2018, you were quite a year. (Don’t believe me? Read the recap–book, baby, and so much more crammed into 12 months). I don’t have big plans for 2019, but I’m thrilled it’s beginning.
I have book ideas simmering but no proposals or contracts in the works for a new book deal. We’re not moving, changing jobs (God willing), or doing anything more crazy than homeschooling 4 kids on our little urban farm and trying to pay our bills.
And my prayer is that it’s a year of settling in–with our new sweet baby girl as a family of 6, with our family rhythms and traditions, another year of growing good food in our backyard garden, going on family hikes, reading good books, writing, and learning to love better.
That leads me to my goal for 2019. I don’t have any goals set for when I’ll lose the baby weight (I gained a good 50 pounds during pregnancy and little by little it’s melting away as my nursing babe starts filling out with beautiful baby rolls and chubby cheeks. I know it’ll be a few months yet before my pre-pregnancy clothes fit and you know what…I’m not sweating it this time). I’m not going to pretend that I’ll actually make my bed every day (years of experience tell me I won’t). And so apart from my annual reading goals (#cathLIT2019 this year!), what I want to focus on is a big picture thing that’s hard to measure: peace in our home.
Maybe it sounds laughable when working from home and homeschooling four kids (two of whom are extroverts on steroids who NEVER STOP TALKING EVER) in a very small house. Is peace in our home even possible? I know that decreasing the noise level is not.
But peace is more than that, right? I want our interactions with each other to be kind, loving, and gentle. I don’t want to be frequently impatient or frustrated with my children. I want to chase that sense of well-being, warmth, and safety that every child should feel in her home. I want there to be less hustle, bustle, and frantic last-minuteness and more organized planning for smooth days. I don’t want to be ordering all the kids out of the kitchen at 4:45pm because I’m stressed and haven’t figured out dinner and find myself just barking commands in frustration.
I know that one piece of this is just setting ourselves up for success. While so many beautiful things came out of the months of my pregnancy when I couldn’t get out of bed, improved housekeeping wasn’t one of them. I’m not naturally organized, a good housekeeper, or skilled at keeping to a rigid schedule. I basically laughed my way through A Mother’s Rule of Life because it was just that inconceivable and contrary to my personality. So this is going to be a baby steps thing for me. But basically, I just want to be a better mom and nurture happy kids in a peaceful space.
So here’s areas I want to work on. The first couple are personal self-care:
With a new baby in the house and a husband working evening shifts much of the week, this is tricky. I am often tempted to stay up too late so I can wait for him to get home or I try to skip much needed naps so I can get more done. New Year’s Eve our neighbors did fireworks til 3am and then the baby woke up at 6:30am so I can’t say this element is going fantastic yet, but the thing is, I COULD be in bed by 9pm every night. Last night I was asleep by 10:15 and so the late night nursing and 6am wake up when the baby oped her eyes wasn’t too painful. I want to work on the habit of going to bed soon after my kids do so I can wake up a sweet mom in the morning and not a grump.
If you’re a homeschooling mom or a mom of small children that you are with all the time, you need a break. At least I do. After a week of all day Christmas festivities, I was starting to really LOSE IT until Daniel kicked me out of the house for a couple of hours to grab coffee and get some writing done. A change of scene without the kids on a regular basis is essential to my mental health and ability to be patient with my family. Most weeks I sneak out four mornings for an hour. I’m working, but I’m using a different part of my brain and come home so much happier. And now that Baby Hildie is five months old, my working blocks are extending to two hours since she doesn’t need to nurse as frequently.
The thing about having four kids that don’t leave for school everyday is that all you’ll ever achieve is controlled chaos. At least that’s all I’ll ever achieve. But I’d like to control that chaos a bit more. And having bigger kids who learned so many household skills while I was pregnant and in bed is helping. I can just tell someone to vacuum–and it happens. I can ask someone to empty the dishes and…it’s done! So I think creating a reasonable family chore chart should be in the works. I’ll also be doing some decluttering since the “stuff” has accumulated a bit over the 2.5 years we’ve been in our house. But having some semblance of tidyness seems to help everyone’s mood. And I know I’m the worst culprit at losing my cool when it just feels like there’s. stuff. everywhere.
The more time we spend outside, the less we’re inside for my kids to make messes. And being out getting sunshine adds so much peace to our day! We’ve been in the habit of taking more family hikes lately at the huge city park nearby and on nice days even doing our homeschool outside can be pleasant and peaceful.
There’s something about screens that just can really turn us all into miserable grouches. I deleted Facebook and Twitter from my phone and haven’t looked back (they were definitely causing anxiety and wasting my time). And since I HAVE to spend some time on screens for blogging/writing, I’ve been trying to seriously reduce the time I spend just being entertained by screens. I’ve read so much in the past few weeks! And my children, who are generally lovely, turn into screen-obsessed monsters so easily. We recently took away the two tablets we had because they were causing so much drama. It’s so easy to just pop in a movie for the kids if I don’t want to deal for a few minutes, but then I pay for it later. And now that I’m not exhausted and pregnant, it just doesn’t seem worth it. So just less of them.
The best time for my personal prayer is when the baby wakes up before everyone else and I can sit with her and pray the Little Office of the Blessed Virgin Mary. But I need to find a window for personal prayer on days when that doesn’t happen or when Daniel gets up with the baby if it was a rough night of lots of nighttime nursing. Where do you fit prayer in consistently, moms?
Getting to daily Mass in the mornings is one thing we don’t do as often as we should. It’s a 15 minute walk and a 5 minute drive so we really have no excuse and nothing brings peace to the day like starting with Mass, so that’s at the top of my priority list for this year. Our kids wake up at 6am so we could all go multiple times a week! We got into a great evening prayer groove this Advent with the St. Andrew’s Christmas Novena. After dinner, I start the dishes while the kids brush their teeth and get on pajamas and then we pray all together in the living room before I start reading our current read aloud.
Before Daniel started working evenings, he would read to the girls and I would read to Benjamin in a divide and conquer bedtime method. But separate reading times just didn’t work once I started doing bedtime solo. When we switched to one read aloud for everyone, it made bedtime so much easier and COSY-ER. After prayer we cuddle up on the couch for a few chapters of something (right now, it’s The Voyage of the Dawn Treader) and 5yo Gwen and 5mo Hildie usually both fall asleep before two chapters are over. Benjamin carries Gwen to her bed and it’s so much more peaceful than it used to be! I’d have to say it’s my absolute favorite time of day.
As I said, I’m not making any weight loss goals at all. And while some years I do a no sugar reboot or something like that, this isn’t my goal in 2019. I just want to focus on good food with lots of veggies that make me feel alert and well.
The more kids we have, the more meal planning becomes an absolute must. You can throw together something for one kids, but throwing together something at the last minute for six of us is overwhelming. Kind of like the laundry–with so many people, I have to have a system in place (my system is basically just that the laundry is always going).
This fall I started making a giant batch of baked oatmeal and a giant pot of soup every weekend so that we could start out the week with some meals done ahead of time and I was shocked at what a difference it made in making our home run smoothly (and me be less grouchy and stressed). So meal planning both for frugality and reducing stress is something I’m investing time in.
I actually just bought the Healthy Meal Planning Bundle 2019 yesterday because of how well organized it is and how many gluten-free recipes they have (my kids are allergic) as well as meal plans for seasonal cooking (we cook from our garden, so that’s a must for us).
(Links to the Healthy Meal Planning Bundle are affiliate links, all opinions are my own.)
They have ready-made meal plans specific to different allergies/preferences/lifestyles complete with shopping lists and recipes focusing on simple, delicious meals. There’s over 1,000 recipes for $47 and it’s all set up so you can find what you need easily.
Here’s what it includes:
- A carefully-curated library of simple, nutritious, whole food recipes, beautifully formatted in 12 digital cookbooks.
- An easy-to-use index for every single recipe, to help you sort by food allergy, eating style, quick meals, cooking method, and more.
- 30+ unique made-for-you meals plans complete with grocery lists and prep reminders (4-week dinner plans, school & work lunch plans, breakfast rotations, party plans, and more!)
- Meal planning printables for those who love paper & pen and creating their own custom plans.
- Plus healthy eating resources on clean eating, a flavor crash course (so your food tastes ah-ma-zing!), strategies for helping kids with pickiness, allergies or oral SPD, and more!
This bundle has hundreds of recipes available in one place, so you can find what you need quickly.
I made my meal plan for the next 8 days and now I feel like a new woman. You can grab a copy of the bundle here.
What small steps do you want to take this year to bring more peace to your home?
Just want to say I always enjoy reading your posts!! Happy New year!
Thanks, Crystal! Happy New Year!
I love your new years goals. They are definitely ones that I would like to take on as well.
This is great and I’m so glad to hear that someone else couldn’t follow A Mother’s Rule of Life! I like the idea of simplifying one’s environment and meal planning is a must!! When I don’t do it, I feel chaotic and depressed. When that part of the day is “under control” it frees up a ton of mental space!
I wanted to run at my husband with this post and say, “HA! I’m not the only once who’s New Year’s Goal was peace!” (he insisted our word for the year was “responsibility) but that may be counter-productive. Something that has made me more peaceful is a meditation that my father-in-law sends out to the family every day. It gives me a little goal or thought to focus on. I would really like to install a chalkboard in every room of the house so I will constantly have these words of wisdom in my face….”the mouth speaks what is in the heart”…”etc.
These are some great goals. I, too, want more peace for 2019, but with my first baby on the way not sure if I will get it! 😉 I love the idea of stepping out for just a little bit each morning for just a change of pace and a break.
I feel like I could have written this myself. SAHM, four kids, two month old baby, figuring out a homeschooling routine… basically everything you wrote is exactly what I’ve been needing to work on in my life. After way too many meltdowns in December (from the kids AND mom), peace is definitely my number one goal this year too!
Would you recommend the Little Office of the Blessed Virgin Mary for someone who wants to pray the Divine Office, but can’t find the time? 🙂
Mary-Catherine Carranza says
Would you recommend the Little Office for someone who loved praying the Divine Office before it became too time consuming with children? 🙂
My goals have to do with healing. We’ve been living in crisis mode for several years, and while several crises persist, we need to get back to some normal. So among other things, I’m determined to start reading again. I was always a voracious reader, but have allowed my day to day crazy to beat it out of me. No longer. I’m really looking forward to #CathLit2019!!
Sarah M. says
This is so silly but if I remember right, you use Marquette NFP? I do too and I use the 5 minutes while I’m waiting for the test to process as part of my Daily Office reading time. Haha! I can’t finish all of it in that time, obviously, and that’s only for about half of each month, but I at least get a good chunk read and then I try to finish it while I nurse the toddler.
Noel Lokaychuk says
I only have three children (I’ve had 7 pregnancies in the last ten years), but also an autoimmune disease. What has been significant for me is having three lists for everything- household chores? We have a bare minimum list, a list for good days, and the extras for a rare brilliant day. Homeschooling? Same thing- the subjects we have to do every day, the ones I’d like to do, and the ones that are nice when we can. Even Christmas- I knew I wanted to do certain things; I hoped to do more; might I possibly stretch to the extra?
And then, when you don’t even make the minimum, you say, “tomorrow is a new day with no mistakes in it.” Because guess what? None of those chores, assignments etc, are going anywhere; you don’t have to hurry to catch up with them. Just put one foot in front of the other.
Happy New year! Just wanted to share: my mother combined her fitness goals with her spiritual needs having three children under age 3 by running to morning Mass a mile away each morning! Sounds like you are blessed to be in walking distance of a Mass! Good luck with all your goals!
Anna Eastland says
Loved this post. I’m a homeschooling mama of 7 and it’s also chaos but beautiful. Mothers rule of life…I love how you laughed instead of running away screaming or hiding under the bed in shame…so good that book but so not me!
Self care and implementing simple routines sound like good recipes for peace. Please send me some if you manage to make any extra peace. 😉
What saves me lately is my instant pot. Worth every penny. You can sauté onions and garlic, throw in some sauce (Thai coconut milk and spices, or salsa and beans) and frozen chicken breasts, and once or warms up, it pressure cooks for only 5 minutes, then rests a little. The chicken is perfect…tender and shreddabel, not squeaky. You can make Italian stew, French onion soup, Indian curry, whatever. Super fast. 5 o’clock disaster averted!
Happy new year and best wishes!
That’s an interesting reaction to A Mother’s Rule of Life! I am not naturally orderly, but I liked the book because she wasn’t either. Her rule was purely out of necessity. I just can’t implement a lot of it because my oldest is 4 and really “independent” play is me being in the other room…and even then he could get into lots of trouble. I’m also reading through “Make My Life Simple” by Rachel Balducci and it’s so good. And I want to get your book, too! I’ve just had to recognize that I need to take advice from others, while firmly loving MY life and understanding that it just won’t look quite like anyone else’s. I just don’t like routine that much, but I do see it’s necessity. So I’m trying out new things and realizing that my physical space does indeed affect my spiritual well-being. Peace is the word, is the word, is the word…. 🙂
I only have one little one (20 months ) but since she was about 10 months my prayer life has improved roughly a million fold, so I wanted to share what I’ve learned in response to your prayer time question:
I have three longish prayer times a day: morning stroller walk or jog (only when not raining) when I say morning prayers, afternoon nap (2 solid hours) which my LO just won’t take unless I’m lying there with her…which together with a bible and a breviary app is an hour of nap for me, an hour of prayer. Then in the evening I lay with her to get her to sleep at 8pm and say compline (under my breath!) and doze a bit.
Upshot: this baby has totally improved my prayer life, albeit unintentionally haha. I can pray the whole LOTH if I do it in three chunks, but usually I only say one hour (or a decade if I’m jogging) at each of the three times per day, plus some gospel reading or writings of the saints during afternoon nap, all on my phone of course since the room is dark.
(I wasn’t into MROL too much either, but the above has naturally become my “rule” together with a Franciscan prayer rule I found online.)
Thank you for this post, Haley, and sorry for necrocommenting).
I’m so thankful and feel so inspired now after reading this post that I just can’t). I feel like I’ve just rethink, if not found, my own New Year’s goals in the middle of this very year, huh. My name is Olga, I’m an Elementary school English teacher from Russian Federation, the former Orthodox christian now determining myself as agnostic and a single mother of the wonderful 13 years old boy. I like reading good books in Russian and English, writing short poems in my native language, singing, cooking, long forest walks, teaching both my son and my young learners and pursuing my new teaching career after some years of being a journalist. And I silently read your blog for about two years; this is my first comment. English is not my mother tongue, and I didn’t even majored in English, so teaching this language is really a challenge for me, but a dream also. And me and my son Alexander are the Harry Potter series fans, I really love your Potter posts and have reposted one of your posts in the VContacte net this June (the one about the love and death, it resonated with my own reflections on this matter).
I was really lost in guilt and sorrow at the end of last December after my own bad desision. I offended a peson who I wanted to become a good friend, my son’s History teacher, and I’m a teacher myself! He’s a very intelligent and kind person, but he’s a lot like Professor Snape regarding his outward appearance, background and behavior.) So I coudn’t deal with my own trauma and offended him so badly that we couldn’t be friends anymore. He forgave me, he’s a christian unlike me after all but but but… I was crying and grievung so I barely could fulfill my daily routines. And I couldn’t say nothing about my New Year’s goals but ‘Just calm down and find peace’. And I was struggling with that for six months! I can see the detailed strategy of some kind in your post and this strategy is excellent for a mother and a creative person I’m aspiring to be. I have strong empathy towards other people, basically everyone, but it was always hard for me to strategise and plan and MAKE. It’s hard to act if you don’t now exactly what to do. So your post had just helped me to examine my own heart and rethink my own goals for remaining six months of this year.
Thanks a lot for this text and your other writings, Haley. Love from Siberia (hm, I’m actually in another part of my country now having vacations, but still).