Just Another Life Flying By Way Too Fast

Some day I’m going to look back on my life and see how fast it went by.

Look at this sweetheart!



Wait a minute, I already do that.

Here’s the thing. My kids have early release at Catholic school today. They are going to get out at noon and my plans for them include cleaning the house and getting laundry done.

Sometimes I really hate that I am not a fun mom. I am not the mom taking my kids to the park or to the museum the afternoon after they get out of school early. Because we’ve been running around with school, activities, sports, workouts — the house has been woefully neglected. And Sarah’s having a friend come home after practice today to prepare to attend her high school’s homecoming football game.

I totally said to Craig this morning, “Well, we have to get this house cleaned up because it’s her first time coming over. I mean, once she’s been over a few times, I might feel a little more comfortable with her seeing how we really live.”

I literally just want to cry right now. Today is my day off work and I already worked out and showered this morning, got the kids off to school, went grocery shopping and put it away and got my laundry almost all done. I won’t even tick off the to-do list that remains because that really will start the waterfalls.

Dani and me — Taylor Swift Concert!!


There’s a lot of stress around here. I know in my head and my heart that stress can be good stress and still take its toll on my mind and body. We have a combination of good and bad stress going on right now, and I’m trying to do my best to handle it, but any of you who have been reading my blog for any length of time know that while I do my best…sometimes it’s just not good enough.

I’ve been making a serious effort to try and live in the present lately. Worrying was eating me inside-out — whether it was the future or the past. So, every day I take stock of what’s on our plates and tackle it in the best order possible and at the end of the day move over any unfinished business to the next day. it’s been awhile and I still haven’t ever been able to start with a clean list with no carryovers.

Vincent having fun

I guess that is what life is like in this stage. Five kids, ages 14 down to 4, two full-time jobs, school and activities for everyone…it’s starting to get crazy. Good crazy, but crazy, nonetheless. I’m gonna try not to beat myself up too badly for not having a fun activity planned for this afternoon. I think I’ll just be present at lunch with the four kiddos who are home for it today, listen to their school stories and laugh with them. Then, we’ll have to knuckle down and get to the business of the afternoon. And they’ll whine a little bit, but they’ll do it and we’ll make it through.

Tonight when I get into bed, I will have driven Dani to swim practice, dropped Sarah and her friend off at the football game, picked Dani up from swim practice and eagerly awaited Sarah’s arrival home. I’ll have to follow-up with Sarah about the shoes she is wearing to the dance tomorrow, finalize the schedule as to when we are planning to be where for pictures and dance drop off, figure out how Dominic is getting to a birthday party and how Craig and I can attend (however briefly) a social function at church/school.

And…I guess it will all be all right.

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The WOTHM and School Struggles

Whenever I think about writing another WOTHM / coping post, I think I must have already said all that needs to be said on the topic, right? (For the newbies, WOTHM=Work Outside The Home Mom) But of course, not. Because life is always moving forward and there will be a new challenge just around the corner, pretty much all the time.

My new challenge involves my baby girl and school. I don’t know if it was always this way or if it’s a change in the way school is done now from when I was a kid. For your frame of reference, however, these days, parents are expected to be pretty involved in homework for the kids up through a certain grade. Reading WITH them, Reading TO them, having THEM read to you, correcting and working through math problems and grammar exercises are all things I have had to spend some time with each of my kids up through about 4th or 5th grade.

I’ve been pretty lucky that Sarah and Dani were strong readers and able to do a lot of this on their own earlier than some kids. Dani never liked being read to (still does not like to be read to) and prefers not to read aloud. I suspect this is because she is a speed reader and it slows down her experience to be read to or to have to read aloud. Sarah enjoys being read to and reading aloud and we did this through 4th grade. Now that she is in middle school, however, she does her reading independently. I try to read whatever book she is reading so we can discuss it, if she wants to. As she has gotten older, there is less time for that anyway, so it’s a sort of no pressure situation. I say I’ve been lucky because I haven’t had to spend as much time with kids and homework the past couple of years and I have seen that as good because I work full-time and then all the kids have their activities and I’ve added some of my own. The time just doesn’t seem to be there.

This year, the luck ends. I feel like a failure right now because I see that my Helen is struggling a bit in 3rd grade. Helen has never been one to read without being assigned. She reads quite well. She’s fun to listen to as she reads aloud as she uses proper intonation and inflection. But she does not really like to read. I think she runs into a problem I had as a kid where the material wasn’t interesting enough to keep her focused and she will read a paragraph and still not know what she just read because her mind wandered. So she has to re-read it and that makes her mad. Her comprehension skills are not strong either and this impacts not only her reading, but her grammar and her math word problem computations. I feel like a failure because I haven’t spent the kind of time with Helen that she needs.

My sweet girl, who wants to be “just like her mommy”
more than anything in the whole world

Our schedule is hectic, no doubt. Craig heads off to work shortly after I get home (and sometimes before I get home). Sarah has volleyball games and practices in the afternoons/evenings. Dani has cross country practices and swim practices all nights of the week except Wednesday. Dominic has a worksheet to complete a couple of nights a week and Vincent just needs regular attention so he’s not zoning out watching a screen all evening. You notice that I didn’t include anything with Helen in that list. That is how busy we are without spending extra time with Helen on her homework. And I’ve been working out in the mornings so I still get it in while I can’t go in the afternoons/evenings right now.

This is where the rubber meets the road with regard to a WOTHM’s life. It’s all about balance and sometimes, there just isn’t any. I had to have a serious talk with Helen last night, putting a plan together to help her strengthen her skills. We’ll be doubling up the amount of time I spend with her reading each night and we’ll be doing about 5 extra math word problems each night. I may even throw in flash cards for her addition and subtraction math facts because she’s not fast enough with those. This will be in addition to extra spelling and handwriting practice that I already had recognized she would need.

Helen said I was “being mean” and I had to reassure her that no, I am not angry and no, I am not being mean. I had to tell her, “I am being your mommy. I have to help you.” And then…I hugged her while she cried. I know her tears were those of disappointment — she thought she’d disappointed me. And so I hugged her and said, “I love you” over and over because the last thing I want her to fear is that doing poorly in school would ever make me not love her. And I told her that, too.

Then…I sat at my computer screen for about 10 minutes. And I cried. I cried because it feels like I have failed my daughter. I cried because I love her so. I cried because I worry that even with a plan in place, she might still not improve — and that scares the bejeezus out of me. I cried because I see so much of myself in Helen and I knew exactly why she was crying and why she thought I was being mean. Because when I was a kid and I didn’t live up to people’s expectations — it hurt. I didn’t want Helen to hurt. I want to expect great things from Helen, but I don’t want to expect the wrong great things of her. I cried because I face week after week of having to run myself ragged to get the kids to school, get myself to work, get the kids to activities, scrape the money together to pay for those activities — all the while trying to keep myself sane, healthy and as together as possible. And…I am not going to lie to you. Sometimes it feels absolutely impossible.

This post isn’t going to have any answers. this post is simply laying it out there that I have struggles that feel insurmountable on a fairly regular basis and my only option is to power through. I can cry and worry that no matter how well I execute my plan to help Helen that she will still fail. But in the end, I must still power through that plan and try my best. I must set benchmarks against which to measure Helen’s progress and I must also assess my expectations of Helen and be sure I am aligning them with HER personality and HER gifts and not her older sisters’.

Perhaps the biggest adjustment in expectations, however, has to be my own. It’s tempting to start to believe everyone when they tell you they “don’t know how you do it” and how “incredible” you must be to have so much together. It really is tempting…and sometimes you do start to believe it. But then the dose of humility that must, and always does, come slaps you across the face and you realize that you haven’t been doing one or more of the things you need to do to continue to raise your family, keep your home in shape, and maintain forward traction in life. And it’s time to reassess and change up the plan.

So that’s where I am today. Just like with weight loss or getting better at CrossFit, I am choosing to look at the next day as a new beginning. So what we were doing wasn’t working? Let’s try this and see if it does. I just wish that when it was time to change things up, it wasn’t so much like throwing a bunch of stuff to a wall and seeing what sticks. But I suppose that’s life sometimes.

 

February Funk

It’s February, you guys. And I am in a serious funk.

Last weekend, I was having those horrible insecure thoughts that some of the moms I’ve become friends with really don’t like me that much.  I mean, literally, I was feeling very alone.  And that is a strange feeling when I’m amongst so many people and chaos on a daily basis.

This happens at times.  And truth be told, I am alone in a lot of what I do.  I work outside the home — full time!!! — and I’m a Catholic mom to six at a parish where most moms with more than four kids are SAHMs and don’t have their babies in daycare and don’t miss the field trips and the class parties and all that stuff.  Every day, I work among many women who simply think I’m crazy (or maybe they think that I really don’t know any better) for welcoming children into my already full marriage and household.  One woman I work with openly discusses taking her daughter in for her “depo shot” and I cringe a little inside, but maintain an understanding facade to the outside.  Another woman continues to tell me all about her friends who have 13 children, “and they all turned out great, went to college and everything!” as though it was a particular triumph not normally afforded to a large family.  Sometimes I wonder if I am the current freak show that everyone kind of discusses as it passes through town and points and giggles as I leave.

Lots of interaction — yet lots of loneliness. I live among this great expanse of secular culture living my life in a very non-secular way.  People are confused by me.  I am confused by people.

I worry that my funk rubs off on my kids in their interactions.  Sarah’s getting to this age of lots of social opportunities and she has a mom who is wary of allowing some of that.  Dani wants to go and do things with her friends, too, but is often stuck because we have commitments for other kids.  Then when my kids don’t get to attend fun activities, I blame myself for helping to create this environment where they have to sacrifice. While I know it’s good for them to experience sacrifice once in awhile, it is hard to know they have to do so. Much is made in our culture of having our children NOT have to suffer and sacrifice while children. “They should be kids!” the conventional wisdom goes.

And then, I look at my growing belly understanding that I’m tacking on many more years of sacrifice to my own life.  And I feel tired. I feel worn down at times. There is a part of me that wants to run, screaming “for the hills” and do what I want to do when I want to do it. I love my family, I do! I’m blessed and I’m grateful. But, I am not as holy as I ought to be and I wish far too often that the “cup be taken from me” and I don’t follow it up with, “but Thy will be done, not mine.”  Because, you know…life would be so much easier….

So, I’m completely rambling and have probably lost track of what I am trying to say at this point.  I’m feeling “done” being pregnant and it’s really just starting.  I’m feeling “done” with my job and pining for something mundane, something with no major responsibility, but I know I need the paycheck that comes with the job I have now.  And who am I kidding?  I do really like my job, it’s just this funk I’m in right now.

Hopefully I snap out of it soon and start to see the things I do in a joyful light.

 

10 Coping Strategies: WOTHM with Children Preschool to 5th grade

Mandi and Jamie found themselves in situations where they would have to go back to work after being at home to mother their little ones. They wrote blogposts (Mandi’s here, Jamie’s here) sharing coping strategies to share what had worked for them when they found it hard to be away from their babies.

As I read them I realized that I have something to share in this regard myself, only now with older children. Some of those coping strategies have evolved to enable me to stay sane during the preschool all the way through the elementary years.  And as I thought about it, it made sense that these coping strategies would evolve because the needs of my children and my own needs have matured as my children grew older and our family grew in size.

In addition to helping me cope, some of these strategies actually helped me to stay engaged with my children, their schoolwork, their social activities and the parents at the school.  I work hard to stay involved at our parish school:  I have been on the Parent-Teacher-Organization Board, I have volunteered at just about anything where volunteers were needed, and I am currently on the School Board.  Our family is visible at many church and school events — and that is intentional.  I do it to stay engaged, but it helps me to see the fruits of my labor of working outside the home.


Here are 10 Coping Strategies for a WOTHM of children in pre-school through elementary (usually 5th grade) that I have found useful.

1.  School Pictures — get them taken and buy at least a sheet of wallets so you can take them to work and show them off.  It’s best to do it every year so you have updates.  The children change so quickly in a year, it’s important to have a current picture of them with you.  Yes, I’m THAT mom — the one who brings pictures of her kids around to show everyone at work, whether they care or not.  It helps me to share my family with the people at work because it helps me to have that connect to my children during work hours. 

2.  Field Trips — Find out as far in advance  as possible about the “big” field trips and try to make sure you can make one of them.  You won’t be able to make everything, and as disappointing as it is to miss, sometimes getting in the one really cool one makes up for it.  It’s always fun if you can manage to arrange a PTO day so you can be off work to attend something like an apple orchard with your preschooler, or a special spring trip with one of your elementary age children, sometimes it can make all the difference in how you’re feeling about your role as a WOTHM.

3.  School Work — Stay on top of their grades (once they start earning letter grades).  Most schools have online systems now where parents can log in at any time and see the grades recorded for their students.  The fact that I congratulate my 3rd grader after I see she got a 100% on a D.O.L. quiz sometimes makes all the difference to her.  She’s thrilled that I know what she did recently.  For the preschoolers and Kindergartners, cherish those handmade crafts that come home!  I try to rotate every few months what I have on display at work.  For 1st and 2nd graders, try to spend some time having them read to you every night.  Staying connected to their school work goes a long way in alleviating some of the guilt and pressure felt from working outside the home full-time.  And it does not go unnoticed by your littles that you know what’s going on with them.

4.  Special Opportunities — Stop in and have lunch with your child periodically.  It’s not always possible, but I try at least once a school year to surprise my children by dropping in while they are at lunch.  I can sit down and talk to them about their day and lots of times, their friends tell you all about their days, too.  🙂  In the lower elementary grades, the teachers are often quite open to having an adult reader visit the class to read a story.  I have done this sporadically, too.  Being present on school grounds during the day provides a connection for your children, too.

5.  Ask About Their Day — Allow the kids ample time to tell you all about their day.  Sometimes, it is difficult at the end of a long day at work to wait as your child recounts every last little detail about their day (for example, my Helen likes to start with entering the classroom and doing her “morning work,” bathroom breaks, recess, and everything all the way to coming out to be picked up by her daddy).  But, let them tell you everything anyway.  They want to share the time they are away from you — they believe you miss them just as much as they miss you (and of course, they are right!!)  You can often get invaluable information this way, too.  For example, I learn who my children sit with at lunch, what they do at recess as well as what they did in religion class that day. 

6.  Share Your Day — Tell your children about your day.  I often start by telling my children that I missed them, but then I let them know what kept me busy all day.  I try to let them in on what I ate for lunch and whether I took a break to walk the stairs.  I try to relate the things I do to the things they do.  Lunch time is my break time.  I go to meetings where I have to sit, be quiet and listen/learn, just like they have to sit, be quiet and listen/learn their subjects in school.

7.  Cherish the Time You Have — Make the most of the evening.  The kids are at school all day, you are at work all day, you both get home and have some time together in the evenings.  We have dinner together.  On the nights we don’t have extra activities, if homework is done, we’ll play a game (just the other night, my girls and I played Scrabble before bedtime).  Keep the TV off.  The rule in our house during the school year is there is no TV in the evenings on school nights.  It’s amazing the difference it makes.  We play games, or we read or we just hang out and I braid my girls’ hair after their showers. 

8.  Parents of Kids in Your Kids’ Classes, Get To Know Them! — Knowing the parents helps you to know the kids, somewhat.  For younger elementary kids, this can provide outlets for play dates or other social gatherings.  As the kids get older, arranging rides to events (especially helpful for parents of large families!) or finding some compatible and positive friend time becomes easier by working with the parents you know.  You probably won’t know all the parents to the same degree, but being involved and learning what makes the parents tick can help you help your child build positive relationships at school.  This is more of a “get involved” strategy than coping, but you never know!  I have been surprised more than once at how I’ve clicked with a mom of one of my kids’ friends.  I truly believe I’ve made some lifelong friends in some of the parents of my children’s classmates.

9.  Get Involved! — Find out what you can do to be involved…and commit to being involved.  It’s so easy as a WOTHM to make the excuse that you’re just too busy to volunteer for this or that.  I don’t volunteer for everything, but I step in where I can.  At first I didn’t realize what a difference intentionally getting involved and volunteering while maintaining my hectic schedule would make to the way I felt about my vocation.  Many people I encounter tell me they have no idea how I have time to do the extra that I do.  Honestly, sometimes I wonder myself.  But just like anything else (exercise, studying) if I put it on the calendar, I get there.  Classroom parties are a joint effort between my husband and me.  And at this point only one time have we completely flopped on that.  I am on the school board, and when our church has events, I offer to help in many different ways.  I’ve baked 3 dozen cookies to help with a reception after our parish’s Mass and procession on the Feast of Our Lady of Mt. Carmel.  I’ve signed up for and provided meals to post-partum mothers, grieving families, or any other family in crisis.  I’ve coordinated our parish’s Humanae Vitae Mass two years in a row.  Being involved in this way ensures I know many people in our parish and many parents of children in our school.  Doing these things helps me to avoid resentment at my role as a WOTHM.

10. Pray — Pray with your families at meal times and bed times. Teach your children to pray.  Allow them to “God bless” anyone they want.  Encourage them to lay their days and nights at the feet of Jesus.  Pray on your own.  Join prayer circles so that you are aware when a need arises for extra prayer.  Pray the Rosary, if that helps.  Having a person and/or an intention adds purpose to your prayer and engaging in purposeful prayer brings peace.  

These things have helped me to get through my first 11.5 years of being a WOTHM.  I have to trust they will help me through the next 20 years.


What are some ways that you carry out your role as a WOTHM faithfully and joyfully?

Afford to Raise a Large Family?

It happens more often than I like.  The non-work conversation at work turns to kids and how many people have.  And if I choose to participate in this conversation and offer up the information they are dying for, that I have FIVE children…all of a sudden SOMEONE pulls the OMG! face. 

Photo Credit

The conversation can take a number of directions once my family size has been established and publicized.  

ONE:  “You don’t look old enough to have that many kids.”  This direction is ABSOLUTELY a BIG thumbs-up.  I highly recommend it to anyone searching for something to say to the lady who just admitted that she has 5 or more children. 

TWO:  “My hands are full with the two I got!  I don’t know how you manage that!”

THREE:  “Are you ????”  And be assured the answer has a 90% chance of being YES to any or all three.  😉

FOUR:  The most recent discussion at work came from a well-meaning and most definitely not insulting question about just how people can afford to raise a large family.

I’ll go ahead and tell you that if you think you’re about to read an earth-shattering post about how we’re raising our family, paying for activities and going to retire at 55 with plenty of money to live on, then you might want to move right along to the next pie-in-the-sky-dreamland blog you can find.  We are, by no stretch of our imaginations, wealthy.  We’re only marginally self-disciplined with money.  We make ends meet and we work our butts off in the process.  We sweat out the bills from time to time, and there are those days we have to say “no.”

But — somehow, we have enough money to keep our family in clothes and shoes that fit, feed everyone enough to stay healthy, keep a roof over our heads, beds to sleep in, keep the lights on and ensure we are toasty in the winter and cool in the summer.  Sure, we do some things to keep our costs from getting out of control.  We keep the thermostat at 65 degrees in the winter and make sure everyone has some layers on.  We keep the thermostat at 76 in the summer and try to stay cool by going swimming, or just getting out of the house for activities.  I do hand-me-downs where I can (although my girls and their unique body types have made this difficult to do), consignment and thrift shops, and watch the sales.  At the end of the day, though, I’m sure there are many moms out there that could put me to shame with how much further they could stretch a buck.

The conversation at work started innocently enough.  I mentioned that I needed to buy Sarah size 9 Women’s shoes when only 3 months ago, I bought her size 8.5 women’s shoes.  (Yes, I checked and her toes were at the end of her shoes, and when we bought them 3 months ago, she had 3/4 of my thumb width of room to grow.  The girl just keeps growing and growing and growing.)  So, the question was asked, “Just how do people afford to care for a large family of children?”  This woman followed up her question with a back story that she was 1 of 6 children growing up and she had no idea how her parents did it either.  She also shared that most days, now as an adult, she can barely seem to keep herself in clothes, maintain her health with doctor/dentist visits and such.

Now, I’m the first to admit, there ARE financial reasons serious enough for some folks to limit their family size.  I’m not the person that’s going to tell anyone who says they are avoiding pregnancy due to financial strain that if they would just manage their money right and make the right sacrifices, they could afford to have another kid.  That is irresponsible.  My husband and I have been at that point a couple of different times in our marriage — it would NOT be a good time to be open to a baby because our finances were in shambles.  We were sad that we couldn’t be open, but we worked hard to get to a point where we could.  And if we would not have been able to get to that point, we might not have the children we have — but somehow, it worked out.

Sometimes, the finances aren’t spectacular, but it’s not a dire situation, and God blesses a couple with a baby.  And that has happened to us.  And this is what I said to the woman at work and what I’ve said to others who have asked me.

We’re not rich, but we’re making it.  We do what most people do and just put one foot in front of the other every day.  We go to work, we come home and care for our family.  We’re blessed to have our jobs and we’re blessed to have our Catholic parish and school that is supportive of large families.  Yes, the big expenses come about — Orthodontia, Glasses/Contacts, Club Volleyball, Club Swimming, Ballet Tuition, etc — but we still just take it one thing at a time.

Our orthodontist has a program that allows us to pay for subsequent children and their orthodontia at the rate of the first child.  So, even though their prices may increase, we are locked in for the rate we paid with our first child through their services.  Vision insurance is a steal when it comes to a family the size of mine.  The co-pay for annual check-ups is only $10 and then the co-pay for frames is $35 and they pay for lenses (up to $150) every 12 months.  Now that we have my husband, me, and two children in eye-wear, we’re reaping dividends from having vision insurance.  The medical bills for actually having a baby is still pretty steep since we have a QHDP insurance program and pay 100% out of pocket for non-preventive services up to our deductible.  But once the deductible is hit, the insurance picks up everything 100%.  I’d like to see the Catholic high school come up with a better discount program for 2nd child at the school and plan to negotiate that should we seriously consider sending our children there, but there’s always the option for public high school and we live in an excellent school district.  

And honestly…college is just gonna hafta be on the kids.  First of all, who knows if college is the right direction for all of our children.  My husband wasn’t cut out for college and he has a great job making a good living without having gone through the expense of college.  I put myself through college (albeit ending up with some debt along the way) and it didn’t kill me.  Perhaps there will be scholarships available or military academy appointments…you never know!

All of this to say that it’s not impossible to raise a large family.  Sure, it’s expensive, but it’s expensive to live anyway.  No, my kids don’t get EVERYTHING.  They have to pick and choose the one or two things they really want to do.  Just like anything else in life, raising a family and how we all pay for it is rooted in our priorities.  And my kids will live if they don’t get the high school prep education that costs a small fortune.  Or maybe I can negotiate that steeper discount and make that work.  

And the most important thing I hope my kids learn growing up in our family is that family is the priority.  Family will be there for you whether you have money or you don’t; whether you get to play special sports or you don’t; whether you go to college or you don’t.  We were poor when I was growing up, but I don’t remember being unhappy about it.  I have more happy memories of sitting around playing cards with my siblings than I do griping about what I didn’t have or get to do.  

And that is my prayer for my family.

 

Every Day?

I just saw this photo posted by Under Armour on Facebook:


 I know stuff like this is meant to motivate, but it often tends to make me feel hopeless.  I used to do something active every day.  I used to run miles and miles.  I used to play volleyball 3-4 nights a week and do something else on the other nights.

That was before…

That was when it was just me and I did what I wanted to do when I wanted to do it.

I feel sad because NOW is the time I really need to be taking care of myself.  NOW is the time I need to get extra weight from pregnancies off my body and NOW is the time to build some muscle to help with the aches and pains of aging.  But NOW I do not have the time to devote to this.  NOW is when I should be taking care of myself so I can be there for my kids later when they need me to have the energy and the ability to support them in their activities, as they get on into high school, college even.

This summer, for seven weeks straight I made it to 3 boot camps per week.  My schedule at work allowed me to leave at 4:30 p.m., I had no obligations after work except for a one-off meeting here or there that I was able to work around, and my husband’s work schedule accommodated me arriving home around 6:00 p.m. on the days I did it.  That ended in mid-July.  I was feeling really strong and fit right at that moment.  

Then…life happened (again.  some more.  still.)  The end of summer flurry of activity with family visits, preparing for school to start again, transitioning to school (four kids this year including the preschooler), volleyball coaching, swim team practices, ballet lessons, guitar lessons, swim lessons, school board meetings, homework checking, reading instruction, and a new role with my organization that seems to get bigger every time I stand back to take a look at it — all of that has pushed out any time for me to do the level of sweating I would like to do on a regular basis.

So even though I can justify taking my sleep over workouts and even though I understand that this is just one part of my life and it, too, will pass like the blink of an eye, I still get sad when I see that I should be taking care of my body physically as well as spiritually and I am failing in that aspect.  Sure, I’m taking a step in the right direction by getting back to Weight Watchers and getting the exercise in when I can (I got two 30-minute sessions on the step-mill in during Dani’s swim practices this past week), but there’s always pressure (it seems) to do more.

What’s an out-of-shape momma to do?  I am tired of saying to myself, “I’ll get to that in a couple of years when the baby is 3” or “30 minutes is better than nothing.”  I KNOW that 30 minutes is better than nothing, but I desire so much more.  It’s difficult to balance this need to care for myself with the demands of my children and my work.  Thank God my husband doesn’t demand all that much of me (yes, he truly is a gem) because I don’t think I could stand it.

Not sure what the point of this post is.  Gripe that I hate running into ads like the one above because it makes me feel “less-than”?  Give me a place to list all my excuses for not being in better physical shape?   

It is most likely that this is my current state in life and like all the others, I need to look to find God’s plan in all of it.  I’m a mom.  I work outside the home at a full-time job.  I’m active in many things at our parish and school.  Working out and sweating every day is taking a back seat right now.  Will it be this way forever?  I think that is what is causing me consternation over the whole matter.

Perhaps this will provide me an outlet and a space where I am able to collect some encouragement from you moms who have “been there done that” with large families or something.  Is there ever a time when you feel like you have the time to devote to getting into really good shape again? 

 

The Changing and Maturing of Needs (Mom and Children)

The challenges of motherhood are as varied as they are numbered.  Many evenings and weekends, I am faced with the fact that each of my children want a spot on my lap at the same time.  But really that’s just a microcosm of the challenge to mother several children.
School started a week and a half ago.  My job didn’t hold back so I’d have energy for all of it.  Extra-curricular activities for the kids didn’t say, “Oh wait…you need to love on your babies?  Allow us to wait.”
There’s a special joy that comes from children wanting you. 
I have been mothering my children for 11-plus years and it does not cease to amaze me how much I long to know that my children long for me.  I want them to want me.  I want to be who they run to with their boo-boo’s on their knees, to kiss away their hurts and hold them through their tears.  I want to be the one they want to share their joy with, brag about an accomplishment to, and celebrate success with.  I want them to miss me when I am away from them and I desire their closeness when we are together.
Every time that I arrive home, I get a hero’s welcome.  And I get it no matter where I have been or how long I have been gone.  They are thrilled to see me come home.  Their joy at my arrival at the end of a long workday eases the pain of separation I feel at being a work-outside-the-home-mom.  I think that is a gift God gives to us moms (and dads!) who work outside the home — that our children show how much they miss us and how important we are even though we aren’t with them every minute of the day.
 Sometimes it is a challenge to be so wanted, though.  I find myself trying to strike a balance between encouraging their independence and desiring their dependence.  I know it is my job to raise them to be self-sufficient and contributing members to society but I find myself watching the time fly and the world they will enter is scary and not safe or kind, and I worry that I won’t be able to be there when they need me–to kiss their boo-boo’s or hold them while they shed their tears.
The little ones — they need the cuddles, they need the hugs and the smiles and the physical contact.  They need my presence and they need my reassurance that even while I’m at work I always have them and their needs on my mind.  
 
The older ones need the physical stuff, too.  They need a smile of encouragement and they need a hug to let them know Mom loves them and missed them during the day/week.  There is so much that can be said with a kiss for a child.  I feel it when I give and receive kisses from my own parents. 
I have had to learn and grow when it comes to physical affection.  Growing up as a child in a divorced home where much of the physical affection ended when the divorce happened…I have had to get over myself a little bit and realize that even if I am out of my comfort zone when it comes to hugs and kisses…my children need them and I need to give these forms of affection to them.
Sarah needs even more than physical reminders of my love for her right now.  We talk.  A lot.  I’m happy to do it and I’m really happy she’s talking to me.  We read books together and watch movies together.  I even listened to (and enjoyed!!) a playlist she put together on her iPod recently. 
I’m not going to lie…when I first found out I was pregnant with a girl when pregnant with Sarah, listening to a playlist my pre-teen daughter put together was something I figured I would have to be forced to do and would not enjoy.  So, I’m pleasantly surprised that I am able to relate to her, at least right now.  🙂
And, I am a little surprised at how much I need her approval.  Don’t get me wrong…I know, I’m the parent and I need to parent my children and not be their best friends.  But I still want my children to love me.  I still want them to want me.  That hasn’t changed from when Sarah was one of my “littles” and I would imagine it won’t change any time soon.   But Sarah’s needs have matured as well.  She needs someone who listens at least as much as (and probably more than) she talks.  She needs to share her opinions and her fears and her questions…and obtain only a gentle guiding hand as she comes up with her answers.  I’ve reached a point now where I ask more questions, sit quietly and wait for her to come up with her answers and encourage her to share with me this person she is — who she is growing up to be.  I am learning about her, much as she is learning about me.
So, I guess the point of this rambling post is about how I have been a mother for 11-plus years and I still don’t have all the answers.  I’m heading into the “great unknown” of teenage daughters.  I’m cautiously optimistic that there’s a foundation built that will hold steady while the currents swirl.  
I’ve heard it said (and I say it now myself) that we Catholic mamas do the best that we can to raise our children to know, love and serve the Lord.  We do our best to develop their skills, their ethics and values.  And then…the time comes when all we can do is pray like the dickens. 
So, I am going to keep on doing my best while I have these children under my roof.
And then I am going to pray like the dickens.  🙂