Being A WOTHM With Older Kids

Today is the first day of my long vacation. The kids still had school so I got up to help. Sarah’s car currently is un-drivable as it needs a leaky water pump fixed, so I made sure I could drive her to school. When I got home, the other kids were in the midst of getting ready and I realized that I was — how do I say this? — I was in the way.

I’m not around when the kids get going off to school every morning. I don’t cook them breakfast and I don’t make their lunches. I don’t get them dressed or brush their teeth for them. Something happened over the last year or so and all five kids got self-sufficient on me. And now we’re at a point where I don’t know where to be if I happen to be home in the mornings.

Oh sure, it was good that I was home because Sarah hadn’t had time to make her lunch last night before bed (hey, we were busy watching our recording of “This is Us”!) Therefore, I did make her lunch for her before driving her to school. But when I got home, I asked Helen what she wanted for breakfast only to learn she had eaten while I drove Sarah to school. And she said, “Since we braided my hair last night and I made my lunch already last night, and had my bag packed last night, and then I’ve already brushed my teeth, I really don’t have anything to do.”

But then she did something amazing. She made sure Dani had made her lunch last night (it was in the refrigerator) then went upstairs and asked Dani what she wanted for breakfast and came down and got Dani’s breakfast on the table for her — complete with her cup of water to take her medicine she takes with breakfast. Whoa.

I did fix Vincent his breakfast, but when it was time to get lunches together, Craig did that because he “knows how to make Vincent’s lunch.” Both lunches were thrown together (Dominic made his own) in a matter of minutes. I also helped Vincent get dressed because he can be rather pokey and the boys are signed up for Fit Team on Wednesdays, so we needed to get out the door earlier than the days they take the bus.

When I walked back in from dropping the boys off, the girls were heading to the bus stop. And boom…the house was empty of children, so I went and took a walk.

My thoughts on this morning are twofold.

One, I’m glad I got to see how mornings go when I am already at work because I will no longer concern myself with whether they get all their stuff done and out the door to school on time. They seem to have taken our cues on how to prepare and how to care for each other. I think one of the things many work-outside-the-home-moms (WOTHMs) worry about is whether we’ve dropped the ball in preparing our kids for life by not being available to them at every critical time to ensure they succeed. This experience helps me to continue the realization that this preparation for our kids is happening — perhaps EVEN BETTER than it would have been otherwise — even though both of their parents work full-time jobs outside the home (and even on opposite schedules). Homework gets done in the afternoons/evenings, we’re still doing other activities (swim lessons, soccer, cub scouts, after-school activities for middle schoolers, volleyball, etc)

Secondly, wow…my children are growing up and I cannot put into words how much love I felt for all of them as I saw them caring for each other (i.e., Helen preparing breakfast for Dani without even being asked to do so.)

Another little side note I will mention is that I noticed that my kids do not eat breakfast together, but each of them, individually yet quietly, took time to say a blessing before eating without being directed to do so.

I know I haven’t written much lately in the way of support for work-outside-the-home motherhood. Most of that is because over time, the guilt has subsided and the questions have been answered. All those questions I had about whether it was damaging my kids to be somewhere other than their parents’ care for non-school time and whether they would be emotionally ready for life without having a parent attend all their class parties and stuff like that — those questions are not questions anymore.

Being a WOTHM requires different things from everyone in the family. It requires some sacrifice. Yes, even sacrifice from the kids. They sacrifice that extra 100% attention from a parent before and after school. But they gain so much, too. They learn early and often to be prepared on their own. They also learn how to help each other and not rely on mom or dad to help out the sibling. They learn how to keep going and get things done without having a parent picking up behind them and pushing them out the door.

This is not to say that kids of families with a stay-at-home parent don’t also learn these things. Of course they do. They just have different ways of presenting the information and moving forward.

What I’d really like to say to my 35-year-old self who was just coming to the realization that stay-at-home parenthood was never going to be the way for this family is:

“It’s all okay. You’re doing it right for your family and it’s been right all along.”

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Being the Mom of the kid on the bench

I am a fairly coordinated person and I was a competitive athlete when I was in high school. I made all the teams I went out for and started all the games my junior and senior years for both volleyball and basketball. I would have been really irked to have not started (remember, humility is not my strong suit). I rarely sat the bench. I mean, yeah, I wasn’t the best passer, so I played only the front row in volleyball. But in basketball, I came out when I was tired and told the coach when I was ready to go back in. So I played…unless I was screwing up, but I often played as much as I wanted. And I worked hard, so there wasn’t any question of earning the time.

Now I am the mom of the kid on the bench. It’s true, my kid gets her playing time for Junior Varsity and sits bench for Varsity. But that was not my experience, so I’m learning a whole new side to high school sports. It’s enlightening and thrilling honestly. I love to watch her play, no matter the level. And her experience helps her to lead the younger players on JV, so this is not a knock on my daughter at all. I am pretty sure she wishes she played Varsity only and that she were on the court most of the time, but she also sees the value in the extra court time she gets by playing JV.

I mean, what if she wasn’t getting that time on JV? I’ve thought a lot about that this season. I’m grateful she gets the time on the court for JV and am pleased she is at a school that provides that, because let’s be honest, it would stink to put in the work that she does and rarely get to play in a match.

This is about being the mom of that kid on the end of the bench.

I am the mother of the hard working kid on the bench.

I am the mother of the kid who made every summer workout, except one where she had to go to the doctor to get the required physical done.

I am the mother of the kid who did extra running in the summer: the kid who busted her butt and made sure she met the coach’s soft requirement that they run the mile under 8 minutes (I think she was around 7:39 or something?) and continue on the pacer past 8 minutes (I think she got to 8:30-ish)?

I am the mom of the girl who goes hoarse to make sure she does her share (and then some) of the talking required to keep communication going on the floor.

And I think I feel the same level of pride in my player as I would if she were playing every rotation on Varsity. I see how she conducts herself on the bench: focused on the game, ready should her number be called. She isn’t moping or disengaged like some teens might be in her situation. She cheers for her teammates.

As a matter of fact, this is really cute…last year on JV, when the team scored a point, often Sarah could be seen jumping up from her position on the court with arms extended in victory, excited for the success. She still does this currently when she is on the court and her team scores. Over and over, each and every time a point was scored, it seemed she jumped so high in the air with excitement. It was adorable and endeared her to many of the parents in the stands. We called it “The Sarah” and even this year, some of the new JV parents have noticed how high she jumps when a point has been scored and mentioned it. The really cute thing is…she also does it from the Varsity bench this year. She is so truly happy for her teammates success, that she shows her exhilaration in a high jump from her seat on the bench, arms extended in victory.

When I started having kids, I assumed they would all have my athletic ability and competitive spirit and desire to play sports. Of course, five kids later and some of these children that have grown enough to show me that they–at least–did not get my coordination and athletic desire/ability, I know that was a silly assumption. But hey, Mom’s got dreams, right? I thought that maybe Sarah would get tall like her aunts on Craig’s side and maybe get to be 5’8″ or so. Yeah, that didn’t happen.

But I started teaching Sarah fundamentals of volleyball in the 3rd grade. She worked hard and she is a passable defensive volleyball player. Heck, she has grown to be rather smart. This year playing on JV has helped her develop the ability to put the ball where the other team isn’t, even if it is a lob over the net. She’s learned that placement is key, that brains can, at times, trump brawn in the game of volleyball.

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Anyway, when Sarah was young, I dreamed of being proud of her because she was a fabulous hitter, and then because she was a fabulous defensive specialist (when it was apparent that the height thing wasn’t going to work out).

But now, as the mother of the kid on the bench, I am proud of her because her work ethic is second to no one’s. I am proud of her because her conduct on and off the court is unquestionably impeccable.

I am proud of her because she is coachable and wants to be better, even if being better doesn’t necessarily mean she gets to play all the time. I am proud of her because she understands that even those who aren’t the stars have a place on the team and that their place can, at times, prove to be just as important as those with the starring roles.

I am proud of her because she is growing into a stunning and stellar young woman with leadership and communication skills that will carry her far.

And honestly, I am proud of her because she doesn’t complain or gripe about things outside of her control. She focuses on that which she can control (the fact that she attends practices and workouts and works her butt off, for example). When she does whine or vent about anything, it’s usually to me and she and I work through it and she realizes that it’s not worth being upset over when she can’t control other people’s words or actions.

She’s learning a lot about life in volleyball. For example, she’s learning that there will always be those who absolve themselves of all responsibility, regardless of how obvious it is they had a hand in something. And she’s learning that there will always be those who blame everyone else, no matter what. And she’s also learning that there will be those who take responsibility for their actions and there will be others who rely on their parents to fight their battles for them. It’s given us lots of fodder for discussion about similarities between what she experiences now and what her dad and I experience in the workforce and what she may experience in college with classes and other people in life.

As the “has been” mom who had her opportunity to play extensively and avoid the bench relegated to watching others; as the mom of the kid who rides the end of the bench praying for a chance to play…I can say I have learned a lot watching her.

I’m humbled by her approach and her willingness to accept her role. I’m pleased with her performance when she is asked to play.

I’m honored to be the mom of the kid on the bench.

 

 

Happy 14th Birthday, Dani!

My second-born child turns 14 today (August 31).

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Mom and Dani on the eve of her birthday

Watching Dani grow up has helped me (somewhat) understand my sister, more. Β I always resented her desire to do the opposite (usually) of anything I did in order to distinguish herself. But Dani is always looking for a way to do the same. Sarah and Dani are such different people, but both equally awesome in their unique ways. The last few years, an undercurrent in my thoughts is how easy it could be to overlook Dani. She’s the middle of three girls. She’s not my “middle” child, as Helen fits that description in a literal sense. But being in between Sarah (my natural leader, goal-setting, Type-A personality) and Helen (my anxiety-prone-but-much-better-than-she-used-to-be child) can be a tough order for a kid who really does like some attention.

Dani has always had a stronger attraction to “the arts” be it something like drawing, painting or writing or even performing arts like choir and the musical and playing an instrument (guitar). Due to that leaning, her activities revolve more around the academic school year and now that she’s in public school, transportation and parental commitment is lower than for things like volleyball or some other sport. With that, it is less likely to see Dani’s development in her gifts grow from day to day. I simply must wait for the next performance to witness it.

During the summer, Dani chose to chop off her hair and find her style. She did a fabulous job of picking a “look” that fit her face and her personality and was able to convey what she wanted to the woman who’s been cutting/styling her hair since 4th grade. Leading up to this transformation, I learned a lot about my second daughter.

 

I learned that Dani is fearless and independent. She is self-assured and confident. She seems to have grasped early on that it really is “none of her business what other people think of her” and so she doesn’t entertain that sort of worry like most girls her age. I learned that she has the most beautiful frame in her face for a short hairstyle and she doesn’t ascribe to the notion that femininity is tied to the length of her hair.

Watching Dani adjust to life in 8th grade has also taught me quite a bit about her. She DOES care about school and wants to be organized, though it’s a struggle. She has always wanted to please teachers and parents, but I see her staying on top of her work now to please herself. She sets some goals — and they are different from the types of goals Sarah sets — and she makes a plan. She LOVES her music and drama. She joined the After School Activity of Competitive Drama and learned that they would be “trying out” a Debate team this year and she is interested in that, too!

On a more personal level, Dani understands true friendship on a level most kids her age do not. I think of an example recently where Sarah discovered an event to which Dani was not invited and Sarah (Mama-Bear she is) thought it was “rude” (Sarah’s words) that she wasn’t. My first statement to Sarah was, “You know, Dani never thinks anything of that stuff until you say something.” (And I was right about that, again in this instance.) But I did discuss it with Dani and she said, “I’m okay with it. I mean, I like one-on-one outings with people better — I don’t have to share their attention, and I feel like it’s more enjoyable.” She didn’t feel left out (as Sarah did when these sorts of things happened at this age) and she didn’t feel hurt. She understood that she doesn’t get invited to everything and she chose to focus on the fact that she often has really fun outings with friends because she usually arranges small gatherings.

 

Helping to plan Sarah’s surprise party this summer also showed me something about Dani: She is not afraid to make her desires known. As we walked through Costco and various other places the afternoon of the party, getting things bought/paid for and organized, she said, “You know, Mom, I know it won’t be this year or anything…maybe not for a few years, but I would really enjoy a party like this for my birthday.” Not only did that tell me that she could appreciate what Sarah was about to experience, but she didn’t mind telling me what she wanted. So many women today STILL have trouble vocalizing their wants, needs, desires and beliefs and here is my now-14-year-old daughter unabashedly and unapologetically telling me something she would like her family to do for her “at some point.”

Lately, I have seen that Dani likes to hang with her brothers and likes to show affection for them by picking them up, baking for them, playing games with them. Like most new teens, for awhile there, she spent quite a bit of time in solitude, but I have really seen her making an effort the last 8 months or so with her siblings. She and Helen have a close relationship that I remember witnessing in my own two younger sisters growing up.

Through all of these ways I have watched Dani grow, it’s clear she is finding her place in the world and in our family. She is growing into a lovely young lady and I can’t wait to see all the amazing things she will do as she continues to mature.

So, Happy Birthday, Dani-squirrel! I know you will work to make your dreams come true and I look forward to seeing you shine.

 

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Summer 2017

Observations

Today was the first day of the 2017-18 school year for all five kids. The past couple of weeks have been full of Schedule pick-up nights, Meet the Teacher Nights and Back-to-School nights. Over the course of these days and weeks leading up to school, I have noticed so much about each of my kids and wanted to share. Before going into details, I simply want to say that it constantly amazes me the difference in each of my children!

Sarah is beginning her Junior year of high school. This is crazy to me! She received some good news over the summer in that she earned a high enough score on the AP Psychology exam to receive college credit at universities that accept AP grades for credit. She received some not-as-good news that she needs to prep a little before trying to take the ACT again. She is playing a little varsity volleyball and some JV, too. And she has a full slate of classes. My observation of Sarah is this: She has matured into a competent, confident, beautiful, faithful and self-assured young woman. I couldn’t be more proud of her. She’s responsible for herself in many ways — she gets herself up in the mornings and takes herself where she is supposed to be, she has paid for half of her car and she plans to pay the ongoing cost of her insurance. And she says she will do these things as if she has always known they were expected and she figures that they are expected of everyone. I can’t wait to continue to see how her future unfolds — it’s most definitely a bright one.

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Dani is beginning 8th grade. Dani has always been pretty sure about what she wants, but hasn’t always been able to vocalize it. That all changed last year. Dani learned how to stand up for herself and to ensure she was heard. For so many years Dani would remain quiet when she hadn’t been heard and just went along with it figuring there was no way anyone would hear her anyway. I think she was the opportunity last Β year, to speak up because there was no underlying assumption about what she would or wouldn’t do. Therefore, she found her voice — in more ways than one. What I see with Dani is a young lady who will listen and review the options and then make a decision about how she will spend her time and talent and resources in ways that she will enjoy. For example, she participated in a volleyball camp with Helen this summer. She thought that she might like to try volleyball this fall. But she discovered that she didn’t enjoy volleyball to the extent she needed in order to spend the time to get better at it. She also thought she would try out for Cheerleading. But she learned the requirements and decided that she wouldn’t enjoy that. Dani’s passion lies in theater and choir — performing arts. And she also enjoys reading and writing. And so, she has chosen to direct her efforts in that direction this year and I love seeing the excitement she has for it all!

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Helen is beginning 6th grade. When I took Helen shopping for clothes this year, it was a far different experience from last year. She is very much in that “in between” stage where she’s too big for a lot of the “Girls” clothes, but she’s not mature enough for much of what can be found in the “Juniors” section. Thankfully, she found a few things in both camps that she liked. A week before school started she was set on wearing a dress on the first day of school, but her confidence in that wavered as the days drew closer. Now, you and I (and every other kid past the 6th grade) knows that it doesn’t matter what you wear on the first day, but we can all remember worrying about it before the first day came and went. As late as last night, Helen was still undecided and was worried. I told her that no matter what she wore, she’d be comfortable because that is how she picks out her clothes — if it’s not comfy, she won’t buy it. She finally settled on athletic shorts and a t-shirt. This morning, the text came, “Mommy…what if I am the only person wearing shorts today?” To which I replied with a text: “Well, then everyone else will be hot later and you will be comfortable.” She just sent back an “I love you” text and that was all I heard. And I saw in the pictures her dad took that she had stuck with the athletic shorts and t-shirt idea. This evening as I reviewed her day with her, not one time did she mention what she or anyone else wore to school. πŸ™‚

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Dominic is a friendly child and loves school. He is entering the 3rd grade. He was very excited that one other boy was in his class again this year! This boy and Dominic spent a lot of time writing a “series” based on minecraft and legos last year. Dominic looks forward to resuming this important work. His teacher asked him about himself at Meet the Teacher night and I heard my little boy sound oh-so-grown up as he explained that he loves to read and draw and play minecraft. His assignment for today was to fill a brown paper bag with items that helped tell “his story” or “all about Dominic” and here are the things he put in there: Pencil (because he loves to write), a Marker (because he loves to illustrate what he writes, an Imaginator/Skylander thing (because he has a great imagination), a Lego (because he loves to creat things), and an Angry Birds Telepod (because, as he said, “they’ve been a part of my life since I was small”) Dominic is a fantastic kid. I think he’s going to be the kind of person that everyone loves to talk to at a party or meeting.

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Vincent is as low-key as any of my kids come. He enjoys activities and school, but he doesn’t show it the way most kids his age do. For example, he was taking swim lessons and after the first couple lessons, the instructor told me that I needed to bring Vincent to the pool outside of swim lessons so he could become more familiar with the water and lose his fear. Now, this was a surprise to me because Vincent had never been afraid of the water from what I could tell. Nevertheless, our family went swimming that weekend and he was bobbing up and down, jumping in with no one to catch and everything. I finally pointed out to him that his swim instructor was life guarding at the time and was watching all his antics in the pool! I said, “Well, now she KNOWS you aren’t afraid to put your face in the water, so you better do it during swim lessons!” No further problems with swim lessons. πŸ™‚

The other night at Meet the Teacher night, he wouldn’t smile or laugh or anything in his classroom. The teacher asked him if he liked to be called anything other than Vincent and he said — with a completely straight face — “No. Just Vincent.” The teacher asked him if he was excited to start school and he said — again with a completely straight face — “Yes.” and then a little boy walked by and he says with monotone inflection and a straight face, “Hi Slade.” I did manage to convince him to smile for his school picture (which his super-organized school manages to have taken at Meet the Teacher night every year) but other than that, Vincent really just kind of keeps a low profile, does what he should do, and coasts through life.

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These kids are everything to me and I love watching them all grow up and show me and the world who they are. They are awesome little people growing into really cool bigger people and I’m so proud and excited and blessed that they are mine.

It’s Not “The End.”

I remember it almost as though it were yesterday. It was six years ago, during a hot July. I was recovering from delivering Vincent and messing around online. I logged onto the Catholic school website to see if the kids’ classes had been loaded and realized they had. I clicked on each one, starting with Sarah’s. I selected 5th grade and started scrolling through the familiar names…until I found a female name that was unfamiliar. What?!? a new girl? Then I clicked on 2nd grade and started scrolling through those mostly familiar names (she had TONS of girls in her class), and what is this?? another unfamiliar female name with the same last name. Interesting.

I ended up clicking on all of them trying to see if this was another family that had just the two girls, or if there were more kids. Ultimately I noticed they had a son two grades ahead of Sarah/their daughter and it looked like a preschooler, though I couldn’t tell the age.

At the time, I coached Sarah’s grade in volleyball, so I went about trying to find out a way to reach the new family to introduce myself and let them know about volleyball and that we’d love to have their 5th grader join the team. I composed an e-mail as carefully as possible and sent it off. I was rather excited to welcome a new family to the school and to see if there were any way we had more in common than two girls who would be in the same classes that coming school year.

Little did I know then, that this family would become cherished friends to ours. It turns out that they are kind of like what I’ve termed our “twin family.” You see, outside of their oldest child, a son who is two years older than Sarah and their daughter, our children match up to each other quite well. After their oldest, they have three daughters in succession and then two sons in succession and each of their children’s birthdays are within months of each of our children’s birthdays.

From the outside looking in, the thing that Jackie and I seem to have the most in common is our family planning. While that is the most apparent, I felt drawn to build a close friendship with Jackie because at the time, I was ecstatic to welcome a large family to our Catholic school. Most of the larger families at our parish had children that were older than ours and we kind of missed the boat on getting included in social events due to the weird phenomena that seems to occur with school relationships: you make the most friends with the families in your oldest child’s grade. Maybe I’m weird, but it does seem to work that way for some other families I have known. Having another mom to work through the challenges of raising a large family in this area seemed like a dream come true. The fact that we’d be working through the same sorts of issues in the same parish environment was even better. I was eager to learn how Jackie felt about our parish, how we did things, how her family did things — all of it.

Over the years, we have shared with each other opinions and support on so many things: middle school girl drama, grade school mean-kid drama, childcare challenges, daycare provider, challenges, education, Church teaching, aging parents, miscarried babies, cheerleading for our girls, public high school and so much more. I have prayed many prayers of thanksgiving over the past six years that I have her in my life and that our children have each other in their lives.

Our friendship became one that I had always desired — one where I never worried about the state of my house when she stopped by. We grew to have the kind of friendship where she called on her way past the house to ask if I had some clothes for one of her kids to borrow as the clothes being worn were wet and they wouldn’t make it home for a bit. We grew to have the kind of friendship where we were never embarrassed that we’d said we would get together for Margaritas, but it took 3 years to make it happen. We grew to have the kind of friendship where we could rely on each other for all sorts of things, but even if we had to say no (this time! but please ask again!) there was complete understanding that life with lots of kids our kids’ ages was busy and chaotic. We shared so much of that and I am forever grateful that God placed them in our lives. It was absolutely the most obvious sign of Divine Intervention that we met six years ago, in my opinion: God knew Jackie and I would need each other. At least I like to think she needed me like I needed her. πŸ™‚ And boy did I need her — right at that time and all through these years.

And even though I’ve needed her, that was never what it was all about, of course. I love talking with her and sharing our families together. I like to think that she thinks our parallel paths is pretty cool, too.

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They are moving away due to a great opportunity for her husband. It’s not far — just three hours (I checked on our way to Texas this summer πŸ™‚ ) — but of course, far enough that daily life involvement will no longer be possible. When my oldest was told the news by her oldest daughter, she came to tell me. I was strong for her, I hugged her and I told her, “These days, that doesn’t mean ‘the end’ like it did when I was a kid. You all have your phones and many other ways to keep in touch easily. You have one of those friendships that last, even if she isn’t here every single day.” After I sent Sarah on to bed, I walked downstairs and asked Craig if Sarah had told him the news and he nodded yes.

And then…the tears came. I cried while he hugged me and told me that it would be all right. I told him, “I’ve never had a best friend to move away from me before. I’m so sad!”

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The next day, Jackie called me and we talked. She didn’t have to, of course, but she apologized for the fact that I heard it through the kids. We’ve spent the past few months trying to appease our kids’ requests for “one more thing” to do with each other. The younger three came to our house three nights in a row one week while the older family members help get the house ready for sale, and just played their hearts out with my kids. We had a nice thrown-together joint Graduation and First Communion party when Dominic and their son received First Holy Communion in May. Our oldest daughters have gone to movies and breakfast and all sorts of things to hang out. And the middle daughters have taken trips to WOF or just hang out at one or the other’s houses.

Tonight is my turn. Margaritas with Jackie and with another friend of ours, whose daughter is the third in their “three amigos” friendship.

I am going to miss Jackie and her family so much. But I know with all my heart this is not “the end.” It’s just the beginning of a new phase for us all.

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Weight Watchers Wednesday with Updates? Sure.

I find it interesting that I end up right back where I start sometimes. See, I’ve been paying the Weight Watchers Monthly Pass fee for almost a year straight now. But I haven’t been faithful about attending the meetings. THIS time, about 8-12 weeks ago, I completely shut it all down: I stopped attending meetings, I stopped going to Crossfit, I stopped getting up early and I stopped tracking my food and activity. Not a good plan, obviously.

A couple of weeks ago, I headed back to the at-work WW meeting. I was sad to have to face the music of the scale, but it was also brought a sense of freedom to simply look at it, say, “Okay, let’s figure this out again” and get back on the wagon. I didn’t track that first week back and I only did my running. Then last week I weighed in and had gained 0.2 pounds. I was happy it was only 0.2 honestly.

About the middle of June, I was gifted a hand-me-down Fitbit Charger HR. When I looked into buying a Fitbit, this was the model I wanted because it tracked sleep and also heart-rate while working out. I didn’t know back then all the reasons I would love it. However, in the last couple of months and specifically this past week, I do know many reasons I love it.

First of all, the Fitbit Charge HR tracks all my steps and on the app, I can track my weight view my sleep habits and track my water intake (that part is so easy) AND if I do something that’s not necessarily just walking from my desk to my printer all day and I do it for a period of time, it will track that all by itself. For example, if I go for a 45 minute walk, it knows it was a walk and tracks it as an exercise event (so to speak) and when I spent 42 minutes working on volleyball with Helen and Dani on Sunday afternoon, it tracked that as a “sport” event. Then when I do my Crossfit workouts, if the WOD is long enough it is also a “sport” event. And when I run for an extended period of time, it tracks it as a run. Love. It.

Second of all, the Weight Watchers app will sync to the Fitbit app on my phone and then translate my steps/sport/walk/run activities into Fitpoints! I NEVER gave myself the number of Fitpoints for my exercise before this Fitbit thing. And how much do I like that I don’t actually have to track the Fitpoints, but they automatically appear in my WW app? Yeah, I like that a lot.

Okay one more thing I did this past week was I started back at CrossFit. Back when I took my break, I decided to stop cleaning the gym as I had done for 3 years to pay for my membership. When I went back, I reasoned, I would purchase a membership. And so I did last Tuesday and went back to my first workout Wednesday morning. I didn’t go all crazy…I was reasonable about the weight I lifted and gave myself a little break with the movements. I also still ran a couple of times.

I figured out how to sync my Fitbit to WW Thursday, so didn’t have anything tracked for Wednesday last week. But get this! 92 Fitpoints for the week.

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I love that so much. that is a day less than a full week, which means I should totally get over 100 Fitpoints this coming week, haha.

And I tracked my food every day except Sunday. I really need to track every day, though. I do much better when I track my food. I tracked my water in my Fitbit app and I had a day where I drank 176 oz of water! I was very thirsty on Monday. But I like having an easy place to keep track of water that shows it in graph form. Also, I was looking at my sleep in the app and amazingly, I actually get slightly higher than average amount of sleep for my demographic.

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It is so interesting to see when I’m “restless” and the fact that the Fitbit can sense and track that.

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And the result of the past week was a loss of 4.4 pounds! While I expected it, I was still very happy to get that result at the scale. so yay!

Sarah earned her driver’s license last Monday, the day after her 16th birthday. My dad found a car for a reasonable price and Sarah paid half. She is also going to be paying her portion of car insurance, too. She’s amazing…really. This picture was taken moments after she entered her Surprise Golden Sweet 16 birthday party.

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Finally, here’s a cute picture of Helen. Today was the first of two “orientation” days at the middle school for sixth graders. How the heck did she grow up to this point so fast?

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Anniversary Advice to a Younger Me

Today is my 18th wedding anniversary. To celebrate, I am going to write a post directed at 25-year-old me.

Dear Michelle of 18 years ago,

Your wedding went off without a hitch. You got the important part down and even though your reception/party afterward wasn’t what many other people thought it should be, it was a celebration of you and Craig and your marriage. Over the next few years as you attend many weddings, you’ll think a lot about your own and whether you short-changed yourself. I’m here to tell you — 18 years later, it does not matter, and you had a wonderful party that was very much YOU.

You thought you would never be in a place where you would desire children, but your heart softened in just over a year and you opened up to the idea. It was the best thing you ever did. Being a mom is most likely the greatest joy in your life (at least 18 years later) and having a successful marriage is the foundation for that joy.

You are ambitious and you want to move so fast through the corporate ranks. Let 43-year-old you fill you in: you never quite go as far as you always dreamed and hoped you would, and you’re (usually) okay with that. You struggle through your child-bearing years to understand that sometimes you just have to understand your niche and do a bang up job on that. But once you figure it out, you set about doing the best damn job of process automation and improvement and people management you can in whatever department you are in.

Speaking of career aspirations, you struggle also with the idea that you are not able to be 100% mom to your children. 43-year-old Michelle is here to tell you: you are the best mom you can be because you work full-time, maintain a stable and organized home, partner with your husband and raise your children to understand boundaries, goal-setting, limits and all that comes with growing up. No, you didn’t nurse your babies (I know, you’re just getting used to the idea that you even have babies) and you struggled with that, too. But in the end you understand that you did what was the best thing for your family at all times.

I think you’d be surprised at where 43-year-old Michelle is with regard to Catholic faith. A seed was planted in your couple counseling sessions with Fr. Tank before you got married. And while you didn’t respond and cultivate that planted seed until about 6 weeks after your first child was born…when you got around to it, you worked very hard at it. You should be proud to know that you and your husband not only embraced the Catholic church’s teachings on marriage and family, you even helped others along the way to try and understand them, even if others didn’t agree or sign on full-force like you.

If there were one thing 43-year-old Michelle would like to tell 30-year-old Michelle as far as faith goes, it is this: Remember that every walk in faith is a journey and you don’t know where on the path others are. And don’t be surprised to find yourself in different spots along the way. Sometimes when you think you have it all figured out — almost as quickly as that feeling comes, it is gone and you can feel lost.

You already know that marriage and life is not all roses; you grew up in a divorced family, abandoned by your father (something you won’t admit for several more years) and emotionally tormented by your relationship with your mother (something you still deal with at age 43). But you will have at least one experience where you will feel the depth of despair. You will cling to your husband like you never thought you would have to and you will claw and grasp to feel close to God as you make your way through. It will change you in ways you cannot imagine and even 43-year-old Michelle cannot really put into words.

You will feel great pride in your children and you will wonder how the heck God deemed you worthy to bless you with them. Sure, there will be the typical moments when they will break your heart, or something in their lives will break your heart. But overall, you will pray more prayers of thanksgiving (at least by 18 years of marriage) than prayers of sorrow regarding your children.

A small bit of advice and then I’m done: Cherish every day. Be grateful every minute. Time is fleeting and before you know it, you’ll look in the mirror and realize you have more gray hair than blonde and you wonder just when you stopped looking like you did in your wedding photos. You’ll be preparing to send your oldest off to college (or preparing for a college student continuing to live at home while attending school to save money), worrying about ACT scores, college admissions, in-state or out-of-state tuition and scholarships. You’ll watch your children navigate the crazy waters of puberty and adolescence thanking God some gadgets and technology were never around when you were their age.

But you’ll also hear your 6-year-old sing the words “She’s an Angel…” to have your husband ask him, “Who is an Angel?” and hear him say, “Mommy” and ask to be picked up and he will give you the sweetest hug and kiss.

And in that very moment, time doesn’t fly and you can’t believe the sweetness of your marriage, your family, your life.

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New Year’s Eve (12/31/16) — with one extra kid, Sophie (Sarah’s bestie)