It has been a lovely, restful summer, for the most part. I felt a strong call in the late spring this year to wind down in many ways, and I’m so grateful that I’ve been able to do that. Aside from a week of VBS in June and a couple of rounds of swim lessons, the kids and I have lived pretty low-key all summer. We’ve feasted on peanut butter and jelly, popsicles galore, and plenty of those little individual baggies of chips I “never” buy. I’ve slept in and have been able to take a good nap just about every day this summer. I’ve cooked pancakes for breakfast and chocolate chip banana bread for snacks. I’ve taken bubble baths, read (or listened to) several great books for the first time in ages, and even gotten hooked on a sweet little BBC show. I haven’t blogged much.:)
My season of life brought some unexpected blessings this summer that have helped me get some extra rest. For one, my children are at the magic ages (6 1/2, almost 5, and 3) where they all enjoy the same TV shows. And the magic continues, because all three children enjoy non-TV activities like playing blocks, Legos, coloring, and Play Doh for hours a day, as well as playing outside together in the rain or just with the hose on the driveway. Don’t get me wrong, though. Life with small children is never boring, or particularly easy, or even fun, even at la casa de Humble Handmaid. There are plenty of days (most days) that make me want to pull my hair out (or cry, usually cry) because I am faced literally every couple of minutes with a child-sized argument, boo-boo, whiny request, or potty-related need. And I’ve lost my cool in an ugly way plenty of times this summer, Lord help me. The constant way that I have to be “on” as a mother when my children are awake can be more exhausting than I can really put into words. (It sometimes makes me feel a little better when I can see that oh-so-familiar, slightly winded look in my babysitters’ eyes when they leave).
Getting a nap in always helps me, though. After lunch in our family, it’s Rest Time for a couple of hours. My kids know that’s just what Francos do. Everybody has to go into a separate room for rest time. After the kids are “down,” I first take a nap, then get up, pray, and do some housework. If the children get up early, they know I’ll make them unload the dishwasher, fold towels, or else go right back in their rooms with a book or some Legos. So they’ve gotten better over the course of the summer with waiting until I get them up from rest time myself. 🙂 The older two don’t nap much anymore, so I started this summer letting them listen to audiobooks from the library. I rehabbed a couple of old iPhones my sister gave me for the purpose (I got the idea from this podcast), and after I figured out how to lock the phones with a password, the phones have worked beautifully. Gabriel and Faith both are completely hooked on Henry Huggins and the Magic Tree House series. They’ve also listened to Peter Pan, Billy and Blaze, Winnie the Pooh, Mrs. Piggle Wiggle, some Narnia, and Adventures in Odyssey this summer. Rest time has been a very intentional routine I’ve tried to cultivate for years now, but I imagine its overall success at least up to this point will always be a mystery of part-nature, part-nurture. And truth be told, I’m slightly terrified of how Baby #4 may or may not shake up my beloved routine for a little while or a long while.:)
I’ve tried hard to give the kids a fun, but simple, summer that stayed within my comfort zone energy-wise. I was pretty intentional as well about setting up a play date or two each week with friends–and at our house, which is usually easier for me than packing everyone up. I’ve also stayed on a regular routine of going a couple of mornings a week to the gym we belong to, which–believe it or not–has been a Godsend for me rest-wise. The nursery at the gym has a huge indoor play set and a veteran sweetheart of a childcare director. The vast majority of the cute crafts and kids’ artwork hanging in my house are because the kids do crafts with Mrs. Martha in the nursery. The kids love the mornings we go to the gym, and I love the guilt-free hour or so to take walk on the track upstairs, dabble in light free weights, or just lay on the couch in the air-conditioning in the women’s locker room and listen to an audiobook. I’ve had a lot of round ligament pain with this pregnancy, so I haven’t been able to do much walking or exercising for several months, but I always try to walk a handful of laps if possible.
Me Time–like those couple of hours a week at the gym–has been perhaps especially needed for me this summer. I’ve been hugely pregnant in the middle of summer in the Deep South, first of all, but the fact is that my husband’s work hours have been increasing steadily this summer as his project at work finishes up. (He’s currently working seven days a week.) When Michael was home on weekends earlier this summer, he spent most of his time working on the big play set he designed for our backyard. I did struggle a wee bit with resenting that he was working on that thing every second he was home for a few weeks, but ultimately I’m incredibly grateful for both our ability to build this for the kids (thank you, all that overtime) and also my husband’s amazing work ethic, creativity and handy-ness. The play set has definitely been a joy for our family. It’s about halfway done at this point. Michael tells me that he’s going to finish building the play set (plus complete an impressive Honey-Do list) when he takes off a week from work after we have the baby. We’ll see how that goes.:)
In all honesty, speaking of Michael’s exhausting work schedule, I nearly teetered off the Deep End a couple of Sundays ago after two straight weeks of me, myself, and three kids. Michael is currently working what they call a “13 and 1” (13 days in a row working and then one day off). Between God, Michael, a couple of friends, and my spiritual director, they finally made me ask for some help. May God richly bless the several amazing friends and family members who have brought over dinner and babysat for me over the past couple of weeks! I have felt such an abundance of God’s mercy through them. So often as moms–maybe this is just me–we have a tendency to think that when we’re having a hard time, it’s probably just our own fault. Perhaps we tell ourselves we need to pray more, or just “get it together” with prepping for the day differently, or being more consistent with such-and-such, or organizing our work differently, or whatever it is. I’m sure there are little or bigger things we can all do to help ourselves, but sometimes the real need of the moment is to let others in to help us right where we are.
I feel the summer winding down now. Or rather, winding up. I turned 30 years old on August 1. Michael and I will celebrate eight years of marriage on August 8. And sometime around August 12, our family will welcome our fourth child. After Labor Day, I’ll start homeschooling Faith and Gabriel for Kindergarten and First Grade. (I have most of my books and supplies, but am trying to focus on resting and having my baby before diving into the homeschool year.) Next week (although iffy with baby’s due date), the oldest two begin piano lessons (fulfilling a dream of both Michael and me), and our sweet Faith will start a little daytime homeschooler dance class I helped put together. In a few weeks, Gabriel will start Cub Scouts and PSR at our parish (and Michael will be his den leader), and later this fall (pending approval from our diocese), Faith will start in American Heritage Girls.
You can tell just by all of the parentheses in the previous sentences that life is about to speed up again for me and my family.:)
It amazes me that, a year ago, my family was still living indefinitely with my parents. Our beloved new home, homeschooling, and the blessing of this new baby were not even on the radar. I was on a roll ministry-wise with blogging regularly and with a recently-launched new podcast. So much can change in a year! There was a time in my life not so long ago when it seemed that almost nothing had changed in a year, and I had to beg God daily for the grace to continue waiting, waiting, waiting on the Lord. If you’re there right now–in a waiting, waiting, waiting season–I hope that you take encouragement from these little snippets of what God has done in my life. And remember–please–that this blog and any blog you ever read will only give you a tiny, imperfect window into what that person’s life is really like. Nobody has it all together. Everybody struggles with something. But all of us are loved and delighted in equally by God. It amazes me to think, sometimes, that the most unloveable, ordinary, sinful, lost people in the world are as desperately loved by Him as you or me. He doesn’t play favorites, but wants to shower mercy and goodness on each one of us. Often, I think we just have to learn how to recognize the forms His mercy and goodness take during a specific time of our lives. Trust that He wants to blow you away–yes, you!–with the surprising, beautiful way He’s going to work all things together for your good.
God bless you and yours, sweet reader! Please pray for a happy, safe delivery soon for me and my baby boy. 🙂