Category Archives: Mothering
I presented a short, reflective talk at our Mothers Retreat the first weekend of February. The theme of the day was “Organizing Our Homes, Organizing Our Hearts”. Judy Lubowicki from Clutter Free Organizing gave a very energetic and inspiring pep talk on clutter free home organization for the Organizing Our Homes aspect of the retreat. Her hand outs are worth their weight in gold! I presented the following for the Organizing Our Hearts aspect. We enjoyed mass, wonderful fellowship, food, and many laughs with others “in the trenches”. Following is the talk I gave, I edited here to better fit the medium.
Organizing Our Hearts by Sanctifying the Moment
Now that we have ideas for keeping our homes in order, let’s turn to organizing our hearts. Let’s face it, even with the best laid dinner plans, filing systems, curriculum, and laundry organizers – life as a homeschooling mother, often with many children, is unpredictable. The temporal demands of managing a household can sometimes become so pressing and necessary that we are tempted to push spiritual matters off to the back burner – if we can even find the back burner under the stack of dirty dishes!
We have in the sacraments a firm backbone of an organized spiritual life – namely Holy Communion and Confession. We also have in our rich Catholic faith, the rhythm of the liturgical year to guide our devotions and meditations. We have many sacramentals and heavenly intercessors to aid us on our journey toward holiness. Then we have what the late Bishop Fulton Sheen called The University of the Moment, or simply The Now. This, I believe, is the key to organizing our hearts.
Let me share with you the “perfect” spiritual day in my family. It would be begin with me – mom – rising early to pray a morning offering and study a scripture passage. I would sit with my coffee and listen to Our Lord whisper to me in the cozy silence of the morning. The children would begin to wake and we would all gather around the table for a gospel reflection and morning prayers with Dad. The children and I would dress and head to St. Josephs for daily mass. We would stop our studies at noon to greet Mother Mary in the Angelus. We would learn about the saint of the day and observe their feast day with tea and a craft to illustrate a virtue. We would observe the hour of Mercy with the chaplet at three o’clock. We would end our day with the Rosary, family litany, and night prayers. I would thoroughly examine my conscience before climbing into bed. I would fall asleep reading the biography of a great saint while the children would drift off with visions of Joyful Mysteries in their heads. Oh how holy we would be!
Then there is reality – beautiful reality! As mothers we often hit the ground running each morning. My morning offering may be nothing more than a glance at the crucifix on my way out of the bedroom door. The baby needs nursing, the toddlers want oatmeal. There are clothes to iron, diapers to change, dishes to wash. Husbands rush out the door for early meetings; adolescents grudgingly drag themselves out of bed just about the time Father would be reading the gospel at mass. Some days, when we do make it to mass, I often think I should probably make a stop the confessional beforehand to confess the behavior I stooped to in order to get us all there in the first place!
Now don’t get me wrong, we should always aim high when it comes to prayer time and devotions. My vision of a ‘perfect’ spiritual day does actually happen from time to time, and usually at least few of those items are accomplished every day. But even in that ‘perfect’ scenario, there is a lot of time left in the day. As terribly romantic as it may seem to be able to spend our days deep in prayer, it’s simply not in our job description as mothers. In a nutshell, our job description is to serve
We are each created in the image and likeness of God. Christ lives in the soul of each baptized person around us. As mothers, we have the privilege of intimately knowing many faces of God right in our own homes. We have the opportunity to see, reflected in the faces of each of our children, another unique image of our own Creator. Through the adolescent boy with fuzz beginning to grow above his lip, Christ asks, “Listen to Me” Through the toddler with peanut butter smeared in her hair, Christ asks, “Tenderly wash me” Through the baby with a gaping smile and milk dripping off his chin, Christ asks, “Hold me.” It is in this reality, this present moment that we are given the opportunity to truly grow in holiness.
But what do we do when the requests seem to us more like nagging demands, or they are fired at us one after the other, or even all at the same time? We can sigh in exasperation “Calgon take me away”, but that only works in commercials. (Ask me how I know!) We can fulfill each request with the slamming of doors we feel they deserve, or we can do the ever so tempting: shut it all out and retreat to a book, television, or computer. In doing any (or all!) of the above, we are giving up moment after moment of sanctification. We are ‘skipping classes’ in the University of the Moment.
What exactly is “The University of the Moment”? While contemplating this phrase, I thought of how much sense it makes to us as mothers concerned with our children’s education. The University of the Moment is the unique curriculum tailored to each individual by God’s perfect Love. As mothers, we pray, research, discuss, and sometimes even agonize over education choices for our children. We take each child and examine their strengths, weaknesses, learning abilities, temperaments, and interests. We may decide to homeschool from a boxed curriculum, we may choose a parochial school, public school, or an eclectic homeschool. (, or Montessori, boarding school, classical curriculum, the choices alone are enough to exhaust us!) And there is no doubt that whatever choice we make, it is done out of our love for that child. -An imperfect love. As much time as we may spend with our children, as intimately as we may known them, our love for them is imperfect. Only God Loves with a Perfect Love. In His perfect Love, he tailors a unique curriculum to each and every one of us and that curriculum is the present moment – the Now. This curriculum is laid out before us only moment by moment, in each trial, setback, and obstacle we face. This is what Bishop Sheen said about our ‘unique curriculum’ designed by God:
“Every moment brings us more treasures than we can gather. The great value of the Now, spiritually viewed, is that it carries a message God has directed personally to us. Books, sermons, and broadcasts on a religious theme have the appearance of being circular letters, meant for everyone. Sometimes, when such general appeals do appear to have a personal application, the soul gets angry and writes vicious letters to allay its uneasy conscience. Excuses can always be found for ignoring the divine law. But though moral and spiritual appeals carry God’s identical message message to all who listen, this is not true of the Now-moment; no one else but I am in exactly these circumstances; no one else has to carry the same burden, whether it be sickness, the death of a loved one , or some other adversity. Nothing is more individually tailored to our spiritual needs than the Now-moment; for that reason it is an occasion of knowledge that can come to no one else. This moment is my school, my textbook, my lesson.”
When it comes to managing a household and raising children, discerning the “Now” takes some serious on the spot prioritizing. What exactly is my ‘NOW” when many things are being asked of me at once? The nitty-gritty of this is, of course, up to each of us to individually discern. I personally look to the corporal and spiritual works of mercy as a guideline. Just the other day when my oldest son was studying his catechism, he remarked to me how many of these works of mercy I accomplish each and every day! A few of these are obvious such as feeding the hungry, giving drink to the thirsty, and admonishing the sinner. As I was reading through these again while preparing for this talk, instructing the ignorant really jumped out at me. Now, before you think I am calling my children ignorant, bear with me, this can be applied in a very practical way while discerning exactly how to meet everyones needs justly and with charity. An example of this may be when your four year old is just begging you to color with him and you are nursing the baby. Dinner still needs to be made, and then it will be bath time, prayer time, and bed time. It is quite obvious to you that coloring is simply not a possibility, it would be very easy and tempting to say No, and don’t ask me again! Instead you could look at this “Now” moment, as an opportunity to practice a spiritual work of mercy. You could say something along the lines of “Sam, I would really like to color with you, but Markie needs to nurse right now, then Daddy will be home and we will all be hungry for dinner, so we need to make dinner, maybe we can color tomorrow.” In this case, the four year old was ignorant to the needs of the rest of the family, and you instructed him. Both of you have learned a lesson from the University of the Moment! Of course this is a very simplified example and we will often be faced with many bigger, constant, and not so clear demands. But if we practice these things in small matters, they will come easy and natural in big matters. Like Our Lord said in Luke (Lk 16:10) “Whoever is faithful in a very little is faithful also in much.
We have to keep in mind that sanctifying the moment goes beyond the practical. It is a lot more than just plopping oatmeal into bowls, wiping bottoms, and teaching multiplication tables. We need to be truly present in the moment. When we serve Christ by serving our family members, do they, in turn see Christ in us? Do they see someone who is welcoming the opportunity to serve them, with warmth, love, and a genuine interest for their well-being?
It never ceases to amaze me, when I am kneeling in prayer before the Blessed Sacrament, in a chapel full of people that God is there, present to me. He is concerned with nothing more than what is best for me, and at the same time, He is concerned with nothing more than what is best for the person beside me – all at the same time! This is only possible because God is outside of time and we live very much under time constraints, but there is still a lesson for us in this. We can imitate Him by being fully present to our individual children in even the most fleeting moments throughout the day. We need to learn to truly stop what we are doing, turn off the background noise in our heads, and focus on the person we are serving. This elevates our service from obligation to Love. It is certainly not our first inclination, and in reality is it not possible 100% of the time. (There is that pesky little “T” word again!) It is tempting though, to go on auto-pilot for the sake of efficiency. But when it comes to relationships, we should be aiming much higher than mere efficiency, the goal should be sanctity! And sanctity is possible, moment by moment…
I would like to wrap this up with the following beautiful thoughts from my dear friend Holly at Seeking Faithfulness:
What will they see?
Infant of mine,
What will you see,
As I wash your skin and change your clothes?
Eyes that are focused on the next task or eyes filled with the wonder of you?
Toddler of mine,
What will you see,
As my head bends over yours and we brush your teeth?
Will you see a mouth turned down, a brow furrowed with thought,
Or a quick smile, just for you?
Little boys of mine,
What will you hear?
Words that seep with tiredness and frustration,
Or encouragement that you really can be the good boys
You want to be?
Daughters of mine,
What will you learn?
That mothering is a chore, a burden, a list,
Or a fulfilling, joyful job, worthy of your life’s attention?
Strapping sons of mine,
What will you observe?
A woman eager to control, to keep you under her thumb,
Or a mentor eager to disciple by example, a helping hand?
Husband of mine,
What will you find?
A spirit that is hard to please, a distant soul,
Or warm arms to welcome you as you walk in the door?
It is humbling, frightening of sorts, to realize that I create the majority of the memories that my family will carry with them regarding home. How have I framed that memory for each individual? Will their childhood have been filled with one of love and warmth, or of mommy simply “doing her job?” Will their adolescent years be full of good times, or will they be years of bad recollections? Will they grow up to desire a family for themselves, or will they believe that the cost of a child is much too high in terms of time, work, and finances? And my husband, if I were to be called home tomorrow, what would his memories of me be?
Have I, through the help of the Holy Spirit, given my best for these I love?
Isn’t it good to know that we do not walk this path alone?
His mercies are new every morning!
Thirty-five years. Today I will pray for my birth parents, that chose life over death. I will pray for my adoptive parents that opened their hearts to me. I will pray for every pregnant woman, no matter what her situation, that she is shown compassion, support, and the infinite power of God’s gifts of grace and mercy. I will pray for fathers-to-be, that they come to realize and embrace the awesome and holy responsibility of fatherhood. I will pray for abortion providers, that their hearts be turned to truly providing help and care to the mothers and babies that come to them, rather than violence and death. I will pray that as a country we will stand up and admit that for thirty-five years we have given murder a name and legal status, and that we can admit that we we’re gravely wrong, repent, and change our ways.
“For the sake of His sorrowful passion, have mercy on us and on the whole world.”
Attachment Parenting International has developed a list of eight basic tenets of attachment parenting (AP). I really have to laugh because last week was the first time I had ever heard of Attachment Parenting International or became aware of any sort of ‘list’ to check off to see if one qualifies as practicing AP. It has been very interesting for me to read through it all, and more importantly, reflect on how I apply these principles in our family each day. It has been particularly interesting to reflect on how these principles have changed and developed in our family the past thirteen years as the babies have come “fast and furious” as Danielle says.
I am going to take each of the tenets and share my reflections on each one and how they have worked for us over the years. I think I will do this in a series of posts, starting with how we came to learn and live the AP lifestyle.
Part I: Our Introduction to Attachment Parenting
When Nicholas was born almost thirteen years ago, (yes, this mom of a bunch of littles is about to become the mom of a teenager!), I was clueless about parenting, let alone any style of parenting.
My preparation for birth amounted to the literature passed to me from my OB at the time, who was chosen for me by our insurance company. I followed every suggestion in the birth literature, I didn’t dare ask any questions. My quiet remarks about desiring a ‘natural birth’ we’re belittled with “It’s okay honey, you don’t have to do that, we’ll take care of you.” I often wouldn’t bother talking about my desires and concerns because I figured they wouldn’t be ‘allowed’ anyway. My first birth experience was terrifying and brutal. My first few months of motherhood were worse.
We brought Nicholas home to our tiny little apartment. We were newlyweds in a new city with the closest family two hours away and no friends. During the pregnancy we decided that I would leave the work force and be a stay at home mother. The decision was based more on finances than principle. Tony was a full time student and part time package sorter for UPS. My job as a cashier payed little more than minimum wage. We didn’t know anyone to babysit and daycare was financially out of the question.
The decision to breastfeed was also based finances rather than principle. Paying our rent each month was a struggle, how could we even think about adding the cost of baby formula to that? I was naive enough at that time to think it would be a piece of cake too.
Those first few months we parented exactly the way everyone was badgering us to. “Don’t hold the baby too much, you’ll spoil him.” “You have to teach him to sleep through all night long now or he never will.” (Now the problem is getting that strapping lad out of bed every morning!) We were miserable, Nicholas was miserable. We were so sleep deprived and stressed out. We couldn’t figure out why we couldn’t ‘get’ this parenting thing. It hurt our hearts to hear our newborn cry in his crib each night, but we were told that it was best for him in the long run. It killed me to hear him cry all day long because he wanted to be snuggled and nursed, but I was told I could only do that every four hours.
Then one afternoon, I sat on the couch to nurse him. It was a big production every four hours. He was often so exhausted from hunger and crying that it would take fifteen minutes or more to coax him to latch on properly. I was often so tired, sore, and irritable, I would fight feelings of resentment toward that little person that was keeping me up all night. But this particular afternoon, a small miracle occurred. Once I got him latched on, he nursed for a few minutes, and then – we fell asleep! We didn’t just doze off as we often did while nursing. We fell into a deep, relaxing, much needed slumber. Right there on the couch, together, for six full hours. I remember I woke up, looked at the clock and nearly panicked!! Oh, my! What have I done? I slept with my baby! I’ve ruined him for life, he’s going to grow into a spoiled brat! But…. He slept!! I slept!! We finally got some sleep!
That night we put him in the bed with us. We became ‘closet’ co-sleepers. The imperative word here being ‘sleepers’. This wasn’t based on any deep principle that baby needed mommy, we just wanted some sleep!
But it felt so right and natural. It felt like something fell into place. What I was feeling in my heart as a mother began to make more and more sense to me. It occurred to me that when he was crying throughout the day, he was not doing it to frazzle me, or because he hated me. (Yes, I often though he hated me and that was why he cried.) It was his way of telling me that he needed something. Someone. Me. His mother. He didn’t want to be held. He needed to be held. To hear my familiar heartbeat, to smell my familiar smell. He needed to nurse, not only for nutrition but for comfort. He didn’t need a fake soother in a fake swing. He needed the real thing, his mothers breast and the familiar way she moved. We began to recognize and respect that our baby had needs beyond the basic cleaning and feeding, needs that should not be dictated by a clock.
I bought a “Snuggli” baby carrier at the thrift shop and began strapping him to me throughout the day. He blissfully slept right between us at night. I would just sit and snuggle with him during the day, interacting with him while he was awake, holding him close while he slept. I would nurse him when ever I sensed he needed to nurse, not when the hour struck on the clock or when he had to work himself into a tizzy to tell me he needed to. My feelings of resentment began to dissipate. I no longer felt my baby hated me. Our family began to develop a sense of peace.
We did most of this in secret for awhile. I felt like I was breaking so many ‘rules’. I felt like a rebellious teenager! One day I was invited to a LLLI meeting by the wife of one of Tony’s coworkers. That first meeting changed everything. I met other mothers that didn’t hesitate to hike up their shirt and nurse their baby whenever and wherever he needed it. Many of these mothers slept peacefully at night with their baby right next to them. They held their babies in slings, soft ones without buckles even! Of course there were many things that still seemed very very weird to me. Like the mom nursing a toddler! Or the mom with a baby and two older siblings that slept in her bed at night, and the mom who used cloth diapers. Oh, and then, there was the mom with FOUR KIDS!! But I realized that what I was learning was natural and good. I realized that my baby wasn’t ruling our household or making demands on me. I realized that I was simply getting to know this little person intimately and helping him to grow and develop in a respectful and peaceful manner.
We are using a wrap made of hemp jersey. It is slightly stretchy, a bit like a sweatshirt.
Again, first you find the center:
This time you place the center at your belly button and open it up:
Bring one side around your back and over the opposite shoulder:
Do the same with the other side, crossing the wrap at your back. Try not to bunch it up or twist it or it will be uncomfortable once you place the baby in:
You’ll probably need to make a slight adjustment here to keep the wrap snug, pulling it up over each shoulder more and keeping the center against your body. You will have both ends of the wrap hanging over your shoulders. The center of the wrap will be around your waist, much like a cumberbund.
Gather up both ends of the wrap in one hand and with the other pull the ‘cumberbund’ slightly away from your body. Place the ends of the wrap through the ‘cumberbund’. The ends will then be the part of the wrap closest to your body, with the ‘cumberbund’ over them. Keep it all snug to your body.
At this point you will cross the ends of the wrap at your front, keeping the ‘X’ just above your belly button. Bring them around to your back and tie it in a knot. I prefer to tie it just off to the side so it’s not in my way when I sit down. If the wrap is long enough, you can bring it back around to the front and tie it there. You NEVER want the ends of the wrap to hang down past your knees after it is tied, this would pose a tripping hazard.
Now you are ready to place the baby in the wrap. Pick up the baby and with one hand hold her (hey Gracie! 😉 ) high up on your shoulder. With your other hand pull the ‘X’ out and away from your body. This is where you will place the baby.
For a tiny baby, keep her legs tucked underneath her and and tuck her into the pouch created by the ‘X’ For a bigger baby like MB, you will put one leg in each ‘hole’ created by the ‘X’. Another option is to lay the baby sideways in a cradle position created when you spread the ‘X’ out. This is great for discreet, hands free nursing. (like when you need to push a shopping cart and such.)
You could consider yourself done at this point and go along on your way. But for extra security and support, pull the ‘cumberbund’ from underneath the baby and pull it up over top.
And here you have a truely secure hands free snuggle carry!
*If MB were to fall asleep here (which he did NOT, since it had been an entire 10 minutes since he last nursed and he was simply famished!) I would pull the wrap up and around his shoulders and over his head.
*Please remember when you are carrying a baby on the front of your body that is is not safe to cook over a hot stove. Chopping onions is not the best idea either! And be sure to watch baby’s head when closing rear van doors.
Hope this helps!
Lisa and Mark
*photo credits go to Abigail!
Here’s hoping I can help! I thought I could also do a YouTube recording of how I do this. We’ll start here though. This is my rendition of a back wrap cross carry. I don’t tie it around my waist. I’m using the ‘hip scoot’ method to put MB on my back, but this is not my preferred method. I think it is the easiest to explain. The wrap I’m using is a 5.6 meter Katja Didymos that I bought second hand years ago. I know that it has shrunk from it’s original size.
Out of vanity, I must ask you to excuse the dirty kitchen, funny looks on my face, and disheveled clothing! LOL!
So first you have to find the middle of the wrap. Some are marked with a tag or some other marking. The one I am using is not, so I simply grab it somewhere around the middle and hold it up and adjust till both ends are even:
Then you place the center of the wrap at the small of your back and wrap it around you like you would a bath towel, hold it between your knees:
Pick up baby and place him on your hip, slide him under your arm and onto you back (be sure to scoot him up high, you want his nose to touch your neck) :
Take the top of the wrap in each hand and spread it out wide, pull it up over baby, covering him from his shoulders to his knees:
Then you literally tie baby to you at the chest (over your breasts):
Then you bring the the right part of the wrap over top of your right shoulder, careful not to twist or bunch it, but keep it nice and snug. Bring it over top of baby and then under his left leg:
Do the same on the other side:
Now you should have the wrap snug and crossed under baby’s bottom and under your arms. Hold both ends in your hands in front of you, at this point you can give a little bounce and tug on the ends to snug it all up a bit. You want it to feel just on the verge of too tight as it will loosen up a tad with the weight of the baby and your movement. (Some say “10 minutes too tight”) :
Here is where you can either tie it snug around your waist or use the following variation. I do not like it tied around my waist for two reasons. One is that baby tends to slide down a bit that way and I am much more comfortable with baby high up. I like him to be able to look over my shoulder if he wants. And two, I just don’t like how it looks tied around my waist. 😉
The variation: Bring the left side of the wrap that is hanging down up and through where the wrap is tied at your chest, near your left armpit:
Then do the same on the right side:
You will then have the two ends up near your armpits, and through where you tied the wrap at your chest. Pull both ends snug and give a little hop if need be:
Bring both ends around and tie them under baby’s bottom:
TA-DA! Baby is snug and happy on your back, and no tails hanging down from the wrap. If baby falls asleep or is tiny with no head control you can have someone help you by laying his head with his cheek to your back, and pull one of the crosses over to keep it cozy up next to you! The way I have MB here, if he were to fall asleep he’d probably be fine because it’s tied high enough by his head.
This way your hands are free and baby is still close to you where he wants to be.
Now I can go clean up this dirty kitchen! LOL!
*A couple of notes: I usually keep my scapular out of the way instead of tied up in the wrap like it is here. I could also stand to tie the wrap back a bit neater so it’s not so bulky under my arms. Be sure to keep tabs on where your shirt is when you are tying baby on. 😉 And as with anything else when it comes to mothering, common sense and personal responsibility must prevail!
Over the next few days I may add a instructional video for this back carry and another tutorial for a rucksack.