Reclaiming Joy in Home Making

Update: This series was delayed due to the loss of my grandfather (you can read more about this here and on my Instagram page.) Thank you for all of your prayers, condolences and well wishes! I’m grateful for you. ❤ Cait

With busy schedules, lots of stress and lots of mess, its easy to let our homes become a hub of disarray. When we find ourselves discouraged, bitter or overwhelmed, how can we find our way back to the meaning and beauty hidden in the daily grind?

I could go into chore charts and scheduling but, if I’m being honest, it’s not my forte (like, at all!). Instead I’ll share the little things I do to help me reset, refresh and reclaim the joy of homemaking in a big way!

Own It

When people hear the term homemaking they usually think of a stay-at-home mom. Being a work-from-home mama myself, I know for certain that the two go hand in hand! But, home making is not limited to those whose life’s work takes place within their own four walls. Anyone who has a place to live owes it to themselves (& all who dwell there) to make it a home!

Until recently, it seemed that the titles of homemaker and stay-at-home mom carried negative connotations; the work done behind closed doors underestimated or undervalued. But, with more people working and spending leisure time at home than ever before due to the Corona Virus pandemic, the question of “What do you do all day?” seems to have answered itself!

Be Your Own Manager

Because you aren’t necessarily getting the same validation from keeping a home as you would from say a paycheck or a GPA, it can be easy to lose sight of your progress and your goals.

Instead of money and grades, look to your surroundings, yourself and your family as a barometer. Is your home a place that is functional? Does it offer you places for work and leisure? Does it reflect your personal style? Does it serve as a reprieve for your family at the end of a long day?

Answering these questions will help you to see which areas might need tweaking to reclaim your joy.

Vocation Over Occupation

If you’re doing it well, home making is challenging. It involves cleaning, appointments, errands, meetings, needs that are endless and tasks that keep repeating. You tidy the playroom and the kids immediately dump their toys. You unload the dishwasher and the sink fills again within hours. You sweep and mop just so milk can splash across your once-clean floor.

When I start to feel dissatisfied with another un-eaten dinner, half-finished project or mountain of laundry staring me down, I’m tempted to grumble and think,

“What’s the point?”

If I’m not careful, I can let these thoughts fester and turn to anger or even resentment. I’ve learned to nip these feelings of futility in the bud by remembering how important this work truly is. Not only to my family but to the world and most importantly, the Lord. What I do isn’t significant because I’m the best at it or because no one else can do these things, but because it is meant for me to do.

Regardless of passions, goals and roles in my life, my primary function and means of sanctification will be my duty as a wife and mother. My vocation today needs to be my main focus and motivation. If I realize all of my ambitions for the future that is great but what’s most important is where God has me right now! How I love those I serve, steward my blessings and live the present moment.

Create a Sacred Space

This next tip that has saved my sanity more than once! Create a sacred space. Set aside a room or quiet corner of your home that serves as a quick escape throughout your day. Clean this area first-thing in the morning and try to scoot the children out if you’re not there yourself.

Since daytime isn’t ideal for long baths or uninterrupted reading, simple, striking things work best. Include décor you enjoy and things that relax you as soon as you enter. For me this is usually the master bedroom, which means it’s a place that my husband can take a breather as well. It’s a place that feels like its just ours in a home where everything is shared. Whether it’s a freshly made bed, a window view, calming music or a piece of art, a place to find some peace and take a breath is something all homemakers need. Don’t forget to take care of you, as you care for your surroundings!

Reset and refresh

When we look at homemaking through a bitter eye, we forget that it’s an art! One way to keep that thought in the forefront of my mind is to refresh and reset often. I don’t just mean organization (though the more of that, the better!) but daily routines and seasonal changes that keep things interesting.

I change tablecloths and linens regularly, swap out heavy winter curtains for lighter ones in the spring, use seasonal décor that’s easy to switch out and use each season like throw pillows or wreaths on your door. My go-to for keeping things fresh day to day are vases of flowers and flickering candles at night. There is something about pulling back the curtains first thing in the morning to let the sunshine in and the warmth of candle light in the night that bookends the day so nicely.

That’s what home is all about, little comforts, small respites and rewards that all notice and appreciate (whether they tell you directly or not!). Creating a dwelling that you and your loved ones truly enjoy is so fulfilling. As the heart of our homes, we set the tone. The ability to transform a space, guide the day and create an environment that reflects who you are as a family is a wonderful thing!

It’s how you live

I’ve heard it said that when it comes to home life, it’s not what you have but, how you live. If we love something, we will purchase it but as a young family of five, we try to limit unnecessary spending.

Until recently, all of our furniture and most of our décor had been second or even third hand (Shout out to my Dad for generously gifting us bedroom furniture this past Christmas). Most of the time no one would guess, because we use the best of what we have and try to care well for it.

When it comes to furniture, I truly believe that less is more. Less surfaces make for far less clutter to keep up with and a little floor space goes a long way visually. Being choosy about the pieces in our home makes us more likely to opt for ones we really find functional or charming.

At our place, we do our best not to keep junk around but I do get creative when needed. I’ll put a framed photo over that nick in the drywall, and use pretty blankets to cover the hole in the family room sofa. I repaint lots of furniture and repurpose what I can. Sometimes, rearranging our old stuff makes it look brand new and inspires new appreciation for what we already own. When we detach from the idea of a perfect home, we free ourselves to take pride in the one we have.

Teach your children well

Lighten up, Mama! Do your future self a favor and let the kiddos help. Older children should have greater responsibilities but, everyone can pitch in somehow. My 4-year-old daughter likes to help me fold the laundry and my 2-year-old loves to “dust” with a damp cloth. It may mean I have to re fold those towels or wipe the coffee table a second time, but that’s really not the point!

Passing your homemaking skills down to your children and praising them for their efforts can be a fun time for boding, conversation and making memories. Accomplishing small tasks builds confidence and being responsible for their own messes begets accountability. Teaching children to clean is part of preparing them for an independent life and framing chores as a natural part of every day means less resistance to household duties when their older. My hope is that my patience with my kids now will benefit us all in the long run.

Let the dishes wait

If you can’t always keep up, it only means that you’re succeeding! Homemaking is not a contest to see who’s can be cleaner or prettier or more organized. No, the home serves a much deeper purpose as the very foundation of family life. All of your attention and effort within it serve an ultimate goal: to create a safe and comfortable place for your family to live. Don’t get so caught up in doing that you miss out on the moments that matter.

I can’t say it any better than Ruth Hulburt Hamilton in her poem Song for a Fifth Child. Let these word encourage you on the days you just can’t seem to do it all.

Mother, oh Mother, come shake out your cloth,
Empty the dustpan, poison the moth,
Hang out the washing and butter the bread,
Sew on a button and make up a bed.
Where is the mother whose house is so shocking?
She’s up in the nursery, blissfully rocking.

Oh, I’ve grown shiftless as Little Boy Blue
(Lullaby, rockaby, lullaby loo).
Dishes are waiting and bills are past due
(Pat-a-cake, darling, and peek, peekaboo).
The shopping’s not done and there’s nothing for stew
And out in the yard there’s a hullabaloo
But I’m playing Kanga and this is my Roo.
Look! Aren’t her eyes the most wonderful hue?
(Lullaby, rockaby, lullaby loo).

The cleaning and scrubbing will wait till tomorrow,
For children grow up, as I’ve learned to my sorrow.
So quiet down, cobwebs. Dust go to sleep.
I’m rocking my baby and babies don’t keep.

~ Ruth Hulburt Hamilton

What helps you reclaim joy in your home? Share the hacks and habits that work for you in the comments!

❤ Cait

Reclaiming Joy in the Spiritual Life

Hello friend, welcome to Reclaiming Joy!

I wanted to start off this series focusing on the spiritual life because it is the foundation for all of the other subjects in this series and the key to reclaiming joy!

Joy doesn’t equal happiness

This is an important distinction to make as we discuss reclaiming joy in our lives. Happiness is an emotion that depends circumstance. We feel happy when things are going well. When our finances are looking up, when our children behave, or when we’re indulging in a big scoop of ice-cream on cheat day. Happiness is dictated by outside influences.Joy, however goes much deeper.

At a Mass in 2014 Pope Francis reflected on Christian joy saying: “If you have peace, you have the seed of joy that will come later. ”

We find joy through peace and we find peace in surrendering to the will of God. Letting go of our expectations and putting our trust in divine providence makes room in our souls to receive the grace of peace. We have joy because we have the love of God, trust in that love, and hope that we will inherit what is promised to us, in this life or the next.

You may be thinking, “Okay Cait, that makes sense from a spiritual angle, but what does surrender have to do with my work, family, home and daily life?”

In short: Everything!

When we’re faced with a challenging circumstance or unpleasant task, we can either resist the struggle, or embrace it. The struggle exists no matter what. If we whine and complain through the challenges we face, we lose the lesson, stunt our growth and get stuck in a funk. Finding the beauty that lies in our trials means we don’t miss out on the merit we can gain from enduring them.

So how do we practice these things? By developing routines, frequenting the sacraments and infusing our lives with prayer.

Reset your routine

Routine is a friend of spirituality. A great example of this is the way those in religious life structure their days. Franciscan Friars, for example follow this Honorarium:

6am Divine Office, 6:30-7:30 morning meditation, 7:30 morning prayer, 7:50 holy Mass, 12pm midday prayer, 5:00 evening prayer, 5-6pm holy hour, 9:15 night prayer and rosary.

This daily schedule isn’t as feasible for those of us in other vocations, but we can certainly learn from their holy examples. Whether it’s early morning quiet time with coffee and your Bible, a midday rosary over lunch, or reading a spiritual book before bed, find a routine that works for you and stick to it!

This approach is valuable when it comes to the sacraments as well. Make Mass as often as you can, confess regularly and visit Jesus in Adoration on certain days of the week. Repetition makes a habit and scheduling time to practice your faith makes you more likely to follow through.

Infuse your days with prayer

It can be tough to stick to set routines when you have a full and busy life. I used to struggle a lot with balancing my spirituality with home making and raising my kids until I learned to blend it all together!

I used to think that I had to sit in a dark, quiet room, away from my rambunctious household in order to pray my daily rosary. I’d get settled and in the zone only to be interrupted by noise or someone else’s needs. I would let weeks pass without a visit to the chapel because I thought that I should go alone. It was frustrating and discouraging.

But one day while running errands, I felt a pull in my heart for Adoration. I knew exposition was happening in a Church nearby and wanted to go, but I had my two littles with me and worried they’d disturb the reverence.

But then I remembered the words of Jesus,” Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.” I can’t tell you how much of a blessing it has been to have them there. The other worshippers find their energy refreshing, their expressions of faith, inspiring. Some of my most cherished moments with my children have happened there in the presence of Jesus Christ.

Once I let go of the pious expectations I had built around my spiritual life, everything changed. I began to stress less when my toddler wiggled and giggled through mass. I started praying on my feet, through all the chores and interruptions. I led loud family rosaries and did my reading during nap time. I offered my effort in workouts and walks and I found out this truth; That we don’t need to lock ourselves away in a closet to commune with the Lord in our homes. God meets us where we are. On the treadmill, in the nursery, yup, even over the kitchen sink!

Embrace the Domestic Church

Leading by example is the most powerful tool we have when bringing up children in the faith. As I’ve grown in spiritual maturity and motherhood I’ve embraced the domestic church more and more. Many Christian parents wrongly believe that the Church is responsible for the spiritual development of their children, but the home is the first school of faith.

How do you cultivate your domestic church? Keep sacramentals and sacred images in your home, create a little oratory where your family can pray, start traditions to celebrate feast days and make prayer a part of every day. Your domestic church doesn’t have to look a certain way. Incorporate art that moves you, saints you love and items that fit your taste and personal style.

Pray anyway

Even the best routines and most efficacious devotions can become stale after a while. When the fire inside you starts to fade, look for inspiration. Reclaim wonder and reinvigorate your faith by reading the lives of the saints, listening to a powerful message, going on a retreat or jamming out to your favorite worship song. Summon the holy spirit, ask for help and be open to see the little winks God gives to encourage you along the way. Keep fighting the good fight!

What helps you reclaim joy in your spiritual life? Share the routines and habits that work for you in the comments!

❤ Cait

A True 180°

This morning I walked out onto the back porch & faced the sun beams streaming through the trees. I quieted my heart, asking God what the day might hold. I breathed in the summer air, not yet touched by the humidity promised in the lingering haze. I stretched & smiled because I know each morning, each day is another chance.

Continue reading “A True 180°”

Bumpkin Pumpkin: We Tried This Cute Pinterest Trend

The Great Bumpkin Pumpkin! My preteen saw this cute and simple fall craft on Pinterest a while ago and couldn’t stop talking about it! She bugged me for weeks saying we just had to do it with her little brother because it was too cute!

Continue reading “Bumpkin Pumpkin: We Tried This Cute Pinterest Trend”

Faith Like a Child

At that time the disciples came to Jesus, saying, “Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?” And calling to him a child, he put him in the midst of them and said, “Truly, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven -Matthew 18:1-4

Oh, to have faith and trust in the Lord like my child trusts in me. When my 1 year old stumbles and falls she doesn’t hesitate to get up and run to me.

When she is weary she seeks me for comfort, knowing I will take her into my arms to rock her to sleep.

When she looks up at me, her stubby hand out and says “Cracker?” she doesn’t doubt that I will feed her.

She doesn’t question where it will come from but instead waits expectantly, her doe eyes fixed on me in joyful anticipation.

She never questions if I love her, she just runs to me, climbing me like a tree to wrap her little arms around my neck and kiss my cheek.

She doesn’t question if she’s safe because she knows I faithfully care for her each day. She doesn’t wonder if I will be with her because I watch over her, constant as the sky.

She can’t speak to me with eloquence but, I know she adores me with barely a word.

And all I am is an imperfect mother how much more than does our perfect Father in Heaven deserve our trust and confidence in him?

My Love-Hate Relationship With Extended Breastfeeding

Anyone who has breastfed knows that it is not always quite as easy or tranquil as it is oftentimes portrayed. I had breastfed my older daughter but like everything else 10 years later it felt like starting over. Similar to how we forget about our labor pains when we have our newborns in our arms, my memories of breastfeeding were blurred by time and nostalgia.

I was surprised with how difficult it was to begin the journey with my new daughter.  I mean, ouch! I lived off Lanolin cream and didn’t wear a top for at least 2 weeks! Though feeding an infant on demand was still a lot of work those tender moments passed and things became more comfortable for both of us. We got into a groove and have been doing well ever since.

The thing they forget to mention about exclusively nursing your baby is that it never really seems to slow down until they are eating solid food. As the baby grows and sleeps less they still require more and more milk to fill their expanding tummies. Even when they are gobbling up peas and sweet potatoes the demand can still be grueling.

Then there comes the unsolicited opinions. Around the time my baby girl approached the milestone of her first birthday the pressure from others to wean her was on. I would get comments from people around me like “You’re still nursing her?” , “Wow isn’t she getting a little old for that?”, “All my babies were weaned by 6 weeks!”, “Does she really need that still?”

To answer some of those questions; Yes, breast milk is still beneficial to baby even after they turn a year old. It still has the same magical abilities of supporting their immune systems, and changing  with their nutritional needs. Not to mention the psychological benefits of comfort, trust and love that all children need. My baby is only 20 months and I don’t feel that it is unreasonable to want that type of comfort!

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No, she is not “too old” to breastfeed. She is no less independent for our decision to continue breastfeeding. We never need to nurse in public anymore as she usually only does it before nap and bed time now. She eats table foods with a fork and spoon, she is transitioning to a toddler bed in her own bedroom, she uses sippy cups with whole milk or diluted juice in it, she recognizes and names her letters and is starting to count and she plays independently and with other kids well. In our culture we tend to wean early but the rest of the world in general weans at much older ages.

I wasn’t too strict on weaning until I desired to become pregnant again. After a year I hadn’t yet resumed my cycle and was still nursing quite a bit. I wanted to at least reduce since I didn’t know whether my fertility had returned. Not having your monthly can be a huge benefit. One less inconvenience postpartum. I don’t use contraception and only natural family planning but, be warned- Just because you aren’t menstruating does not mean you aren’t ovulating. I did get pregnant before my cycle returned. What I thought was my period was actually implantation.

While attempting to wean we had some set backs. Each time a new tooth sprouted, when we moved, or if she wasn’t feeling well, she would regress and return to nursing more. At the time I would be frustrated. It felt like losing progress but, she would always go back to nursing less often once things got back to normal.

As you can see, most of my experience with extended breastfeeding has been pretty positive. Where the hate part of it really comes in for me is for myself! Nursing a small, still infant is much different than a heavy, mobile, squirming, pinching, squeezing toddler! And since I’ve gotten pregnant things have become tender and at times caused nursing to become uncomfortable again. As I said in my previous post Pregzilla  pregnancy and breastfeeding can be quite taxing at times.

The truth is the decision to breastfeed your baby or not and when to wean them are personal decisions and though there are many opinions there is no one right answer! You just need to do whats best for you and your baby! It would be great if she were fully weaned before June when the new baby arrives but, if not that’s okay too. I can totally picture myself being a bad-ass tandem nursing mama! I feel lucky to be able to take this journey with her as it comes and I know that one day she will stop completely and the difficulties will be blurred by time and nostalgia again.

What have your breastfeeding experiences been like? Share about your journey in the comments!

❤ Cait

Taking Advice

Just look at these precious children! The other day I had a small break down just thinking about bringing another person into existence and all that it entails. It is up to me to teach, guide, and protect them in a world full of danger, heartbreak, and harsh realities.

I just want to do the best that I can for them and although I’ve been a mother for years at times I still struggle with my confidence.

When I had my oldest daughter I was only 18 and I dealt with a lot of judgement because of that. People looked down their noses at me and doubted my ability to parent well due to my age.

I tried my best to turn that negativity into motivation. Even though writing has always been my passion, I felt I needed to pursue a more serious career (in a way to show people that I could be serious) and start making more money for myself ASAP.

I got myself through Medical Assistant school and kept that career until just a couple of years ago when I left work to stay home with my youngest. I enjoyed helping people and had a strong interest in medicine but I put my true passions on hold because of what other people might have thought.

As much as I tried to spin the judgement and shame and use it to my advantage I was still young and insecure and let it get to me. I became so defensive.

I didn’t want to hear the advice of other people and older mothers because I took it as them doubting my abilities. Even if it was coming from a loving place the advice felt hurtful and backhanded. I took it as an insult.

Just because I was young didn’t mean I didn’t love my daughter! It didn’t mean I couldn’t care for her well! She was all I had at a certain point and my world revolved around her. Just like older mothers everything I did was for her and about her and because of her.

When I was pregnant with my youngest daughter I had people giving me advice who didn’t realize that I had a daughter older than their own children.

Honestly it had been 9 years since I had an infant so of course I could have taken some advice from people who went through that stage with their children more recently! But I was still so damaged from all the scrutiny I dealt with in the past. Stubbornly, I didn’t want to hear what anyone had to say.

As I continue to grow into myself over the years I have become much more confident. I started to realize that myself and the people around me know the truth about what kind of mother I am. Knowing that allows me to care a lot less about what other people may think. I don’t need another’s approval to feel validated.

My defenses have completely dropped. I know that just because someone is older or younger it doesn’t necessarily make them better or worse equipped to be a parent.

I’m now able to take advice from others joyfully knowing that no matter how long someone’s been a parent or how many children they have we all can learn something from each other. Someone else’s motherhood doesn’t take away from my own! It only adds another perspective in our shared experience.

As women we should encourage and lift each other up! This womanhood and parenting stuff is really difficult as is so we don’t need to add any more stress by comparing ourselves! We all have something to learn from each other and at the end of the day we can all use more support!

Did you ever take well meaning advice the wrong way? How did you deal with it?

❤ Cait

The Kitchen Sink

We live in quite a fortunate time in history in terms of modern convenience. Of the many modern conveniences I enjoy each day a dishwasher is not one of them. With a growing family that means visiting the sink often to stay on top of the ever present pile of mugs and plates. Sure, there are times I’d prefer to toss them in the waste basket but soon I found the menial task had become a welcome reprieve.

The windowsill above the sink once held all of the hallmark nick-knacks of a well loved mama; assorted bottles of sand art, heart-shaped rocks, small potted herbs, perfect pine cones and gifts from little hearts and hands. One gift was a small cross that reads “Peace, be still and know that I am God. Psalm 46:10” One day I was on a re-arranging kick and I decided to (finally!) clear and clean the sill. I was moving all my chotchkies into an old shoebox but when I reached for the cross I hesitated, deciding to leave it where it was.

When I went back later on to do the dishes (again!) I read the message over and over. I found myself thinking deeply, staring through the humble kitchen window at the trees in the yard where my pets and children play. Warm water ran over, soothing my busy hands as I thanked God for the opportunity to be still and rest in his peace. By the time the last spoon hit the drying rack I felt my anxieties drain with the suds and dingy water. The little cross which I barely noticed before served as a gentle reminder and the chore became transformed.

Over time I have added other meaningful things to the sill and it has become a sort of altar in my home; a special place I go to pray over my family, water my herbs, offer up the work of my hands, and set my intentions for the day. It just goes to show anything can become meditative, prayerful and intentional even simple tasks. We don’t need only to be in church or on the mountain top to grow in our spirituality. God’s extraordinary presence can enrich even these ordinary parts of our lives and reveal a deeper meaning in the mundane. Now don’t get me wrong, I may not completely enjoy doing the dishes every day (every mom knows the “angry clean” LOL!) but I do know that if I approach this and all things in love, myself and those around me are simply better for it! Let’s let go of our expectations and allow God to reach us exactly where we are.

What do you do to fit in time for quiet contemplation? Comment below!

❤ Cait