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

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Labor of Life - The Art of Praying and Breathing

As I bustled about my morning getting ready to go to town, the weight of this week bore down heavy on me.  In stark contrast to the blessed calm of last week, this week finds us shuttling from here to there with appointments four of the five days.  Yesterday and today were doubtful that I'd even get out at all, because there are freezing rain warnings and I don't have winter tires on yet. Those are sitting in my basement, awaiting the day when I can leave the van with my husband so he can put them on. As I rushed through getting ready listening to the kids bouncing off the walls downstairs, and the baby crying outside the bathroom door, rushing to get ready for his overdue doctors appointment which I'm not even sure I'll be able to make, I know this is only the start of a very busy week - and it weighs on me. 

Friday, December 11, 2015

Good Enough

I had an opportunity to spend time with a friend this week.  She's a really outgoing person who's really connected in her church, and really deep in her faith, and quite honestly I often find myself asking, "why does she want to be friends with me?"

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

God Makes Time

I had a brief but fruitful conversation with a friend of mine the other day. It was while our children were in a class together and we waited outside with our younger children, trying to have a grown-up conversation while simultaneously keeping our hooligans out of trouble (you know how it is!) In this quiet, slightly chaotic moment we shared together our difficulties carving out time for personal prayer.  And she told me that she's started carrying her bible around the house with her, because inevitably at one point or another she will have free time. It may not be first thing in the morning, it may not be when she's scheduled it. But if she's attentive, God always sends a quiet moment for her to turn her heart to Him.  And when she is prepared, she can take it in.

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Five Years Ago Today

Aaron is my fifth child to turn five, and this birthday has me pondering a lot of things. He is the latest born of all our children, and by far the most intense.  When my oldest turned five it was such new territory but I've done this a few times now, and still there is always something different about each one. And Aaron I think has been the most unique so far.  Because when I think I have everything figured out and I know the way things should go or where children should be, he's the one who teaches me that each child is unique, that each has his own way, and I need to learn from him rather than imposing my own views of how I think he should be.  Which is not unlike this day five years ago, when he made his grand entrance into the world.

Friday, November 6, 2015

Finding our Family Niche

Long before kids are actually kids, parents (or at least we did) dream of what kind of family they'll be. Never having been too sporty myself but recognizing the importance of sports to a child's development (and honestly, just seeing that the cooler kids growing up were generally the more sporty ones) I thought for sure we would steer our kids in that direction.  As the kids have grown we've tried several different things over the years, some of which have become mainstays in our family life, and others which have fallen into the category of "not for us but we gave it a shot".

Sunday, October 25, 2015

A Different Presence

So - I've been a bit busy.  Like, super-busy.  Life since at least when the baby was born (and maybe even a bit before) has been a whirlwind, and I'm getting overwhelmed.  My husband is always very kind to remind me that we just had a baby four months ago and that will change things, but I feel like the baby is the least of it.  It's everything that just seems to be coming at us non-stop that really has me tuckered out.  Just as soon as we crest one mountain we see that there is still more to climb and frankly, I'm running out of steam.  I've been saying for a while that I've lost my groove but now I'm convinced that there just isn't a groove at all.  It's been overwhelming.

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

You Just Keep Crying

Like most parents, I don't like to hear my children cry.  My second son was our most fussy baby, and I did not handle his crying very well at all.  I tried countless things in an attempt to fix his problem, old wives tales that never worked, changed my diet, snuggled him, let him "cry it out" - nothing.  The more I tried the more frustrated we both were.  And I've shared previously some of my biggest parenting regrets were during his infancy, when I just could not handle all his crying.  I felt like a failure, I questioned why a God in charge of the infinite universe could not solve my son's obvious intestinal distress.  I talked to therapists who gave completely impractical and unusable advice, and in the end just had to make peace with the fact that this little guy was a crier.

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

I Haven't Even Looked at You Today

I woke up today with a migraine.  I ended up sleeping late because of it, and getting a really slow start on the school day.  Mercifully it subsided by lunch time, but I spent the rest of my day playing catch-up with the school work and the housework.  My baby, at 3 1/2 months old, is an absolute gem.  He's just starting to sort out the daytime/nighttime sleeping, which is great at night but not so great in the day.  He has yet to really establish a daytime napping routine, favoring instead to nurse himself to sleep and wake promptly as soon as he hits the crib (or nurse so long that he wakes up!)  In the mornings he's still pleasant from his full night's sleep, and very easy to put down on the floor or in his jumper while I buzz about my duties. But as the day wears on the lack of sleep starts to take its toll, meaning more time spent in my arms from about suppertime on.

Monday, September 28, 2015

Hold up the Spiritual Head of the Household

We just finished our family rosary.  It's one of the things I always envisioned doing all together every evening, ever since I first met a big family in my late teens who did that with their family no matter who was there.  My experiences with that family were always that Mom and Dad were present with all their children, and many of their children's friends.  No matter what you were doing or who you were, if you were at this house at 8:00 pm, you said the rosary.  It was beautiful.

Saturday, September 26, 2015

New Look (Again!)

If you are a regular visitor to my blog, you may notice that I've made a few changes.  I loved my old logo but it did not include our newest little boy who was born earlier this year, so it needed updating.  Alas since that cute flower cutout is not located in the same city as me, I had to retire my old friend.  Here's one final look at the logo that has served me well for the last two years, and inspires me to think of Mother Teresa every time I see it:

Yes, My Hands are Full

Any parent of more than one child has likely heard countless times the classic line, "you have your hands full!"  It is one of the most commons things I hear out and about with my brood, and it used to drive me crazy!  The first few times I struggled with how to respond, because I never want my family life cast in a negative light (as much for the sake of my kids, who hear every comment sent their way and have started making comments like, "everyone says that!")  Moms of many talk about how to respond lovingly, and I tried one of my favorite lines - "yes, but so is my heart", but it always felt more like a Halmark card than something I would actually say.  And then one day, quite by surprise, I just answered what was on my heart, and it was so freeing.

Sunday, September 20, 2015


One of the things that really touched me reading about Mother Teresa was that her sisters live in complete poverty.  A vow of poverty is not out of the ordinary for religious, but there are different ways different orders live them out.  Most often even if the individuals take a vow of poverty the order does not, so the order can own property, accept donations, and acquire goods and finances for the ongoing expenses of their ministry.  Not so with the Missionaries of Charity.  They do not keep anything - and the reason for this is that Mother Teresa wanted to rely completely on God to provide for their needs.  One section of the book I read recounted how Mother Teresa taught her sisters to not worry about anything beyond the present.  She said that if her sisters thought about the work that lay before them tomorrow, they'd never be able to sleep.  They took care of thousands of the poorest of the poor every day - fed them, bathed them, sheltered them, administered medicine.  All of that takes a lot of money.  Yet they never accepted anything beyond what they needed for the moment.  She would always tell people that she didn't worry about it, that wasn't her job.  Jesus was the one who wanted this work - He's the one who needs to worry.

Monday, September 14, 2015

Contemplative Motherhood

I just finished reading a book about the life of Mother Teresa.  It's the first time I've really delved into her story and, naturally, it had a profound effect on me.  Probably the thing that struck me the most and that I want to make my own way of life is her saying, "All for Jesus."

Thursday, September 3, 2015

Ball and Chain

We've all heard the old saying about marriage being like a ball and chain but that's not what I would attach that description to. Instead what I think is a much more worthy contender for such a title is something I find myself quite often tethered to for most of the day.  Something so small you'd barely notice it, except for the crazy amount of time I have it in front of my face.   Something that has become a lifeline in many ways, for better or for worse, and that is almost constantly on my person. That something, you probably guessed, is my cell phone.

Friday, August 28, 2015

Affirmations in Motherhood

Over the past week I've had two very distinct and beautiful affirmations that I want to share, because I think as Moms we (or at least I) can be quick to diminish the good things people see in us and exalt the sinfulness we see in our own lives.  Much of that for me comes from the guilt of feeling like I'm being fake - inevitably when someone pays me a compliment (you're such a good mother) I immediately feel like that's just because they don't know me.  It makes me see the things I struggle with under a magnifying glass, and in turn a lot of time makes the struggle that much more difficult.  And when I fall again, as I inevitably do, I think, "See?  They couldn't have been more wrong."

Monday, August 24, 2015

The Privilege of Being Here

This morning, as I often do, I lingered with my infant son on his change table.  His diaper changed and his belly full from his most recent feeding, he was a complete delight. A happy little guy, he has just recently begun to smile and coo, and at two months old he's at the age where every day brings something new.  So often, and without guilt, I stay there just to watch him.  And the gift of this moment is not lost on me.

Monday, August 17, 2015

How God Loves

My youngest son is two months old now. His newborn phase was rough, and while I won't classify it as colicky because I know mothers and babies who've struggled with that and it was a million times more difficult, it nevertheless contained much more fussiness and irritability than we've seen with any of our last few babies. So now that he's turned a corner and become old enough to work out the kinks in his little digestive system that were giving him such grief, he's a pretty happy little guy.  He especially loves his older brothers, and I told my husband the other day that I'd be jealous that he smiles at them more than he smiles at me except that it's pretty much the sweetest thing I've ever seen.  I'm glad that he loves them so much, and it's so beautiful to see the way he lights up for them.

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Saying No

It’s after 10:00 am and I’m still in my pjs, a rarity for me.  We were invited out with a friend this morning, and after accepting (because it’s a dear friend who I never get to see) I had second thoughts.  Yesterday we had two major outings – a doctor’s appointment in the afternoon (made more crazy by reduced ferry service to the Peninsula where I live which resulted in long waiting lines with a crying newborn and misbehaving older children cooped up in a van) and an Orchestra concert in the evening, which involved dropping off a few of my younger children to hang with Nana (because the last time we took them to a sophisticated event they were, well…not sophisticated.)  We had a very full, great day, but by the time we crawled into bed after 11 pm we were all exhausted.

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

My Favorite Dance Partner

As I write this, it is nearing supper time.  We’ve spent the day at home, my seven children and I, and my newborn has been difficult to put down all day.  If I am honest, he is very similar in temperament to my second child – the one that was gassy, and nursed every 1.5 hours for an hour at a time (which, if you do the math, means I spent the better part of the day sitting in a chair – and this with a toddler at home!) The child who both broke me and made me as a parent.  And I couldn’t be more grateful for that experience. 

Thursday, June 25, 2015

That's a Wrap

This has been an incredible school year for us.  As has become fairly typical of us, we tend to lay low with social activities and extras until the Spring, then we emerge from the first half of the school and winter ready to take advantage of the many great resources that are available to homeschoolers in our area.  And man, there are a lot!

Friday, June 19, 2015

One Week

I had intended on writing a post about my pregnancy before it was all over (because it's really been a unique experience - there are so many ways you do things different when it's your seventh time).  And yet, here I find myself at home with my new babe in my arms, narry a free minute to blog in sight (save the time I'm sitting in my chair and nursing, which is what I'm doing now - and typing on my phone!)

Monday, May 18, 2015

Love. I can do that.

Does anyone else get sick of hearing the latest parenting labels?  There's Attachment Parenting, Gentle Parenting, French, Finnish, British or whatever international Parents that are all doing it better than us.  There's Helicopter Parenting (which of course we DO NOT want to do!) and Tiger Parenting - and all of it, to me, seems to slot Moms into a box.  All checklists of things to subscribe to that make parenting a set of goals to achieve, goals which often times seem so far out of my reach, and drive me further into despair over the things I wish I was but am not.

Friday, May 15, 2015

I Don't Know How You Do It

There is no sentence that induces more guilt in me than this one - "I don't know how you do it."  I hear it all the time.  Sometimes, like last weekend when I was away with my husband while both sets of our parents tag-teamed to hold down the fort at home, I even foolishly find myself responding things like, "it gets easier as kids get older," or "I've learned to let go of a lot of things and pick my battles."

Thursday, April 30, 2015

Keeping it all Running

A friend posted an article a while back of a beautiful laundry room that a mother of six had designed for herself.  It was beautiful, efficient, and far more organized than I ever could even dream of being! But the first thing I thought when I saw it was that the Mom was doing all the work.  And it got me reflecting on the systems we have around here, and how I (a less-than-organized mother of many) enlist the help of the kids to keep it all running smoothly.

Monday, April 27, 2015

Mom of Big Kids

"At least some of them are in school." It's a common response I get to people finding out the number of children I have.  They figure that if I'm going to live this crazy life of having so many children, at least I get a break when they're at school for the day.  So you can imagine the surprise when I go to tell them that we home school, and that all the kids are with me all day.  There's no relief in sight for me!

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Happy Right Here

I've been thinking a lot this week about the choices we make, and being deliberate in the life we live. This is March break for the school kids in our area, and for the first time in my four years of homeschooling we are not taking the time off.  A fact that would have happily gone unnoticed by my children, but for the announcement their violin teacher made at the end of the week that there would be no classes during the March break.  My kids' ears perked up and the conversation began almost immediately. "Do we have to do school next week?"  My answer was that yes, we did - a fact they were not, as you can imagine, overly thrilled about. One child in particular fell into a deep but short-lived depression over the whole thing (as can sometimes afflict unsuspecting elementary school children who've had a week off dangled in front of them and then swiftly removed.)

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Cleaning House

For the past seven years, we've been blessed to have someone come in to help with housework once every two weeks.  In the very beginning I was a working mother with two children under three, and five months along in my third pregnancy.  I needed the help!  And she was a Godsend.  Many times over those seven years, particularly since I started staying home full time, I felt guilty about spending the money on something I was home to do myself.  But if I was honest with myself it took everything I had (or so I thought) to stay on top of the day-to-day house cleaning, not to mention our busy homeschooling schedule.  When a veteran homeschooling Mom expressed to me once that if she could do anything different it would have been to hire a housecleaner no matter what sacrifices needed to be made, I felt a little easier spending the money.  "I need this," I thought.  And indeed it has been so very worth it.

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

This Is Serious

I have a friend who has the ability to say one thing that always seems to be what the Lord wants me to be thinking of.  Often times it's just a casual conversation, but one word will jump out at me and stay with me long after we've said our goodbyes.  Recently my husband and I were chatting with this friend, and he relayed a teaching moment he had with a mentor.  Someone had shared about the difference prayer was making in their life, that after a month of committing to daily prayer they noticed everything changing in their life.  The mentor told him, "that's beautiful, but can you tell me what is different that brought about this change?" There were the usual responses: Christ's presence, peace, a different awareness.  But all of these fell short.  What the mentor was really trying to convey was that the person was serious in front of a proposal - prayer.  That when we take our lives and our relationship with Christ seriously, only then can we respond in any adequate way to who He is in our lives.   And he went on to say, as my friend relayed, that if we don't understand the need to maintain this seriousness - if we focus too much on the beauty, on the mountaintop - then we risk going right back to the place we were before we found this peace, as if we had learned nothing.

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Being a Fraud

There are many times in my life when I feel like a complete fraud.  Like the person people see is not the person I really am.  Boxing Day this year was a particularly challenging day for me, because the busyness of the Christmas season collided with my husband's need to be at work his normal working hours and on call for the hours in between.  We were wiped as we usually are after Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, and though I had made plans to visit my parents on Boxing Day what I really wanted was to just stay home.  Not to be by myself getting all six kids ready, tearing them away from their toys and their friends.  Not to have my husband at work and missing him like crazy.  Not to have my house upside-down.  I felt the simultaneous pressure of both cleaning and organizing after a whirlwind holiday, and of taking it easy and letting the kids celebrate.  So I let them have a friend over for the morning while I busied myself with cleaning, then lamented the fact that when it was time to leave nobody was helping.  Of course they weren't, it was the first day they had spent at home this Christmas!  And their mother was sending mixed messages, because she really didn't know for herself what she wanted.  

Monday, January 12, 2015

Back At It

Today marked our official first day back to homeschooling after an extended Christmas vacation that took a lot out of me, and I'll be honest about the fact that I was not looking forward to it last night as I settled into bed.  Our Christmas this year was CR-AZY as crazy can be, definitely the busiest so far and one that has us looking forward to making some changes next year as kids get older and get up earlier (4:30 am this year for the first time ever - argh!  Haha!)  Add to that the fact that my husband was on call from December 22 to December 30 (during which time he worked his standard Monday-Friday schedule which blessedly did not include Christmas day, but did include Saturday and Sunday between Christmas and New Years, in addition to extra long days and a few late-night call-ins), a Boxing Day wedding and a New Year's Eve wedding (the latter of which my husband was a groomsmen in), the usual family get togethers and Christmas/New Year's Mass schedule that are busy all on their own, and we were needless to say exhausted.  Jeff was thankfully able to take the first week of January off, and when he asked that I not do school for the week so he could enjoy the family time he missed out on over the holidays let's just say it didn't take a lot of convincing.  That week overflowed as well with much joy as we had friends from out of town visiting for the first part, and Jeff's brother and girlfriend arriving from Toronto later in the week.  Christmas has grown to epic proportions around here and we were all living it up. I was not looking forward to getting back to the grind this morning.

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Confessions of a Mom of Many

I spend much of my life, like I suppose most people do, being sized up.  Because I spend my days surrounded by little people, people naturally have varying assumptions they are often not afraid to share with me on a daily basis - some good, some not so good.  I suppose that's a function of the world we live in, everyone has an opinion about everything.  But there are many things people say to me that are way off base or simply not true and rather than make a laundry list, I thought it would be better to give a little glimpse into some of the things you may find surprising about a Mom of many.  Here are some of my biggest confessions: