you clean, but in what order you clean things, too. You don’t sweep floors and THEN wipe down counters, for instance. You don’t clean out the sink and THEN load the dishwasher. Keeping up on laundry requires at least a load a day, with prompt swapping out of the loads between washer and dryer. And there’s no point to even doing laundry if it’s just going to sit in the baskets all week to wrinkle (eventually ending up back in the dirty clothes bin because half the basket has been strewn on the floor as family members rifle through the basket for clean items…ask me how I know this).

Our three oldest kids are 11, 12, and 14–prime ages to start being responsible not just for a handful of tasks, but for a whole zone of the house. I broke our home down into four main zones: 1) Living room and dining room, 2) Kitchen, 3) Laundry room/pets, and 4) Bathrooms/hallways/stairs. For one whole week, each child is responsible for one zone and then they switch. (I take the remaining zone.) The first day they were responsible for the zone, I sat down with them and had them read the detailed cleaning list I’d prepared for each area (click on the link to see our list):

  1. Living room and dining room
  2. Kitchen
  3. Laundry room/pets
  4. Bathrooms/hallways/stairs

 I explained why the order is important and how following the order would help them do a better job and get the job done faster. In addition to their daily tasks, they have one additional task that’s to be done each day, such as vacuuming the stairs or buffing the stainless steel fridge. This ensures that certain tasks get done at least once a week. It takes about 45 minutes each day to complete their zone cleaning.

IMAG1931
Our downstairs bathroom today. (And no, I did NOT clean it ahead of time–this is zone cleaning, baby!)

The advantages of switching to zone cleaning for the kids was apparent right away. With three kids each doing a handful of different chores each day, it was getting to be a nightmare for me to keep up with whether their chores were completed. (No doubt they took advantage of that to get out of a chore here and there, too.) And half the time, I couldn’t remember WHO was responsible and didn’t feel like wrangling with them, so it didn’t get done. Now, it just takes a cursory view to know whether someone has done their zone for the day.

The kids also have become very territorial about their assigned areas. I no longer have to yell at anyone to pick their clothes up off the bathroom floor after their shower because the child in charge of the bathrooms that week will do it for me. My children also take obvious pride in being able to point to an entire room that they’ve cleaned, too; there’s an ownership that simply wasn’t there when they were just responsible for the dishwasher or taking out the trash.

Overall, the house stays tidier. And there’s less bickering over chores; I’m no longer dealing with complaints that “I had to empty the dishwasher twice yesterday after the party!” or “It’s not my day to take out the trash!” The expectations are crystal clear now.  

Of course, it’s not a perfect system. They are still kids and that means they do their best to slack; I have to prompt and follow up each day to ensure they’re getting their work done. They still forget what it was like to have a sibling trash their zone after it was just cleaned and throw their crap everywhere from time to time. The process of teaching them to clean up after themselves (ostensibly to be considerate of the person responsible for that room)…well, that’s still a work in progress. 

But aren’t we all?