Archive for the ‘Parenting’ category

Vacation 2015 Travelogue

June 10, 2015

We just got back from spending a week back home in Kentucky.  While some pictures were uploaded to my Facebook account, I found that a lot of the time I was too busy actually having fun to be constantly be messing with my phone, even to take pictures.  These are just some random thoughts and memories that I want to preserve for when I want to look back on our trip.

*Our drive down was pretty smooth.  The weather was great, and there was no construction or wrecks.  I’ve learned to start off with a movie in the van; that instantly gets us about two hours down the road.  We stopped in Indianapolis to visit a friend from college and her family.  The kids stretched their legs on the swing set in the back yard and pop sickles were consumed before we hit the road again.

*The first morning in Kentucky I was sitting on the bench swing in my parents’ back yard and all I could think was that it smelled like “home”.  Then the thought crossed my mind that I was crazy since Louisville is not that exotic or far away from the Chicago suburbs; the air surely couldn’t smell that different.  It wasn’t until I was driving down the main road that runs behind my parents’ house and abuts Iroquois Park that I realized how much the green and loamy smell of the woods permeates the air.

*On a trip to get gas later that first morning I cut through the adjacent neighborhood and was struck by how almost every porch that was big enough included some combination of a porch swing, a glider couch, or rocking chairs.  It’s not something I’ve ever noticed in my current location, and I ended up spending a large portion of my time with my parents sitting on their front porch reading or watching the kids play in the front yard.

*Our townhouse has a paved courtyard with sparse grass but a lot of trees in the front and a large driveway in the back.  We do have a grassy side yard, but we really have to watch for garbage that that been thrown or blown there.  When my kids saw the fresh cut, clean grass of Memaw’s and Papaw’s front yard, they went rolling around in it like they’d never seen grass before.  (And then they itched the rest of the night.  LOL)

*The kids spent 90% of their time at my parents’ house completely barefoot, inside and outside of the house.

*Louisville has really developed the waterfront since I moved away.  Recently they converted an old train bridge into a walking bridge that crosses into southern Indiana.  We took the kids across the Big Four bridge to an ice cream shoppe and candy factory/museum for lunch.  The weather was fair, but the sun beat down on us pretty hard.  So, the kids made full use of the splash pad and playground on the Kentucky side of the bridge.  (And Sabrina has been talking about the stinky, gross “skunk” bathrooms she had to use there for days.)

*We took a trip further out into the state to visit the girls’ paternal great-grandfather (currently 89) “in the middle of nowhere”.  The kids spent a few hours watching humming birds, cardinals, golden finches, and blue jays and chasing butterflies before robbing Grandpa Jack of many of his possessions with his encouragement.

*As a semi-spontaneous side trip (I had researched the possibility but put it up to a vote in the moment) we ended up going to Mammoth Cave and taking the most basic tour (1 hour and 15 minutes).  Piper didn’t believe me when I warned her to bring her jacket even though it was a hot day, so she faced the natural consequences when we entered the 53 degree cave.  Actually, the blast of cold air hits you as soon as you turn the corner for the steps leading down to the entrance.  Cassidy was a little nervous about the whole thing, but all of the other kids thought it was awesome.

*One night I went out to karaoke with my sister for a few hours.  It had been so long since I had drank an alcoholic beverage at a bar that I didn’t even know what to order (the last time I did so they were still selling Zima).  I ended up getting a sex-on-the-beach, a favorite from the summer I turned 21.  The seedy pub near my parents’ house was dead, so we each got to sing four songs.  But there was this 70+ year old woman who started shouting obscenities at anyone who passed her direction (including us) and a host of other seedy south end of Louisville characters, so we cut out after a couple of hours.

*I had to get my Skyline Chili, so I met up with an old friend that I hadn’t had a chance to really hang out with in over 15 years.  Our lives are very different, but I had forgotten how much we always had in common.  I could have spent all day catching up with him and discussing a wide variety of topics if I hadn’t had other obligations.

*Even though my favorite part of Iroquois Park is shut down for renovations (the northern lookout), I took the kids to the new playground and splash pad.  Unlike their previous splash pad experience in the week, this time I had them all in swimsuits.  We used a lot of sun screen on this vacation.

*On our last evening in Louisville my parents had a cookout with family and friends.  It was great catching up with people I hadn’t seen in person in a few years (or as in the case of my best friend from junior high, several years).  Then we presented Sabrina with a cookie cake and sang her an early “Happy Birthday”.

*Scattered storms were predicted for the last day of our trip when we were supposed to go to Holiday World in Santa Claus, Indiana.  My mom stocked up on ponchos for everyone, but thankfully we only really needed them when we rode the River Rapids ride (7 times!).  Other than some heavy rain on the drive, the day was overcast and moderate.  And the lines were so short, that the attendants would often let you ride repeatedly without getting off.

*At first I balked at the $15 stroller rental, but it turned out to be worth every penny.  It gave us a great place to store our jackets and ponchos when we weren’t using them.  Sometimes we even set our free sodas in them while we were on the family rides.  It was big enough to hold the 4 and 7 year olds together or one passed out toddler.

*Piper had really wanted to ride The Raven roller coaster, but it was closed indefinitely when the park first opened.  So, we went on The Legend instead.  At the first turn after the first gigantic hill, Piper declared that she didn’t ride The Raven or any other roller coaster if we survived this one.  I was in agreement, because I had forgotten how jarring wooden coasters can be.

*I had been a little worried about if I would get motion sick.  It’s been 20 years since I was season pass holder at Kentucky Kingdom.  There were a few rides I made it through once but refused to ride again due to nausea.

*The kids had a blast at Holiday World. Their favorite section was definitely 4th of July (with the Holidog part).  Bailey and Piper (ages 12 and 9) were tall enough to ride everything alone.  Katie (7) was tall enough to ride a lot of things alone, but there were some things she had to have an adult (like the Turkey Whirl).  Sabrina (4) had to have an adult for most things.  There were also a small number of rides that Cassidy (2) could do with an adult.

*By the time we got to the hotel, everyone was tired and getting cranky. I put everyone to bed as soon as possible, including me.  In the morning, we took a quick side trip over to St. Meinrad Archabby.  Even though the kids were ready to go home and a little whiny, I couldn’t resist taking them and my parents over there to see how gorgeous the architecture and natural landscaping is.

*The drive home was long and exhausting.  I made it through on Extra Strength Tylenol and coffee.  A wreck 90 miles out from our home in Illinois and the need for a bathroom break led us to detour from I-65 completely and rejoin I-80 further west.  While everyone really enjoyed the trip, we were all really glad to be home.

Recognizing Obstacles and Switches

March 7, 2015

As you know, my goal this year has been to find a better balance between work, prayer, recreation, and self-care.  Therefore, I’ve been trying to integrate a new schedule that will reflect new habits and attitudes.

Consistent change is not something that comes easy to anyone.  And the longer you’ve been in a rut, the deeper it becomes and the harder to get out of.  Therefore, as a I slowly try to make changes in my own life, I’ve had to think about those bad habits (aka obstacles) that make it easier to stay in the rut and what are little changes that I can make in order to make big changes easier (aka switches).

For instance, one obstacle I recognized is starting a new television show, particularly on Netflix.  In the past I would do really well at pacing myself for about the first ten episodes, and then I would start binging, watching as many as six episodes in a day.  Ain’t nobody got time for that, especially me!!

So, the first rule I made for myself was:  No new television shows in 2015.  I have plenty of current shows filling up my DVR on a regular basis, or I can watch reruns of previous favorites if I want something different every once in a while.  In the same vein about time wasters, a second rule that I made for myself for this year was:  No multi-level or social online games.

A second obstacle I realized was getting sucked into the computer first thing in the morning.  Catholic motivational speaker Matthew Kelly talks about not checking his e-mail first thing in the morning because it immediately throws off his mood and the pace of his day.  This lead me to make a switch in which I no longer get on the computer while I drink my first cup of coffee.  Instead, I use that time to say Morning Prayer from the Liturgy of the Hours.

Not only do I avoid getting annoyed by stupid posts on Facebook, but starting the day with prayer can’t help but be a positive.  I’m not saying that every morning I am struck with some great spiritual revelation, but even when I am going through the motions in a partial daze, I can still feel it recalibrating things inside me for the better.  Also, it helps me stay on schedule because I don’t get caught up in online discussions or correspondence.

One rut I am still struggling with is getting back on schedule in the afternoon.  I find myself still wanting to take too much recreation time.  I keep racking my brain to think of one little switch that I can make that will jump start the rest of my day.  I know that I will figure it out if I can just step back and discover the obstacles that are making it more difficult.  But at least I am starting to make some progress in the right direction.

Balance and Discipline (2): Work

February 13, 2015

It seemed in the past like I would be really productive for a day or a week, and then something would derail me and I would just zone out while the house fell down around me.  Or I would only do the work that I wanted to do (like homeschool prep) rather than the work I needed to do (like staying on top of the checkbook and bills).  I now know that part of this was probably a low-level of depression that I lived with for years, but that is (hopefully) all in the past.

So, as a reminder this is my new schedule that I’ve been trying to assimilate:

Morning Prep
Coffee & Morning Prayer
Dressed for the Day
Schoolwork (8:30)
Lunch (11:30)
Chores (12:30)
Cassidy Nap (1:30)
Coffee & Afternoon Prayer
Dinner (2:30)
Recreation (3:30)
Chores (4:30)
Evening Prayer (5:30)
Bedtime Snacks (8:00)
Bedtime Prep (8:30)
Bedtime Routines (9:00)

If you notice, I have two hours slotted for chores at 12:30 and 4:30.  By chores, I mean housework or other things necessary to keep the household running (bills, phone calls, homeschool prep).  Now this doesn’t necessarily mean these are the only times that I’ll be doing chores.  Part of my Morning Prep is unloading the dishwasher while I wait for my kettle to warm up my coffee water.  Part of my Bedtime Prep is loading up the last of the dishes and running the dishwasher.  And I spend at least two hours each day homeschooling.

There are times during schoolwork when the kids are working quietly, and they don’t need me hovering at the table.  I try to use these times for switching out laundry, cleaning out the sink, or other easily interrupted chores (if I’m not having to use that time dealing with the preschooler and toddler).  And if we happen to finish all of the schoolwork before 11:30, then I expect myself to work on chores until 11:30.

Another part of the equation for balancing work is setting up realistic To Do lists for each day.  There are some things that are just a given for everyday (like dishes).  Laundry usually takes 3 to 4 days during the week.  Then there are the things that come up that are time sensitive, like appointments that need to be scheduled or garbage that needs to go out.  There are also the things that ideally would get done, but life will go on even if they don’t.

I also need to be aware of how much time each chore will take.  Preparing for the next homeschool quarter can take at least 2 hours of work, so that’s not a good day to plan on switching out the kids’ seasonal clothes (another multi-hour/multi-day chore).  Some days might have four big chores on the list, and some days might have ten short chores on the list.

It is really easy to get over-whelmed with the amount of housework waiting to be done at any given time.  I could do nothing but clean my house for 24 hours a day, seven days a week, and there would always be something that still needed to be scrubbed.  With five kids in the house (most of whom are home all day every day), keeping the house at a basic level of cleanliness is a Sisyphean effort.  I have also had to accept that my goal right now is just to keep things from getting too gross.

Disclaimer:  My kids are spoiled and do not have regular chores (other than putting away their laundry).  It is something I have tried to institute from time to time, but I haven’t had the energy and strength to be consistent.  However, there are times over the course of a week when I expect them to help out.  And in general, I try to teach them to become self-sufficient and clean up after themselves.

So, my goals for balancing my work load on a daily basis are to have realistic expectations for my To Do list, to plan on about 2 hours of chores per day, and to not allow myself to get over-whelmed into trying to do everything or to feel guilty for the things that don’t get done.

What’s It Like?

February 6, 2015

I was at lunch with a friend one day, and she asked me, “What’s it like to be the mother of five children?  Really, what’s it like??”  I could understand her curiosity since she is the mother of an only child.

She was totally correct in her guess that it is exhausting.  I admitted that the hardest part is the never ending demands.  Someone always needs/wants something:  drinks, food, diaper changes, television/computer time, something to be fixed, something to be found.  There are some periods in the day when I can not sit down for more than five minutes at a time.

But now that I’ve had some time to think about it, I think I could paint a clearer picture.

What is it like to be the mother of five children?

  • Loud:  The times of quiet are very few and far between.  Kids are always screaming, laughing, screaming, playing, screaming, crying, screaming, and fighting.  If nothing else there is the din of two computers and a television, usually turned up loud in order to be heard over the constant chatter.  And did I mention the screaming?
  • Messy:  I’m not just talking about the basic mess that any person or people make just through the course of living life; I’m talking extreme messiness.  A lot of this has to do with the fact that most of my kids are still very young.  Hopefully things will get less messy as they get older, more responsible, more competent, and more coordinated.

    But there are constantly toys everywhere, crumbs and half-eaten snacks everywhere, spilled drinks everywhere, crumpled tissues and paper towels everywhere, shoes and jackets and clothing everywhere, and scratches and crayon marks on the walls and furniture everywhere.I try to make rules to keep food and crayons in the kitchen, but the moment you blink the kids become as stealthy and lethal as Weeping Angels.

    doctor_who_weeping_angelsSome of the kids are more helpful about cleaning up their messes than others, but training them to clean up messes properly is as much of a chore as trying to keep up with all of the messes that need to be cleaned.  I’ve learned from my friends, though, that this is pretty much par for the course for large families.

  • Challenging:  Being a parent to any child is challenging, especially for those of us who really take our parenting job seriously (some would say too seriously).  It’s a challenge to try to find that right balance of discipline and freedom that will allow your child to follow her dreams, pursue her talents and interests, play to her particular strengths, and overcome her particular weaknesses in order to assist her in becoming the person that God designed her to be.

    When you multiply that times five, it becomes even more worrisome and intense.It’s really hard when each child has different needs, wants, temperaments, and personalities.  Just navigating dinner can be a mine-field when you have one child that won’t eat tomato sauce, one that won’t eat meat, and one that won’t eat anything but crackers.  You try to be fair to make sure that one child isn’t constantly receiving special treatment over the others, but sometimes allowances have to be made for age or circumstances.  While the constant requests and messiness are physically exhausting, this balancing act is mentally exhausting.

  • Funny:  There are several times a day when the kids are just funny.  Sometimes it’s a little one just being cute because of their age, saying funny things or being silly with their little chipmunk voice.  Sometimes it’s an older one with a rye observation, cheeky quip, or intentionally exaggerated reaction.  Sometimes dinner is like an HBO comedy special (with less cursing).  There is a lot of personality and a lot of laughter in our house.
  • Sweet: One of my favorite things is watching my children enjoy each other’s company.  They love each other, they hate each other, and they love each other.  I live for those moments when they are playing well together: sharing an adventure on Club Penguin, playing with Barbies or Little People, or engaging in pretend play as superheroes or puppies.Sometimes I’ll walk in the living room to see some combination of kids snuggling together under a blanket while watching television.  Especially as a homeschooling parent, I get a thrill when I see one kid teaching another kid how to do something, whether it’s U.S. geography or how to put on their shoes.All four older girls are constantly looking after their youngest sister, making sure she doesn’t put a choking hazard in her mouth or comforting her when she is being whiny.  At times they even look after and try to soothe each other.  There is always someone willing to give or accept a hug or a kiss.  There is always someone ready to snuggle as soon as I sit down on the couch.  I’ve never been so popular in my life.  Sometimes this can get a little over-whelming, but most of the time it’s just sweet.
  • Passing:  I am very aware that the days are passing too quickly.  It seems like just yesterday that I was bringing my oldest home from the hospital, and now she is 12.  It won’t be too much longer before she’s as tall as me, if not taller.  (We actually can wear the same size shirts sometimes!)  My youngest, who is probably my last, is already two.  She’s becoming less of a baby and more of a little girl.  I’m almost done with sippy cups and diapers.  Before I know it she’ll be too big for me to carry in my arms with her head on my shoulder and her soft hair caressing my cheek.  It’s bittersweet.One day they will be all grown up and moving on with their lives, and my life won’t be quite so loud, messy, and challenging.  Instead of a bunch of young children, I will have five adults whose company I can hopefully enjoy as friends.  Oh, I am sure that I will still worry about them, and I hope they will still accept advice and guidance from me at times.  But I won’t be so physically responsible for their health and well-being ever day.  I will be past the point of worrying that every parenting mistake I make will scar them for life.  The time that they were children will have been a small part of the time we will have had together.

There’s Nothing to Eat

January 31, 2015

A few months ago I started doing my grocery shopping once every two weeks.  This means that I do ALL of my grocery shopping every other weekend (while the kids are with their dad), and I try to avoid making any other store visits during that two-week period.

One of the concerns I had when I decided to first try this was that we would run out of food to eat.

As it was I was going to the store every week, and the kids would complain “there’s nothing to eat”.  What this really meant, though, was that there was nothing they wanted to eat.  My kids have been pretty spoiled.  They are accustomed to having TWO sugary bedtime snacks every night.

It took a little trial and error to get an idea of what two-weeks worth of food would be.  A favorite snack one week is out of favor the next.  All of the good fruit and the favorite snacks start running out around the start of the second week.  Sometimes the dinners are cobbled together the last few days.  However, there is in fact still a ton of food left in our house even when “there’s nothing to eat”.

For example, here are some pictures of our food supply on a Friday before a grocery shopping weekend.

Disclaimer #1:  Yes, my family eats a ton of processed food.  It’s my choice how I “poison” my kids.

Disclaimer #2:  Yes, I know this would probably be an optimal time to scrub down the inside of the fridge.  But it probably won’t happen.

pantry This is my tall and narrow pantry.  On the top shelf there are six boxes of cereal (three that the kids will eat).  As you can see we still have a few bags of chips left.  The middle shelf has Cheeze-Its, Animal Crackers, and Ritz crackers.  The snack drawer (shelf above the pans) still has a few packs of peanut butter cracker sandwiches and fruit & grain bars as well as fruit cups on top.  A bottle of juice, a quarter bag of potatoes, and Ramen noodle cups are on the floor.

cabinetThe cabinet under the island still has boxes of Kraft macaroni and cheese and Velveeta shells.  There are Pop Tarts and saltines, cans of tuna and a jug of rice.  There’s chicken broth and four types of pasta (spaghetti, rotini, penne, and macaroni).


upstairs  This is my “upstairs pantry” where I store extras.  You can see more macaroni and cheese, Pop Tarts, Cheeze-Its, spaghetti graham crackers, chicken broth, and peanut butter cracker sandwiches.

Disclaimer #3:  I didn’t take a picture of the cabinet where I keep baking staples and my two remaining boxes of dessert mix (brownies and cheese cake).

fridge freezer We’re running low on skim milk in the refrigerator, but there’s a quarter gallon of 2% behind the water jug.  There are a few eggs, bologna, cheesy hot dogs, two yogurt cups, nacho cheese sauce, and a pound and a half of bacon.  The left drawer still has at least four, half-full, 12 oz bags of shredded cheese and two bags of cheese sticks.  The right drawer has a bag of apples and two bags of carrots.

The freezer still has one medium-sized cheese lasagna, garlic cheese toast, french fries, french toast sticks, pancakes, chicken tenders, and fried beef ravioli.  Oh, and that quart of chocolate ice cream is mostly full.

chest freezerInside the chest freezer is an extra box of garlic cheese toast, a couple of frozen pizzas, a half gallon of ice cream, lots of Steamfresh vegetables, and way down in there is a whole chicken.

I didn’t take a picture of the mini fridge, but it has one carton of half & half left.


So, as you can clearly see, since it has been two weeks since I last went grocery shopping…THERE’S NOTHING TO EAT!

I realized that we would not in fact run out of food if I only went grocery shopping every two weeks.  Like most people I tend to over-shop beyond our basic needs.  Sometimes this is intentional (when I take advantage of a good deal), and sometimes it’s pathological.

Yes, the kids start to complain when the things they really want are gone and they are left with what we’ve got.  But I remind them of a woman I heard of whose family ate spaghetti for every single meal for weeks at a time, because it was the most filling thing her mom could afford.  I remind them that we throw away more edible food in a week than people in some parts of the world see in a year.  I tell them that it is a good lesson in humility and gratitude and learning to control your desires so that your desires don’t start to control you.  (OK, I don’t tell them that, but that’s what I think about when they start complaining.)

I also think that I’ve learned lessons as well.  I’ve learned to plan better, and I’ve learned to make do with what we have.  For instance, the week these pictures were taken we ran out of some of the kids favorite bedtime snacks, so I fired up the oven and used mixes to make pumpkin muffins one night and brownies another.

I’m not going to say that I never make an extra trip to the store.  Some weeks I’m scattered brain and forget half the things written on my list, or a gallon of milk goes sour unexpectedly.  But now I stop and think about if I really need to make an extra trip to the store or if we can try to do without for a few more days when “there’s nothing to eat”.

Balance and Discipline (1): Daily Schedule

January 25, 2015

The first step of reaching my goal of finding a better balance between work, prayer, self-care, and recreation in 2015 and developing the discipline to keep it balanced is to set-up a realistic daily schedule.  My days need a mix of steady routine and flexibility.  (Disclaimer #1: this felt basically impossible in the days when I had a child under the age of 2 in the house.)

In the past I’ve used Excel spreadsheets to set up 30-minute by 30-minute (a la A Mother’s Rule of Life) schedule charts for the kids and myself.  This time I wanted something a little less stringent and paper-consuming, something that I could print out on a 4 x 6 index card.  This is what I developed.

Morning Prep
Coffee & Morning Prayer
Dressed for the Day
Schoolwork (8:30)
Lunch (11:30)
Chores (12:30)
Cassidy Nap (1:30)
Coffee & Afternoon Prayer
Dinner (2:30)
Recreation (3:30)
Chores (4:30)
Evening Prayer (5:30)
Bedtime Snacks (8:00)
Bedtime Prep (8:30)
Bedtime Routines (9:00)

Disclaimer #2:  I didn’t totally reinvent the wheel when setting up this daily schedule.  Some of it is based on rhythms that seemed to kind of naturally develop in our day.  For instance, if we aren’t done with schoolwork by 11:30 bad things happen.  It’s like feeding mogwai after midnight (and I’m just as bad as the kids).  So, by 11:30 we are just ready for school to be DONE.  And I am also usually pretty hungry for lunch and in need of an hour of recreation.

If the toddler gets up at around 8:00 in the morning, then she is normally ready for her nap at around 1:30.  And I’m usually ready for my second cup of coffee then, too.

My oldest is starving when she gets home from school, and the kids often have sports practice or activities at what would be considered a normal dinner time.  I realized last year that it made more sense to move dinner earlier to kill two birds with one stone.  I also found that it made our evenings more peaceful in general.  So, the 2:30 designation for Dinner signals to start cooking.

Bedtime snacks at 8:00 followed by routines at 9:00 has been in place for months, especially on school nights.  Putting five kids to bed at night is often an hour and half process.

Disclaimer #3:  My main focus for this schedule is weekdays.  On weekends and days off of school, I am hoping to keep some of the basic pegs in place with schoolwork being taken over by extra chores (0r recreation).

Disclaimer #4:  Life happens.  So while the times are listed there to try to keep the day on track, the order of things is more important than the exact hour or minute.

Disclaimer #5:  In the past I would have tried to keep to this strict schedule starting on day one, and after about three days I would have totally burnt myself out.  But this is less about keeping a schedule than trying to establish new habits, which must be developed over time.  The human psyche can only handle so much change.  For the past month, I’ve just been trying to cement the first four hours of the day, and I’m slowly working on the early afternoon.  I would like to have the habits of this new schedule fully in place by this August.

Over the next few posts I’ll be fleshing out some of the aspects and expectations for finding balance and discipline within my routine.

How Punching a Heretic Saved Christmas

January 7, 2015

One of my girls has been really struggling since the divorce.  The whole situation has been fraught with good things and bad things.  My feelings have been all over the place about it at times, and I understand way more about the situation than my kids do.  It’s no wonder that my kids would be experiencing and emotional roller coaster, too.

One of them, though, has a tendency to stuff her bad feelings way down deep and try to pretend that they don’t exist.  Then she explodes on the rest of us over trivial things.  Sometimes it’s a constant stream of criticism and verbal abuse.  Sometimes it is hitting and kicking and throwing things at people.  She is old enough to know better, but she just can’t seem to stop.  And trying to get her talk about what is really bothering her is futile.

As Christmas approached, she started to express concerns that she might be on the naughty list.  What if she woke up to a stocking full of coal while her sisters delighted in their gifts from Santa?

I told her that I think Santa understands that she has had a rough year.  Santa knows that her dad and I split up and then he remarried someone else within a very short period of time.  That’s a lot for a little kid to have to deal with.  Plus, she seems to be at a transitional age which can make things emotionally and mentally topsy turvy, too.

Then she started asking me questions about Santa mythology (she still believes).  I reminded her that Santa started out as the bishop Nicholas.  He started out by secretly dropping money for the poor down their chimneys.  I told her how one time Nicholas got so mad at a guy who was telling lies about God that he punched the guy in the face.  I explained that Nicholas had to apologize and go to confession for what he did.

Her face lit up, and she said, “He’s like me.  I hit people when I get angry, too.”  I reminded her that Nicholas knew it was wrong, though, just like she does.  But I think it helped to reassure her that Santa Claus would understand that she has had a rough year and made some mistakes.

Then, because I had been unable to take her to confession due to all of the sickness in the family, we made a plan for her to go to our prayer corner, tell God her sins, and say the Act of Contrition.  It’s not as good as going to actual confession, but it was the next best thing at the time.

My Word

December 28, 2014

A few years ago this trend started of mommy bloggers picking a theme word for the coming year.  I’ve always kind of been skeptical of the whole thing while slightly longing to embrace it.  I think I may have tried to pick words in the past, but I can’t remember clearly.  I want to say “Joy” was the word I was looking for in 2013 or 2014.

The problem was that my longing for “Joy” was really a “fake it ’til you make it” kind of goal.  I had been led to believe that the reason I was unhappy all of the time was because I was incapable of being happy, that I was unhappy because I had unrealistic expectations for life.  And sometimes in the Christian world there’s this idea out there that a lack of joy is the result of a lack of faith in the midst of adversity.  I got the idea that if I just tried to act joyful then I would learn to accent the positive and ignore/accept the negatives in my life instead of letting them depress me.

In other words, it just became another way for me to stuff my real thoughts and feelings deep inside so that I could try to be what other people wanted me to be to make them happy.

Anyway, for the past few weeks I have just felt lazy.  The best part about being a homeschooling stay-at-home mom is that you have almost total control over the rhythm of your day.  If the baby was up all night sick and you’re subsequently exhausted, you can lighten the schoolwork or completely cancel the next school day and take an extra long nap, and you don’t have to justify it to an employer or a regular school.

The worst part about being a homeschooling stay-at-home mom is that you have almost total control over the rhythm of your day.  Which means that you don’t have outside schedules of the school or a job to make you get up at the same time every day or hold you accountable if you spend three hours a day catching up on previous seasons of Castle while the house falls apart around you.  The entire structure of your life depends entirely on you’re own consistency and fortitude.

I’ve been feeling this need to set up a real schedule.  Our lives have calmed down since the divorce.  Cassidy, at almost 2 1/2, is a lot more self-entertaining.  There aren’t as many curve balls to derail us as there used to be.  I have this tendency, though, to go from one end of the spectrum to the other.  I’m either running around working my ass off, or I’m sitting on my ass staring at a screen all of the time.    I need a schedule with realistic expectations for self-care, prayer, work, and recreation.

In a word, what I need is DISCIPLINE.

behavior and order maintained by training and control

-[word origin] directly from Latin disciplina “instruction given, teaching, learning, knowledge,” also “object of instruction, knowledge, science, military discipline,” from discipulus

-[related to the word] disciple:any follower of Christ.  to teach; train.

I’ve come to realize, though, that discipline is not just something I need.  It’s not even just something my children need from me and for me to have, even though they do.

I’ve come to realize that God is asking me to learn discipline for Him.

Now that I’m no longer completely crippled by the weight of a terrible marriage, I’ve been jogging around in anticipation for God to sign me up for a marathon.  I’ve been chomping at the bit to follow God’s will and be an amazing instrument in God’s hands.  I’ve been waiting for God to give some big assignment that would inspire me and strengthen me and fulfill me. I’ve been the Little Engine that Discerned, puffing up the mountain trying to find and follow God’s tracks.  Yet, I’ve felt like I wasn’t really getting any closer to a destination.

I went to Holy Hour at my parish.  I was about five minutes early and knelt down to pray.  And I started thinking about how I’ve been in survival mode for so many years, just trying to make it through one 24-hour period at a time.  I started thinking about how I longed to thrive now.  And then it just kind of hit me.

The reason that I’ve been spinning my wheels the past few months is because while I’m no longer just trying to survive each day I am not yet physically, mentally, or emotionally ready to thrive.  God hasn’t given me some big assignment because right now He needs me to heal.  Every day might not be as hard as it used to be, but I still have the same bad habits that I had in survival mode.  I need to unlearn those and relearn new and better ones.

I need to find that discipline between self-care, work, prayer, and recreation.  Otherwise any grand assignment that God would give me is doomed to failure.

So, right now I’m thinking about the simplest way to balance those four things in my day in the midst of raising five children and homeschooling two of them.  I’m trying to think about those obstacles that are likely to throw off my game and those tipping points, the little actions that can have big positive ramifications.

I’m scared that I’m going to fall back into the same old bad habits, that the trial and error will wear me down until I give up.  So, please pray for me.

For 2015 I’m going to try to focus on DISCIPLINE in all of its many facets.




Baby Birds

July 2, 2014

The hardest part of parenting is when you have two choices and you have absolutely no idea which way to go.  Do you push your little bird out of the nest a bit so that she can spread their wings and gain some confidence, or do keep her under your wing a while longer?

I decided a few months ago to transfer my second daughter, age 8, from the homeschool to our parish school for third grade.  Homeschooling had been extremely rough this past year with a lot of arguing.  Plus, since she was loathe to participate in organized activities, I felt that she could really use more social opportunities.  She seemed to lack confidence in herself, and I thought a successful venture into school would give her a boost.

Also, I really need more time to focus on her next younger sister.  My third daughter has Sensory Processing Disorder that mainly manifests with her eating habits.  However, I have also noticed some motor skill issues which I think are related to the SPD.  She’s extremely intelligent, but she struggles with certain life skills.  I need to start doing some therapy work, in addition to first grade homeschool work, to try to bridge the gap with her eating and motor skills.

On top of that, with the divorce, I need to start focusing on gaining some marketable skills to get a job in the next three to five years.  I’m looking at taking the ParaPro assessment to get licensed as a teacher aid.  I’m also looking at online Masters programs.  This means I need time to study.

However, DD#2 was getting extremely upset about the idea of going to school.  She got along fine during her two shadow days at the school in May, but she was miserable on the inside the whole time.  We found notes saying that she wished she was dead, and she said it was less about the divorce and more about going to school.  I began to wonder if I was doing the right thing.

After discussing it with her counselor, we all agreed that she will not be going to regular school after all.  She will be homeschooled for at least one more year.  However, this year I will be switching to a formal program.  Both my 3rd grader and 1st grader will be registered with Kolbe Academy Homeschool.  I’ll have to tweak a few things, but for the most part I will be using their book list and course plans.

It will definitely be more work and more structure than I would normally use at these grade levels, but I just don’t have the time or energy to put into planning my own curriculum this year.  I think a more formal program will better prepare them for the eventuality of school, which wasn’t really a concern of mine previously.  Of course it brings up questions like:  do you use the spelling program that you think will teach them more or the spelling program that will get them used to how they teach spelling in schools?


Closing a door in order to turn a corner…

April 6, 2014

I have turned a corner with my depression.  My Zoloft has kicked in, and I am sure it is at least partly responsible for the fact that I am sleeping better and have more energy.  But anti-depressants do not usually completely change one’s perspective.  Most people describe them as something that just gives you a little extra room to breathe while you cope with the things that are causing the depression.

However, there was a big issue at the root of my depression, and I couldn’t fully comprehend it until I closed the door on it.  And this is what has allowed me to turn the corner as much as the Zoloft.

I have probably been living with at least mild depression for about five years.  The intentional conception of my fourth child, now three-years-old, was a desperate attempt to find some sort of joy and hope in an otherwise joyless existence.  But about three or fourth months ago, I went off the deep end.  That’s where I still was when I wrote my last blog post, and at that point I had been on Zoloft for a few weeks already.

What was it that sent me over the edge into deep depression?  It was the realization that my husband and I could never and would never have a real sacramental marriage.  There were major issues in our relationship before we even got married, and things just got progressively worse over the years.  After two years of marital counseling and a team of professionals working with us individually and together, things were only getting mildly better in very superficial ways.  Then issues in the marriage started to really go off the rails again.

I was not eating because I kept a stomach ache all of the time.  For years I had stayed in a horrible situation because I knew how important it is for kids to live with their father, but then I began to be concerned that the positives of living with a father were being out-weighed by the poisonous environment that our dysfunctional marriage made.  I began to realize that a lot of the ways the kids were acting out was their way of processing the anger and tension between their father and me.

I spent my time trying to discern what the best thing would be to do for my kids, for my self, and in God’s eyes.  This last one really ate me up.  As a Catholic, I believe that marriage is until death do us part.  I certainly had my doubts about whether our marriage had ever met the standards for a sacramental marriage in God’s eyes, but I really wanted to make sure that I was not doing anything contrary to God’s will.  A consultation with a priest while on a retreat gave me clarity on that issue.

So, about two weeks ago I asked my husband to move out, and I filed for divorce.

The first few days I would wake up with a mild panic attack, but as I started to put things in order, I felt more at peace and knew that I had done the right thing.  The relief that the door was finally closing was palpable.  I began to really hope again for the first time in many years.  Not that I thought or think that everything is going to be easy or some sort of joy ride from now on, but I felt like a ten ton weight had finally been lifted off my shoulders.

I also began to realize that a big part of my depression was that I had been mourning my marriage the past few months.  The other part was because I hadn’t not know what to do going forward.  I did not know if I should try to continue to stick it out “for the kids” even though I knew it would never get better.  But by staying, I felt like I was physically and mentally killing myself.  But then my hand was kind of forced by circumstances beyond my control, and since I’ve walked away, I haven’t looked back or shed a tear once.

The next few months are not going to be easy.  I have a lot of hard decisions to make, and I can see sacrifices that my kids and I will have to make.  I truly believe, though, that it will all work out.  I have put my trust in God to guide me along this path, and He has already given me a wonderful support system of friends and family.  And He has given me strength and energy and hope.

I had to close a door in order to turn a corner.