Summer Bliss or Summer Stress? by Donna-Marie Cooper O’Boyle

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cooper_donna_marieMany Catholic moms all over are hoping and praying for a blessed, relaxing, happy, and holy summer. They’ve had busy years and are longing for some well-deserved rest and relaxation if that is at all possible. I’ve spoken to many moms lately and some have shared that they are a bit nervous and apprehensive about what might happen to their semi-structured days they’ve been accustomed to throughout the school year, knowing that the schedule and dynamics in the household will dramatically change once the kids are finished with their home-schooling classes or have completed their year at their schools.

What’s a mother to do to maintain some sort of balance for her summer days? Let’s talk about a few areas of our lives that we might have at least some control of and explore what we can do to make even some slight changes to help us accomplish our goal to have that blessed, relaxed, happy and holy summer we wish for. We can focus on the subjects of prayer, our “down” time or relaxation, activities for ourselves and our family, household chores, and summer outings.

Prayer

Let’s begin with the subject of prayer since that is really where we should always begin, right? One summer I encouraged Catholic moms to be mindful of their prayer schedules when changing over to a new season. I said, “While making plans for our families this summer, let’s not forget about the prayer. Summer is certainly not a time for our faith to go on vacation, after all. Changes in schedule once we hit summertime and an eagerness to ‘get away from it all’ could inadvertently possibly cause us to lose touch with our spiritual needs.”

One mom I recently spoke with avowed, “I’ve found that in our lives today we are so bombarded with external stimuli and we do not make enough silent time for ourselves to hear Him speak to us.” I agree wholeheartedly. We need to try to do our very best to retreat to our hearts as often as possible throughout our days to listen to Our Lord speak to our hearts. This isn’t always an easy task for today’s moms, but we should consistently try to find those quiet moments.

I don’t think we need any reminding either that we don’t have complete control over our prayer times since we are actually on a 24/7 duty raising our families. We strive to schedule prayer into our days and discover that our scheduled times of prayer are most times “interrupted” by our family’s needs. But, we should know that even at these altered times, our prayers are meritorious because we are lovingly serving others who need us. Our Lord knows our hearts and our deep desires to pray more and serve Him. So, there’s no need to worry about a lost time for prayer. He gives us the most perfect opportunities to pray within the loving acts of service to our bustling families.

One way to be sure that we can remain prayerful this summer is to faithfully begin each day with a prayer. This may seem like a simple suggestion, however, the busyness of mornings and preparations for our summer outings and activities can significantly change things in our domestic churches and our prayer time may become completely lost in the commotion. If we begin with prayer, everything else can more easily unfold throughout our days prayerfully. It’s that first prayer that truly sets the tone.

Down time

Finally, is it time to relax a bit? Let’s hope we can arrange our summer days so that we can feel rejuvenated and refreshed. Thinking back to the lazy days of summer as a youth, I remember that I seemed to have time right in my pocket. The days were long and the summers seemed endless.  My life now is filled to the brim and it seems most times like it’s speeding right by. Perhaps we are craving to relive a simpler schedule and enjoy a simpler summer life. This can be achieved by not over-booking ourselves with too many activities.

Be sure to schedule in at least a few slots of time this summer to do nothing! That’s right – nothing. Well, even sitting is doing something, but I think you know what I mean. And, during those times of relaxation and our doing “nothing,” whether inside or out of the house, inspirations will come to us and opportunities will open for our child to come sit by us or on our laps, bringing along their books to read or a board game to play. Or, you can all sit to relax and together reminisce or dream and plan. One time, when my kids were younger, we enjoyed some great relaxing fun, playing in a pool while we spontaneously fashioned a creative story together that we thought we might publish one day. Prayer opportunities present themselves as well when we sit still for a while. You can spontaneously begin a prayer petition to the Blessed Mother and pray it along with the kiddies or at least pray in their presence, setting a wonderful and powerful prayerful example.

Activities and Playtimes

Many activities and fun times can be planned as a family to include friends or just your own family. Talk to the kids and see what they may have in mind. Finances may prevent a family vacation away from home this summer, but many families thoroughly enjoy “stay-cations” or “day-cations.” You can stay home this summer and plan a few day trips and enriching activities that won’t hurt the pocketbook!

One activity you may want to schedule this summer is to create a backyard (or front yard) shrine. Place a statue of the Blessed Mother, a favorite saint, or an angel in an area where you can occasionally gather to say a prayer or even just be reminded of the intercession of our Mother Mary and the saints and angels. Plant some pretty flowers around the statue and make it a point to visit your family shrine along with your children often.

Household Chores

The chores don’t go away even in summertime! The house may even get dirtier with all those little feet traipsing in and out! So, set the tone for family involvement and post a schedule on your kitchen bulletin or dry-erase board and recruit the kids to pitch in with the chores around the house—feeding Fido or taking him for a walk around the yard, brushing the cat, dusting the living room, setting the dinner table or clearing after dinner and other such chores. Make your chore chart fun and creative! You may want to offer a small monetary allowance for chores done well or for chores completed without having to ask for help repeatedly.

Summer Outings

Utilize the local library, register the kids in their summer programs, start a book group with the neighborhood kids where each book read will be rewarded with an ice cream or frozen yogurt cone! Use your imagination and plan some fun and easy days out at the park, beach, pool, recreation center, or sitting on a blanket in your backyard.

I have mentioned in the past to moms, “When making plans for family trips, perhaps we can consider including shrines, basilicas, and holy places, incorporating them into our trips. When we research places of interest for our family this summer, we can utilize the many Catholic magazines, newspapers, and websites that often highlight interesting places for pilgrimages and family visits. All of our activities can become teachable moments too. We can attempt to attain that nice balance of nourishment for our family’s spiritual life as well as the necessary fun and enjoyment for our senses which enables us to relax or be entertained.” The Our Sunday Visitor weekly newspaper recently published a long list of great places for family pilgrimages. Speak to other Catholic parents in your parish and share ideas. Perhaps, arrange a fun pilgrimage to a holy place to partake in together with another family. These wonderful occasions make fond memories that will be reminisced later on.

So, bring on the summer—bug bites, occasional sunburn, scraped knees, sibling rivalry and all! Just make sure it’s all enveloped with great big doses of love and prayer. Have a very happy and holy summer creating and living your family memories!

(This article was previously published by TORCH homeschooling website)

Copyright 2010 Donna-Marie Cooper O’Boyle

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About Author

Donna-Marie Cooper O'Boyle is a wife, mother, speaker, catechist, an award-winning and best-selling journalist and author of twenty books, Host of EWTN’s “Everyday Blessings For Catholic Moms” and "Catholic Mom's Cafe.” She knew Blessed Mother Teresa. St. John Paul II blessed her work. She writes for National Catholic Register, Our Sunday Visitor Newsweekly, Catholic World Report , Integrated Catholic Life . Visit www.donnacooperoboyle.com.

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