As the Family Goes

JP II Quote

"As the family goes, so goes the nation, and so goes the whole world in which we live." John Paul II

Friday, December 31, 2010

Mother's Prayers

I am so grateful for the wisdom of friends in my life.  A good friend of ours, and mother of ten, once shared the following story with me.  She and her husband were away for the week, and left their oldest daughter in charge of the household.  In addition to running their family, they also own and operate some cottages, and that week their daughter was also responsible for making sure the cottages were all cleaned and ready for guests who would be arriving.  She called her parents one day, frantic about how much there was to do, and worried that she could not possibly get everything done in time.  Her mother told her to calm down, get some machines working for her, and take a prayer time.  Her daughter followed her advice, put some clothes in the laundry, filled and ran the dishwasher, then sat in prayer to offer the rest of her day to the Lord.  Calm and focused on God, the rest of her day went smoothly, and by the end of the week she had indeed accomplished everything she needed.

This bit of advice, "Get some machines working for you, and then pray", has so shaped my life ever since I heard it.  Before the baby was born I was in the habit of getting up before everyone else and taking a prayer time before everyone got up.  It was such a peaceful, beautiful time - there's just something about being awake when everyone else is asleep.  Needless to say that a new baby imposes his own schedule, and this luxury has yet to be mine since baby Aaron's arrival five weeks ago.  This did not surprise me, and I resolved to take a prayer time even if I couldn't squeeze it in before the other kids woke up - I decided that I can (and should) pray even when the kids are awake, and even when it isn't perfectly quiet.  What I did not realize however, was the significance of getting some machines working for me first, and the later start to my prayer time inevitably threw off my whole household routine, as I spent the rest of the day catching up on the chores I was so late getting to.

Remembering my friend's advice, I decided to start the day by throwing in a load of laundry, getting breakfast for the kids, tending to baby Aaron's needs, and then, when the opportunity presented itself, taking a prayer time.  Some days it happens at 10:00 am, some days at noon, or even later.  But as long as it happens, it's a good thing.  I'm also realizing that my children are far more ministered to by listening to me pray then they are watching me frantically rush around the house trying to get everything in order.  By doing these things first my heart is at peace, and I can sit with God knowing that my other responsibilities are being taken care of.  And the beautiful thing is that while housework takes me away from the children, prayer draws us together.  This morning the sound of my two-year-old singing "Mickey Mouse Clubhouse" and my older boys sweetly playing games together filled the background, and as I turned my heart to the Lord I know it made my prayer that much more grateful and sincere.  God doesn't need me to turn everything off in order to turn to Him.  He just needs me to make Him a part of my day, however that is able to happen.  I am sure He is way more pleased with my noisy fifteen minutes squeezed into a busy day than a quiet hour taken at the expense of my children and household.  This is where my calling is right now.  Someday I will have an opportunity once again to wake before everyone else and sit in the quiet to pray.  But in this season, this is the best I can offer to Him.

Mother's prayers are filled with many wonderful, joyful, crazy and chaotic things.  But they are always received with gratitude for the sacrifice it takes to offer them.  As 2010 draws to a close, my prayer for myself and everyone else is that whatever your stage in life, and whatever prayer looks like for you, that we will all find a way to incorporate God into our everyday lives.

Just don't forget to get some machines working for you first!

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Like This

Yesterday I was holding my four-week-old son Aaron, who was asleep on my chest, and I thought to myself, "this is Heaven".  An innocent thought at first, but as I sat with it for a few minutes the depth of what I was feeling began to set in as I realized, Heaven probably is exactly like this.  You know, the feeling of having this really profound moment with someone when everything just disappears, and it's just the two of you.  The way a baby just curls his entire self into you, and you lean forward and kiss his little head, and in that moment there is nothing else, just love.

My mind never stops wandering, especially during prayer.  I'm constantly jumping to the next thought, what to wear tomorrow, what to make for supper, what my friends are up to, what I saw on TV yesterday.  I have often wondered what it is really like to truly focus on God alone.  Because to be honest, I find it difficult.  In fact, I don't think I ever have, though I've often tried.  However, in that tender moment with my son, God gave me a glimpse of what it's like, through one who is so close to him.  This evening my husband and I took our little son to adoration, and as I sat in front of Jesus with my little infant, for the first time I felt as though I was truly entering into the presence of God.  Holding Aaron in my arms made God feel so much more real to me, and as I turned my gaze from the Eucharist to my baby and back again, I could feel God ministering to me through my son, and drawing me in.

This is how God loves me.  This is how He wants me to be before him - the way a newborn baby is with his mother.  Babies are not distracted, and they don't overthink things.  They just are.  They ask for what they need, and they receive what is given.  And when you give yourself to them, they hang on to you like you are the only person in the world, because for them you are.  This is what God is offering me every time I turn to Him - the very gift of Himself. 

There are so many things parenthood teaches me about who I am before God, and the other day I was thinking about how our sin can cause us to distance ourselves from God because we feel so wretched before Him.  And I thought about babies and the way they call on their parents.  Aaron doesn't worry about waking me for the fifth time in the night, he just calls me when he needs me.  And he is confident I will come for him - and I always do.  And when I get there, he is not turning away from me in shame, he reaches for me because he expects that I will be there to help him with whatever he requires.  And I never begrudge him for needing me so much.  In fact, I take great joy in it.  How much more then does God rejoice in giving me what I need?  If in my humanity I can love my children so deeply, how much greater is God's perfect love for His children?

I heard a song tonight, I can't remember the specific words, but it spoke of humility before God, and as I looked into baby Aaron's face, I realized that's what it is.  Babies are born humble.  They know who they are before their parents, and before God.  As we grow we lose that, and at a certain point it becomes scary to face God knowing that you are not perfect.  But as with babies, that doesn't matter, because the love God has for us is so much greater than any wrong we could do.  All He wants is to take you in His arms, rub your back, kiss your forehead, and have you fall asleep on His chest.

This is how God loves.  With the tenderest, simplest and most profound love.  Perfect, Fatherly love.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010


All the great parenting experts will tell you that kids long for routine, that it gives them a sense of balance, predictability, security, and therefore happiness.  What I discovered this week is that grownups are the same.  Or at least I am.  When I brought my fifth child home from the hospital twelve days ago, I found great reassurance in the fact that I could still keep up with the old routines I had established to keep my home and family in order while caring for a newborn and his four older siblings.  Far from wanting to put up my feet and relax, I was eager to get back into the groove of things.  And I found joy in it.

I was trying to articulate to Jeff how I was feeling about maintaining this routine.  In the past, it's always been something that I had to do, or else things would accumulate to an unsurmountable amount of work.  I have to do at least one full load of laundry a day (wash, dry and put away) in order to keep on top of things.  I have to wash the dishes and vacuum the floors at least once a day so that they don't get out of hand.  But eventually these things became mundane, and I felt as though I was always working in vain.  The house is always clean at bed time, and completely upside-down within an hour of everyone getting up the next morning.  I would often wonder, "why do I spend so much time cleaning in order to see everything messed up again and again?"

I don't know when the shift happened, or how long I will feel this way, but for the moment I am content to do the same thing day after day.  I realized this week that it is in the repitition of my life, doing these same tasks every day, that I find my joy.  This is what I am happiest doing.  I think part of it is that ever since my first child was born six years ago I have longed to be a stay-at-home mother, and now I am.  I have spent so long wishing for this life that I rejoice at finally being able to be here. And it makes sense to me, because when I think of what a typical day at work was for me, it involved a lot of routine.  I did the same tasks every day, but never wondered whether I was doing this in vain.  The sense of fulfillment came from getting it done, regardless of the fact that I know I'll have to do it again tomorrow.  This is how I feel now.

A friend of mine sent me a quote by G.K. Chesterton that I completely relate to.  It starts off, "It is supposed that if a thing goes on repeating itself it is probably dead; a piece of clockwork," but goes on to say that, "the variation in human affairs is generally brought into them, not by life, but by death; by the dying down or breaking off of their strength or desire."  It is a fullness of life that causes us to do the same things over and over again.  He further says, "The sun rises every morning. I do not rise every morning; but the variation is due not to my activity, but to my inaction. Now, to put the matter in a popular phrase, it might be true that the sun rises regularly because he never gets tired of rising. His routine might be due, not to a lifelessness, but to a rush of life. The thing I mean can be seen, for instance, in children, when they find some game or joke that they specially enjoy. A child kicks his legs rhythmically through excess, not absence, of life. Because children have abounding vitality, because they are in spirit fierce and free, therefore they want things repeated and unchanged. They always say, “Do it again”; and the grown-up person does it again until he is nearly dead. For grown-up people are not strong enough to exult in monotony."

For the moment, I am exulting in the monotony of my life.  Perhaps this is what God means when he calls us to be like little children.  My life is constant and repetitive, and all I want is to do it again and again.  I don't know if I will always feel like this (I suspect I won't), but for now I am cherishing it.  Life with my new little family is amazing, and I don't want it to ever change!

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Kids will be kids

 I was listening to a parenting columnist on the radio this morning speaking about gender stereotyping for kids in the way that toys are marketed to them.  She talked about Barbies and Disney Princesses, and the need to get little girls playing with Tonka trucks and having heroines who are book lovers and intellectuals so that they grow up to be well-rounded adults with a healthy view of feminity.

I agree that a girl needs to have strong role models.  But sometimes I wonder if we don't make things more complicated than they need to be.  A friend of mine has two girls, and she said she tried buying them trains and Tonka trucks - turns out, they never played with them.  Why?  Because they didn't like them.  I think kids are going to like what they're going to like, and while it's okay to try and expose them to things that are new and different, I don't think we need to put pressure on ourselves if our little girls enjoy being Princesses. 

There are so many things that shape the things kids are interested in, not the least of which being family composition.  In my house, for example, boy things greatly outnumber girly things.  So it's nothing to see Katie riding around on a dump truck, or tossing around some dinky cars.  And while dolls were scarce in this house until about two years ago, they are now abundant, and it is not uncommon to see one of the boys carting one around, pushing it in a stroller, or changing a diaper.  Why?  Because that's what they see Jeff and I doing all the time. 

Both of these make me smile, and cause me to think that more important than having all the "right" toys for people to play with it's more important for the kids to have the right kind of examples in their lives.  For the boys to have a father who helps out around the house, tends to the baby's needs, and regularly pitches in with housework teaches them that they can do those things too, and still be strong boys.  And for Katie, I hope that having a mother who can take joy in her daily motherly duties, while not being afraid to go out in the yard and shovel snow, or mow the lawn, or even work outside the home if she has to, teaches her that women can be many things, and that there is nothing weak about being a stay-at-home wife and mother (which is my ultimate dream).  No need to buy Homemaker GI-Joe or Engineer Barbie - let their fantasy play be fantasy, while giving them good role models to look to for reality.

That's easier said than done, because there are so many outside influences that get a say in how our children view the world.  But I don't think we are slaves to our culture.  We can control what we allow and how much of it we allow.  And lately I tend to think simple is better.  A friend of mine used to Nanny children when I was in university, and she had a rule that the kids were only allowed one hour of TV a day, even on rainy days.  Even as the kids got older (at the time the oldest was 12), they could pick either a one-hour show or two half-hour shows whenever they wanted, but once they had reached the max they were done until the next day.  This encouraged them to watch things they really wanted to watch, rather than just lazing around in front of the TV because they had nothing to do.  By reducing the quantity they increased the quality of their TV watching, while also learning how to entertain themselves.  Of course they hated it, but they were better for it.  In this day and age where we are so concerned with getting the right messages to our children, while simultaneously dealing with the epidemic of childhood laziness and obesity, I think less is more when it comes to electronic stimulation of any type - computers, video games, and TV.  Not that I think we need to completely cut these things out, but just to allow them in healthy doses.

If we quit relying on toys and media to teach our children what it means to be strong men and women, and focus on actually having relationships with them, being good role models (and having other good role models like grandparents, family and friends) we can all breathe a sigh of relief.  And we can indulge in buying our little boys trucks or kitchen toys, or our little girls dolls or tools, depending on what they like, and without feeling like we've failed them. They are going to be who they are going to be, and the best we can do is provide them with a safe environment to grow up in and be themselves.  And in my house, I think that simplest is best.

Monday, October 25, 2010


The other day I had coffee with a friend who hadn't seen me in a few weeks.  She commented that since the last time she'd seen me, my pregnant belly had dropped.  "How many more weeks do you have?" she asked.  "Five," I answered.  She shook her head, smiled, and told me almost definitively that I would not go that long.  I shrugged and said that if the baby came earlier that was okay by me.  Then, on the way home, panic set in.

I'm not worried about bringing a baby home in the least.  But this being the fifth time around for me, I am well aware of the pain that awaits me in the delivery room.  I do not have difficult labors by any means.  But pain is still pain, and sometimes when you know what's coming, it can be overwhelming.  During this particular pregnancy I have really tried to be joyful where God has me in this moment as a working mother, rather than lamenting over the time I am missing with my children.  Knowing it is only for a short time, and feeling like this is where God has called me to be, I have tried to focus on the now. 

Needless to say when my friend reminded me that things are so much closer than I realized, it left me slightly frazzled - and by slightly frazzled, I mean the thought of it made me nautious several times over the weekend.  Of course logically, I know there is no point in worrying about it.  I know that no matter what, I am going to be in the delivery room someday soon.  I also know that it will pass quicker than I can imagine, and that once that little baby is here I will probably say, "that wasn't so bad."  And I even know that if for some reason things go differently this time, there is still no merit to my worrying about it right now.  Still, it took effort over the next few days for me not to be consumed by this worry. 

On Sunday morning my wonderful husband got up with the kids as he often does, so that I could wake up on my own.  Laying by myself in those first lazy minutes, knowing that he had things under control and relishing in the relaxation of not having anywhere to be in the next few hours, God and I had a heart-to-heart.  I realized that I needed to surrender all of this fear to Him, and to trust that He was going to get me through it.  I needed to be grateful for the fact that I, unlike many people, have the benefit of knowing what lies ahead of me.  And of course the tremendous blessing that awaits immediately following labor, when I finally meet the little one I have known only in secret all these months.  I really felt like in that moment God was lifting a burden from me, but I had to be willing to give it over to Him.  To acknowledge that I have no control, and to allow Him to be in charge.  It's tough.

The more I think about it, the more I realize that submissiveness is woven into the very fabric of who a woman is.  Ephesians 5:22 calls wives to "submit to your husbands as to the Lord."  This is very controversial in our day and age, largely because women have traditionally been hurt by people trying to take advantage of this.  Seen by itself, it makes you think we got a raw deal.  How can God call us to forsake ourselves for someone else?  Yet it is in the very way we were created, and to me it is no more apparent than in our role as bearers of life.  Long before our wombs see life our bodies begin to prepare for it.  Even women who never conceive still have monthly cycles which require them to sacrifice of themselves.  And of course when a child is conceived, while it takes both male and female to create, it is the woman who is called to be submissive - to be a home for the new baby as it grows, to sacrifice herself for the sake of the life within her, and to endure suffering for the sake of a greater good, a child. 

Still, you can't just look at the role of women by itself or else it does seem like we got the short end of the stick.  When we were created male and female, we were created complimentary, with a complementary call that only reflects God when it is lived out by males as well as females.  The call to men? To "love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her." (Ephesians 5:25)  Husbands must always look to the needs of their wives above their own, and to serve and love them first.  Only in this way will women find true comfort and peace in submission, when they can trust that the one they love will not take advantage of them. 

My prayer throughout the rest of this pregnancy, and with each day that passes in my life, is that I will draw strength through being submissive to God's will in my life.  That in surrendering control to Him, I will cast aside fear and doubt, so as to fully know the joy that comes from anticipating a miracle.  May these last five weeks (or less!) be for me a time of overwhelming peace and excitement!

Saturday, October 23, 2010


Jeff is reading a book I recently read in which one of the authors talks about how the bible never says things like, "blessed is the couple who perfectly spaces their children" or "has exactly as many children as they intended", or "only has a small number of children so they can afford to put them in hockey".  Of course it never says there's anything wrong with having a smaller family, but when it speaks of the blessings that come from family life, it's always in the context of many children.  "Like arrows in the hand of a warrior, so are the children of one's youth. How blessed is the man whose quiver is full of them." (Psalm 127:4-5).

Unfortunately the bible is one of the few places these days where you find such encouragement.  Over and over I hear, "wow, so you're expecting your fifth?  So is this your last one?"  When we tell people that it probably is not our last, and that we have no set number in mind but rather intend to just take it one baby at a time, then it's official - they either think we're completely crazy, or that we're saints doing something that no normal person could possibly ever do.  How wrong they are on both counts!

What I notice is that the bible uses the word, "blessed".  Not holy, exceptional, abnormal, heroic - but blessed.  To be blessed is to reap rewards from something, and clearly what the bible is saying is that if you are willing to welcome children (even many of them), there will be many good things in store for you.  This is a truth that is lived by every parent, those who only have one child, and those who have twelve.  People talk to me all the time like I am a hero doing something extraordinary, and while I can agree that not everyone is called to have a big family, I think that many more people are called than are open.  Everyone thinks, “I could never do that”, but to me that’s like saying, “I could never handle that much love”.  Like if someone was going to hand you a million dollars and you said, “no thanks, I’ll just keep the fifty I have in my pocket.”  Our culture has so attuned us to the extra responsibility that comes from raising children that we are blinded to the good (which far outweighs the bad), and time and again turn our backs on the treasures that are ours to enjoy.

Yesterday was a beautiful day.  The sun was streaming in the windows, and I had some soft music playing on the computer. I looked outside at my two older boys climbing trees, and when they spotted me their little faces lit up, and they waved.  Then I looked at my two youngest ones inside, sitting on the same riding toy going for a drive together, and enjoying each other’s friendship.  I am slightly emotional these days (impending birth will do that to you!) and it made me cry just a little.  It was just the kind of moment you see in a movie, and it made me so happy.  When Jeff got home I shared it with him, and he replied that when he was out getting groceries earlier that day, the cashier commented to him how strange it was to see a man by himself getting groceries.  She said she usually sees either just a wife, or an entire family shopping together.  When he told her that he’s the grocery shopper in our house, she responded that I must either be pregnant or have a small baby at home.  When he told her that actually it was both, that we had four small children and I am expecting our fifth, she responded with, “what did you do to that poor woman?”  Hearing this in hindsight made me laugh, especially since I had been having such a great day with the kids, but I think it didn’t sit so well with Jeff.

She was definitely more bold than most people are, but her words still echoed an idea that is common to our society: that children are an affliction, and how unblessed is the family who has many.  I know when she said that, the image she had in her mind must have been of a kitchen full of messy pots and pans, a laundry room full of dirty clothes, unhappy children crying and wanting to be fed, and a pregnant and frazzled mom just wanting a break.  And true, I have many days like that.  But I also have many more good days, and I wish this is what would come to mind when people think of me “stuck at home” with all my children.  There really is no place I would rather be.

My challenge to anyone reading this is not to think of children as a burden, but as a blessing.  And not to think of the parents of large families as extra-ordinary, but normal people, not who are doing something incredible, but who are just accepting these many blessings that are being poured out on them.  I don’t know about you, but when someone is showering me with gifts I want to open them all, not just stop at one or two.  And of course I know that every person is not called to live the same life I am living (in a similar way you could speak of the blessings of religious life, but still see that not everyone is called to be a priest or a sister).  But if you are feeling like you want to have more children, don’t listen to the people who tell you that you’re crazy, or that you can’t do it.  Be open to what is on your heart, and you will never be disappointed.  The things you have in this life will fade away, but the children you bring into this world will be for all eternity.  And when I die, it won’t matter that I earned a business degree, or held down two successful careers.  And it won’t matter (thank goodness!) that I struggled along in a house that was too small and too unfinished for the family that I raised in it.  What will matter is my contribution to eternity, and the joy they helped me to know in my life.  There is nothing that could make me prouder.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Lover's Eyes

My husband tells me all the time that I am the most beautiful woman in the world.  I know that I'm not (obviously!)  But I really believe that to him, I am.  Because one of the things I love most about my husband is that he is honest.  And he wouldn't just throw those words out there if he didn't mean them.  I can tell by the way he looks at me - he means it.

Don't get me wrong, I don't have low self esteem.  I'm generally happy with my life, and my appearance.  Still, when you're eight months pregnant, it's hard to imagine being beautiful - especially by today's standards.  When I'm between babies and staying fit, it's a little easier to believe him.  But when I'm in my third trimester of pregnancy and completely devoid of energy, it's a little harder to understand.  The funny thing is that I came across some pictures of me from ten years ago the other day, when I was about thirty pounds heavier than my average weight now (heavier than I am at the moment, seven weeks away from delivering a baby!) - and he said it to me then too.  Despite my ever-changing appearance, he always sees me as the most beautiful person in the world.  I tell him that I hope he always sees me like that, and I have a feeling that he will.  Because I figure it must have something to do with love.  Not so much that love blinds you, but rather your love is reflected back to you in the one you love.  You see, when I look at him, I see the one who loves me more than anyone else in the whole entire world.  And because of that, I look at him differently than I do anybody else.  I smile bigger, I glow a little brighter, and it changes my appearance.  I am more beautiful when I look at him than anybody else, because the love he has for me makes me more beautiful.

It's the same with kids.  Every parent thinks their children are the most beautiful children in the world - I tell my own kids all the time.  Of course I know that they are not, really.  But they are to me, and so I feel confident in telling them.  I think that every person should be the most beautiful person in the world to somebody.  And I think that this happens because of the relationship of love that people have with each other.  Children look at their parents and completely light up because they know they are more loved by they than any other people.  And they know it by the things their parents do for them - sometimes hard things, many times gross things, but each thing with love.  And responding to that love, they draw it even deeper out of the ones who are loving them.  That is why, to them, there is nobody more beautiful - because they are seeing with lover's eyes.  And what those eyes behold is a beauty not imagined or created, but deeply real and personal, reflected only to them.

Love is a beautiful thing.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

How I do it

 A few nights ago, it was just me and the kids.  I've been in this situation many times before - arriving home from work by myself, after picking everyone up at the babysitter's, greeted by the need to prepare supper and get all the kids ready and off to bed by myself, all the while in my third trimester of pregnancy.  The only thing that changes is the number of children I have underfoot.  Or is it?

The other thing that is drastically different is how much I've come to enjoy this time with the kids.  You could say it's because I'm working all day and I've missed them, but that wouldn't be enough.  Because any other time I've been in a similar situation, I've been so overcome with the stress of everything that falls into that small window of time between 6 and 8 pm that to make it through without pulling my hair out is a huge accomplishment.  Every time Jeff would mention that he had to work late, I would dread it.  The mere thought of what awaited me on those days exhausted me.  And now, with one extra child running around, I can honestly say I am thankful these kinds of days are so much different.

I have a theory - and I don't think it's that I've gone crazy (which might be what you would be inclined to think!)  I have tried not to keep it a secret how much patience has been an ongoing struggle for me.  People always say "I don't know how you do it!"  But the more I think about it, the more I don't know how I did it before.  Because I find that the more children I have, the easier things are getting.  True, there's the fact that now there's a group of them to entertain each other.  But there's also the fact that the way to grow in an area is to challenge yourself.  Marathon runners don't wake up one day and run an entire 26 miles - they train, discipline themselves, push themselves farther than they think they can, until one day they can do what had previously seemed impossible.  Like running a marathon.  Or getting through supper time and bedtime and not only keeping my sanity, but actually enjoying myself.

We all have our own personal marathons.  And like athletes, we will never get anywhere if we don't train.  I am not resentful of the increased workload my life has brought me.  In fact, I am grateful for it.  Because without the challenges I have faced and will continue to to face as my family increases in size, I would never know what I was capable of.  And I don't want to sit on the sidelines, I want to finish that marathon!

You may not know how I do it with four children, but  I don't know how I did it with less!

Friday, October 1, 2010

The Dance

 I have always loved to dance.  I remember being in ballet and majorettes as a kid.  I remember wearing my Mom's old dance costumes every year for Hallowe'en, and looking at pictures from her dance days, and wanting to be just like her.  I remember junior high and high school dances, trying to let myself go and look cool, in that awkward way that kids do.  And I remember being in cheerleading, learning precise dance routines as a group, practicing for days to perfect them, and the confidence that came from performing as a group.  To this day, I still love to dance.

But something changes as you get older.  Society becomes much more important, and people's opinions start to influence you more and more.  I admire people who can dance really well - but I am not one of them.  If we go out now, I spend most of the time sitting in my chair, building up the confidence to let myself loose.  And I'll only do it if someone else is going to put themselves out there with me.  Somewhere along the way, my childhood confidence has given way to reservedness.

And then, I had babies.  And those babies started to get older.  And I saw in them the first signs of dancing as an expression of happiness beginning to emerge.  Like my husband and I, our kids love music.  And when they hear it, they can't help but to allow their bodies to follow the rhythm. 

With each child I had, more choas entered my life, and thus more need for an outlet.  There was a time when I would feel really silly blasting the music and dancing around my house.  And I don't do it when I'm all by myself.  But I do quite often with my kids, and I find that it helps me let myself go.  We bounce around, we laugh, and we're silly - and it doesn't matter how foolish we look.  In fact, that makes it all the better.  When the kids start to move and I respond by doing the same, their little faces light up, and it makes my life.  And while it might seem that I am the one doing them the favor by taking time out of my busy schedule to play them, it is really they who are doing the favor for me.  By encouraging me to take a minute and play as they play.  No wonder kids are so happy all the time!

Whoever you are, whatever you are doing today, my prayer for you is that you take a few minutes to yourself, put on your favorite music, and dance like no one is watching!

Sunday, September 19, 2010


I work four days a week, and have decided (with the support of the school) to make my Fridays off a homeschool day for my oldest son, who is in grade one.  We hope to start homeschooling full time in January, and I thought this would be the best way to ease both of us into it, and get a preliminary glimpse into what life for a homeschooling Mom is like.

Homeschooling is a call that was placed on my heart the summer before my son started Kindergarden, when I was reading a book called "Parenting With Grace", in which the author makes an incredible case for homeschooling by speaking of parents as the first and best teachers of our children, and presenting the various benefits, such as shorter school days and more family time.  What really convicted me was seeing my son struggle throughout his entire first year of Kindergarden with difficulties sitting still in class.  Now I don't know if most boys are like this, but mine all have ants in their pants.  And Joseph, not unlike most firstborns, is incredibly bright, and was at the top of his class academically (consequently he was left with his mind wandering much of the time, which often led him to start causing trouble).  My heart broke to think of him being expected to sit in his chair from 9-12 and 1-3 five days a week, and I wondered if we were just setting him up to fail.  With one year of school under our belts, we began to research homechooling more seriously, and my husband and I both fell in love with the idea.  We talked to homeschooling parents, children who had been homeschooled (and entered the public school system in high school), and even teachers in the public school system, all of whom affirmed the benefits of homeschooling.  And with our son's personality, we both really feel this is the best we can do for him.

The scariest question in all of this for me is can I really do this?  We're expecting a baby at the end of November (which is the reason we are waiting until January to make the move to homeschooling full time), and with three other children ranging in age from 18 months to 4 1/2 running around, the idea is daunting to say the least.  So Fridays have been like a test run for me, and so far I have two under my belt.  Here's what I've noticed so far, that I find particularly interesting.  On the days that I plan to homeschool, I plan to start my school day at 9:00 am.  I can get a lot accomplished before 9:00 in the morning, I just never had to do it before so I didn't.  I am hoping (and so far have been able to) accomplish the schooling I need for my grade one-er by about 10:30 or 11:00, and then the rest of the day just runs as it usually would.  Last Friday I did not sit down, except to eat lunch.  And when the end of the day, I felt more gratified than I have in a long time.

I used to think I was busy, even when I only had one or two little ones.  But what I'm learning is that you are always busy, but that's never a reason to hold you back.  Because busyness just challenges you to do things you never thought you could do before.  I rarely took my kids out when I only had two, because I thought it was too much work.  But now with four children I take them tons of places by themselves, because I realize that things are always going to be hard, and I'd never do anything if I didn't do the things that were too difficult. And always, the more it takes to get something done, the more rewarding it is in the end.

Here's the other thing that struck me - that I find the fullness of my call as a wife and mother (and therefore the fullness of my joy), in serving others.  And when more of my day is taken up doing that, more joy results.  That's why I feel much more fulfilled after a day where I've been steadily busy tending to the needs of my household, then one where I've focused more on myself.  This may sound a bit radical (doesn't a mom deserve time to herself in the run of a day?) but think of it this way - when I'm at work, I feel most satisfied when I've worked really hard and accomplished something good for my employer.  I get a lunch break, and a short break in the morning and afternoon, but I do not spend my time thinking of myself and what I can do for me.  I am focused on doing a good job.  Now true, motherhood is different in that you don't knock off at 4:30 and leave your work behind until the next morning.  However the highest and best jobs, the CEOs, presidents and executives, don't either.  The more prestigious the job, the more demanding of your time it is.  But always you find yourself most rewarded when you are focused on doing a good job for others, and putting your own desires second.

Seen in that light, I think I could benefit from seeing motherhood as a real job, with a real schedule, and real things to accomplish.  And I think that homeschooling will challenge me to rise to a level I have never before in my family, and that it will hold great rewards in the process.  The more I let go of myself, the more I see how much more I can do for my children.  I really feel like they are only going to be mine for a very little while.  I am not raising them to cling to me, I am raising them to be their own persons, and eventually they will have their own lives.  But I do have them now, and I want to give them the best of myself for the time they are with me.  And I know that putting them first will also reap huge rewards for me.  Because my truest joy comes not in looking inward to my own wants and desires, but looking to others - especially my husband and children.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Duty of the Moment

A beautiful friend of mine, who is the mother of ten, offered the following advice to me: attend to the duty of the moment.  There will always be an infinite number of things that need your attention, but there is always the one thing that needs to be done in this moment.  Focus on that duty.

Her words brought me much comfort today.  Things started off great, we had been at my family's camp to celebrate my mother's birthday last night, and spent a lazy morning relaxing while the kids played outside.  Today being Sunday, we needed to make sure we got to mass.  So we left the camp in plenty of time for us to spend a few hours at home before heading back into our 6:00 pm mass.  No pressure, just go with the flow of the day.

I am a working mother of four (soon to be five in November).  I work four days a week, and got asked to work on my day off this week too, which also happens to be my husband's 30th birthday.  We talked, and I figured I would work around it, so I agreed.  Then I got home and opened the door to my house, which smelled like a barn!  I'm pretty sure (though I've yet to confirm it) that our cat peed somewhere.  I couldn't find it, but the smell lingered in every room of the house.  I feverishly began cleaning hoping either to discover the source of the smell and clean it up, or to fill the house with so many cleaning products that the smell of cat urine just disappeared.  While I was on my cleaning spree, my 18-month-old discovered some dishwasher detergent in the dishwasher (left over from the load that had just been put through), which I only became aware of when she started gagging on it.  I flushed her mouth out with water for about fifteen minutes, read the bottle, and determined (with the help of my husband) that it probably was not enough to cause any harm, save a few stressful minutes for my baby, who couldn't understand why Mom was draping her over the sink and spraying water in her face.

My brother showed up to pick up a futon that we are passing back to him (he gave it to us when we had room for a spare bedroom, which is now being transformed into a room for our own growing family), and I escorted him to the basement to the sound of my three boys (6, 4 1/2 and 3) dumping every toy they owned on their bedroom floor.  Not wanting to waste my brother's time, I left them to continue their mess so that he could take the futon out without any little ones underfoot (sometimes you have to pick your battles!) and when he was gone, I was eager to get the newly-emptied room set up for my little girl.  She, by this point, had decided that she wanted me to pick her up, and unable to distract her I propped her on my hip, while I pushed furniture around the room.  I could not get the furniture set up in a way that I thought worked well, everything I tried made the room look too cramped.  I just wanted to put the baby down, roll up my sleeves, and get this room taken care of, but every time I tried to set her down she screamed.  Heartburn was setting in (did I mention I'm seven months pregnant?), I could still hear the mess the boys were making in their room across the hall, mass time (and my work week, which included one extra day this week) was fast approaching, and I could still smell cat pee!  My husband came down, and I almost cried.  I was so overwhelmed!

He told me if I wasn't feeling well we didn't have to go to mass.  I wasn't feeling sick enough to miss mass, but I was feeling like I might crack mentally at any moment.  He suggested we pray about it, and as we did I really felt like God was saying that whatever I decided was okay.  That He knew exactly where I was at, and that He understood.  When we finished praying I shared my thoughts with my husband, who said he couldn't make the decision for me, but that I should think about whether I would gain more benefit from staying home and resting, or the grace I would receive by going to mass.  As I thought about this, and how much I wanted to just stay home and take the easy way out, I thought about what mass really is - going to be with people who love God, to get my strength from Him, and to receive His body and blood in Holy Communion.  Here is where I would find everything I needed to sustain me in my every day, and to miss out on this because I was too tired would be to deny everything that mass is meant to be.  I knew then and there what my duty of the moment was - to get myself to mass.  The room could wait until another time, the boys could clean their mess, and I could light a candle to get rid of the barnyard smell until I got home.

No sooner had I made the decision than my phone rang, and I got the news that I didn't need to work on Friday after all.  It was an affirmation to me that I just needed to focus on the one thing I could accomplish in that moment, and the rest of the things that were bothering me would all work out with God's grace.  As we attended mass this evening, I felt completely renewed.  And particularly at the sign of peace, as I reached out to each member of my family I felt like I was passing on a peace God had given me earlier in the day to just trust Him with the never-ending list of things to do.  I am not unlike any other wife or mother - there are never enough hours in the day to accomplish everything that needs to be done.  But when I put things in the right perspective, God gives me what I need to do the things that matter. 

I'm thankful for days like today.  Whenever I am tempted to think that I can do anything on my own, please show me Lord how desperately I need You.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Purging Distractions

Over the past few years I've begun purging the distractions in my life, and it's making a big difference.  It began when I noticed a direct link between something I was doing, and my patience level with the kids.  One of the first things to go for me was daytime TV.  I had certain shows I liked to watch during the day, which is not necessarily a bad thing.  But I noticed that I became increasingly irritated with the kids when I was trying to watch my show and they wouldn't stop distracting me.  I think it was partly created, because the kids recognize when I'm tuned out and start pushing the limits, and I would think "can't I get one half hour to myself in the run of the day?"  The answer: yes, but not while they are awake.  So I said goodbye to TV.

The latest item on my list is facebook.  I have been convicted of it several times over the past few years, and off and on have tried to set limits for myself (like I'll only check it in the evening when they've gone to bed), but time and again these go out the window.  After a long day of work, facebook is one of the first things I check when I walk in the door, and it's not good.  My six-year-old is really into technology, and has started asking when he can have his own facebook, and I'm sure that's because he sees me spending so much time on it.  Plus I think there's something wrong with knowing everyone's business all the time, and even though some people are a little more free in broadcasting personal stuff than others, it doesn't mean that I should be reading it.

So, for the sake of being a better wife and mother, I am ridding myself of facebook.  Or at least mostly.  I'll still keep it for close relatives (meaning those I actually talk to, parents, siblings, cousins, Aunts and Uncles) so that I can keep them posted on the kids and how they are growing.  But apart from that, I'm bidding a fond farewell to social networking.  Don't get me wrong, I enjoyed using it.  It just became too much of a distraction for me.  I'm taking a step back in time, and going back to email.  I think it will be a much better fit for me.