Dominic is 9!!

Who gets happy at receiving educational toys for his birthday?

Who plans to get up at 6:00 a.m. even though he has no school due to dangerously cold weather conditions?

Who is one of the sweetest, smartest, most genuinely happy children you will ever meet?

Dominic Richard Hughes! Of course!

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Happy Birthday to my boy, Dominic. Over the years, I have pondered God’s plan. Why did He send Dominic to us when He did? What must He be planning to work through Dominic — a boy who exudes joy and happiness and love to everyone?

If you ever get the joy of spending some time with Dominic, you will leave that moment in time a better person. I guarantee it.

Happy Birthday, Dominic! Enjoy this last year as a single-digit age and keep letting God work through you to bring love to all you meet and leaving a rainbow in your wake.

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Last Take

Anyone who has read this blog over the past few years knows that I struggle with my weight, I have body image issues and I have lost weight successfully. AS a matter of fact, I have spent the larger part of the last 2 years undoing all of the hard work I did for the two years before that.

I began what I hoped would be my last “weight loss journey” in October 2013. I succeeded in reaching my goal weight in June 2014 and maintained that weight through the beginning of November 2014. I put on about 10-12 pounds over the holidays that year, and then I maintained that through the spring and into the summer of 2015. But then…the bottom fell out, really.

I took a big risk and changed directions in my career in the summer of 2015. I left my  structured bank operations manager job and entered an unstructured real estate sales job. I’m not gonna hash it all out, but what I can say is: I learned for what I think is the last time that I AM NOT A SALES PERSON. The lack of a good schedule and the stress of trying to make up the income I lost all contributed to a steady weight gain, even though I was still exercising regularly. Flash forward to November 2016 when I returned to my structured bank operations manager job (different area, same job basically). Though the schedule got better work-wise, the kids’ schedules got CRAZIER school and activity-wise. So though I’ve had a regular work schedule and rectified the financial situation, I have not been able to find a balance with food and exercise that has contributed to an even larger amount of weight being gained in the last year.

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So, it’s time to lose about 48-50 pounds. I really want to say that I’m going to lose it “FOREVER!!” but I’ve lived this story over and over again, so I have no clue if it will be forever or not. I want it to be. I want to be healthy and well. I want to be able to run with my kids and have a fighting chance of staying with them. I want to be the example of health and wellness they need to have in a mother. So, I guess for now, that’s going to have to cut it. When I finally lose the weight again, I will have to figure out a new way to want things because what I did before didn’t work out so well.

What’s my plan? Well, Weight Watchers isn’t in the budget right now. And honestly, I feel as though I know all the things I learned in Weight Watchers before. I know I need to track my food and keep the intake to a much smaller amount than it’s been for awhile. I know I need to stay active — that part has never been an issue. I know I need to plan every day what my food will be — take my lunch, for example. I know that “Failure to Plan is Planning to Fail” and I’ve lived that out in all directions my whole life.

Discipline is essential. I understand discipline better than many people. Just because I understand it, though, doesn’t mean I know how to stay with it. So I need to re-institute my discipline that I had before where food is concerned: Plan ahead, Make Healthy Choices, Stay Mindful of the food I eat.

Craig and I bought some packages of food prep containers and we plan to spend Sundays cooking to make meals for the week ahead. I created a new Pinterest board where I have posted some Paleo/Keto recipes I plan to use for meal prep.

I need to maintain my discipline where activity is concerned and probably take it up a notch: Continue my four days a week at the Crossfit Box (maybe five if I am able to make Saturdays sometimes) and then find more ways to be active in the everyday — take my kids to the Community Center and we can swim or run or play volleyball/basketball. Choose those sorts of family activities instead of a night out at the movies or video games.

I created a new id on MyFitnessPal.com (LastTake, if you’re interested in connecting). I will use this site for tracking food and exercise and water intake.

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I still have a FitBit that I’ll use to help track activity. It’s nice I can connect it to MFP and they can talk to each other so my exercise ends up on MFP and my water intake comes over to my FitBit app. It’s kind of cool. Maybe someday I will afford an Apple Watch or something, but for now, I’m using what I already have.

I’m going to begin reading a book recommended to me by a friend I met at CrossFit. The book is called “Breaking the Stronghold of Food: How We Conquered Food Addictions and Discovered a New Way of Living” and it is written by Michael L. Brown, PhD and Nancy Brown (Not sure, but thinking they are married). I just ordered it and it should arrive at my house mid-week.

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I’m going to try to pray more. And I mean, I am going to try and INTENTIONALLY pray more. I think that if I reconnect every day in an intentional way, to our Lord and his Mother, then I will probably have a shot at long-term success.

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I created a new Instagram ID as well (LastTake18, give me a follow!) I’ve been watching my kids and how they handle their IG accounts and I think I’m learning a lot about how to create and maintain a new page in the app.

 

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I’ll post weekly, try to have a related blog up that I can reference and hope to find ways to post that will keep me going. The many times I have gone on a weight loss journey, I have found that people who get to know me online (my blog, Facebook, IG) often inspire me to keep working toward my goals. I’m a social media person — I like to use it to help get through my days or connect and follow my family and friends in life. So, this is one more way I will do that.

I’m thinking a weekend blog entry every week is what you can expect to see here. I’ll probably talk about my wins and my struggles. More than likely, I’ll work through something as I destroy this food addiction I have and I’ll have something to write about it here, too. I’ll probably post pictures as I lose so that we can see the success along the way. I may share how I reward myself — hopefully without incorporating food! — and learn new ideas from you here in the comments or on my Instagram account.

So, Here We Go. Again. Again.

 

#MeToo

#MeToo started a couple of months ago now. Though I didn’t go into any details, I posted my own little FB Post where I simply typed the words. No one asked for details, but I got some “reactions” and “likes.”

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In the past couple of months, there’s been quite a bit of backlash against those who have come out with their stories of harassment and abuse. I’ve seen it. You’ve seen it. We’ve all seen it. I’ve met it with mixed feelings.

Yes, there’s a part of me that wonders what the point is of bringing these things to light years after the fact. There’s a part of me that ponders the idea that the victims played their own part in becoming victims. I guess that there is a part of me that hates to see someone’s name and reputation dragged through the mud for something they may have not even known was harming someone else. Our society is such that it’s quite easy for me to believe that people think their “compliments” are desired. We’re so messed up that predators have become that way due to watching their own role models — their own mothers and fathers sometimes — behave in that manner.

But (you knew there would be a “but” right?) since something stirred in me to simply post “Me Too,” I know that I have a story to share.

My story doesn’t involve any celebrity. I have nothing to gain by sharing my story. I really have nothing to lose either since everyone I care about losing already knows my story and has stuck by me anyway.

My story starts as a young girl being reared by a mother who knew no boundaries. None. She didn’t understand emotional boundaries. She ran rough-shod over physical boundaries. The only memory I have and I know is not just some sick dream I had happened when I was almost 13 on the day I began menstruating. I won’t detail what went on. All I have ever said to anyone other than my husband about it is that she did something extremely inappropriate and I believe sits on the edges of sexual abuse.

And she did it because she knew I wouldn’t tell anyone. She knew I would never tell anyone about it. Oh! I now believe that she would never believe she did anything inappropriate either…but the fact remains that if she had any clue at all that I could bring myself to tell anyone about it, she wouldn’t have done it. But…as the mother of a young girl who had been scared into silence through family demolition of divorce, she had watched me enough to know that I didn’t have anyone I would feel comfortable to tell and that I for sure wouldn’t tell anyone that was a stranger to our family. It was safe for her to do what she did. So she did it.

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My story continues as a young teenage girl who wanted male attention. The positive male attention — not the male attention I already had which was playing pickup basketball and being the “cool” girl who had a great baseline jumper. I wanted to be hugged and kissed. I wanted to feel close to someone. By the time I was 13 years old, I had been abandoned by my father for about 5-6 years. I was told I was ugly by my older brother many times. I told myself I was ugly many times. When boys started to pay attention to me in a positive way, it was strange and exhilarating.

When our family moved across the country during my sophomore year of high school, I became a “prime target” for manipulation and abuse, though I wouldn’t have said so back then. I didn’t have a group of friends any more. I played basketball as soon as we moved and played on varsity, but never clicked with the girls on the team. I got a job and it was there that I met some friends — a couple of them, I would still consider friends today even though we mostly communicate on Facebook. It was through these friends that an abuser gained access to me, though.

When I finally told my husband about this guy, we’d been married 18 years already. To be honest, I had shut a lot of this away. But back in August, it all flooded back into my consciousness. I wrote a 12 page letter to my husband telling him everything I had never told him before. I named names and I recognized abuse and manipulation.

You see, my #MeToo story really gets going about the time I was 16 years old. And I dated a man who was 3 years older than me. Three years!! That is a 16-year-old dating a 19-year-old — WITH my mother’s permission and blessing! Because he was a manipulator, and my mom wanted to be snowed over, it all worked out quite smoothly. Nope, he wasn’t a teacher or a coach (although, later on in my story — there’s a coach involved, too, sadly) but he still hung around the mall at the age of 19, to meet girls my age (and younger!!) Back then, security wasn’t all that tight at schools and he could come in and see old friends from younger grades.

It was through this person that I was introduced to “Truth or Dare.” I literally want to be sick thinking about this. It was through this person that I learned how to really lie to my mom — about everything. He would tell her we would be doing something on a date that would be highly inappropriate (Like driving to some beach/lake hangout and playing “Truth or Dare” with a bunch of kids my age and younger) and then he would laugh and say, “Nah, I’m just kidding! We’re going to such-and-such movie and then maybe to McDonald’s after and then I’ll have her home by 11!” and my mom fell for this crap all the time. She never knew that the highly inappropriate thing he mentioned was exactly what he had in mind. I can’t remember very many times that our dates consisted of what we told my mom we were really going to do.

And see, then…because my mom liked him, he would say things (in a joking manner, of course!) like “Well, you can’t tell your mom you’re doing this because then you’ll get in serious trouble. She wouldn’t believe you anyway because I told her we were doing XYZ and she knows I’d never lie to her.” So he manipulated me into believing my mother would take his word over mine and it wouldn’t even be worth it to tell her or anyone in authority what we really did because I’d just get in major trouble.

I won’t go into many of the major details because honestly, they don’t matter at this point and thankfully, a very good friend of mine destroyed the evidence of one of the major abuses (thank God).

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A relationship with this person lasted for about 15-18 months…I can’t remember exactly. And when I finally had the courage to break it off with him, it was only because I was running into the arms of an even bigger and more dangerous abuser. This guy was 24 (I was 17-almost-18 at this time). I didn’t find out until I had been involved with him for several months that he was married and had some children. I also didn’t find out until I was too far into the relationship to extricate myself easily that he was heavily involved in drug dealing. Again, no one celebrity, not a teacher, not a coach — just a predatory asshole taking advantage of a girl who got little-to-no positive (healthy) attention from a man and was routinely manipulated and neglected by her mother.

This guy was the worst kind of predator. He somehow convinced me to give him money regularly or buy him things. He also used the manipulation tactic that I couldn’t very well tell anyone anything because I was an accomplice to any illegal activity and I could get myself, my siblings, my mom all in trouble if I didn’t keep quiet.

In the midst, I guess my basketball coach saw fit to make his move and claimed he “loved” me as well. This was highly inappropriate, but I didn’t know it. I was so mired in the inappropriate relationships and I had never had a healthy relationship with anyone at this point, that it was this seemingly never-ending cycle. Of course, I see it this way now looking back. But while I was in it, I literally believed these men “cared” about me! Now as a mother of my own teenage daughters, my blood boils.

This second abusive relationship lasted for almost a year. I almost threw away my high school education and everything else because of this horrible relationship. Sometimes I wonder how I ever graduated high school with all this stuff going on. I mean, I ran away from home. I caused all kinds of worry to my parents and my siblings. I was a horrible big sister — definitely NOT the shining example of how to grow up. I experimented with all the things you can think of in reading this story. If you think, “Hmm, I wonder if she ever did XYZ drug?” I would say “Yup. I may not have known it when I did it, but I don’t put it past that guy for slipping it into something else I was doing.”

Unfortunately, for me, my #MeToo story doesn’t even end there. What people who have never been through this sort of abuse don’t realize is that when you grow up in these abusive relationships, when you move on to someone else, it is often just another abusive relationship. While the abuse in my long-term college relationship wasn’t the same sort and was definitely less hurtful than what I’d already endured, I still put up with quite a bit of manipulation and abuse. And it is because I did not realize my worth. I thought I was “lucky” to have found this guy because he seemed to fit the mold of what I figured my parents would be happy with. Obviously, I had no idea what my parents would be happy with — this was all in my messed up brain — but I told myself that because this guy was about to graduate college (oh, yeah, still WAY too old for me, by the way…can I roll my eyes back in my head any further???) he knew what he wanted in life, he had a job, he had money, he had a BMW, he had paid for college by joining National Guard Reserves. The abuse I suffered at his hands was more of the kind where I would never live up to his expectations of what he wanted in a woman, but he was going to let me keep trying.

My #MeToo story ends when I ended that relationship. But back then, I wouldn’t have recognized it as an abusive relationship. At the time, I cried every night for months because I cut off a relationship that was going nowhere, but that I wanted to go everywhere. At the time I cut it off, I thought I was the one screwing up by leaving him instead of being strong and setting myself free. It took me over a year to figure out that I was better than that relationship and that I deserved someone who absolutely believed I was worth being loved.

When I see posts on Facebook or Twitter of people posting negative backlash towards the #MeToo movement and the condescending and non-compassionate words that all who have #MeToo stories are simply “allowing themselves to be victims,” I cry inside for their hardened hearts. And I also pray thanksgiving for their life experience where they have never been in a position to be manipulated and abused.

Over the course of the past couple of years and a growing awareness of things like “white privilege” I think there are also levels of privilege that have nothing to do with race but with our life experiences. If you grew up with parents who worked at and maintained their marriage, you grew up with a privilege that many of us did not. If you grew up with parents who cared more about you than about themselves, you grew up with a privilege that many of us did not.

I mean, if you grew up with a mother who wouldn’t dream of allowing you to date a man three years older than you while you are in high school, understand that there are plenty of kids out there who don’t have that privilege.

When I finally told my husband all the horrible things I’d repressed for years and years, I asked him to think about our oldest daughter, now 16, and whether we would ever let her go anywhere alone with a man three years older than she was. Of course we would not. Looking back, I’m so confused as to how it all happened, but I’m also not confused. As I process and heal from my realization that my mother is far more concerned with herself than with her children and that it has always been this way — I see how it happened, the clouds of confusion dissipate.

I know we hear a lot about #MeToo stories with the celebrities, or in the movie industry, or in workforce and I dislike the backlash. I recently watched some video where the woman was all like, “I mean, YOU went to that room with the man, YOU are at fault!” I cringed as I watched. This backlash is evil, really, because it seems like all they want to do is tell everyone who says #MeToo to SHUT UP! It’s unfortunate because honestly, it seems like people with a #MeToo story just got the courage to start speaking out and now the very thing they had kept quiet to avoid is what’s happening — they are made out to be the ones at fault for what happened.

Obviously, I have only my story to tell. I can’t speak for all the women out there who felt as though they were abused and unable to tell their story, lest they lost their job, or their pipeline for jobs. Telling my story doesn’t gain (or lose) me anything that I am aware of.

I can say that telling my story feels like the right thing to do at this moment in time. I’m not naming names. I’m not going to my abusers’ places of employment and trying to get them fired. Only a few people that read this will even know whom I am talking about. But this is a problem and it’s been a problem for many years. It is a tragedy when the #MeToo story starts in the home and extends from there. I’m pretty sure I can’t be the only girl with a story like this. Most likely, I’m only one of many. And speaking out with my own #MeToo story isn’t going to take down an empire or plug a hole in the dam.

I think, in the end, sharing a #MeToo story isn’t really done for those reasons. I have thought about this a lot before writing this. I wrote that letter sharing my story with my husband four months ago. That information resided inside of me for 18 years of marriage without shedding light on why I could not take myself past my “damage” to share with my husband for that long. And before that I was living the story.

So why share it on a blog?

Well, I process through writing. I share with people on my blog. Someday, I would imagine my kids might read this. I’ve hidden a lot from my children about my upbringing. I’ve only recently realized I was doing it. So many times, I get caught up in knowing my children and I think that I had not realized that they want to know me, too. They want to know all of me. They are getting to ages now where this desire to know their mother — her life, her struggles, her triumphs — is strongly driven, especially for my girls as they grow into young adults. As painful as it is to be reminded of the upbringing from which I came, they need to know it and to understand it. But only if they request it (and they have started to do that).

Another reason to share is because sometimes the backlash is too loud and intimidating. The backlash to the #meToo movement has, undoubtedly, kept many from sharing. I believe there are lots of stories like mine (maybe not identical in details and circumstances, but I mean stories that don’t involve high-profile authority abusers) that will never be told because those people saw the video I mentioned earlier that blamed the victims for being a part of it at all. Many #MeToo stories probably start for girls who are in their teens who have been convinced that it’s their fault for “enticing” their abusers with the way the talked or the way they dressed or simply for being in that place at that time.

I’m sure it may happen that someone who is 100% in line with the backlash reads this, rolls their eyes and thinks, “What a stupid girl, she should have known better than to go on dates with a man that much older. Doesn’t she know there’s only one thing a 19-year-old wants with a 16-year-old? She was just stupid. It’s her fault.”

That’s okay. I was stupid and I was naive and I also didn’t have the benefit of having a mom who cared enough to handle it properly. It doesn’t mean that I wasn’t abused.

Thankfully, I’m now a 44-year-old mother of a 16-year-old who absolutely knows the folly of entertaining the interest of someone that much older. She would call it “creepy” in the teenage jargon of the day. Thank God she finds it “creepy.” And I also make sure she knows how hard her dad and I work to ensure she understands her worth, that she deserves a life free of harassment and abuse. Sadly, however, I have had the conversation with her that there are kids out there her age who don’t know that. Recently, I have shared with her that I was one of those girls. I didn’t share the details, but she got the gist.

If I didn’t have the courage to acknowledge and share my own #MeToo story, then maybe no one could ever have the courage to do it and we’d continue to live in a world where predators got the last word. I refuse to be a part of that world.

 

When Your Kids Surprise You

It’s funny how my kids surprise me. Funny because they meet my expectations, yet it is still a feeling of surprise at how awesome they can be at times. In a time when people seem to expect so little of kids in society, I expect so much from my kids and they still deliver. So why do i feel surprised?

Today, I woke up and decided I needed to rake leaves. I began working in the front yard and quickly discovered we were out of lawn and leaf bags. I filled the ones we had, then decided to go on the hunt for more. Craig and I walked up to the local hardware store only to find out they were completely out. So I drove to Lowe’s and Home Depot only to find out both of them were out as well. What’s a momma to do?

We have these awesome and big yellow trash bags, so since I had made the decision to get the leaves cleaned up today, I asked Dani to come out and help me. She worked with me for more than two-and-a-half hours to finish the front and work in the back yard! We got many many leaves cleaned up. It was such a joy to work alongside my 8th grade daughter and get all that work done! She never complained. She simply let me know she was getting tired — and I was too, matter of fact — so we picked up the piles we had made and called it a day.

Throughout the time I was working outside with Dani, I noticed that inside, my other children were doing things to help. Helen brought the dog out onto the deck and brushed him to remove excess hair, then she took him inside to give him a bath. Sarah was working with her brothers to clean the bathrooms and vacuum the common areas of the house. Vincent was outside on the deck and I gave him the job of sweeping excess leaves off of the deck. He finally tired of that and went inside. He came out to ask me if he could play video games and I said that he needed to ask Sarah if she needed help first. and I heard him say as he went in, “I know! I’ll clean up my room first!”

I know it’s kind of silly. Most likely when you started reading this you may have thought I was about to write about how talented my children have been in the classroom (which they have!) or how surprised I’ve been with their talent onstage (which would also be true) or how much they surprise me play various sports. And even their artistic ability — sewing, painting, drawing — surprises me at times.

But honestly, they please me the most on days like today. They please me when they simply help me out — they clean their rooms, or they help clean the house, or they help in the yard — all without my nagging or asking for their help.

On days like this, I feel truly blessed to be their mom.

Spiritual Attacks For Days

It’s been quite a roller coaster the past 4-5 weeks. Parenting is definitely not for the faint of heart. And Spiritual Warfare is real.

Let me back up. There was a time when people would mention that they believed they were being attacked spiritually and I honestly didn’t know what they meant. I always prayed for them, of course, but I sometimes wondered what it must feel like to know you are being spiritually attacked. I have always believed spiritual attack was real, but just wasn’t ever sure I was experiencing it — at least never in the present. I could often look back at times in my life and see that Satan and his demons were having quite a time with me, but rarely did I ever believe it was happening to me as it was happening to me.

That has changed, and I am not sure if it is simply the fact that I am trying to see it when it happens to me or if the attack has been kicked up a notch. It’s probably a little bit of both, if I have to come up with a reason.

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Several months ago, I noticed a change in how I was treating my husband. The awareness was clearly a gift from the Holy Spirit because it was through it that I started to feel the negative forces at work in my heart. Some examples that I noticed was that everything he did that typically annoyed me a little bit started annoying me A LOT. Like, I couldn’t even hide my stupid reaction. Some of these things were things he had always done and that I’d always just sort of glossed over figuring they were no big deal. But suddenly, for a few months, these things were all HELLA BIG DEALS and I was mad or annoyed.

It got to the point when he did something that was wrong on all levels, it angered me to a point I had not been before with him. Looking back, when he did this, I still would have been angry had I not already been annoyed with him for the previous few months. But the anger I felt was to a point that it scared me. I am not kidding. I was furious and all kinds of rage-y angry. The thing about me is…when I get angry, I shut down. I rarely yell, I don’t want to talk and I internalize. Part of this internalization is leftover from my abuse days where I would seek to find my fault in what someone else did. Completely stupid and irrational, but that’s the mindset of someone who has been manipulated for years on end.

Anyway, I’m glad I thought about how I felt and I called in some reserves in the prayer department and asked for some big prayers for my marriage because I believed that our marriage had been attacked for a few months and this action on my husband’s part gave the dark and evil spiritual forces just the opening they needed to try cause even more division in our marriage.

I was angry for about a week…like, I didn’t even feel like talking to my husband for a few days — that kind of angry. This was the first time in our marriage that I had been that angry at him. My husband rarely makes me angry even in a mild sense, so these days were very trying for me. The prayers must have worked well because finally I was at a point where I decided to simply let him know how angry I felt and why. I think part of the reason I had gotten so angry was that I was afraid to tell him the depth of my feelings so then I refused myself the validation that I needed that it was okay to be that angry.

And once I told him and tried to make it clear just how upset and hurt and angry I was, do you know what he did? He apologized. Plain and simple. And I started to feel better and I became less angry. We went to confession that weekend (it had been several months) and I became even less angry and the sadness started to go away, too.

Over the next few weeks, i started to be less annoyed at the things my husband did. Everything isn’t and wasn’t perfect, of course, but I was aware and I realized that I wasn’t preferring nails on a chalkboard over my husband, and that made me believe that the prayers were working, the graces we found in confession were working and that we had tapped into those graces we received when we married, too.

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But here is where the reality of spiritual warfare kicked in for me. Recently, we’ve had a couple of things going on with our middle school daughters. They are separate things — one “biggie” thing for Dani and one long, drawn-out “biggie” thing for Helen — but when i put these things together, i start to see that the evil spiritual forces didn’t leave us alone, they simply changed course. Satan and his demons figure, “If we can’t break up their marriage directly, let’s attack their children and divide them there.”

I love that in our Catholic faith we are encouraged to ask for prayers from other faithful Christians. And I cast a very wide net — I was asking people to pray for us that I probably hadn’t spoken to in quite a few months, but I didn’t care. I knew that if I simply told them, “This is serious and I can’t give you any details, but know that we need you to storm heaven for our daughter,” that they would do so. Lots of them came back letting me know that they could be there for me no matter what, and I appreciated that. In Dani’s case it wasn’t my story to spread widely and it still isn’t, so I won’t be going into details here. I will share something that sticks out as a moment that I identified how Satan works: on a night in the middle of a few very troubling days as we dealt with the “biggie” Dani thing, I noticed, all of a sudden, that Dani’s birth stone had fallen out of my mother’s ring. I was so angry when I saw that! Now, sure…yes, it very well could have fallen out even if we hadn’t been dealing with stuff at that time. But the fact that it DID fall out at that precise moment is why I was completely aware that Satan and his demons were chipping away at me, trying to get me to either turn my back on my husband or my daughter and I refuse to ever do either. But it is these little occurrences that we must be aware of to identify the spiritual warfare going on in our lives. And to remember that it will never stop.

What the last year has shown me is that Satan needs only the smallest of openings…if he thinks he can convince you that your husband is a bastard who doesn’t care about you, he will jump at that chance even if all your husband has done is some minor annoyance. And when you overcome his attacks, he will go after your children. He doesn’t give two shits about them and if he sees it as a way to get to you and your marriage, he will do it in a nanosecond. And he’s relentless. When he sees you handle one thing well and it only brings you and your husband closer together, that just pisses him off and he will tackle the kid that hits you hardest.

The thing is…God loves us and He wins. Every. Damn. Time. And so far, God has helped our marriage win and we are helping our children. They were already claimed for Christ in their baptism and it will be over my dead body (and even then it won’t happen) that he gets close to trying to claim my children’s souls.

A prayer I have been praying multiple times a day for many weeks now is the St. Michael prayer. I cling to it. I cry when I pray it. I say it with force. Because I know it will work. I pray it over my children, I pray it with my children, I pray it as I drive away from my house and I pray it as I come into my house.

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The amount of comfort that prayer brings me is indescribable. A few weeks ago, I even wondered why it had become my “go-to” prayer. And in hindsight I realized that it had because even though I wasn’t fully conscious of what has been going on, I knew I needed it.

I could probably sit here and come up with a list of times it should have been more evident to me that there was spiritual attack going on in my life, but that’s not really where I wanted to go with this. Basically, I think it’s important to validate to everyone who needs it that spiritual attack is real, it has many forms, and most likely we’ll experience a variety of attacks in our lives. Remember those prayers, remember that God is with us always and that He won already. Remember that you will probably have to fight for your children at some point as well as make sure they grow up strong enough to fight for themselves.

Ephesians-6

Ignored While Not Being Ignored

I awoke Saturday morning to the sound of my phone going off from received texts. One of these read, “Happy Birthday Michelle! Please text me a good time to call you. We love you. Mom and Lane.” I replied that I was up so feel free. Honestly, I figured it would be better to get it over with and the sooner the better.

Afterward the phone conversation, I thought, “Why couldn’t I have pretended I missed that one?”

As I process my thoughts from that conversation, I was trying to find articles I’ve read in the past about the characteristics of narcissists. The thing is, I think there is a distinct difference between a regular joe-schmoe narcissist and a narcissistic mother. I probably think that because I have a narcissistic mother and haven’t, in many years anyway, dealt with a regular joe-schmoe narcissist all that closely. I found a quiz online titled, “Are YOU a daughter of a narcissistic mother? Take this survey to find out.” A list of 33 questions appeared in the body.

I shall start with the very first one and use my conversation with my mom to highlight this characteristic.

  1. When you discuss your life issues with your mother, does she divert the discussion to talk about herself?

When my mom called me after receiving my reply text, she said “Happy Birthday” and then delved into her plans for the day. She made the obligatory inquiry about the children, and when I mentioned that Sarah had been inducted into the National Honor Society the previous Wednesday and was remembering how awestruck I was as they listed Sarah’s accomplishments. She did not miss a beat and jumped right into telling me how proud her own father must have been when she was graduating from nursing school and she would stand for all the honors she received. She listed off things like her Nursing Honor Society and her Dean’s List honors and some other things (honestly, I was so annoyed that I spaced off…)

I also mentioned that Sarah decided to participate on the swim team this year — truly an undertaking since Sarah has never swam competitively before. My mom launched into praise of my nieces and nephews and all of their swimming dominance. I am absolutely supportive of my nieces and nephews and all of their swimming feats. However, I get so sick of my child NOT being acknowledged by my mother. And, I’m really happy that my mom is so in tune with my nieces and nephews — I guess she can pay attention to at least a couple of grandkids. But this is typical and while I never begrudge any of my nieces and nephews their accomplishments, I definitely find myself annoyed at my mother’s constant throwing of them in my face as if my kids don’t accomplish things of their own (which she ignores…often)

Finally, she asked what course of study Sarah was thinking of for university and I did the stupid thing in mentioning Sarah’s potential interest in nursing school. Gah! I was then told how my mother had received “the call” to be a nurse at the age of six. And no, she didn’t realize that call until after she’d had five children, but she had been “called.” And she threw her 20 year career at me with her “advice” that she imparts to anyone who considers being a nurse: “If you haven’t been “called” to the profession, you will not be prepared to make the critical decisions required to be a good nurse.” (yes, it’s okay if you use a nasal, annoying craptastic voice as you read that part.)

So…forget that she was talking to me for a minute and let’s just freaking focus on the fact that she can’t even recognize her oldest grandchild’s accomplishments for what they are and without making it about her. ugh.

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I think I have had it. I think this is the last birthday I allow my mother to ruin.

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27. Did you feel you had to take care of your mother’s emotional needs as a child?

AND 32. Does your mother compete with you?

Many of those questions from that survey linked above resonate, but these previous two I mention are pretty accurate. Growing up, it was often required of me to build up my mother, whether it was to tell her how good she looked for a mom of five kids or to tell her what a great mom she was that she was doing so much for us kids by going to nursing school and taking care of us. It was debatable who was doing the most care of us, but…she was the adult so she gets the credit, I guess.

And even presently, any time she may start to sound like she would empathize with me being a mom of five myself, it often quickly turns into reminiscing about how hard her life was and how much she did for us. Often times she will then bring up one of my siblings that has seven children and then of course, nothing i do is even close to that level and she compares herself to that, too.

So, I guess the point of this post is mostly to help me write out what happened so that over time I don’t start wondering if it was real. If I actually have something to read over that happened in the past the next time it happens (if it does — I’m not so sure I will care to talk to her all that often anymore, because honestly, I am sick of this stuff) and I will know that these things she does are a product of her narcissism and not some flaw of mine, at least in these circumstances.

When these things happen, I’m not going to lie, I wonder what keeps me from becoming like her. I worry so much that I would compare myself to my children (which is SO stupid) or that I would try to one-up them in their feelings or something. I think when I was younger and still trying to figure all this stuff out, that I was prone to behaving like this — I think it was most likely the reason my younger-life relationships didn’t work out so well — and so it scares me that I may dip in and do it again or become that self-absorbed.

I guess it could be true what they say, that knowing and being aware is half the battle. I sure as hell hope so.

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.”