My friend inspired me this week.
Her family is thriving right now.
It was incredibly good for me to hear her joy and I wanted to share it with you.
Now, just so you know the back story, this particular friend is an operating room nurse. Since people aren’t scheduling surgeries right now, she probably won’t be needed at her workplace for a month or so.
One of her daughters is a senior and will miss out on all of the “fun stuff” of her last year of high school, including PROM and all of the “senior send-off” activities.
So, yes, there has been heartache and stress in their home.
The senior has been going on long bike rides. She found some trails near her home and she told her friends about them. Since they all have cars, they simply load their bikes in their cars and then meet at the trail head.
They spend hours on those bike trails, keeping the rule of “social distancing” yet having fun. Together.
The senior girl comes back home invigorated. She is happy and full of energy. Going out with her friends is helping her keep her spirits up.
She is also getting sleep, normal sleep, since she is not up until 3 a.m. doing her homework. (She is a Straight-A, Top of Her Class, no-homework-left-behind type of girl.)
The mom told me, “In so many ways, this is what we, as a family, have needed. I hate that it has come around through a freaking pandemic, but we are eating supper together. Every night.”
She went on, “We are taking turns cooking meals; the girls are doing dishes together and they are laughing. We are dividing up the chores in the house; I am no longer doing everything since the girls are home and have more time. There are just so many blessings happening because of this. We are saying the Chaplet of Divine Mercy together every night, praying as a family.”
My friend observed, “There are some very good things here.”
Don’t you love that? And you’ve probably been feeling some of the same things.
The World, as we know it, has come to a screeching halt because of the Coronavirus.
Everything has been cancelled.
Many of us are at home, with time on our hands, time that we have not had before.
As a mom that works from home, that kind of terrifies me. I now have to make space for seven more personalities in my daily world, including my husband, an engineer, who is now working at home, my oldest daughter, Rachel, a FOCUS missionary, who can serve her students digitally, Matthew, a college student, three high schoolers and a grade schooler.
Do you know what I’ve been working on?
Setting Up Routines.
As I wrote in my last post, “Setting up Homeschooling,” our new lives can be whatever we want them to be. I mean, we have A LOT of latitude.
These are crazy times. We are in survival mode. And educators get that. So we have to do school, yes, but the kids won’t be busy like they were.
How busy were my kids?
Well, let me use my freshman as an example. Thomas was in "God Squad," a group designed for spiritual growth (during Lent) before this all happened. They met at 6:45 IN THE MORNING.
He then went to school from 7:50-3:15 every day. Then he went to track practice, which went from after school until 6:15.
So he was away from home from 6:30 a.m. to 6:30 p.m.
He is now HOME full-time.
This is going to be different. It just is.
I know we will need to set up some good, solid routines for the day. Not super crazy strict, always follow-no-matter-what routines, but just a good system of how the day will go.
Why is this important?
Our brains LIKE routines. Routines give us a sense of control, something that we are in short supply of right now!
Routines bring in a sense of normalcy and they actually help us be more productive.
The best thing: each child can be their own architect, designing their day.
What's important to you? What's important to them?
One of my best friends, mom of seven, is having her kids get up at 7:15 a.m. I actually need that quiet time to write and get my own head on straight.
So our kids are getting up later, between 9 and 10.
This is what the morning routine will look like:
A new thing we are adding: 3:00 Divine Mercy Chaplet (to be prayed for those dying alone).
3:30-5: We are working on making this a project time/new skill time that does NOT involve a screen. (More on this on Thursday.)
But for now, I am encouraging them to use this as GAME TIME. We have one million board games. I know they may just need to work out or take a walk or be AWAY from each other. All cool.
5:00: One child makes supper with me. We started this last week, during their extended spring break. They have done a great job and it's been fun.
6:00: Eight of us sit down for supper together. As a family. Every night. It’s so amazing. This has never happened so consistently. Before the virus, the girls worked at Pizza Hut from 5-8 several evenings a week. Matthew, our college kid, was never home. Now, like it or not, we are all home.
Once a week (Tuesdays) we share our emotions, which the older kids actually really enjoy. (I have two kids that still roll their eyes and think they are going to die when we share our emotions.) Read more about that here: One Simple Way to Create Connection.
The best new routine: NO ONE LEAVES THE KITCHEN UNTIL IT IS SPIC AND SPAN. Everyone does their base job (empty dishwasher, clean off table, trash, etc.) PLUS they deep clean the stove top, they sweep, they wash, dry and put away all of the odd dishes and cups that don’t go into the dishwasher. They shine the sink.
It’s been the best.thing.ever.
Before the virus, the high schoolers had CYM on Sundays, there was confirmation class or basketball on Mondays. Russ had meetings at church at least twice a week, PLUS we had choir practice on Weds evenings. Thomas had Knights of the Holy Queen on Thursdays. The girls worked at Pizza Hut on Fridays and Saturdays. We are not a big athletic family, yet every single night was full!
NOW? Every evening is OPEN. Nothing is scheduled outside of this home.
For right now, we only have two evenings with a specific routine.
Friday night: Game Night.
The kids LOVE when Mom and Dad BOTH sit down and play with them.
We have been teaching our children some more poker games. They know the basic Five Card Draw type of games. We’ve been expanding their repertoire of skills. (Yes, poker IS a life skill.) Russ donated some cash for the pot. Malaysia cleaned up. We may take her to Vegas.
Saturday Night: Family Movie Night.
My favorite movie: The Sound of Music. My pastor recommended "The Great Muppet Caper." I also love the movie "Prince of Persia." What feel-good movies could you introduce your family to?
Other than that, the kids have been playing Jacks on Top (a solitaire card game) or working out or spending some personal time on screens. (All of our computers/devices are in one area of the house.)
Thomas, age 15, has a flip phone. He spends a little time each evening and calls a friend, usually of the female persuasion, and chats for 20 minutes or so. It’s kinda cool to witness.
The big new addition to our routine:
9:00 Family Prayer Time. (Sometimes this gets moved around, but we gather in the living room between 8 and 9 every night.)
We have been simply speaking our intentions and then praying the Chaplet of Divine Mercy. However, I don’t think a six-minute prayer is quite enough right now. I mean, we need some massive INPUT during this time. So I moved the Chaplet to take place every day at 3. For the evening time? I want my family to fall in love with the Rosary.
They all know HOW to pray the Rosary. My goal is for them to understand it and “enter in” to the best of their ability. (Versus mumbling mice.)
I need to help them fall in love with this powerful prayer so I simply started reading excerpts from a book, “Our Lady of Kibeho” by Immaculee Ilibagiza. I know that, as they hear about the visionaries and the messages and the urgency of praying, they will WANT to pray.
It will take time to get them excited to pray, but hey, we have the time. (I took the girls to see Immaculee when she was in Wichita. Immaculee survived the Rwandan Genecide and wrote about that in her first book, “Left to Tell.”)
ROUTINES are important, Mama. So think about your day. Sit down with your people and brainstorm. What do they want to include in their day as a “set” routine?
If you want it to actually happen, create a distinct TIME for it.
There is freedom in routine. I know it sounds crazy, but it’s true.
What routines will serve your family? What routines will help your family thrive? Think of those as the ROCKS of your day and put those down first.
Whatever your routines look like, know that they are movable. You can change them as you go.
I will end this post with the words from my friend, Stephanie, a mother of six:
“What I love most about all of this craziness is having all of the kids home and not having one or two of them asking every single day if they can go somewhere or have a friend over or do this or do that.”
(Stephanie did have to fight her older kids at first. They kept asking to GO PLACES.)
“Now that they understand what’s really happening, it’s been like a dream come true. It’s like having little kids but now they are teenagers and they have to be around and they aren’t begging to leave and I’m in heaven, to be honest. We’ve spent more time with our older kids than we have in I don’t know how long.”
This is a rare time, my friends. We have been given the gift of TIME.
Let your routines serve you. Let them build your family. On purpose.
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