Monday, June 26, 2017

Encouragement For The Week

Try to put in the hearts of your children a love for home.

Make them long to be with their families.

So much sin could be avoided if our people really loved their homes.

Monday, June 19, 2017

Encouragement For The Week

"The biggest lie, the biggest deception of popular culture is the infantile notion that we can have it all. 
We can't-everything has a price. 
Wealth almost always comes at a cost to family well-being. 
Hurry erodes love. 
Self-centeredness costs us in the loneliness it leaves behind, in the relationships we neglected to build because building them involved giving them our time.

The lesson of all of this is a tough one-we have to choose.  
We have to sequence things. 
We have to let some things go. 
We have to give something up to get something more precious."

Monday, June 12, 2017

Encouragement For The Week

"Oh, women in homes, love them. Think of those who are daily torn from homes to stay all day inside closed walls, surrounded with office fixtures-no pretty curtains, no gay cushions, no little piano to drop down to in a stolen moment, no radio to tune in one, no books or magazines to read and sketch from, no real relaxation until night. 

Oh, yes there are duties in a home, little children to soothe, dress and feed, and work aplenty. But after all, they are your very own and it's your home. When the suds foam high in the washtub and you hang garments under a blue sky, think just a moment of office workers who long for homes with curtains at the windows, clothes waving in the sunshine, and beets in a jar."

Iowa-October 1933

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Primal Loss by Leila Miller

This book is so necessary.  It's one of those books I think should be required reading for every couple before marrying, it is that profound.  As devastating and heartbreaking as it is to read testimony from adult children of divorce, it is encouraging and inspiring in a way that makes me realize the incredible importance and preciousness of marriage and how it should never be taken for granted. I finished the bulk of this book very early Sunday-and I went to Mass and a couple's 68th anniversary was being celebrated. Yes, 68 years!  Imagine all the good and bad and fun and struggle and heartbreak and hard work and dedication and sickness and health that couple had shared together for 68 years.

I am not a child of divorce, nor is the author Leila Miller. I read the author's blog and admire her writing, which is why I bought the book.  She says that writing a book on divorce was never in her radar until she began hearing from friends about their parent's divorce and the impact it had on them not just as children but as adults.  She compiled seventy "testimonies"-she describes her book as people telling stories-adult children of divorce who answered several questions-the effects of the divorce, how you felt as a child vs. adult, how divorce has affected your view of marriage, are children resilient?, what do you want to tell society, etc.  Her "primary concern is giving voice to those who have had none for so long."

She says, "This book then is a chance for everyone else to be "silent", and for the children of divorce to speak freely, without having to be mindful of the grown-ups feelings". 

Two things I can say when I finished this book:

1. I never knew. Yes, I knew divorce was hard for kids and 'bad'.  I know now more as a mom who sees kid's friends tossed between houses, and I know it isn't easy and that it is painful and difficult in so many ways and it often seems like the children are the ones that pay the highest cost. But this book is raw, and real and eye-opening to the immense life-long struggle and pain, even after forgiveness. As many different circumstances there were, there were such shockingly similar testimonies of the emotions of the adults now and as children. Like Leila says in her foreword, I have realized how absolutely blessed my husband and I have been to have parents who have been completely dedicated to each other since day one, and who taught us to be the same, and I completely took that for granted before I read this book.

Here are two powerful quotes, although it's difficult to choose just two because every story to me was profound.

"For parents who think their children will be happy when they are happy:  I went to a counselor as a kid. I don't remember it helping much, but I remember counselors telling my mom that her kids "needed to see her happy." They advised that she should do basically whatever she wanted, because that would make her happy and fulfilled, and that's what mattered most to us kids-not the marriage itself, but for the kids to see their parents "happy and fulfilled."  NO, NO, NO!! That is not developmentally appropriate for children. They don't care one iota how "happy" their parents are! And they should't have to! They are children! The  parents are the ones who should be looking out for the emotional and psychological wellbeing of their children, not the other way around. That counselor's advice was just a justification for my mother to do whatever she pleased, without guilt. It was terrible advice. No, your children do not care about seeing you "fulfilled." They don't even understand that concept. They want you to step up and act like a parent, to problem-solve like an adult, to learn to be humble and sacrificial, and to keep the vows you made on your wedding day."

"Divorce breaks a chain of both future-building and legacies of the past, which the next generation would normally benefit from. When this continuity is broken, the culture itself fragments-and it happens in one or two generations. The betrayal of a divorce pulls the rug of security and commitment out from under children, and they in turn do not believe in commitment nor do they have the tools and example to be successful in a  long-term relationship. The ability to overcome the more destructive elements of human nature is damaged or ruined. "

2. It cements my view that marriage is absolutely precious, not to just the couple, and their children but to society as a whole.
"I want people to find out what true happiness is. I want them to know that keeping their family as a unit is so much more powerful than they know. I want them to understand that if we take all the energy we give "to the world"-whether it be helping others or our own endeavors put that energy toward meeting our husband's basic needs and being more present to our children, we can change the world! Parents, do not underestimate the power you have in influencing your children toward the virtue of commitment. Even if that is all that they learn from your marital struggles, it will be powerful."

"My parents' divorce taught me that we should be saving the majority of our "yeses" for God, each other, and our family. If we pour out too much of ourselves to the outside world, we have nothing left to offer God and our spouse."

I highly recommend the book.  It is a book for everyone-those that experienced divorce firsthand, those that have friends who are struggling in marriage or who are divorcing, those who know children who are victims of divorce, those that counsel, and love and advise, and married couples-it is a simple book but the testimonies are stronger than any psychological analysis or mathematical statistics.

Monday, June 5, 2017

Encouragement For The Week

"Love is not just something you say, it is something you do! My grandfather passed on an old saying to me that goes, "You can fake like you care but you can't fake being there." 

To send messages of love to your children, you must show up. Love is not a spectator sport. Most kids would probably not articulate it, but almost every kid spells "love" T-I-M-E.

There is a fallacy loose in the world. Parents try to rationalize a lack of time for their children by saying, "We give quality time to our kids."  Baloney! It is impossible to turn on quality time. 
We adults can't turn on quality time with each other and it is even more impossible to do with our children.

There is TIME, period."

Saturday, June 3, 2017

Summer Learning/Boy Books

Almost every year I've had a small easy plan for the kids to keep their brains "warm" all summer long.  Some summers we have started strong and eased up, which is ok, and others I just didn't have the energy to add it to my things "to do".  This summer I made sure Andrew (13) and Patrick (9) had a plan.  

In the past I've used Summer Bridge books.  I wanted to make learning more personal this year so I asked Andrew what he would like to do.  He is reading the entire Harry Potter series  (I really wanted him to finish the vocab book that came home almost unused but we made a trade-off.)  He's been wanting to read them all again, but didn't have time during school.  He has a book light and reads before he falls asleep.  I also found this short language lesson that he is doing every day in Spanish.  I would LOVE to add one other daily short video lesson (history or Catholicism?) for him, if you have any suggestions let me know please!

For this guy, we picked out a bunch of books-he has told me he likes biographies, or fiction or fact about dogs.  I went to work and found some of our old favorites and new ones too.  A workbook is NOT a way to this kid's heart, so I went the heart route (except with math.)

We are reading these great books together (just finished Henry Ford and loved it).  I read one chapter, he reads another.  

We've always loved Who Was books:

Who Was (Is)-

Childhood of Famous Americans-another favorite around here:

I also bought this book for him to read at night by himself.  It's hard for to find books at his level to read on his own without struggling and that aren't silly.  This one is great so far, I'm on the lookout for more like this.

For writing work, we are taking his favorite book ever, and choosing a dog, drawing a picture, and writing 3-4 factual sentences about the dog in a blank book I bought at Target a couple years ago that summarize the dog's traits.

I originally bought this math book that a friend suggested to me (and I really do like-the pace it moves and practice it gives is perfect for us) but we took a small break to finish the next one and really practice math facts.

So far this has been great. It introduces "tiers" very slowly and with a little "trick" to teach each number.  Math facts are so easy for some kids to learn and so hard for others.  For me, they were torturous.  I still remember standing in the living room with my dad or mom while they flashed me cards and it would take me so long.  I didn't have the memory or concentration for it and it just stressed me out so much I couldn't think straight.  I hate flashcards to this day-and math.  I just read a very interesting theory on math required to be done quickly and how that creates math hatred and is unnecessary how some of the smartest mathematicians work very slowly and struggled with timed tests.  Our school doesn't do that and uses a very different math program that I love (and would have helped me understand as a child), but they still need to know facts of course as we move on to multiplication.

Friday, June 2, 2017

Anyush: A Favorite Book

My sister-in-law lent me this book to read-her daughter befriended the author's daughter, who was studying abroad at my niece's college.  It sat on my shelf too long till this last weekend when my SIL asked if I read it.  I went home and started it that night and finished it as quickly as I could-it called my name when I couldn't get to it-I thought about it when it wasn't in my hands.

It was so so good and I will remember this story forever.  It is historical fiction-a love story at it's foundation- but most of the characters are based on real people, and I learned so so much about something I knew nothing about-the Armenian Genocide.  Some parts are hard to read-heartbreakingly difficult, but how could they not be-the atrocities were real and horrific and Martine Madden turns historical facts and statistics into a tender story.

A very memorable book, and I believe that if had enough press it would be (should be!) on best-seller lists.

Here's the synopsis:

On the Black Sea coast, Anyush Charcoudian dances at her friend’s wedding, dreaming of a life beyond her small Armenian village. Defying tradition, she embarks on a secret and dangerous affair with a Turkish officer, Captain Jahan Orfalea. As the First World War rages, the Armenian people are branded enemies of the state, and atrocities grow day by day. Torn apart and catapulted into a struggle to survive in the face of persecution and hatred, the lovers strive desperately to be reunited.

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Summer Our Way

It's funny how at a certain point in time along the mothering journey, one just accepts the way they are and finds what works for them.  No comparisons, or panic, or feeling left behind or out of the loop.  It took me years to get there, and lots of experimentation and failure and acceptance of who I am and what works for my family.  I know right now there are lots of moms looking on Pinterest for elaborate job charts and summer bucket lists and what have you. (Ugh, that Pinterest-love/hate.)  To do or not to do summer camps/library clubs/nothing/tech turn-offs/family trips/play-dates/no play-dates etc.  So many choices we have to filter through!

We moms, as our children age, have to be fluid and flexible.  But we MUST be kind to ourselves-sometimes, even often, we must do what works to keep us calm and settled and not burned-out by July 15th.

1. Be aware of babies and toddlers schedules and do not feel guilty keeping those schedules.  Some babies and toddlers are very flexible and snap back easily from disruption, and others MUST have that nap every day at exactly this or that time.  Some toddlers (kids!) can withstand a late bedtime, some can't.  I have one child who wakes up at the crack of dawn every day, I swear he would if he went to bed even at 3 a.m.  He can't "catch up" on his sleep.  It's ok to plan days around this and keep a tight schedule even though it's summer.

2. Chores.  There are so many elaborate systems of allowances and chores.  Elaborate and overwhelming and maybe they work for some people, but try as I might, they did not for me.  They just created one more thing to keep track of, to remember, to argue about with kids.  I don't pay for anything but cutting the lawn, and every day I write on a piece of notebook paper a few simple jobs. My mom did this for all of us my whole childhood.  We woke up, ate breakfast, did jobs and then were free to run.  No stickers or rewards or financials.

3. Technology. It's easier for me to just turn it all off.  Yes, there can be a withdrawal from TV.  (The littler kids don't have other tech, the older kids are busy enough with work (this is the key to teens in the summer!).  I have put up reminders on the TV about not turning it on, or asking first.  Once they hear no enough, they give up, we just have to be strong and outlast.  That doesn't mean on a rainy day I just might say yes to a movie, or a favorite show or sporting event, that just means I've learned I don't want it used as a constant fall back to boredom or the way we start our day out.

4. Play dates with little ones were hard and unnecessary unless there are neighborhood-no-drive playing. This gets so much easier when they are older-before that siblings are enough.  Also playdates are supposed to make my life easier because the friend is really easy, respectful, resourceful and not hyper so I choose carefully.

I do know it's hard to keep little ones home and older ones busy.  This is where Lego projects or elaborate craft projects or books or some sort of "goal" or fun fall back activity comes in for us when those "but I'm so bored" comments start. (My kids and the neighbor kids built an entire dog house out of wood scraps last summer!)  It is worth it's weight in gold to invest in anything like this.

5. Food and laundry=priorities.  Food prep (simple meals) and a plan for dinner and a load or two of laundry every day.

6. Low expectations. No cute bucket lists for me.  I tried one year and it felt like another to-do list.  I refuse to be held accountable for anything we didn't do, which might just be nothing, who knows? But for me, it's so much better to throw a surprise in than feel like we all disappointed ourselves.

7. Routine.  Setting a lose routine for summer days help enormously.  Ours is up, breakfast, whatever school work I've assigned (which is another post and very simple things like a page of a Summer Bridge, or whatever we've decided together for the summer, and then jobs).  I try to plan week by week what is going on and where we need to be when, if we go anywhere.

7. Self care.  Summer is full throttle for me and long long days.  Some summers were full on survival mode for me and they were hard!  What would have helped?  A little exercise, a healthier eating plan, even hiring someone to clean or just feeling less guilty about take-out.  Creating some way to feel a little more control of days where schedules changed constantly especially with teens and I felt like I was caught in the storm instead of the EYE of the storm where everything swirled around me and I remained still.  I needed to set more boundaries all the way around. To do that, we have to have time to exercise or meditate, or sit by ourselves, or read, or get up really early to get a hard start and a plan-anything.  Even a teeny tiny bit helps.  It also helps to write this reminder and hang it inside my bathroom cabinet so I don't get so caught up that I forget the essentials.

And sometimes we just have to know and accept that we are in a hard stage and it will get better.
The recognition that mothering, especially a large family, or new baby, takes a lot of energy, and brain space,and can be stressful, is so important.  Taking non-swimmers to the pool is stressful-we are "on" 100% of the time. Going from 6 a.m.-11 p.m. (or later) is stressful.  Doing it yourself with no outside help is stressful. Going on a family vacation can be stressful. The goal is to make it as non-stressful as possible depending on OUR own stress meter, no one else's.

It is up to us to learn about ourselves and our children and set the way we want our days and weeks to look accordingly.

I say probably once a day "I love summer!", and I really mean it.  I am so grateful I get to be home and not in a yucky office,  I love what summer means to me-ice cream and pools, and books and green grass and easy meals and bike rides and more ice cream.  I have the fondest memories of my summers growing up and we seriously did "nothing" but play every day with neighbors, and ride bikes on our gravel road and swim wherever we could find a pool and drink from the faucet and eat tons of hotdogs and corn on the cob and read so many library books for three months straight.  It was the best ever.

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Almost Here

We've been counting down the days till school is over-at least I have two boys that have been counting and one that will probably be a little sad to leave, if he would ever admit that.  We have a fun summer planned-I think I have found the right balance of short morning camps a few weeks for the boys, and lots of down time where they can swim and play and hang out.  Hopefully lots of hard work for the older ones. It won't be a perfect balance I'm sure, it never is, but hopefully after this many years of parenting I have a better chance of finding that happy medium. Some years with babies it's better to do nothing, other years it works to find those activities to wear them out and get them up and at it in the morning.

Andrew ran and won class president.  It is interesting how some kids just have the guts and desire to do these things and others do not. So far there has been a little pattern in our family. He was so nervous the day he had to give his speech-he said the nervous feeling was 1000 worse than the play and he felt sick all day and couldn't eat lunch.  

Of course (I'm saying that because it seems like these types of kids work this way?) he didn't have his speech written, typed or practiced till an hour after bedtime the night before.  (I bite my tongue because procrastination makes me so stressed!) I had already fallen asleep putting Janey to bed and I woke up in the middle of the night with that feeling of forgetting something-I realized I felt this awful guilt for not working on it with him or listening to him speak.  What if when I woke up he hadn't finished it or it wasn't ok?  I know everyone else was either tired or busy (exam week, Jeff working a bunch) so he was on his own (and in line for computer time to boot) that night.

That morning, I saw the draft on the table and read it and just had a good laugh. It was perfect, 100% him all the way through.  Once again I am reminded of one of the benefits of having a big family, minus the guilt we moms always feel when it doesn't seem like there is enough of us to go around-there is really a rare chance that I get to helicopter parent or smother anyone.  It's a big lesson in DIY for the kids.  

Here's the second half of a rough draft-it's a boy-version of Summer Wheatley's Napoleon Dynamite speech-Flaming Hot Cheetos vs. Bonne Bell dispenser?  Maybe that's why I adore it.

I waited with trepidation at the end of the day-he had instructions to borrow a cell phone as he was riding with friends around town right after school-and PLEASE let me know if he had won or not.  I had butterflies that hour before and then was so happy for him.  And I let everyone in the family know, and then I thought about the kids running for student council that didn't win and felt a pain in my heart.  

This is what I have found with the kids growing up-we moms all feel each other's pain-the pain we feel when our children face an obstacle or a set-back.  I've had enough of them-from dating break-ups (the worse both ways), to not making anything (team, etc) for years, to the big game loss, etc.  We are all in this together.  As many joys as there are in the younger years, after jr high we moms really ride an emotionally rocky road sometimes.  I always say, "I've already been through this once when I was growing up myself, why do I have to go through it all over again?"  Six times!  There is so much joy in the moment and then letting go and saying little prayers during the hard stuff.  We feel their joy and their pain as moms.  I want them all to be ok.

Soccer is finishing up-a rainy season with way too many make-up games at the end while the sun is setting, but ready to be finished for sure.

My grocery buddy.  I was thinking of how when I had babies, I'd try to go as long as possible between jaunts to the store (never made it much more than a week) and now I find myself going 2-3 times a week-I have more time and no baby in a car seat and more big kids eating lots of food.  I can plan 1/2 week out at a time and it's easier for my brain to do that now.

Abbey is studying abroad for 6 weeks and I'm so happy for her-she worked hard for this and is having the time of her life.  Another lesson in DIY-I have NO idea how to pack for these things and we laughed because Isaac is no help as he shoved a bunch of things in a back pack the night before he left for his trip last year.  She figured it out herself and then had to readjust when we completely forgot about the weight of the suitcase (thankfully early that morning and not at the airport and only because Jeff had said, "this is way too heavy!" and pulled out the scale.) My advice was to bring comfortable shoes and a lot of black and white clothing so it all matches. That's all I had to give her.  She started in NYC (which she loved) and then headed to Athens (which she loved) and then to Paris (which she was on the fence about for the first couple days and then said she loved) and now Berlin, Venice, Florence, Rome, and Madrid.  

Mostly we get photos of food with "It's awesome here!"
 I have to admit it all looks good enough to travel many miles for.

Isaac is turning 23 this Friday!   
I can't help thinking about how long ago that seems (I was just 25 and had been married 9 months) and how wonderful and life-changing that first baby is-and really really hard too.  When people ask me how I do "it" as I've had each baby, I always say each baby is hard in his or her own way-each one brings a life change for me (and the whole family!)-a metamorphism of some type that I needed but didn't know it then.  A huge learning experience. 

And those changes happen over time and the hard part of them is we don't know where we will end up-we don't know where God wants us to be at the end but we always know what the end feels like.  Like a giant ah-ha moment, getting the answers to a big test, a feeling of contentment and acceptance-huge acceptance of a new normal-from our bodies, to our homes, to our relationships, to our emotional health, just really a shedding of skin and a blossoming into something new and changed and more mature and well...just better.  

And that happens again and again and again through life.  I remember saying to my mom once (it was during the teen years as that is a huge period of growth and acceptance for us moms I think as well as kids) that I wanted all this change to be over and just be at peace and stop learning lessons.  And she said, "Honey that never stops!  You will keep growing and changing and learning till you are dead."  Some of it gets easier, really it does, and then something new will present itself on our horizons-a new life lesson-and there we go again. And not fighting that change, and finding peace through prayer and trust in God-I think that's called grace maybe.  

But what do I know.

But that first one-that love never felt before, wonderful, but heavy.  The weight of that new love is what changes us I think, if we fully accept it as the responsibility it is.  I think some of the messages new moms have been receiving lately, which has changed from a couple decades ago, have been to not feel that weight-to go on and keep "self" as forefront. And also that you need to buy really expensive stuff as baby accessories-or is the baby an accessory to the stuff?  I don't know-but plenty of moms have had babies with a few dollars to their name (me for one).  I have the fondest memories of those "poor" days and my days at home alone with this little guy while I learned how to be a mom-scared to death, and totally in love and finding my way.

My Memorial Day baby-what comes to mind off the top of my head:
-an extremely painful drug free posterior birth that was worth every second
-a tiny but lovely little duplex with huge trees in a quiet neighborhood
-how uncomfortable and nervous I was with anyone holding him and how I couldn't sleep without him next to me
-my MIL bringing me a huge basket of every kind of fruit which was heaven to me
-my mother coming for a weekend in between teaching and how I felt pure panic when she left 
-using change from Jeff's change jar he had since high school because we were that broke
 -strapping him into the front carrier and going for walk after walk
-how hot it was that summer 
-the scale tipping at 24 pounds at six months old, purely on breast milk alone
-because I fed him every two hours around the clock for months and months
-being really really tired
-how everyone commented on how happy and content he was and how much he smiled at them
-how we never ever cried or fussed
-how Jeff was the most helpful husband and a father who was equally infatuated with our baby

Happy Birthday Isaac!

Sunday, May 21, 2017

Encouragement For The Week

We don't really need to be pushed around by the press of life;we just think we do. 
Somehow we have given value to being overly committed. 
In most cases, we have freedom and capacity to choose. 
Cultural pressures are real;make no mistake about that. 
But who wants the culture to run their lives? 
Each set of parents is charged with responsibility for their children. 
They must choose goals they consider valuable and then make private decisions to implement them. 
Life of full of good choices between good, better and best. 
Gladys Hunt
Honey For A Child's Heart