5 AM. Unsure of whether I have actually gone to bed or not at some point, I decide that the brightening window shades and the sounds of our Carolina Wren family singing outside mean that I should probably get up and get started on my homework– I’m headed for a psych degree online. I check to make sure my nursing baby has gone limp and slowly lower her back into the crib. Then I tiptoe to the kitchen (our floors creak) to make a pot of hot coffee and sit down (again) at the computer. I quickly scan my daily devotional– right now I’m reading St Josemaria Escriva’s “Friends of God,” and I read the accompanying scripture passes in my KJV sitting by the computer. I have this habit that I learned from St Josemaria that has changed my mornings. Before I do anything else, usually as I get out of bed, I get on my knees and make a metany (that’s Eastern Catholic-speak for bowing down low to the ground) and say “Serviam!” (Let’s serve!) before the day begins. Then I get to work on my homework. Used to feel unnatural and silly, now it feels invigorating– like doing a spiritual pushup as I roll out of bed. It’s the little things that get you off to the right start.
5:30 AM. Just as my paper is starting to take shape, I spot a little brown curl or two coming from behind the wall next to my work station. Minutes later, my three year old daughter is by my side, rubbing my elbow and sucking her thumb. Sighing, I get up and give everybody a hug (the rest of the clan soon follows) and pour chocolate milk into big mugs for them. They settle down at the table behind me to “journal” (read: draw an ibex and santa claus on a spaceship in their allocated composition books) and read books, and I go back to work, second cup in hand. Now don’t get the impression that my kids stay “settled” the entire following hour– but if I only have to tell them to stop taking pencils out of each other’s pencil boxes, to stop and unbutton toddler pants for a trip to the potty or to help reach a book that’s too high on the shelf, or smile and say: “Oh, what a nice looking King! Is that an elephant?” or break up one “stop saying what I’m saying!” fight only a few times, I consider that a success. Today was a success.
6:30 AM The kids are starting to get antsy for a direction change and I can see I’m not going to get anymore homework done. I make breakfast for them (oatmeal) and sit them down at the table. While they eat I start some bacon and eggs for The Drover and myself, and check facebook, turning bacon between posts and prayer requests. When I get to the eggs, I open my bible and try to read through a few proverbs while I wait to flip them. My father in law wakes up. He is in advanced stage IV lung cancer, but he is still very functional. He is blessed with a pretty active life considering his health and he loves to chat in the morning. (I’m not a morning person.) As he pours coffee, he animatedly recounts to me all the morning news he has picked up on his “state of the art” flip phone. I smile and nod as he rants about whatever craziness Obama is up to that week.
6:50 AM My husband rolls out of bed and pours himself some juice. I serve him his eggs and bacon and then join him at the table, where the two of us enjoy a quiet five minutes together. Other couples might discuss the day’s upcoming events, but not us. We talk about the Holy Father’s resignation, what it feels like to have an empty chair in the Vatican, and whether or not Cody Lundin is the undisputed King of Bushcraft. In the middle of this, the baby wakes up and I nurse her while eating. At the end, as he gets up, I smile because I have no idea what he has planned for the day or what he expects of me. It’s the Nesbitt way.
7 AM The whole family gathers at the family altar for morning prayer. We use a format we have gleaned from combining the formats for Liturgy of the Hours in the Roman rite, Safro in the Maronite rite, and Jewish morning prayer from the Artscroll Siddur, all of which we have said exclusively at some point in our marriage. It opens with the Shema, goes on to say a bunch of blessings, the trisagion prayers, the breastplate, sing some hymns, read some psalms in rotation, Canticle of Zechariah, and we close by praying for various needs of our community and family. The whole thing takes about fifteen minutes, and is a little complex considering that our kids are so young. However, we have been doing it all their lives, so it becomes second nature to them. It’s also good practice for being quiet at mass when we get the chance to go. All of them participate in the sung parts (they LOVE the Qadishat Aloho and the Shema, which we chant) and my six year old likes to read one of the psalms. The five year old stares off into space and sucks his thumb, until he recognizes one of the parts which he then belts out full force. The three year old will usually dart between our legs but briefly pause with great reverence every so often, holding a “Bible” and singing. During this time, my father in law, who is not Catholic, usually paces the kitchen (which is adjacent to the room our family altar is in) and smirk or make loud clanging noises with dishes and what not. I don’t think they ever prayed in his family growing up, but he’s an evangelical calvinist so he likes prayer. What he dislikes is the scent of what he calls “religion,” so prayer at the family altar where there are icons and such and where we often chant or sing in other languages during morning prayer makes him very nervous. He thinks we do this for the novelty, I’m sure. We think he’s missing out on the roots of his own ancient faith. And so it goes!
7:15 I do the dishes, change the baby, and send the kiddos to their chores and personal hygiene. They will each get dressed, brush teeth, wash faces, put away their PJs, make their beds, clean up their room, and then report back to me for the morning’s chores. (I rotate them out according to what needs to be done. Sometimes they will dust, other times do baseboards or floors or sort laundry.. it just depends. The point is– they are always working!) I get dressed quickly, feed the baby her breakfast, and usually do the bathroom or floors. We all dress in comfortable clothes we can move in easily. I nurse the baby again, change her, and put her down for a nap.
8:30 Time for Crossfit. We are a Charlotte Mason homeschool. Charlotte taught her students Swedish Drill– the purpose of which was mobility of movement and fitness in every sense of the word, which she believed would cause her students to think better. We take this idea a step further into the modern understanding of physical fitness. Crossfit is hard, but we have been doing it since before we knew what Crossfit was (my husband is a physical fitness fanatic and an innovator in this area) and it fits our family very well. Sometimes he joins us and leads us, other days we just do the day’s WOD as posted on our respective Crossfit sites. Today I’m doing four rounds of a heavy kettlebell routine, which means I need to take it outside because the kids tend to run INTO kettlebells rather than away from them. They are doing a run (they run back and forth across the yard at breakneck speeds) and then some agility stuff (running through an obstacle course I make them consisting of hula hoops and toys they have to jump through and over) and some burpees. Just as I’ve got all our equipment gathered and everyone’s jackets on, he comes through the room and calls out to my two oldest kids to meet him at the car. He wants to them to work on some archery and stop by the library. He requests that I hurry up and brush my oldest’s hair so she doesn’t look so sloppy. I do it quickly, find shoes for my little guy, and then, sighing, I wave goodbye and turn to my three year old, who joins me outside, rubbing my elbow as I attempt to do my squats. So much for my organized and planned day! BUT…. there is hope. We’ve been here before.
9:45 AM. After about fifteen minutes of trying to work out, I give up and run laps with my gleeful child. Popping my head in the door, I notice that the baby is stirring, so I call beanpod 3 into the house and we sit down for a tall glass of water. I nurse the baby, and put her down in the pack and play for some playtime while I play some phonics and abacus games with the three year old. Then I pull out a box of toys for her and sit down to work at the computer. I answer emails, write a blog post, and take a few minutes to pray for some of the prayer requests in my facebook groups and email. Then it’s time to get back to my schoolwork, I’ve still got a paper to write.
10:45 AM. Beanpod 1 comes rushing through the door- her brother is headed to Lowes with his daddy so I sit her down at the table to take advantage of the moment and get some work done. On a “normal” day (read: when Daddy is on shift) we school from around 9:30 to 12, but today I have a short period of time to squeeze everything in. Lucky for me, Charlotte Mason advocates short lessons, so I set the microwave timer for ten minutes and we start with Life of Fred, a read-aloud math program that my kids LOVE. I make her finish the exercises to “perfect execution” (meaning I insist that she shapes her numbers to the best of her ability) but there are only three questions to complete. When she finishes her math, she and I leave the table to snuggle up on the couch and read from her readers. It’s Thursday so she’s doing recitations– she is already familiar with the lesson and now must practice her “public speaking” skills by reading aloud to me with excellent diction, tone, paying attention to the punctuation, and all that fun stuff. She pretends like I am a queen and she is Joan of Arc telling me an important message. I love this kid.
11:05 AM I send her back to the table to do some copywork. Today’s selection is from a poem she loves. It is one line long, and she kinda grumbles when she starts it, making me wish I had made it two lines long. I realize she is probably getting hungry so I don’t push her for a good attitude, but I do remind her with a disapproving look that I’m disappointed in her attitude. She straightens up and finishes it, amazing me with her almost perfect handwriting. She’s doing great. On days like today when my husband is home and his ideas and plans interfere with my own, I try to squeeze things in here and there and usually come out ok. We break to make some lunch and I send her outside to check on a birds’ nest we have been watching. She brings a magnifying glass because she wants to find a certain type of ant she’s been reading about. While I make lunch I check facebook and a couple blogs I’ve been reading.
12 PM We sit down to eat. Just as we sit down, The Drover and Bean Pod 2 come through the door— both asking for food. I had assumed since they were late that they would eat out or something, but you know the saying about assuming. So I rush around the kitchen pulling together some lunch for them as well and we all sit down to eat. While we eat I read to them from their history book, and require a narration of my oldest. My second child gets fussy because he wants to draw what he’s learning instead of eating, but I insist that he eat. Then I realize I never read them their poem of the day, practiced memory work with them or did our morning Catechesis. I decide to compromise by working on Catechism memory work for the next five minutes. We are learning the ten commandments and each of them has a bible memory verse related to particular struggles they have. As I clean up the lunch table, I send them outside to play for a few minutes.
12:30 PM The Drover is upstairs finishing up some homework he has and the kids are ready to come in because I hear them arguing outside. Must be naptime! In our house, we take family naps, so everybody washes up and heads to our bed. There we pray a rosary before falling asleep (although the littlest ones don’t make it through the whole thing) because we are waiting for a new pope. As soon as everyone is asleep, I close my eyes and snuggle close to them, grateful for my family and the opportunity to sleep. About two minutes later, the baby starts to grunt and stir, and I whisk her away from everyone before she wakes them up. I sit down at the computer to work with her in my arms. My father in law comes back from the doctor’s and has some items on the table to discuss, so I take a break to spend some time with him.
3 PM I walk through the house, picking up quickly and wake up the littles and big people. As we are waking up, Grandpa decides he’s going to take a nap and asks everyone to be quiet. So I shuttle everybody into the dining room and serve them gouter, our favorite moment of the day. Most days I make tea and bread with nutella, but today I’m out of bread so I serve a tangerine. While they eat, we talk about an upcoming birthday party and plan a museum trip. I have their classical music piece for music study in the background, and briefly mention it. They listen for a while. Before I let them up, I clear the table and do some quick math drills, as a game. After five minutes, I let them up to do some handicrafts and work on lifeskills. They are building a garden outside. Before long, the neighbors are all in the yard and everyone is playing wildly. Meanwhile, the baby and I get back to work on that paper.
5 PM I call everyone inside and we get to work on our evening chores. Once the house is clean, the laundry is folded, and the table is set, I put out some olives and a little drink for everybody and we put on a historical movie. They watch and play with their dad while I finish dinner. We eat in the living room, in front of the TV, and finish the movie. Most days we eat breakfast and lunch together at the table, and on weekends we eat a fancy dinner at the table on Friday and Saturday night, so though it used to bother me a great deal, I don’t sweat the TV dinner. It’s actually a fun bonding experience, and that way the kids don’t feel like they are missing out on movies because they go to bed very early.
After dinner and a movie, I do the dishes and send everyone out to get into PJs and do evening personal hygiene and chores. They get caught playing instead of getting ready about twenty times, but its’ OK. The day is over and I’m glad they are unwinding. We sit down to read a bible passage and discuss it. I realize we forgot our family meeting that morning (we call it Concilium) when we forgot to do Catechism, so I check in with everybody. We do a communal examination of conscience, and then gather at the family altar for evening prayer.
7:45 PM I read a story to the younger two while my oldest and the baby hang out with their daddy upstairs. I bless them and tuck them in, and then sit down to nurse the baby and check facebook. I put her down to sleep and finish up my homework. Then I spend a few minutes with my oldest reading her another history reading from the day. I bless her and send her to bed, and spend the rest of the night doing homeschool planning and reading some Charlotte Mason. I fall asleep while reading.
10 PM My husband calls me upstairs to watch a funny youtube video and we talk for a while. I tell him I’m going to bed and we pray together before I head down. It’s 11 PM. I read my Bible for a few minutes and collapse in my bed. About a minute later, the baby wakes up to eat.
11:30 PM I put her down and collapse in my bed again. A few minutes later, my husband comes to bed and wakes her up (our floors creak.) I nurse her again and she falls asleep. I fall into a deep sleep.
12:30 AM My Father in law wakes up. Unsure of what is going on, I go out to check on him. He’s in pain and so I sit with him for a while. I tiptoe back to bed. There I find Bean Pod 3, who wants to rub my elbow and have some water. I send her back to bed with a hug. When I put her in bed, I notice her brother has fallen out of his bed. I put him back.
3 AM The baby wakes up to eat. My Father in law is up drinking coffee and reading about Obama in the news, and has all the lights on, so she wakes up immediately. It takes a while to get her back down to sleep.
4:30 AM I put her down and go back to sleep. As I’m drifting off… I hear my friends, the Carolina Wren family…