Joseph is asleep... IN BED! I hope this lasts more than just a few minutes...
Oh, I've had so much to post about, and absolutely no free time to do so. In these precious few minutes before he starts screaming again, let me recap what's been going on.
First, I've missed you guys!
I mentioned before how chaotic life has been since Joseph's birth. I'll admit it -- I was thinking that having baby #8 would be a piece of cake. After all, I've done this 7 times before, so I should be an old pro at this, right? Well, either he's the fussiest baby we've ever had, hands down, or I somehow forgot everything about mothering a newborn since Grace (a tough kid as well).
On top of that, I am now homeschooling 6 kids, 7th grade down to kindergarten, with a three-year old and a newborn on the side. I knew THAT would be a challenge, so I sat before the Lord in the Blessed Sacrament and told Him I was going to go down in flames if He didn't guide me through this next year. As I was writing out all this in my journal, the quiet thought came to me: Teach them all separately. As I've mentioned before, I thought it was either the voice of God, or the dumbest idea that's ever flitted through my head. But, with nothing else to go on, I decided to jump in and use the Mother of Divine Grace curriculum for each kid. Seventeen weeks into the school year, I can say that homeschooling has been MUCH easier this year, since I'm not driving myself crazy trying to find some magical way to mesh all their classes together.
So I knew that the Lord was interested in how I homeschool this wonderful troop of kids He's given us, but was He just as concerned with my sanity and the state of my home?
That was my question as I saw everything I had ever worked out... every bit of organization I thought I had... crumble into dust. I'm not what you would call an overly organized person to begin with. Sure, everyone ASSUMES that because I have 8 children, I must have this magical organizational gene that makes mothering so many a breeze.
Nope. Not a chance. (and by the way, I'm not a patient person either. Guess that's two strikes against me, or God's way of showing the world that you don't have to be organized or patient to be chosen to do this).
Many times since July I have hidden myself in the bathroom, crying over the complete chaos that has taken over my home. No, I wasn't a candidate for How Clean is Your House, but my home wasn't that haven of peacefulness that I wanted it to be, either. I begged Jesus to please show me how to do this, because I was filled with anxiety and rage over the "lack of control" I was dealing with.
I shared my tears and frustrations with a good friend of mine, who has transformed her home from a place where she felt anxious and out of control to one where there is real peace. She already had an amazing gift of hospitality, but now her home just radiated it.
Our Bible study group voted to read A Mother's Rule of Life for our next study, and I had some hope that THIS time, things would be different. On top of that, I borrowed a friend's copy of Managers of Their Homes. Those two books, plus the advice and good example of my friend, pushed me into doing something I thought I would never do: SCHEDULE MY DAY.
Like I said, I'm not an organized person, so this sort of thing did not come naturally to me. I sat down with a spreadsheet, bowed my head and asked God to guide my efforts, and then started plugging in the various activities that must be done in the course of a day. The difference between this, and something like a schedule from the FlyLady, is that EVERY person in the family is scheduled in. Instead of simply stating that 12:00 pm is lunchtime, for example, I had to decide what each person should be doing. If I was teaching the younger girls, who was going to be taking care of Joseph? What time did I need to get up to make sure that I had my time with the Lord in the morning?
Doing this schedule was a lot like working out a budget. When you just wing it, you have a general sense of what should be in each category, but there's nothing definite. As I was scheduling our day, I became VERY aware of the fact that there just weren't enough hours in the day to do everything. I was forced to be honest with myself and determine how much time I needed to allot to each task. After a few days of thought, however, I came up with a basic schedule that I thought might work.
The result? Immediate peace. I was floored.
I've been able to keep that schedule for over a week now, including Thanksgiving, visits with relatives, and my husband being home during the day -- all things that normally would throw our house into confusion and mess. We've been able to end our homeschooling several hours earlier, AND I've been able to incorporate the FlyLady's zones into the whole thing, so our house is getting (and staying!) clean.
This is a miracle, people -- a real miracle! Nighttime cleanup (which used to take an hour and a half) is now cut down to less than 20 minutes. The toys are now being put away on a regular basis during the day. I'm no longer freaking out over the never-ending list of things that need to be done, because I know that these tasks will be addressed at certain times.
My bathrooms are cleaned twice a week.
My entire house is getting swept and mopped on a regular basis.
Baseboards, walls, and kitchen cabinets are getting washed weekly.
Chairs are getting wiped down daily.
The peace that I felt was so dramatic I knew that I was headed in the right direction.
So when we went out and got the Christmas tree on Saturday (it's tradition), and the kids started taking all the decorations out of the boxes, I started to feel that uneasiness and anxiety creep back in. Very quickly I realized that I don't handle visual clutter well, and I can now give myself permission to get rid of the things that no longer bring me joy. I'm under no obligation to put it all out, because -- to be honest -- our house is very small, we've got a lot of people, and I don't need to contribute to that claustrophobic feeling by putting out a gazillion different Nativity sets.
Does Jesus care about little things like the state of mind and home of some 40-something-year old in upstate South Carolina? Yes, He does. What I think He's been telling me, as an answer to my desperate prayers, is simple:
1. Teach them all separately (which gives them that individual time with Mom that is so important)
2. Schedule your day
3. You don't need to keep everything. Get rid of the excess.
I'll keep you posted on my progress, but so far that's what we're doing over here.