A Long Letter

When my sister-in-law had baby #4, I sent her this letter. I wrote this after having my #4...an extremely difficult (but darn cute!) baby. I had a lot on my plate and really had to assess the situation and lay down my ground rules. These are things that I personally had to remind myself of often. Someone else might have a different set of rules depending on their strengths and weaknesses and relationships. People often ask me, what was the "hardest" addition-adjusting to four was mine.

1. You are now the C.E.O. (working 24/7 w/o paid vacation) of a large, profitable (to the world) family: Act like one. Be the boss-anticipate and delegate and try to stay on top of your days. Focus on the task at hand and let the less important stuff fall away-prioritize!

2. Don't try to do everything yourself. Don't feel guilty about your older children being forced to be more independent! They might resist at first, but self-reliance and independence is what they need in life. You will be surprised at what they will do for themselves when you can't, and they will be proud of themselves in the process. Remember that in the "olden days" really young kids had to shovel cow manure, plow the garden and walk 5 miles to school in bare feet all before 7 a.m. Making yourself and your sister a PB and J and getting your own juice cup is a walk in the park.

3. Lower your expectations, especially the first few months. If you get out of your pj's it's a great day! If the kids are decently dressed and eat more than cereal for dinner, it's an accomplishment! If you don't expect anything more than this, you'll go to bed at night knowing you accomplished more than you set out to. Every new addition requires more from us, and we must let go of something-let go of the perfection and the comparison and unreachable expectations.

4. Take care of yourself, and start at the basics: the right to use the bathroom with no one watching. The right to eat one meal not standing over the sink. The right to take a quick shower, put on mascara, some clean yoga pants, and feel a little refreshed.  We aren't talking about nights out and spa days, we are talking about fitting a few essential things to our days.

5. Smart mothers say no often and without guilt. That means putting the happiness and well being of yourself and your family FIRST- not school, friends, sports, neighbors or extended family. You have the rest of your life to do all the things you cannot do right now-trust me, they'll all be there and they'll all ask in one or two or five years. Every one's threshold for commitments is different, and if you don't know yours, you'll find out, it's called stress-and it rears its head in the form of yelling, impatience, resentment and exhaustion. Get rid of the guilt of saying no (without rambling explanations) and your life and your family will function so much better.

6. Laugh when you feel like crying. There will be many days when you swear your head is twirling on top of your unwashed, leaking, bleeding body-the kids are sick, or whining, or crying, or spilling, or fighting or all of the above. Disconnect from the situation, stand back and laugh.

7. And most importantly: Time flies whether you are having fun or not. It is impossible to not get caught up in the work of being a good mom....but it is good to remember that these are the sweetest, irreplaceable memories you will ever have. You might not get to buy teeny diapers, onesies, or little jars of carrots again, or smell the scent of your baby's neck, or kiss her soft, tiny, un-calloused feet, or witness the love an older brother has for his baby sister before the teenage years hit. You will never be so WANTED, NEEDED, SUFFOCATED with LOVE again. Your life will get easier, but one day I think we will all wish we could go back to these days for a just a little bit.



I'd like to introduce you to a boy.
A boy named Matt.
10 years ago he came into this world quite easily.
(Thank You, Matt. That right there will always makes you extraordinary.)
He was soft and squishy and round and blond and as far as baby demeanor goes he got 5 stars.
We had just moved into a fixer-upper, a great house built in 1840, and Matt would spend hours eating Cheerios in his jumpy seat, watching me paint.
Not a word out of him.
He is my only child that willingly slept in his crib with no shenanigans to get him there.
As a toddler he was once broke out in hives so bad that the doctor said it was the worst case she's ever seen. His eyes were swollen shut.
He wasn't one bit fussy.
He eats a PB & J for lunch every single day.
He is a master Lego builder and an expert lizard/frog keeper.
He loves to read and draw.
He has a keen sense of humor. You'd never know that, since he's quiet, but occasionally he'll blurt out something so hilarious and smart and witty we just die laughing.
Here's Matthew:
1. What is your favorite part of the day?
My favorite part is lunch.
2. If you had to eat the same food for breakfast, lunch and dinner for a week, what would it be?
3. What bugs you most?Andrew.
5. How tall do you think you will be one day?
7 feet 2 inches.
6. What do you want to be when you grow up?
I don't know.
7. Whose job is harder, Mom's or Dad's?
They are both equally the same.
8. Favorite sport:
Baseball, wrestling, soccer.
9. Favorite candy:
10. Favorite frog:
Whites Tree Frog
11. Favorite book:
My Father's Dragon.
12. Something that makes you laugh:
When Patrick has poison gas.
13. Favorite subject in school:
Writing and art.
14. Favorite color:
15. Best vacation:
Hilton Head.
16. Least favorite thing to do:
Type on the computer.
17. Saver or spender?
18. My friends are:
19. People bug me that:
Brag in school.
20. What do you think about turning 10?
No comment.
Happy Birthday Matthew!


Rainy Day

I mentioned that we had one rainy day in Florida. I stuck to my no TV rule. And guess what???
No one DIED of boredom! Imagine that!
They, instead, being creative and desperate, decided to do this:

Couldn't miss out on the fun.
More pics of the kids in Seaside here.


Happy Birthday Mom!

This is my mom when she was young...looks like elementary school, but probably junior high or even high school. She is young-looking for her age. Which stinks when you ARE young, but not so much when you are older.
Isn't she pretty here? And look how my little sister is whining..and my mom is still smiling. That tells you all you need to know about her parenting ability. I never ever remember my mom losing her patience or raising her voice. NEVER!
Here she is with all five of us. We had simple birthdays but always felt really special. We picked out the color of the frosting on our cake, maybe or maybe not had a friend over, and couldn't wait to run down in the morning and find a perfect pile of presents on the stairs. She stayed sane and nice, and we had the happy day. Hey, that makes sense!
Jump forward tons of years. Here's my mom and I at my wedding. I look like I'm ready to faint, because I almost am. (But thank you Lord, I don't.) My mom and I went shopping for her mother-of-the-bride dress. I MADE her buy that outfit. She said, "I don't have the legs for a short skirt. I'm too old." I said, "Mom, buy it. If you don't have the legs for a short skirt, then who does?"
Here's a picture from the reception later that day. My mom with my two sisters. 
Many years later, here she is with my fifth, her 7th grandchild. Look at his face. Is that a perfect kind of "getting kissed by grandma face?" He looks like he has that fuzzy sleepy feeling of total relaxation.

Happy Birthday Mom!


Dad Attack


Saturday Night Dinner

Abbey and I were craving some good fresh fruit the other day. We ran to the store and bought everything we could find.
It was SO GOOD!
We shared it with this guy:
Who thanked us with a smile!


On Miscarriage

Often people are surprised that I've had a struggles with infertility.  A mother of six?  How can that be?  After my third baby was born I experienced more than a few miscarriages before and between the last three pregnancies, ranging from week 6 to week 15.  I was diagnosed with "unexplained infertility"-in other words, after extensive testing there is no known reason for my miscarriages.

Miscarriage  and fertility issues never even entered my mind when I became pregnant for my fourth time, as my first three pregnancies were issue-free, and I had three beautiful perfect babies to prove it.

At twelve weeks pregnant in my fourth pregnancy, with two 'beating-heart ultrasounds' under my belt,  I was a little put out when, at a routine office visit, with an older ultrasound machine, my midwife couldn't find a heart beat. She wanted to send me across the parking lot to the medical office where they had state of the art ultrasound machines. She didn't seem too concerned, and looking back, either was I. But the fancy ultrasound couldn't find the baby's heartbeat either.  

My midwife came over and confirmed the baby had died, and we talked about options as I cried, still in shock.  I told her I wanted another ultrasound as I couldn't wrap my head around it. I had just started feeling better finally-I struggled with hyperemesis with each of my pregnancies and I had just made it out of that difficult time of pregnancy-I was ready to enjoy the next six months and couldn't wait to meet this new little one that we were all so excited for.  She agreed, God love her, and ordered another ultrasound and I went to a different office, a better machine, another doctor. He was so kind when he confirmed what I think my heart already knew-our tiny little baby had died.  We were devastated.

In the end the miscarriage sent me on a hormonal roller coaster I could have never imagined.  I had told everyone that we were expecting a baby, of course, and had to untell, while I was physically and emotionally feeling so much pain. I was happy for the support at the time, but I felt really vulnerable constantly. I remember I had heard about the stages of grief and it was like clockwork for me.  It was hard.  It was difficult to hear pregnancy news from friends and relatives, it's difficult to feel hope when despair has a way of taking over.

Never would I have thought this would happen to me over and over again-but I was gifted with three more beautiful babies with me here on earth-three successful pregnancies during those years of experiencing many losses, and although the pain and loss was heartbreaking, it left me with something in it's wake-such a deep appreciation for the ability to have a baby.  What I once took for granted years ago with my first three, I would never take for granted again.

I know many women experience miscarriage, and although I know all of our experiences are quite unique, in the end I would give this advice:

1. Look ahead, not behind.  Find hope and cling to it!  'What if's' and 'why me's' and 'it's not fair', don't get you anywhere but the bottom of that deep dark well. (I've been there, I know how daunting it might seem to climb out.) Acknowledge your loss, because you deserve to-you have lost a new life, your baby. The best you can do is feel the sadness but find a way to keep looking into the future. Sometimes the future is blurry, but invent one for yourself.  Move forward...it is the only way out of the pain.  A part of the loss is knowing you will never again have a "worry-free" pregnancy-that naivete and innocence is a loss too and has to be acknowledged.  I remembering physically shaking going into to get each of my ultrasounds and not one day went by during each pregnancy where I didn't think the worse could happen. 

2. After I had read a book on miscarriage and pregnancy loss, I realized that there are many women who have beat unbelievable odds, and have been through much much more than I could have ever imagined.  It helped put my experiences into perspective.  There are some strong strong women out there, and their experiences gave me hope.  You might know or will meet people who can comfort you because they truly understand what you are going through. 

3. Don't trust anyone to do your medical research for you. Read everything you can get your hands on, even if it is scary. (This book is excellent.) Tests are cheap compared to the pain of loss. If your doctor tells you that you "have" to have three losses before any testing, run for your life. Find a midwife or a doctor who acknowledges your loss and takes it seriously and help you find answers, if there are any to be found. A couple gallons of blood, some serious cycle charting, and you can't believe what you can find out.  Be your own best advocate-ask questions, insist on seeing a specialist if you feel like something is not right.  Be very wary of the fertility industry, it IS an industry.  Be careful when presented with choices.  I am a Catholic and have a deep deep respect for life, from the moment of conception.  Knowing where I stood on issues, and recognizing that some of the tests and procedures offered were roads I most definitely would not travel helped me choose doctors carefully, and ask important questions. 

4. Through our struggles we find deep appreciation and gratitude that sets us apart from other.  You can read more here.