Saturday, September 13, 2014

Graces in the Wonky Weeks

They say that the way to get God to laugh is to tell Him your plans and this week was emblematic of that.

All I wanted was to get back to school full-time on my nicely designed routine  . . .

. . . but kids always have a tough emotional time transitioning back to routines and chores after having been on vacation, and

. . . Chris was out of town on business for four days, and

. . . illness began wending its way through our home.

A Type A mother struggle with irritation during a week like this. 'My school log books, my beautiful log books! All the daily work we're supposed to be doing that isn't getting done.' An article was published this week showing that, in our state of North Carolina, there are now more children schooled at home than schooled in private schools, and I always presume (unfairly) that they must all have it more together than do I.

When we struggle, we can more clearly see God's graces at work. Each time I heard that inner voice lamenting that I was failing, I'd force myself to think of a grace from the week.

This week, as long as I was holding and nursing the baby, he was content, but if I couldn't do both he was mostly wailing in feverish, snotty misery all day. As much as I try--in my tiny way--to imitate Mother Teresa in her room full of wailing lepers during those moments, the baby's tears would drive me to the edge and my inner voice would say that 'As long as one has babies around, you'll never be able to homeschool! Babies are such a difficult burden!'

Then I'd force myself to say . . . Siblings teach siblings when Mama is too busy.

Mary (5-1/2) drew a picture of a black bear next to a tree with a bee hive and bees flying nearby.

So Margaret (3-1/2 drew a picture of the same!

One day I walked in on the five- and seven-year-olds taking turns reading Aesop's fables to each other. The children teach Margaret her letters and patiently spell words at her request. And this week, Margaret learned by sheer observation how to play the beginning of Ode to Joy on the piano. I really need to relax, right?

The baby's sleep was wretched which means Mama's sleep was wretched. One night he woke every 30 minutes and I didn't get more than four hours' sleep any night this week. Sure, I could have pushed us through like a General to do our academic list, get through that math lesson, but I've finally learned what is a very dangerous combination that allows Anger into our home:

Husband away on business + Mama very short on sleep + Mama remaining inflexible

Since I could not fix the first two elements, I try hard to force myself to be flexible. And if pushing through the math lesson is going to make a Loud and Angry Mama come to visit, I try to make us do something more lighthearted instead.

Then I'd remind myself . . . Outdoor play is worthwhile often.

When we couldn't manage anything else this week, sometimes we could go outside for even fifteen to thirty minutes, which would refresh everyone's lagging spirits. This reminded me of the early years with everyone five and under when Going Outside was a frequent Big Adventure.

Watching a tree be felled across the street . . . and standing atop the fence, where else?

This week, my engines were running so slowly in the mornings, I skipped daily housekeeping chores (gasp!) or did them quickly myself instead of requiring the children to work alongside me because my doing it alone requires so much less energy. And I'd criticize myself badly for setting a bad example to the children.

But then I'd witness a gem of a moment . . . Morning Time teaches more than just the identifiable subject.

I continued to try to implement the start of Morning Time, rotating through some lovely subjects like reading aloud (especially to the younger ones, who are a bit ignored), art appreciation, science stories, composer studies, and poetry memorization. (No, we did not manage to hit each of those this rough week.)

One day we got out our Child-Sized Masterpieces and it was such a fruitful hour, my low spirits soared!

First the children matched the paintings, then we talked through the subject matter, titles, names of the painters, their country of origins, and the years they were living. The conversation went off on delightful 'rabbit trails' I did not foresee and which were worth all our time.

Then Mary said, as if we were all thinking it, "I'm going to draw the hare!" I was caught off guard and thought, 'Oh yes, that is what a Good Homeschooling Mother would do. We'd be drawing the pictures.' "Well, yes, Mary, we're each going to draw a painting!"

I really enjoyed watching one reluctant artist who didn't even want to participate let me walk the child through a guided drawing, see the picture start to come together, and see the child's enthusiasm dawn and grow, and then the child's passion for colors (picking the perfect ones) take over the process.

Mary drew Durer's 'The Hare'

John drew Van Gogh's 'Vincent's Chair and His Pipe'

Margaret drew red geraniums by Matisse

I discovered this week that the Morning Prayers we've established are so robust that I actually can't do them when my husband isn't here to help. Add in that the children are still not adjusted from West Coast Time and I was severely underslept and, truth be told, most days our morning prayers consisted of nothing more than grace before breakfast. I felt like such a loser of a Catholic mother.

But then I noticed . . . Pious practices are grown slowly over years and do not disappear overnight.

When my husband got home Friday night, my son fairly quickly announced, "We didn't pray the rosary today. Shouldn't we pray the rosary?" 'Tattle tale!' I thought childishly. It's hard for a parent to say that 'no, we shouldn't pray the rosary,' but I think my husband saw the dark circles under my eyes, my brain cells actually frying out of my skull, and the three-year-old with a 104-fever and the mood to match it. He declared we would pray only one decade, and then the children began begging also to play the Stations of the Cross. No, no, we would not be doing that as a family tonight, but he welcomed the five- and seven-year-olds to feel free to pray it themselves after our rosary.

And they did! They prayed the Stations of the Cross together without any adults to help because they wanted to. And if that isn't a glorious moment to assuage a mother's struggling heart, I don't know what is.

And music education is so wonderful! But I have so much to say about that, I'm going to give it its own post soon.

So, I thank God for a week full of challenges so I could see his many graces poured in through the broken cracks.

And I also thank God for getting my husband home safely, that he will be here this week, and I still look forward to this illness ending and my getting even six hours of sleep!


  1. Mrs. Lauer, I applaud your honesty and humility in writing this post. Really, I do. I look up to you so much for so many things: you're a great mom, super organized, humble, patient, kind, and just a very sweet lady. And believe me, I'm soaking up your experiences as tips for future (possible) motherhood! Anyways, I hope the littles get better soon, and that this next week will be a return to order and routine. I know personally how much us melancholics relish that! God bless, -Emiliann W.

  2. The way you forced yourself to notice what was ACTUALLY happening instead of what wasn't, and all the good learning and training that was going on despite not being planned out in your little book, is great. Keep doing that! Learn to be generous with the slack you give yourself! Knowing you, what might work best is for you to predetermine a number of 'setback weeks' and parcel them out when needed so you can feel better about it when it happens. :) haha Yes, grace abounds. Thank God!

  3. How fruitful of you to find the good graces during the difficult times. I need to work on that. It is astounding to me that your children prayed the Stations of the Cross on their own! Way to go Mama! That reminds me of the post that really drew me into your blog, and to thinking that I could do differently with my kids. You had gone on a trip around Christmas, and John spontaneously dropped to his knees in prayer. I was truly amazed that any child would do that, and knew I had to do better.