Help With Your Mother's Rule

Help With Your Mother's Rule is a forum for women who want trouble-shooting help with their Mother's Rules or about any aspect of the 5 Ps of the married vocation.

Ask Holly: This blog is composed of your questions. Contact me at the address listed on Holly's Helpers page and I will respond. Please share your unique ideas as well. The more ideas and experience we share, the more successful every mother will be in designing her own unique Mother's Rule.

Thursday, April 9, 2015

New Post

There is a new & important post on Thoughts for Moms page... check it out...

Monday, March 16, 2015

Yes, I'm Still Here...

Hello Ladies
While it is very difficult to get to my website, I am still available for email contact and conversations, even though sometimes it takes me a bit of time to reply. So please feel free to contact me, and if I don't respond, write me again! I will get back to you. May God bless you and your families.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Can I Creat a Rule With a Newborn?

Dear Holly,
I am most enthusiastic to start my Mother's Rule of Life right away, however, with a newborn, I feel absolutely paralyzed as my schedule is literally being run by our precious new addition!
I desperately need to bring "order" to my life and am wondering if you have any recommendations describing how to implement a "Mother's Rule" with a newborn, or... do you recommend I wait until she is a bit older? I am currently homeschooling my 9 yr-old and 3-yr-old (both girls) as well.
Any direction/help you can provide would be greatly appreciated.

How God Guides Us...

Dear Holly
I have a question about spiritual direction. Did you search for a spiritual director or did you just happen upon him because he was there? I am wondering how to go about finding someone. I do know a priest that has acted as a spiritual guide for me in the past so I may ask him but I don't know if his duties will allow him time for me on a regular basis.

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

New Year Clean Up?

Dear Holly,
Christmas is over and family visitors are leaving. I really want to get my home in order for the New Year, but to be honest, I am OVERWHELMED! Everything is such a mess, and I honestly don't know where to start. It is beginning to make me depressed, just looking at the mounds of stuff and clutter all over my house. When I start to clean it up, I take so much time that the rooms get even more messy before they get better, and even my husband is beginning to comment. My husband and my kids help out, but I can't have them do this all day every day - I really think this will take me months to do a serious de-clutter. Do you have any tips to help me pull things together quickly, yet still do a thorough job?

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Homeschooling and Eldercare at the Same Time?

Hi Ladies
Someone had written to me last year asking about considerations for homeschooling when one is also doing eldercare in the home. I just found a great article by HSLDA on this topic:

Balancing Eldercare and Homeschooling

Monday, November 11, 2013

A New "Thoughts for Mom" post!

I actually have a new post for the Thoughts for Mom page! (Will marvels never cease?) I think we can find it helpful dealing with all the difficulties we can run into...
Dealing With Our Sufferings

Friday, July 26, 2013

Life is Feeling Crammed...

Dear Holly,
I developed a rule a while ago, but I continue to feel like I am cramming too much into too little time and struggle to set clear boundaries to cut off activities. I have felt a strong call lately to "grow up" more and to model self-mastery to my children for an increase of peace in our home (as indicated by our 4 year old praying during family prayer on the way to Church this morning "Jesus please help Mommy never yell again ever ever!"
Could use some help and guidance :)

Hubby Won't Help at All...

Dear Holly,
My husband does not and has not helped me ever with morning or evening routines, caring for the kids, housekeeping, no dishes, no trash out, no nothing. Thank God for my faith!! He has some psychological issues. He also works hard, and he drinks every night and is extremely unorganized. Of course, I have asked him to help out. I have begged him!!!! He never had to do that stuff in his home. I married him when I was very young. We have had our share of rough roads and I seek counseling whenever I feel stuck. He is against counseling and thinks it is just a money-maker and that he can do it on his own. We have actually come a long way. Unfortunately, my marriage is my cross. I became a member of one of the lay movements in the Church a few years ago and it brought me so much deeper into my faith and prayer life. It helped him too. I feed my soul with the sacraments and I say my rosary every morning on the treadmill. I hope that things will change, but he has to change. I can't make him. So I just continue to look for ways to be better for God and for my kids and for him for that matter. I pray for the grace of God to give him wisdom and healing. I do know that I am permitting this situation where he won’t help at home..... but it is very exhausting when I rock the boat. I left once... My struggle has always been being the good holy obedient loving wife, and being a doormat with no control over decisions in our life. I keep trying to communicate to him my needs, but they are usually shot down and belittled..... Maybe I am just tired of trying......tired of arguing (because try as I might, that is usually what happens). I also never really know what I will get with him. I am telling you all of the bad, but he adores us (me and the kids) and loves his faith and is driven and hardworking. Not making excuses, but ‘there is hope’ is my point.

Summer or Fall Rule?

Dear Holly,
I am pregnant with my 5th child. My 4 other children go to school next month. My schedule right now is very light, but I have time to get things done around the house. Should I create my rule of life according to my schedule now? Or should I anticipate how things will be once school begins with crazy afternoons of homework and after school activities?

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

It's Working!

Dear Holly,
Thank you so much for your book. My husband gave it to me as a mother's day gift a few years ago. I had only one little one back then and kept your ideas in the back of my head. Now that I have three, I pulled out your book and have implemented it into my home. I just thank you so so much! It is working! Before, I felt like my life was one big chore list. But, with the schedule, and focusing on doing essentials, we feel so much more peace in the home. I want all of my friends and family to know about this. I thought I was being a good mom letting my children have plenty of play and free time. But your book has helped me see there is a real need for balance of all things. Praise God for your sharing in this book.

Am I a Failure?

Dear Holly,
I read your book at least 6-7 times over the past 5 years. It's one of my best books and I’ve learned a lot from it, thank you. Today I face a situation that confuses me and I would like to have your opinion.
My house is a big cluttered, messy warfield. Our finances are totally out of control. Gardening? It's not even worth thinking about I have so little time. I really, really want to clean and organize and declutter my house, but I can't seem to find a way! This week was a good opportunity for me to do so as my husband was away and I've finished the homeschool year (I have four children under 8 years old), but I just couldn’t seem to do it. We never invite my husband's colleagues to our house because I would never want them to see my home.
I really try to keep my priorities in a good order, keeping prayer first. I'm so busy, and I really don't understand how so many women can keep their house in order and not me. At every moment, I try to look for the will of God, to do what is the most important thing at that moment, and there's never a minute left to reorganize and store. I tried all your suggestions in the book. I’ve built my plans at least 20 times - failing every time to do everything. My children help a little, but not much, given their ages. I don't want to let myself fall into discouragement, but the temptation is so big.
Maybe I'm wrong, but for me, the mess of my home is the sign that I don't have good fruits in my life, or that I am completely failing.

Time to Stop and Breathe!

Dear Holly,
I am writing to you because I am stuck. I started my MROL recently and I feel completely overwhelmed. I am not finished with your book yet. I'm on chapter four and answering the questions. I feel completely overwhelmed by my schedule. I start at 6:30 a.m. and end at 11 p.m. And I don't even have time for laundry and simple household chores! We have four children under 9 whom I homeschool, and we have so many activities that I'm drowning. I had a big fight with my husband tonight because I want to stop some of the activities and he doesn't. He doesn’t want to disappoint the kids. We have violin, piano, tap, ballet, a Catholic club, a Lego club, swimming and soccer starting up in the Fall! My husband's work schedule is such that he will most likely be unable to attend many of the games and practices this year, so I will have to shuttle the two oldest to and from practices and games with no help. They could possibly have practices and/or games at the same time but in different locations. This is a potential nightmare. I am stressed out. I already feel isolated and overwhelmed by everything we have going on. I don't want to add this, too. Our kids are joiners. They will join anything! All my homeschooling friends live in the country and their kids participate in very little outside their homes, and all my non-homeschooling friends live in the suburbs and their schedules make us look lazy. Help!

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Sometimes There IS Too Much To Do...

Dear Holly,
I confess I haven't finished your book yet, but I wanted to get hold of you if possible. I have a kind of different situation in that my husband and I are in our fifties, and we have one small child. My problem in a nutshell is that I am quite alone to do all the inside chores, plus gardening and watering and feeding the animals. I truly feel quite overwhelmed and inadequate. Plus, this is a huge house to keep clean, with many bedrooms and bathrooms and large living spaces. The catch 22 is that our basement and attic are loaded with plenty of junk we never use and that my husband doesn't want to give away. To make matters worse, I have a health problem and don't move too fast anymore. There also isn't a possibility of getting outside help. Needless to say, I need help! Maybe you will tell me to just keep reading!

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Excellent Financial Program

Hi Ladies -
Just a link for you - to share a computer program my husband and I are using in relation to budgeting and finances: YNAB - You Need a Budget. It is an all-in-one budgeting & financing tool, helping both hubby and wife to know at a glance where they stand.

To find out about it and to see how it works:

To get a discount on this program:
Discount through Holly


Saturday, October 13, 2012

"How To" do the "Year of Faith" for Busy Moms

Hi Everyone
Just thought I'd share re: the Year of Faith & "How To" ideas:

I've been looking over the recommendations from Benedict XVI for the Year of Faith - he recommends a complete review of the Catechism and the Vatican II documents in order to renew our faith, to be read in a prayerful way, in order to prepare the Church to bring forth a new and fresh witness the following year. This is very important given the contrary witness that major political figures are giving, citing their Catholic Faith as the grounds upon which they hold contradictory views on abortion, gay unions, etc etc etc.. Knowing that the Church does not grow spiritually without catechesis, Benedict's plan is a great plea for Catholics to learn and re-learn what we may have forgotten or perhaps never known.

Initially I was thinking that his idea of going over the complete Catechism and the Vatican II documents as a tad bit "ambitious", to say the least... However, after examining the catechism and the documents, and tying in the need for daily Scripture reading , I think it would be very EASY to work this study in for the year. Here is what I have come to , given that the year of faith is about 400 days:

The Vatican II documents -
If I leave out the ones on the priesthood, bishops and religious life (for us lay people only, that is, and even then, feel free to read those too...), and study all the rest, it could be done either:
a) by reading a document a month, which is really not very much at all, or
b) if I count up all the 'numbers' that the documents are labelled with - often a 'number' is a paragraph, sometimes a 'number' is 3-8 paragraphs - if I count up all the numbers in the 12 documents, it ends up being about 565 'numbers' for the year - then this would equal about 1 1/2 'numbers' a day for the year; or
c) I figure it could be done in ten minutes of prayerful reading a day
Vatican II Documents

Catechism -
After examining the catechism, there are 2865 'numbers' or points in the CCC, as well as about 700 pages - so that could mean either:
a) read approximately 7 'numbers' a day, or
b) read approximately 2 pages a day, or
c) spend 15 minutes a day

Scripture -
Using the small little New Testament, published by Scepter, the entire New Testament can be read two times over in one year, in approximately 5 minutes per day. Or even using an online version
Online Catholic New Testament

With a Read-the-New-Testament-in-a-Year schedule:
NT in a Year

As a result - for about 30 minutes a day, we can easily read and refresh and relearn all the church teaching in relation to the New Testament, Catechism, and Vatican II documents - even if we split it up to two 15 minute sections a day.

When we look at this, some of us may think that we can't handle the language of the documents or that it may be over our head- I think a prayer for a special grace for this year to help us see the truth the Lord wants us to know and remember would handle that, and then start reading.

So, I guess this all certainly seems doable to me - thought I'd share in case you had had the same reservations.

Friday, September 7, 2012

That Myth of "Super-Mom"...

Dear Holly
i ran across your web page while looking for an ideas for routine
for my home. i have 4 young children... the oldest go to a private christian school where over the summer they offered me the Job as head of the kitchen. we serve 500 meals a day,an i am in "charge" of all f it from the ordering to clean up. the good
part is my younger children are more than welcome as the whole campus is
completely family oriented. but my days are chaos! my husband works 10-14
hr days 5-7 days a week and he doesn't know the lord(yet).my youngest
child wakes up fighting an arguing with someone. i try to give everyone
the same amount of time an attention but it seems no one gets undivided
attention even during dinner and until the last is a sleep i feel like a
referee not to mention my house stays a wreck. the are all in bed between
8 & 9 then it is 12 or 1 before i get to bed and nothing in the house
actually completely done. i just need a little peace in this busy day i
want my kids to grow up very close to one another and responsible. i am
trying my best to teach them the godly ways of life but in all the chaos i
feel like i am failing miserably. any suggestions?

Monday, August 13, 2012

A Reminder about the "Priorities"

Excuse This House
Author: Unknown

Some houses try to hide the fact
That children shelter there,
Ours boasts it quite openly,
The signs are everywhere.

For smears are on the windows,
Little smudges are on the doors
I should apologize, I guess
For toys strew on the floor.

But I sat down with my child
And we played and laughed and read
And if the doorbell doesn’t shine,
His eyes will shine instead.

For when at times I’m forced to choose
The one job or the other,
I’d like to cook and clean and scrub,
But first I’ll be a mother.

Never to say our homes are not important, but yes, housework is the 5th P, and does take last place to the relationships in our lives... always good to remember

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Not Feeling God Lately?

The Narcotic of Pleasure

When Aging Parents Move In...

Dear Holly,
What advice would you give to those of us who have the added "P" of caring for aging parents while we still have little ones in the home?

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Dealing With the "I want to be free" Feeling...

We all know the feeling - "I want to be free", or as one woman commented, "reading Holly's book made me feel... 'tired'..." We know it well:
"I don't want to be constrained by a schedule. I want to "live", to "be spontaneous", to "encounter life" not to be "pre-determined", "locked in a box" , "scheduled"...

Yet, we also know what being so "free" can lead to:
- feeling overwhelmed with work
- housework chaos
- neglect of essential aspects of our vocation
- the feeling of constantly sorting a mess
- cleaning one part of the house while another falls apart
- no time to "do what 'I' want"
- a scattered heart, distracted, lacking peace
- lacking recollection and any sense of intimacy with God
- constantly realizing "I need a rule"
- constantly saying "but..."
- timidity and fear about my ability to live my vocation well....

Who wants to live this way?

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Starting the Day off Right

Starting the day off right - with a sense of mission, assented to, fully, in service...
A Mother's Mission-Litany
scroll up...

Friday, July 20, 2012

Does Hubby Have "REAL" Authority?

Dear Holly,
I love your book and have read it several times. I recently pulled it out again to refer to the section you wrote on pages 87-90 about, as you called it, “The Submission Issue”. I wanted to read this again because I recently discovered that a woman I have a growing friendship with seems to always defer to her husband in major and minor decisions about their family. She referred to her husband as the “spiritual head of the household” in explaining this. I have great respect and admiration for this family – my purpose in researching this issue is only for my own understanding, not to take issue with the way that they make decisions.

In one of your comments in your blog you said, “A husband... does have real authority given by God for the smooth running of the home and proper education of the children.” Could you elaborate exactly what you mean by this? Does this mean that a husband has a greater authority than his wife in these matters? If so, could you please site some helpful references (Church documents, etc.) to help me understand this? It seems to contradict the way you explained the “submission issue” in your book and the way you described that decision-making in a marriage when there is disagreement should be “satisfactory compromise”. I also looked up the document you referenced in your book, “JOHN PAUL II ON THE DIGNITY AND VOCATION OF WOMEN” and found what I believe to be your “counter edge gripping moment” (page 89 of your book): “in the relationship between husband and wife the ‘subjection’ is not one-sided but mutual.”

Maybe it would also be helpful to ask you to comment on some specific examples when answering my aforementioned question. For instance, should a husband, by virtue of his “God-given authority” make the decision or have the final say (over his wife) on issues such as what school a child should attend? What activities the children should participate in? What courses of study they should pursue?

Homeschool Lesson Plans for Many Children

Dear Holly, 
The Mother's Rule has helped me for the past 4 years, and I am constantly revisiting your book.  As I recently have "let things go" for a while, I am renewing my efforts to my vocation and really trying to get things in order before the next school year.  

One thing I have struggled with is creating a lesson plan chart for more than one child.  As a former teacher, I am used to writing out lessons plans in a lesson plan book, but I would like a more efficient way to list assignments and projects. Do you have some ideas?

Thursday, July 12, 2012

What Are Your Kids Doing?

Someone has asked regarding my Pulling Things Together Again posts, "What (are) your children doing during your large chunks of time (& what are their current ages)? With my little ones at age 9, 8, and 7, I can't quite imagine the day when I will have large chunks of time ever again!!"  
I'll share with you what my kids did yesterday during my chunks of time, and while I was doing supper prep. The kids home yesterday were 12 (almost 13) year old Virginia, 14 year old Luke, and 17 year old Jess.
In the morning chunk, Luke and Jess were strawberry picking until 11 am, then came home. Jessica bathed a dog, took all three dogs for a walk with Luke. Then, Luke picked lettuce from the garden and washed it for lunch. jess then helped make lunch with me.  Virginia, from 9 to noon, (among her other pursuits), cleaned the kitchen for the family - dishes, loading dishwasher, and tipped the strawberries the others brought home before lunch.

In the afternoon chunk,  Luke did 30 minutes on Rosetta Stone French and Virginia did 30 minutes on Sponge Bob Typing. Jess cleaned her room. One or the other combined, the kids also set up the hose to water the flower garden, BBQ'd some steak, helped make the broccoli salad for supper, went down the street to mail a letter and get the mail, paid a bill at the local grocery store for me, picked up some eggs & Cheese and raisins, packed for a trip one is taking, washed and dried pots, wiped counters & cleaned the sink, put groceries away, made dog food & fed them, and did a laundry load, in addition to the 17 yr old's time on Facebook and the younger two's own personal activities.

The kids also have other things they do during day time - 15 minutes of piano practice, garden weeding and other home responsibilities, bringing laundry to the rooms, or hanging a load on the line, and usually someone helps peel potatoes or carrots etc for supper.

Many of these types of things are common duties of the home, which my children participate in, as opposed to Mummy doing everything. The only things I must do by myself are finances, organizing, planning homeschooling, and my own unique duties. Many of these normal types of things, children aged 7-9 can do as well, just needing to have instruction and practice.  Most mornings, I call the kids together, set up a list of what needs to be done on a white board, and we all go through it,  assigning certain tasks to each person, in discussion with them.  It works and I am free to do what I must do:

Yesterday in my chunk times I:
Put on a roast and a turkey; did some homeschool coop organizing; listened to new hymns for the parish music ministry; plucked the turkey and made broth; sorted all my private papers, making a to-do list as I went through them; made up files for these re: homeschooling, my mother, my rule, nutrition, pets, etc - keeping out what was 'now' and putting in a shelf that which is 'later'; and I made the Broccoli Salad with the family for supper; and went to a Book Study (Holiness is For Everyone) last night at my parish.

That's how it goes!

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Pulling it Together Again, Day 6

Well, the house is basically re-ordered and finances/office sorted, bedroom organized and tidy and class room ready for me to start prepping the fall homeschooling. We have a basic routine that falls around the daily meal times, and all this set up within a week. Yesterday, I had to stop sorting for a bit and harvest some herbs that have been growing in their new bed. Also needed to seriously water the gardens due to what in my area is a virtual drought. But it all fit in nicely within the time-chunks, and so I did not get thrown off.

Regarding my rule, the emphasis for me remains on ensuring that my First P is lived faithfully and keeping the spirit of recollection and receptivity to God's Will throughout my day. For those interested, here's an interesting free download of a booklet taking about a "plan of life" - specifically, the prayer section of a daily 'rule' - well worth examining:

Secondly, I was thinking about how important it is for us to feel 'free' (my treasured spontaneity!!) - to not feel 'tied down' and burdened by our duties, and that the key way to do this inside of our mother's rule is to only schedule the 'basics' - such as daily prayer, meals, chores etc - coming up with a daily template or structure that covers the basics, but that leave us 'free to choose' among our other duties according to circumstance, time available, energy, need, and family considerations.

Two tools help the most:
The time-chunk method is the best way to deal with this - having large sections of time in between our regular routines - to enable us to cover what needs to be done without our prayer life and housework falling down.
So, for me, that means on most days, between 9:00 & 12noon, 1:30 & 4:30, and 6:30 & 9:30 (except for Family Rosary), I am free to attend to all the things in my life - from cleaning, to organizing, to gardening, to errands, to visiting, to reading or studying, to being with my kids, to spending time with hubby, to homeschooling, to tutoring a friend's child, to shopping, etc...

The Weekly Planner is the second tool - a little "To Do" notebook that, at the beginning of the week with the help of the family and the calendar, figure out what is coming up 'this week' and figure out when things can be done, with ample time to spare in case something unplanned comes up.
So for me, in the summer now, that means, I will be spending quite a bit of time prepping lessons for the fall for the homeschool coops I am in, keeping up with my gardens, and getting my mother moved in with us when her house sells. This will all be worked out, week by week.

Then - day by day, according to level of need, personal energy, and our attraction to any given task, we can choose what aspect of the weekly plan we want to work on during our time chunks and feel a bit more 'free': this leaves room for the impromptu trip to the beach on a 100 degree day, or friends dropping by from out of town, without feeling like our home or routine is falling apart.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Pulling It Together Again, Day 5

Re: Over-scheduling
Now today, I am writing to you in the time space resulting from completing my morning-chores-after-prayer-time in an hour... yet, I have allotted 1 1/2 hours for those chores.  This is a key factor - never over-scheduling ourselves to the point that we are rushing, feeling pressed or burdened. The key is to choose a time duration for our chores/activities, that we know we can complete on a 'bad day' when we're feeling low, draggy, uninspired.  My morning chore duties can always be accomplished inside of 90 minutes, even on bad days, Then, for more normal days or when we feel better, we can finish the chores a bit earlier and add to our free time, not starting the next scheduled activity until it's scheduled time, unless we're itching to get at it!

Re: Working with Teens
In our house, my kids were better at following the family practical rule when they were little! I could call them altogether in the kitchen, get their attention and assign tasks, supervising as we went.  But with a house of 4 teens right now, they all seem to have different schedules, things on the go, personal preferences and personalities, and it's been a challenge to keep the house tidy as a result. No little amount of prayer and pondering and brainstorming has been done on my part to figure out how to tackle this. I have come up with a couple of things:

- my expectations about housework have to be slightly modified, as I can't run a 'show-home' with 4 teens.  However, I am still convinced that for my personal mental health (!) and the basic norms of stewardship of creation, our 'common areas' - those places we share such as kitchen, living room, bathrooms, dining room - ought to be kept tidy as a norm.  The consequences of this: I have told them their bedrooms are 'theirs' and if they are a mess, that their door is to be kept shut. Philip however reserved the right to tell them to clean it! Fine by me!

- the house truly needs one time every day when things are put back where they belong, things are tidied and cleaned, and done well.  But the kids are not always home at the same time due to work schedules, and most of them are tired and draggy after supper. The only solution I could see was remembering the story I heard about an about an Abbot in England who assisted with the kitchen clean up, as this helped the morale of the monks.  So, at a family meeting, we set a new method in agreement with each other, including Philip:  resurrecting a practice we'd once had, every member of the family who is home after supper aids in the clean up of the common areas - each of us, parents included - and if someone has to be 'out' after supper, they would then offer to assist a bit more 'before' supper to not burden the family.  After implementing this the past couple of days, despite my own reluctance as I sweep every part of the house and wonder "Why should I?" (tsk, Holly!), it is working - the house is being tidied and maintained, the kids are more motivated and our time is cut down since we all work until it's done.

Re: The Husband
Given the large amount of work we all do as mothers, I also talked to my husband and asked him if he would do two things daily, in addition to after-supper clean- up:  to make our bed every morning, and to put away the clean laundry every night. He agreed.

To give him a kick start, I had super-cleaned our bedroom yesterday, and so he starts with a fresh-slate. If he doesn't complete his chores, I won't do it for him, so that he notices what he is supposed to do.  And this morning, he came downstairs bragging that he'd roll up his pj's and put them just-so in the drawer, just like I do! Wonderful!

Monday, July 9, 2012

Pulling It Together Again, Day 4

Sunday, Day 3, was a day off! Lots of God! Lots of Family! Lots of Rest! Works for me...

Today, decided to set the basic get-up and meal schedules, and get those 'time-chunks' in place so I could do everything else. Looked like this:

6:00  Up, coffee, potty dogs
6:15  Prayer - Offering, Lit of Hours Morning Prayer, Intercession, Private chat with God
7:00  Hygiene, Makeup, Feed Dogs, Breakfast, Clean up, Check email, laundry

12:00 Lunch Prep & Kitchen/House Tidy, laundry
12:20 Lunch
12:30 Quiet Time - Scripture 15 min; Spiritual Read 15 min; 30 min Free (to snooze! :-)

And all the time in between, I was free to work.

Today, I cleaned my bedroom for 75 minutes, finished the classroom in an hour; and worked on the finances for the summer, handling receipts, setting up the office for a loooonnnnnggggg time (and am still completing this evening) - all of this, in between the two 'set' routines for get-up and breakfast/lunch, and the TBA supper routine.

When I am done with all the sorting and cleaning and arranging in the next couple of days, other things will come to fill in those 'chunks of time' - the attic renovations, the gardening, prepping homeschool for the Fall, and in the Fall, homeschooling will take its place inside those chunks.

Long Live Chunks of Time!

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Pulling It Together Again, Day 2

So today, in pulling things together anew, I continued with the tracking of my activities and began to work on organizing and de-cluttering my dining room - classroom - living room and moving things around to suit present needs.  Part of my day looked like this, according to my tracking:

7:30   water plants, feed dogs, make up, laundry, add to grocery list as I see needs
8:15   email
8:30   sorting classroom & dining room
10:15 coffee break & internet news
10:45 sorting classroom & dining room
12:00 lunch prep & clean up
12:20 Lunch
12:30 Quiet Time
1:30   continued in classroom, dining room
2:45  Computer work
3:30  continue classroom, dining room, living room
4:10  break

This began to show me that, as usual, there are large chunks of time available for projects between the meal times, and in the middle of those chunks, I usually need a break.  At some of those times, I include prayer to give the spiritual refreshment needed to carry on.

The template for organizing one's day *can* look something like this:

pre & post breakfast chores
project / break / project
pre & post lunch chores
mid-day break
project / break / project
pre & post supper chores

My schedule seems to work best by using those times in between meals for extended projects - be that organizing a room on a hot summer day, or weeding the garden, or running errands, or cleaning the house, or when fall comes, homeschooling during those hours.

Meanwhile, by having all the regular chores attached to meal times, there are periods of time in between that I can allot to various duties and work, depending upon the season, month, week or day - all the while keeping the meal times & meal chores constant. This immediately pulls the day together in an orderly fashion and brings a sense of control and order.

Friday, July 6, 2012

Pulling it Together Again - Day 1

Hi Ladies -
Thought I'd try something different for a bit -  thought I'd share with you the process I am taking to "pull things together" again, given that a number of new things have entered my life -  a couple of homeschooling co-ops; my mother looking at moving in with us by the fall; using heirloom seeds in my large 25X75 ft garden, with the idea of saving seeds in the fall; starting a perennial herb garden; starting up a research project again after time away; and experimenting with a new eating pattern to address health issues in our family. This, among all my normal duties, homeschooling, housework, family, music ministry, and of course, you here who visit A Mother's Rule of

Today, in order to begin to develop a new Rule or plan of life appropriate to the new realities in my life, I decided to track every thing I did so I could get a handle on how long things were taking me and where I found it essential to direct my attention.  At the beginning of each new activity, I wrote the time and what I started to do. When I finished, I wrote the time again, and the next thing I was going to do.  Ex:

9:00  Filled the car with gas
9:10  Small Grocery Shopping
9:30  Prepped chicken for supper; fed cats
9:40  Laundry loads
9:50  Kitchen counters cleaned and groceries away
10:00 Made yogurt & tracked recipe info online
10:20 Snack
10:30  Read about food requirements for new food habits
11:30 Sorted a bureau, laundry, urgent emails
12:00 prepped lunch / picked and washed garden lettuce

At the end of the day, I tallied up the totals how I spent my time naturally today, walking from activity to activity and the results were surprising to me

Prayer and Spiritual Reading  - 1hr 30 min
Errands outside home  - 35 minutes
Kitchen Chores and Food Prep   - 3hr 20 min
Laundry  - 1 hr   (er, I've been away for 2 weeks helping my Mom!)
Reading relevant to home needs  - 1 hr
Organizing Home  - 1 hr 10 min
Housework (not incl kitchen)  - 1 hr
Homeschooling Planning  - 1 hr
Personal Break   - 1 hr 10 min
TV/News - 40 min
Apostolate to Others - 50 min
Family & Hubby Time - most of the rest...

Now, while some things are a bit extreme because I've been away and some things have piled up, I was surprised to see the amount of time I spent in the kitchen - it was a full 90 minutes more than I would have guessed.  And I was also surprised how much reading I got in - I was grateful to know I could do this, even on a busy day.

What's the next step?

To continue to track what I'm doing naturally for a few days until a) I complete the home organization and everything is back where it should be and there is physical order, and b) to examine how much time, averaged over a few days, I spend at certain tasks, to assist me in making up the new practical rule.  For example, if I find that our family's new diet needs 3 hours a day, that will be an important eye opener when I make my schedule - instead of trying to schedule the 90 minutes it used to take me every day... By assessing what I need to do now, I can more easily develop routines that will work.

The moral of today's story?

Starting off with an "assessment week" where we examine our natural day and see how we are spending our time is a good clue into what we consider important, and what is essential, and where to start.  For those of you who want to follow along, please do so and share your stories as we go in the comment section.  Also, the MROL Workbook available from this site has assessment sheets you can print to use as you keep track of your days.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Occult Practices at Local Facility

Dear Holly,
You mentioned in your book that you dabbled with the occult as a teenager, and this had lasting effects on your spiritual life that you eventually had to be specifically released from.  I’m wondering if you can  help me with a question I have.  I came across an advertisement for a ‘seance’ that will be conducted at a public museum that I love to go to, and that I often take my kids to.  It is a great venue. There are terrific art and craft workshops for the kids, a great theatre that my husband and I attend (when we get the chance!) and the grounds themselves are beautiful – we often have picnic lunches there.   I am now a little uneasy about going there  knowing that black magic is practised there.  I know very little about the Occult. I have never participated in it, but I do know that it is extremely dangerous, and have made sure that I avoid it.

I know that by God’s grace certain places or things become ‘sacred’ – churches, saint’s relics, holy water etc.  Is the opposite true also? Can a place become ‘evil’ because of Satanic practices that occur there?  Am I putting myself and my family at risk by going to a place where I know Satanic practices take place?  I don’t want to be melodramatic about it, or superstitious, and I hope I don’t sound like a religious nut! Is my unease just an overreaction, or is it a sign that this is a place I should no longer frequent?  It would be a real shame not to take my family there because, as I said, it is an excellent educational source.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Discipline the Kids or Establish a Rule - Which Comes First?

Dear Holly,
I have read your book and would like to apply it in my life.  I am unsure of how to start.  Let me tell you my situation.  I am the mother of 6 young children under 10 years old.  The 2 oldest attend public school and the 3rd is in preschool.  I deeply desire to homeschool, but my husband had been against it for many years.  Now he is willing to let me if I can get our house and our lives organized and in order.  This will be no easy task.  I have tried for years.  The house is always a mess, I can't get the kids to help.  The baby is very clingy and doesn't tolerate being put down.  We have serious discipline issues.  The kids fight constantly.  The 7 year old is very defiant at home, but she is perfectly good at school.  Should I try to establish a rule first, or try to fix the discipline problems first?  I have no clue what to do with discipline, I have read many books but it hasn't helped.  Do you have any advice for me?

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Maybe I Can't Do It All?

Dear Holly,
I have tried for the last couple of years to balance everything on my plate:
- Four children 7 and under
- Homeschooling
- Working 15 hours a week
- Exercise
- Housework
- I lead a Rosary group
- everything else!!!!

No matter what I am doing, I feel like I should be doing something else!  If I am at work, I should be with the kids.  If I am homeschooling, the house is trashed.  If I am cleaning, I should be working out.  If I take time to work out, the house left a mess!!  I have cut out so many extras that I wanted to do for the kids: homeschool activity day, Library classes, etc.  I know that somewhere in the world, there is a mother who can handle my schedule, but I can't!!  I have read your book multiple times.  I know what to do, I just don't feel like there is enough time to do it...... People do ask me, "How do you do it all?"  I tell them, "I don't, I am a disaster!"  (at least I am honest!)  Is there a way to "Do it all?"

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Where Do I Start?

Dear Holly,
Spring is here and I am overwhelmed. I know I have to get the house cleaned. The garden needs to be planned and planted. But there's even more. Every room in my house is cluttered and messy. The back porch is full of coats and boots and more. How do I begin to bring order to my home? What is the easiest way to start? I look around and I don't know where to start. I feel a strange lethargy about beginning anything. Any advice would be appreciated.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Discerning School Options

Dear Holly,
 My son has been recently diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder and resulting chronic anxiety. I had to pull him out of his mainstream Catholic school as he was too anxious and the school could not meet his needs. We have been looking at other options. There are other non- Catholic schools on the other side of town or in another city that could be helpful but again it would still be stressful for him on the playground and he cannot get funding as he is academically capable. We need to find a school that can negotiate with us and be open but is very difficult where we are. Homeschooling would be great for him but I just feel that I would not get a break. I keep praying but I really think it is not for me. I get stressed enough as it is and my mother is in another town and doesn't want to care for the kids. My husband's mother is in another town too but cannot care for the kids. It is pretty much me and my husband with an occasional babysitter. I would love him to do Montessori but it is really expensive and the schools aren't that keen on taking special needs kids especially if they have not done preschool. The thought of spending years homeschooling without a break scares me. Often it is the scariest things that God wants us to do! Have you got anything positive to say? We live in a small community. It was hard enough trying to find a decent doctor who knew enough about Autism to diagnose my son! Thought about moving many times...

Monday, October 24, 2011

The MROL Workbook

Establishing Your Practical Rule 
Step by step guidance including focusing meditations on the 5 Ps, detailed questions and charts and forms to help you plan, organize and implement your own Mother's Rule.  For those who do not know where to begin, or for those who need to start again.

- how to determine your own natural flow of activity through the day
- how to grow in fidelity to daily prayer and arranging the time and circumstances to do it
- questions and charts to assist in meeting your physical and personal needs
- healthy eating daily charts for weight loss or management, with sample meal plans
- areas to examine for support of your spouse
- tools for overseeing your child(ren)'s religious, psychological and social formation
- room analysis sheets, chore charts and samples
- finance and budget charts
- and much much more

...For anyone who wants organizational assistance in bringing order to their home, their schedules and their personal and family lives.
Contact Holly:  holly at mothersruleoflife dot com

Friday, October 21, 2011

The MROL Companion

Without a sense of the purpose of what we are doing, many of us find ourselves floundering - unmotivated, overwhelmed, lacking in conviction or consistency, with a house and family life that shows it....   The 'shape' of our house (and our waistlines!) often reveal the shape of our souls and the interior struggles we experience within.  Tough economic times don't help, with the added stress of saving money through our efforts, and concern for the family in this time of global financial uncertainty.

The only way to overcome these difficulties in our lives is to "develop strong convictions" said a recent Pope, and that is exactly what this spiritual companion sets out to do -    
- to strengthen us in our vocation as women, wives and mothers
- to give us meaning and purpose 
- to motivate us to 'try again' where once we may have given up...

This is a spiritual reflection on our vocation as wives and mothers in a time of great cultural upheaval. How can we be the best we can be and have the strength to do everything we're called to do?  

Contact Holly: holly at mothersruleoflife dot com

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Where to Start on the 2nd P?

Dear Holly,
For several years now I have put myself very last most of the time. I recognize that I need more than I have been giving to myself, but I am really uncertain how to proceed. I have prayed about it and trust that God will answer me, but I would like to know if you have any suggestions for where or how to start. I tried thinking about what I am doing right but came up mostly blank. I have found a lot of joy in my life and I do not suffer from depression. I am not coming from a negative place in my life. Actually, I generally feel very fulfilled with the things I do although lately I have felt a need for something more. I have wanted to have a better, more focused rule recognizing that it will be a very good thing for me. I look at this as a good opportunity to make a very positive, very big change in my life. It feels right. I just find myself a bit clueless on figuring out this particular step.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

When Our Husband Has A Vice...

Dear Holly,
I was reading older posts on the blog and read that you quit smoking after 27 years, 13 of those 'trying' to quit...  My husband is a smoker and it has been an issue in our relationship since we met over a decade ago. He has tried to quit several times and has been successful for a few months at a time, but always starts again. I used to nag him to quit and realized through prayer that this was not effective whatsoever. I was wondering if you had any suggestions for things that I can do as his wife to support him in quitting without nagging him? I have been praying for him daily and I don't get on his case about smoking anymore. Would you mind sharing what finally worked for you and any suggestions you may have?

When One Must Attend to the Little Ones...

Dear Holly,
I have a question I imagine has been asked before, so forgive me if you're forced into redundancy! I'm wondering how to balance the 'P's', particularly person/partner in the midst of a difficult newborn. My husband and I have 7 kids under 13, and our 4 month old girl has been quite a handful! I feel that just taking care of her needs fills my entire day. She cries if not held (won't let the other kids hold her, much to their chagrin), and refuses to sleep without my nursing her. My basic needs really haven't been getting met (just getting a shower is fantastic, never mind brushing teeth!). So I'm at a loss when I think of how I could even begin to put myself or my husband first, never mind that the other kids have gotten brushed under the rug as well. I can see that I could ask my husband could pitch in more with the baby so I can take care of me a bit, but how on earth can I put him or the other kids before a demanding newborn?

On Saints & On Dining Rooms...

Dear Holly,
Do you have a favorite saint or group of saints whose intercession is particularly applicable for us homeschooling mothers, trying to create faith-filled homes of beauty and order?

Also, in a week or two, we are moving to a new house. It will be a tight squeeze, and I am trying to think outside the box for how to use the rooms most effectively. I am trying to apply the Kindergarten Model of organization advocated in Julie Morgenstern's Organizing from the Inside Out , where she suggests putting all the things you need to do an activity in one place, the place where you do that activity. I am getting stuck when trying to figure out how to organize the tiny dining room -- with the thought that most of our "table work" will be done there. Do you have suggestions or thoughts about this idea?

Friday, September 16, 2011

A Realistic Approach to Holiness

Dear Holly,
I want to thank you so much for your wonderful book.  I have nearly completed reading it.  I have a young baby and my husband I have been married two years.  Right after getting married we moved across the country and I started graduate school.  I think learning the virtues of being a wife were put on hold as I attempted to adjust to all of the new changes we had, and again when our little one came.  Before marriage I had a strong spiritual life and growing up did not have a clear example of what a wife and mother ought to be according to the beautiful teachings our church.  A few months ago I felt very stuck and depressed.  I had your book on my shelf and finally started reading it and implementing it.  My greatest struggle came from not understanding this work as growing in virtue.  I am doing well now and working on maintaining the right order of priorities and overcoming sloth.  I am so impressed with your book because often when I read self-help books they don't quite match up to solid philosophical and theological thought.  I have not found that in your book.  I discovered I can implement the ideas in MROL, I connect personally to the concept because I have always practiced my faith seriously and I have a penchant towards organization.  I am not discouraged at my lack of skill or generosity because these are virtues for me to work on (not merely something I either am or am not).  Before I was married I wondered how a person can be married and still seek union with God (practical concerns!).  You describing your own path towards receiving that gift of contemplation brought light to the answer to that question.  Thank you so much for this book and God bless you!

Friday, August 12, 2011

Overcoming Mental Block

Dear Holly,
I have been trying to implement the MROL on and off for the past 4 years. I think I do pretty well with the First P, except for the morning prayers. I can't seem to drag myself out of bed early enough to get time for myself to pray. Also the children wake up at various times in the morning that it is hard for me to figure out what time to get up. I could get up at 5:30am to be safe, but then I would be useless to everyone during the day. I usually pray while I am getting myself and the children (3 kids under the age of 4) ready for the day. Mornings feel horrible for me, the children are whining that they are hungry, and fight over who gets to snuggle with mama in bed, while I'm trying to get the baby out of harms way. Then I end up getting out of bed angry.

Also, I have worked through your workbook, and reread parts of your book and it all makes so much sense to me. I want to do it, my husband really thinks this is exactly what I need, especially with beginning homeschooling in Sept. In a perfect world I could get my act together to do it. I make nice charts on the computer with things scheduled and for some reason I just can't follow it. I get so tense thinking about having my day rigidly following a scedule. I am afraid my children with "interfere" with my trying to do this. My husband thinks it's a fear of failure, that I am just sabatoging myself. I can't even make a meal plan without getting stressed out. I have made meal plans that took so much time looking through cookbooks and finding recipes, then one thing happens that week and I don't follow the meal plans at all. It ends up being a waste of time. I can make the plans, but am anxious while doing them, then I can't follow through.

I have been able to keep the house in order, but not the way I planned it, just when I feel like something needs to get done I do it. Somedays I don't get out of the kitchen because the work seems endless. I want to spend time with my children, but it just doesn't happen. There are days where I haven't even had time to sit down and read a book to them.

I don't know what it is, I know I am all over the place. I would love for you to shed some light on this for me! I would like for the MROL to work for me, especially with my son really looking forward to schooling this fall and our family needing to get on a restrictive diet for health reasons. I need to get over this, please help me!

Friday, August 5, 2011

Almost-Empty-Nest Mom & a Mother's Rule

Dear Holly,
Well, it is finally here. My youngest child is graduating from high school and will be entering college out of state at the end of the summer. I have been a stay-at-home mom for 28 years and homeschooling for 15 years. I have been practicing a Rule of Life for about 5 years and I just don't know what to do now.

How do I create a new balance between Person/Partner/Parent now that the Parent part is not looming so large? I don't know how to describe my feelings about this. I guess that I am a trifle distressed by this. I have set aside so many dreams and hopes while raising my children and now I am overweight, middle-aged woman who isn't sure what she wants to do anymore.

Sunday, July 31, 2011

Balance Between Charity to Others and Living One's Rule

Dear Holly,
I am working very hard on having an orderly home and routine. I have a long way to go, but what has been accomplished so far has brought much peace to my family and me. However, I am having a bit of a dilemma and would like to hear your thoughts about this situation...

My sister-in-law has 4 small children under 6. She is young but regularly asks others to care for her children, usually my mother-in-law or myself. In the past week alone, it happened 5 times, which is not unusual. Her outings are not emergencies, just "fun" things she wants to do, and she seems to have no qualms about asking. At times I feel taken advantage of. I plan my weeks out carefully, making sure we have time to do all that's necessary and spend time together as a family. We do not go out often, and perhaps I'm just not sympathetic to her because that's not how we are. I should also mention that I am older and have only one young child. We've had many miscarriages and fertility problems, and she always tells me how "lucky" I am to only have one (she says this in front of her children!) and sometimes she even prods too far into such a painful topic for me, as if she enjoys hearing all the horrible details of our troubles. This makes it hard for me to like being around her.

My question is this - when she asks me to babysit a couple of her children while she and her husband go do something with the older ones, and asks only the day before the event, and asks often, what should my response be?

Her children, except the baby, are pretty poorly behaved, but I do love them and part of me wants to give them a sense of normalcy and order and love for a few hours; but part of me resents being asked only a day prior (or the very day!) to watch them. I'm trying so hard to live a good rule and have an orderly home, but these kids can really create chaos in a short amount of time... I'm not sure it's good for my child to be in that environment very often, and it throws me off schedule.

My first instinct is to say no to her, but I'm not sure if I'm correctly balancing my vocational priorities (having a peaceful home and daily routine, and making sure hubby and son are cared for) and charity for others. Where do you draw the line between being kind and helpful and not being walked on?

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Is Summer Free Time?

Dear Holly,
With summer here, I am feeling particularly challenged by not knowing what to schedule in my 14 and 13 year old daughters' daily schedules. My first thought is to use the first morning hours, til 10, for chores, "family reading time" and other things like piano practice. That would leave lots of time to plan time with friends, etc. I also thought, since we pay for a swim club membership, that we could pick 2 or 3 days a week to go to the pool, leaving other days for trips to the shore, visiting, downtime at home, shopping/errands, etc. I am hearing lots of complaining from my older daughters, and before I address the complaining, I need to look at the heart of what they are complaining about. I do think they just have an unrealistic vision of summer as 100% free time, not scheduled.

Finding Time for a Day Out!!!

Dear Holly,
I am really feeling the need for a regular Mother's Day Out. I am an introvert and recharge by being by myself. Each Sunday evening, I drive an hour, attend mass, and then drive another hour back. But I really do not feel like that is enough. Plus, that mass will be ending in about 8 weeks. My husband works nights so sleeps during the day. I have 6 children aged from preschooler to sixteen. The 16yo babysits frequently for me -- including Sunday evenings when my husband is at work and I am at mass. The other main factor in my situation is our schedule for school: we are in school now and follow the liturgical calendar. So we take off Church Feast days (feasts, not memorials), birthdays, baptismal/first communion/confirmation/saint days. We usually get about 1 day off per week, but are scheduled Mon-Sat so in reality we get about 5 days per week of school. We take off all of Eastertide for our 'summer' break.

That was the setting, now the dilemma. I do not feel like I can take a MDO on a school day. I think you understand. I don't think I could count on it for the irregular day off. We just have too many other things going on: 16yo babysitting job, music lessons, mass, field trips, etc. I could probably swing it on Saturday afternoons and evenings since my husband usually has that night off, but we usually go to mass as a family that night since my husband cannot go in the mornings due to his work schedule (he stays up nights even when he is not working to not mess up his body clock). On Sunday mornings, I take some of my children with me and go to mass again. We are very involved in our parish and the boys are altar boys, plus I usually catch up with people on Sunday mornings. The mass is at 8:30. Then we go grocery shopping on our way home. Due to gas prices this is the best choice for a grocery shopping day.

I think that in reality, the best day for a MDO for me is Sunday starting from about noon until I would get home from the evening mass. But I am hesitant because then I really would not see my husband from Sunday morning to Monday morning. Plus, I feel like it would be putting a great deal of unfair expectations on the 16yo since she would have to watch the other children while my husband slept and then after he went to work and before I returned home -- all told about 5 hours. Is that fair to her? She is very gracious, but I don't want to take advantage of her. Finally, in reality, while not ideal, I would also use some of this time as school planning time and as shopping time. Like I said, not ideal, but at least I could get some uninterrupted planning time. Also, I think I would only do this about every other week.

I seem just stuck by this schedule and cannot think of any other options.

Moods and Feeling Down...

Dear Holly,
I can relate to so many things you wrote in your book. I, too am depressed and moody sometimes and haven't found help or anyone who will stick by me. I try to offer it up and take St John's Wort. I have prayed and prayed for God to take my moodiness from me and after many years have come to the conclusion that this is just the cross He has given me. None of this other stuff matters as long as I can one day hear God say "Well Done". Being the mother of five with a husband that has his own emotional issues is overwhelming sometimes. I am hoping that one day my rule will bring order to my vocation and help me to be the mother that God wants me to be.

Baby Steps to Success

Dear Holly,
I got your book a few years ago and read through it so quickly then put it away. But I found it again recently and now am trying to put some lessons from it into my daily routine. Whenever I try to do something like this, it always seems like a great idea and then falls through. So I am trying to take the tiniest steps possible. I have read through the beginning and am going to take things one P at a time. I have kept myself from reading past the chapter about the second P until I can get some healthy habits established about the first two. Right now I am adding a daily rosary and having the family say a hail mary together. It seems so little, but at least it is something. Perhaps with the prayer time built in, graces will flow for more than what we are doing now. I haven't tried to schedule anything beyond prayer time. Right now my rule is more of an attitude towards my vocation and just trying to see that even the little mundane things are holy acts when I should be finding Jesus.

One on One Time with Kids

Dear Holly,
After going through the “Mother’s Rule Workbook” I was hoping I could get your input and the input of others on a specific area that our family struggles with. Under "Personal Relationship Time" you discuss spending time with the children individually so that they know they are loved and respected by me. How does a large family with many small children (we have many children 10 and under) accomplish this? Any suggestions or examples of what others do would be greatly appreciated.