Why We Started Waking Up Before Our Kids

6:00 am Monday morning the alarm goes off. Alex hits snooze. 9 minutes later the alarm goes off again. This time he slowly rolls out of bed and into some sweatpants. I reluctantly follow, shivering in the dark until I locate my bathrobe. By the time I've made it to the family room Alex is already there with the lamp on, holding two cups of coffee. He passes one to me and we sit down to do something we have been wanting to do since we got married 7 years ago.

We're starting our day in prayer.

I have always known that starting the day in prayer is something I should do. Reading the Word of God and offering your day to Him, first thing in the morning, sets the tone for the rest of the day. Every day of my childhood I witnessed my parents praying together in the morning, and I've seen the fruit of that prayer in their marriage and in our family. This is something I've always wanted to incorporate into my marriage, but we've never been able to make it happen. Until now.

So why now? What's changed in the seven years since our wedding day that we're finally doing this thing that we've always talked about doing?

Well, there have been two big changes. Their names are Johnny and Trixie. We love them and they make our lives so rich and full. But they also make it really hard to have a prayer life.

Before we had kids, if we didn't pray together first thing in the morning it was ok, because we could pray together while we ate breakfast, or we could sit on the porch together after work for some prayer time, or we could pray before bed because we knew we would be getting 7 hours of uninterrupted sleep.

Now, Alex is in the middle of rotations and puts in pretty long days. I teach piano lessons up to and sometimes after dinner. Meals are a whirlwind of trying to get small people to stay in their chairs and eat their food, while scarfing our own food down as fast as possible so that we can pick up this, wipe off that, and carry those up to the bathtub to begin the marathon that is our bedtime routine. By the time both of our children are asleep we barely have the energy to talk to each other, let alone pray or read scripture together.

We realized that we were going the entire day without tending to our marriage and tending to our spiritual lives. We want our marriage to be rooted in Christ, but aside from Sunday Mass we weren't doing a whole lot to make that happen. And since getting out on a date is really hard right now, we were barely even getting time to check in with each other. So now we get up before our kids. That is our time to talk to each other without being interrupted, to discuss the day ahead, we read the scripture readings for the day, and then pray for each other and our children, and commit our day to the Lord.

Photo credit goes to our talented friends Kristen and Jameson

It's not easy getting up this early, but it's also not impossible. Three months ago it would have been nearly impossible, all because of my favorite topic: baby sleep.

Oh, baby sleep. The thing that can make or break a day. The thing that can leave you feeling like a real person, or like an empty shell of a sub-human species. Depending on how much sleep you're getting at night, you may be able to rise before your offspring to catch some quiet time. But if your kids' sleep patterns are like ours, you need every minute of sleep you can get to be able to carry out your duties at home or at work.

Our first child was a terrible sleeper and didn't sleep through the night until he was almost two and I was pregnant with our second. By then the discomfort of pregnancy was setting in, keeping me up with hip pain or sending me to the bathroom every few hours. Then Trixie was born and I was back to nursing a baby all night long. As much as I would have liked having a little quiet time before my kids got up, I knew that in order to be a good mother, I needed every minute of sleep I could get. Prayer time happened in snippets while the kids ate breakfast, or if they happened to nap at the same time. It wasn't ideal, but that was the season I was in.

Now our second is one and a half and sleeping through the night. For the first time in almost four years Alex and I are getting a full night of sleep. Getting up early to pray no longer seems like an impossible feat.

There is one other thing that has helped us get up early. It was a decision to shelf our Chemex  (used to make the fancy pour-over coffee that I love) and go back to our regular electric coffee maker.

I love my Chemex. And I think it is worth the 30 minutes it takes to make a snobbish cup of coffee. But I am not a morning person. If I'm going to get up at 6:00 am, I need a cup of coffee at 6:00 am. My husband loves me a lot, but getting up at 5:30 am to make me some coffee with the Chemex is not something he's willing to do. So we brought the old coffee maker up from the basement and programmed it for 6:00 am.

Now at night we load the dishwasher, pack lunches, and get the coffee ready. And when the alarm goes off the next morning I know that that liquid gold is waiting for me, and I can drag my sorry self out of bed. It sounds silly, but it's what I need! If there's a simple thing, albeit a silly thing, that can help you better your prayer habits, then why not go for it?

It's been two months since we started this routine. Now that I know what it feels like to have that space for prayer in the morning, I can't imagine ever going back. I look forward to the time with just my husband. I know that praying together is strengthening our marriage and making us better spouses and parents. I know that, even though it always hurts to get out of bed, there is grace to be found at that early hour. I always feel better equipped to carry out my duties for the day, when we start the day in prayer.

On Rising Early

An excellent wife who can find?...
She rises while it is still night.
Proverbs 31:10, 15


I have moments of realization in motherhood.

Like when I realized why my own mother would never deliver our clean laundry to our rooms, but rather make us come collect it from the neat piles on her bed.

Or why my mom would declare at 8:00 pm that "the kitchen was closed" and we weren't allowed to dirty any more dishes. 

Or why my own friends would cut our coffee dates short and herd their kids home for nap time as if their lives depended on it.

I never understood why generations of mothers would choose to steal out of bed before the rest of their families, even before the sun itself had risen, when they could stay beneath the covers for a few more moments of sleep. 

But now I understand. It's because starting the day with a toddler who had soaked through his pajamas and sheets is no way to start the day. Just like starting the day with a mad race to get everyone dressed and fed doesn't make for a peaceful mindset. And wrestling a baby, kicking and screaming, to change a dirty diaper first thing in the morning just sets me up for the grumpies. 

Today I got up before anyone else. I'm not sure how it happened. I was lying awake in bed and I knew  I wasn't going to fall back asleep, so I got up. I turned off the baby monitor so my husband wouldn't hear our two year old stirring. I put on my slippers and robe. I went down stairs and made a cup of pour-over. And then I sat in silence with the Word of God. 

Uninterrupted. Silence.

I inhaled and exhaled, I contemplated, I prayed, and I listened. And thirty minutes later when my son woke up I didn't groan and try to tune him out. I wasn't annoyed by his existence. I was ready, and even happy to great him. He sat in my lap and started to make the sign of the cross, as we have taught him to do, and as he does so often throughout the day. And I thought, this is truly the way to start the day. 

In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit....


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// 8. bedtime prayers //

Every night of my childhood, after I brushed my teeth and put my pajamas on, I'd get into bed and wait for my parents to come pray for me. Bedtime prayers is something they have done for as long as I can remember. When I was little I could not fall asleep until they had come to pray for me. When I was older, and staying up later than my parents, I still looked forward to them finding me in my room at the end of the day.  It was a time for us to catch up, talk about what was coming up in the next few days, and then of course, to pray.

They always prayed for us at night. No matter how late it was, or how tired they were, or what other projects they were working on, they always came. Even when I went away to college, they still came into my empty room to pray for me.  For all I know they are still doing it. 

This is the one thing I have learned from my parents that I put into practice most often. When Johnny started sleeping in his crib Alex and I started saying bedtime prayers for him. No matter how tired we are, or how late it is, we go pray.  And even if I have not gotten any other prayer time in on a given day, I can always count on praying then. 
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// 7. pray in the morning //


My senior year of college I decided to live at home and save some moola on room and board.  I had an 8:00 am class that fall semester, so with my commute time that meant I had to get up at 6:30 everyday. And everyday, when I shuffled into the kitchen to pour a cup of coffee I would see my dad sitting at the table with his bible open before him; eyes following the words across the page, or shut in silent prayer.

 For over 30 years my dad has been the lone early bird in a house full of night owls. I had always known that he got up long before the rest of us. I also knew that he usually prayed during that time, but I had never witnessed it before. And seeing him at it, day after day for an entire semester, left me with no doubt in my mind that it was those quiet mornings with the Lord, while the rest of the world was dark and asleep, that made him the man that he is.

The sleep deprivation of having an infant has not cured me of being a night owl. I still stay up way too late and I still hate the mornings.  But I love the idea of getting up early to pray.  And if there is one thing I want to get good at in my adulthood, it is doing just that.


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// 5.& 6. pray together & read the word aloud //

How does a family stay together? You could coin any number of phrases.

The family that plays together, stays together.

The family that laughs together, stays together.

The family that wears plaid together, stays together.

that's a thing, right?
But I firmly believe that the family that prays together, stays together.

I mentioned before that I grew up being home-schooled. People always ask me, "what kind of home-school did you guys have? Were we disciplined? Did we work ahead like crazy? Was I doing 11 grade math when I was 12? Well, I'll just say our home-school was a little more on the relaxed side. Some days were more productive than others. But the one thing that we did everyday, without fail (besides lattes) was have family prayer time, and read from the bible together.

When we were little it looked something like my mom reading from a comic book styled picture bible and me and my siblings snuggled up to her to get a good view.  And then we would pray for any of our friends and family who were sick or otherwise in need.

As we got older the picture Bible turned into an actual Bible. And the prayers became more personal and directed. Wisdom for where to apply to college, where to look for a summer job, asking that the Lord's will be done in difficult situations.

On the weekends, if we were all at home my dad would suggest that we read from the word, and have some prayer time. It wouldn't be honest of me to say that it was something I always looked forward to. As a fidgety and angsty teen-ager sometimes I just wanted to be left alone, to watch tv, or to go talk to a friend on the phone. But my dad would insist and so we'd all gather around and listen, and then pray. And no matter how much I didn't want to be doing that, by the time we were finished I was always so glad I did. There is sometime about praying with other people that softens rough edges and brings about reconciliation.

my dad, reading the word.
Now my siblings and I are all grown up. But we still pray together as a family. We often have dinner at my parents house on Sundays, and after dinner, when we're sitting around drinking our decaf, my mom or dad will suggest that we have some prayer time. Now, without hesitation, we all gather and willing share the things on our hearts that need lifting up. I'm glad we still do this, I'm gla
d that Alex and Johnny get to be apart of it. And I'm thankful that my parents set this great example for us to follow.

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//A M A M A 'S S C H O O L O F P R A Y E R //

When do you become a master of something. What does it take to get to the point where you can say, "I'm really good, in fact, I don't think I could be any better." I'm of the opinion this never happens. 

The closest I've ever been to being really good at something was when I was doing my undergraduate degree in piano performance. I practiced 3 hours a day, 7 days a week. I saw the fruit of all that practice as my skill developed. But the more I practiced and the more I advanced only showed me how much MORE work I would need to put in to be a truly great pianist. 

I don't think world renowned musicians like Yo-yo Ma, Itzhak Perlman, or Emanuel Ax ever think, "I've arrived! I'm the best! I don't need to practice any more." 

Or think about doctors. I don't think they finish med school and say, "Finally, I'm done learning about medicine!"

Or athletes...... 

Ok. I don't actually know enough about sports to draw a sports analogy, but I think you get what I'm saying.

 And now I'm going to connect it to the Christian life- specifically prayer.  I hope that one day I will be able to honestly say that my prayer life needs no further improvement. But I don't really expect that to happen.  I think a prayer life is one of those things that requires a lifetime of practice, and can always get better, and if fed, will grow to no limits. 

This past year as I adjusted to being a mother my prayer life, along with other spiritual practices, had almost come to a stand still. Yes, we'd pray before meals, and yes, we'd pray for Johnny before bed. We had some times of crisis (Johnny's hospitalizations) that drove us to our knees in prayer. But daily personal prayer, reading and contemplating scripture, seeking the council of the Holy Spirit, that's what I have been lacking. 

I realized I needed to restart my prayer life after going to confession for the first time in over two months. My priest first told me that as a mother my strength is being constantly drawn upon and that I need "refill" with the healing graces of confession at least once a month, but every other week would be better. He also pointed out to me that I have been confessing the same things for quite a while. I already knew this, but I think I had accepted that those are the things that I will always struggle with, and thanks be to God I can bring them to confession. Actually, I was just being lazy and not trying to grow and change in between visits to the confessional. I was not feeding myself during the week. I was drying out, my spirit becoming malnourished and withered.

So this summer I've been (trying) to take action. I've been practicing prayer, emphasis on practicing. I'm figuring out how to have a spiritual life and be a mom at the same time. And this is what it looks like so far:

1. I have a rule for myself: no social media until I have done some sort of morning prayer. Sometimes I do this before I get out of bed, usually it happens while Johnny is in his highchair eating breakfast. I have the iBreviary app on my phone and often use their simple form of morning prayer. Sometimes I just say a daily offering, or something else to give the day, and myself,  to the Lord.

2. I try to do the daily readings. If I'm pressed for time I just read the gospel for the day. It nice to know I'm reading the same scriptures that are being read at every Mass in the entire world today. It keeps me connected to the Church, even though I can't attend daily Mass. (Another goal for another time.) It also gives me a context for the Sunday readings each week.

After I read I spend a few moments reflecting. I do this with a pen a paper, because that just helps me think better. I write down any prayer intentions for the day, people who have been on my heart. And I make a resolution for the day based on the gospel reading. The resolution is my faith in action.  I've just heard the Word, now I'm going to act on it. Sometimes it's concrete; instead of watching TV during Johnny's nap I'm going to do some spiritual reading, or write the fruits of the Spirit on a note card and put them on my bathroom mirror. Other times it's more abstract, like be patient when Johnny is difficult- much easy to write in a journal than to actually do. It's not always easy to think of a resolution, and it's not always easy to carry it out. But this is the part of my daily devotions that I have most enjoyed and that has born the most fruit. Try it!

In case you are asking how I do this with a 13 month old at home, the answer is: while he's in his highchair, occupied with food. And really, it takes me about 10 minutes.

3. I have an alarm set on my phone for 3:00 pm everyday- the hour of Divine Mercy. Tradition holds that 3:00 is the hour of Jesus' death on the cross. Many Catholics stop at that hour to remember Christ's passion, say a short prayer, and draw from the vast ocean of mercy that He made available to us while on the cross. It's quick, it's easy, thanks to my smartphone I don't even have to remember it, and it's a nice way to bring some peace into those afternoon hours, when things start to get crazy in baby-land.

4. I do an examination of conscience before I go to bed. This is the hardest one for me. By the time I get into bed I am so tired and the last thing I want to do is look back on the day to figure out where I screwed up. But when I examine my life today it helps me do better tomorrow. I am aware of my weaknesses, I ask forgiveness of the Lord, and sometimes Alex. (probably not enough of Alex.) I go to sleep in peace.

This is what I do. It's not perfect. Some days I don't do everything. Some days I don't do anything! But I've got a plan, and the more I do it, the easier it becomes. I'm practicing prayer. I'm opening my heart to Jesus, and He is so eager to come in at satisfy me.

What about you? How do you make prayer happen in the everyday? What works? What doesn't?

My little children, your hearts, are small, 
but prayer stretches them and makes them capable of loving God. 
--Saint John Vianney