DON'T MISS OUT!

End Of The School Year

It has been feeling like summer around here lately-beautiful weather, swim team practice has begun, backpacks are full of locker clean outs.

Isaac is home and settling in.  Always an adjustment after living the dorm life.  An adjustment for me grocery shopping wise, that kid can eat!  He turned 20 so I shouldn't say 'kid'.  I have a 20 year old!

Abbey has exams this week and will be a senior.  A senior!  It seems crazy.  (This is not her exam face, that's quite different looking.)  I love this photo of her.  Happy, unstressed, young again, without the weight of the teenage world on her shoulders.

Matt has a short summer because freshman start early.  He has plans to do nothing...and play some soccer.  He came in first in his class in the junior high 5K.  I'm so proud of him for trying hard and doing his best.

Andrew loves swim team and his friends-boy that kid is social.  He cracks me up too.  He is swimming one-armed for now even though he's not officially supposed to.  In this photo, he is William McKinley, for his social studies wax museum.  He told me TWENTY minutes before the bus came that day, "Mom I have to dress up as William McKinley."  Twenty minutes!  That's the best we could come up with under pressure.


Patrick is counting the days down. His kindergarten year is almost over, and he gets to play all day with his guys and his cars and his BFF Anderson.

I am counting the days down till this renovation is over, and loud hammers and people who aren't related to me aren't in my house.  And that big dirt pile in my backyard is gone!  I am imagining nice quiet evenings with a book and a glass of lemonade on my screened in porch, which is setting myself up for failure, because usually evenings don't involve sitting down with books and lemonade and why would that start now?   A friend just told me I would love the book The Son, and I am officially making it my summer novel.

Janey loves being outside-she loves her swing and her slide and her walks...her walks take forever and she is not content like Patrick was, to just trek around the block, staying on the sidewalk the entire time.  She wants to be the boss of the walks, and venture down driveways, or toe the street line, or stop and carry her scooter, and just sit and look around.  I will admit sometimes it takes gallons of patience, not just ounces.

Right now I am loving her toddler days.  She makes the funniest faces, and is starting to realize that gets her attention at the dinner table.  She still hates the car and 20 minutes is her max.  She loves berries, and watermelon and scrambled eggs and spaghetti.
My hands are full.  My brain is full.  I am often drained at the end of the day.  I am still coming to the terms with the feeling of "settling in"-not have that expectation of adding "maybe one more" feels weird.  A new phase of my life for sure.  I loved loved loved that anticipation.  I loved having new babies, I loved the excitement, I loved being pregnant (minus the first trimester).  But Janey was a miracle and I am 45 and boy did my body let me know this last time that it met it's maximum capacity for growing little human life and the show much go on.  And does it go on!, full throttle every day, so quickly I can't catch up.  I did realize in Janey's first year at some point, that if I let the feelings of sadness and mourning the lack of future babies overwhelm me, I wouldn't be able to appreciate the gifts right before me.  That's the thing about babies and toddlers and children and teens that I thank God I know-you can't have do overs.  Every day is a gift.  Every stage is enjoyable, if you take the time to enjoy it.

Pam's Story

(introduction to series here)

...


When Steve and I were dating,
I told him I wanted to be 
a stay at home mom.
I never finished college..
instead I bounced around
from place to place,
job to job
until it was time for me
to settle down,
get married and have children.

20 years
11 moves
and 
4 kids later
our life has been
so far,
a great adventure.

My kids were all born in different places..
Stephen in Ft. Rucker, Alabama
Hannah in Germany
Will in Delaware
Griffin in Massachusetts.
(I admit I'm a little sad we won't have
a baby born here in Paris :)
It seemed with almost every move..
a new baby was in tow.

My husband has always traveled
in his career. 
As a helicopter pilot
in the Army he went to Bosnia for 6 months 
and spent weeks in the field.
(nothing, compared to military wives these days
whose husbands are deployed for much longer
and much more dangerous missions
than I ever had to endure).
When we left the military in 2001 and he started
a different career,
his business travel continued.

I have been the one constant
in my children's lives.
And I simply cannot imagine it any other way.



In the early years of
our marriage and motherhood,
we had NO money.
Steve was just out of the military
and we bought our first house.
We turned a walk in closet into
a bedroom for Stephen
and Hannah shared our bedroom.
I was pregnant with Will and 
friends would ask..
"how do you all fit in that house?"
I look back on those years and smile.
We worked so hard
together.
Building this family of ours.
With no help.
No cleaning ladies
or
landscapers.
No babysitters
or
construction workers.
Not even help from our own
families as we were 
always miles away from them.
We did everything ourselves.
And it was hard!



But so very worth it.

And
as my children get older..
and begin to start lives of their own,
I hope we've taught them 
just that.

I have never felt 
like I've sacrificed.
Sure, there were times when I would
have loved a girls weekend away
or a date night with my husband
or even a few hours to get my hair done
but a nursing baby would not allow it.
And now that I have no more 
nursing babies in my future
(believe me, I have grieved!)
I know deep in my heart that
for me
it was more important to always
be there
for my children.

Pam blogs here.

Lauren's Story

...

“Being a full-time mother is one of the highest salaried jobs…since the payment is pure love.” 
– Mildred B. Vermont

I grew up the daughter of a successful corporate executive and a loving, devoted mother.  I always felt fortunate to have my dad’s ambition and intelligence in addition to my mom’s nurturing nature.  There was never any doubt that I would someday be a mother but I was very open to being a working mother.  My plan was always to have it all.

 
After earning a Bachelor’s Degree in Finance, I found a good job at a respected company and began my ascent up the corporate ladder.  While working full-time, I attended night classes for 3 grueling years to complete my Master’s.  Everything was going as planned; I even had an engagement ring on my finger when I crossed the stage to receive my diploma and the love of my life in the audience cheering me on.  We were married a few months later.  As I blew out my 28th birthday candles, I wished to soon start a family of our own.  Our beloved son was born 9 months later.
What I hadn’t entirely planned for was the overwhelming, all-encompassing love I felt for my baby.  While my head was telling me to go back to work and put my expensive degrees to good use, my heart broke every time I thought about doing so.  I did end up returning to work after 6 months of maternity leave because I figured I would give it a try and could always quit if it didn’t work out.  It wasn’t easy to leave my baby but everything sort of fell into place, most notably that a coworker transferred out of state and their beloved nanny suddenly became available.  I felt okay about being the working mom of a single child, knowing that he was being loved and doted on by a wonderful, experienced mother while I was working at a company that valued and encouraged work-life balance.  I was (just barely) keeping my head above water, doing all the things I wanted to do and being the kind of mom I wanted to be.  But a voice in my head was growing, saying that I couldn’t spread myself any thinner and that this simply wouldn’t work when we had another baby.


 
.
Our daughter was born two years after our son.  Even though I knew in my heart that I couldn’t continue working, making the decision to resign from a job I loved, that I had worked so hard for, was still difficult.  I knew my family supported my stepping out of the workforce but my conversations with my professional mentors completely caught me off guard.  Across the board, they not only supported my decision to be home with my kids, they applauded it.  Several successful women who I admired confessed to me, some with tears in their eyes, that they wish they had been so wise when their children were young.  They deeply regretted missing so much of the precious years with their little ones, years they can never get back.  I realized then that “having it all” was no longer what I wanted for myself or my family.  I don’t believe that raising babies and pursuing a demanding career are complementary undertakings.  I think if we’re honest with ourselves, everyone knows deep down that babies need to be home with their mothers, cared for and taught by the people who know them best and love them most.  And quite frankly, I believe that mothers need it just as much, if not more.  And so I never returned to work from my second maternity leave – it felt so good to finally have my head on board with my heart
My husband would have supported my decision either way but he agreed that my staying home was best for our family.  Even though we were living within our means, we met with our financial planner to understand how our short- and long-term finances would be impacted by this decision.  I highly recommend doing this; our planner essentially gave us financial permission to make this huge change.  The loss of a six figure salary didn’t go unnoticed initially, but now, nearly 2 years later, we don’t feel much of a difference because of some changes we made.  We refinanced our home at a lower rate.  We sold a rental property whose cash flow didn’t make sense.  I insourced many of the things I once outsourced – I now clean my own house, wash my own car, paint my own nails.  We obviously cut the expense of our nanny, and luxuries like international travel and fine dining are not particularly conducive to families with young kids anyway; the kids helped us cut our budget in that regard!   
While I missed out on a fair share of tender baby moments with my son, the silver lining is that I have the perspective of a working mother.  I made an informed decision and never have to wonder if the grass is greener on the other side.  I know firsthand that working moms love their kids every bit as much as stay-at-home moms do, but being with my children all day, every day has strengthened a bond that I didn’t realize could get any stronger.
An unforeseen benefit of my being home every day is that my mothering intuition has become so clear – it is rare that I don’t know what my children need.  This intuition has given me the confidence to make decisions based on what I know is best for our family.  It used to be difficult for me to say no to a world full of pressures to go here, do this, or buy that.  But now I do not hesitate to say no, no, no to the chaos of the outside world and focus on the things that truly enrich our lives – time with our extended family, true friends, and most of all each other.



I have also realized that, for me, being a deliberate mother is a full time job.  The busier I get, the less intentional my parenting becomes; I go from proactive to reactive and my family deserves better from me.  I have found that the more intention I put into motherhood, the more rewarding of a vocation it becomes.  I love having the luxury to slow down and savor the simple things in life with my sweet kids.  I enjoy preparing meals with love that nourish both my family’s bodies and their souls.  I share in my kids’ exuberance when they master a new skill or do something to make someone else happy.  My kids are happier and get along better when I am fully present and they have my undivided attention.  None of these things would be as possible or as enjoyable if my family had to share me with a career outside of our home.


I honestly don’t feel like I’ve given up any of the dreams I once had.  Instead, becoming a mother has provided further clarity about what a full life looks like for me.  My career ambitions may return when my children are older, but for now, “having it all” means:

·        Days filled from sunup to sundown with kisses and cuddles, games and giggles.
·        Being able to say yes to my kids when they ask for French toast on a Tuesday morning.
·        Driving to the coast on a clear, uncrowded October day to pick the perfect pumpkins for Halloween.
·        Spending rainy days in bedsheet forts with giggling kids, glow sticks and every stuffed animal in our house.
·        And above all else, looking at my children curled up in my husband’s lap for our weekly popcorn movie night and knowing that I didn’t miss one single moment of their innocence, learning or joy.

My heart is so full of love, gratitude and contentment and I know I’m exactly where I should be.  How could I possibly want anything more? 

Encouraging Words For Mothers

We would like to pay homage to all brave mothers 
who dedicate themselves to their own family without reserve, 
who suffer in giving birth to their children 
and who are ready to make any effort, 
to face any sacrifice, in order to pass on to them the best of themselves…  
How hard they have to fight against difficulties and dangers!  
How frequently they are called to face genuine “wolves” 
determined to snatch and scatter the flock!  
And these heroic mothers do not always find support in their surroundings.  
On the contrary, the cultural models frequently promoted 
and broadcast by the media do not encourage motherhood. 
In the name of progress and modernity, the values of fidelity, chastity, sacrifice, 
in which a host of Christian wives and mothers have distinguished 
and continue to distinguish themselves, are presented as obsolete. 
As a result, a woman who is determined to be consistent 
with her principles often feels deeply alone, 
alone in her love which she cannot betray, and to which she must remain faithful. 
Her guiding principle is Christ who has revealed the love which the Father bestows on us.  
A woman who believes in Christ finds a powerful support 
precisely in this love that bears everything. 
It is a love that enables her to believe that all she does for a child conceived, 
born, adolescent or adult, she does at the same time for a child of God. 

St. Pope John Paul II

Ordinary Days and Some Books


Layer upon layer, but they are slowly being peeled away-can't wait to see brown cork!

Oh geez, May is busy.  Blogging has taken a back seat, far far in the back.  And the more I get behind the more I feel like "why catch up?" and then I just decide to not even try.

 I hope everyone had a nice Mother's Day-it was beautiful here, and busy, and it was just like every other day.  We went to church, even though Abbey came a little late because she had a very early ACT class, it was SO nice to have everyone together in one pew.  That was what I really wanted more than anything for Mother's Day!

In the news:


Poor Andrew is on the mend from a broken wrist-we bought a slack line for the kids this Christmas, and it was so fun-until this injury.  This puts a damper on the beginning swim team practices and he is very disappointed.  Patrick lost another tooth in a soccer incident.  He wrote a cute note to the tooth fairy, telling her to please leave his tooth, he wanted it as a souvenir.

I am SO enjoying sending boys outside to play though, injuries or not!

We are doing a house addition/renovation.  We have thought about doing this for years and years and finally decided last fall to go for it.  I love our neighborhood, I love our neighbors, I love our house, I love our yard. I want my grand kids coming to visit me here one day in the future, so we decided moving was out of the question.  And Abbey said it best, "If we move, I'll leave for college and I will have to come back to a house that never even felt like home."

I wish I could say it was fun and exciting but I just want to pretend the extra space all magically appeared one day.  No endless decisions (I know some people think this is fun, I don't), no hassle, no inconvenience, no worry, no pounding, no strangers in your house all day-that is what I look forward to.  Six more weeks.  They promised.  I remind the contractors of that every single day. I can't wait till it's all over!

Here is the best thing I ever found on Pinterest by the way:



Isn't that true?  The stars make me feel small and make what's most important in life stand out.  Usually I find the time to gaze at them for about 60 seconds between parking the car and walking in the house after picking some milk up at the grocery store, but that 60 seconds makes all the difference in the world.

May Crowning was so beautiful.

So is this little girl.  She is getting too big though isn't she?  But I have the whole summer to say she is just one.  And her legs still have chubby rolls. 

Isaac is home from college. 

Some good books I've read lately:
This is excellent.  If you have a pre-teen or teenage girl, this book is so informative about the real struggles are girls are facing with our crazy culture today.  I ordered Dr. Sax's other two books right after I finished this one.  

I think this book should be a textbook for a mandatory class in high school. It's really really good.

I loved this book!  Honestly, I could not put this book down-well I had to of course, but the whole time I wasn't reading it, I was waiting till I had a chance to sneak away and pick it up again.  If I could have put toothpicks in my eyelids at night to keep reading I would have.  I hid in the bathroom for a few minutes to finish a chapter.  It was so so good.

I wanted to attempt this book but my May brain won't let me right now.   I'm going to save it for later-like September later.

Ellen's Story


(about Coming Home series here)

My husband and I were born and raised in the town in which we are currently living with our children.  We were high school classsmates (but not sweethearts!) and kept in touch off and on through college.  I spent those years at Loyola University Chicago, where I played softball and earned a degree in Elementary Education.  A few years after graduating, we married and began living in the real world of jobs, bills, and homeownership! 

By the time our first child was born, I had been a teacher for four years.  I taught 5th grade at a local Catholic school and 9th grade theology at my alma mater.  I also spent a few of those years coaching softball at the high school level.  I enjoyed those endeavors very much, but I knew all along that they were temporary.

I do not recall a conversation with my husband about not returning to work.  It was always my desire, always part of my plan.  It always just felt like the natural thing to do.  Our first child was due in October.  I finished the previous school year in May, and returned for a (very little) bit of substitute teaching until our son’s birth. 

I never considered continuing my job.   I did not wish to spend my days with the children of others while someone else took care of my baby.  As is the experience of many new parents, my husband and I found that the transition into parenthood was exhausting and frightening and so overwhelming for a very long time! 

Clearly though, we made the necessary adjustments to our new reality…..Our son was  4-years-old by the time his third sister was born!
There is a saying about the days being long but the years flying by.  How true it is!  I spent so many days wondering “How in the world is it only 9A.M.?”  My husband’s job requires him to work 24-hour shifts, so those days were particularly challenging.  I will never forget the kind words of a stranger as I walked with my babes through the neighborhood park one evening, killing time before bedtime (with one on foot, two in a stroller and one in a backpack!)  This kind woman probably sensed that I was ready to crumble at any minute.  She told me that when her daughter was small, her goal each day for them was to take a walk and read together.  If they accomplished those things, it was a good day.  I think that was her way of saying, “Honey, you look like you might fall apart before you make it back home, but you are doing a fine job!”  It was often the complimentary words or sincere encouragement  of strangers that kept me going in the those early years of motherhood (and still today!)
I was sitting in the dentist’s chair shortly after the birth of our son when the dental assistant asked me how much longer I was off work, assuming I was on maternity leave.  When I told her that I was not returning to my teaching job, she asked me if my dad was mad at me.  I did not immediately understand her question, and before I could respond, she added, “Because I’d be really upset with my daughter if I had just put her through college and she chose to just stay at home.”  I left the dentist’s office with tears in my eyes, a lump in my throat, and feeling very sorry for that woman’s daughter.
This year, our youngest child started Kindergarten, joining her 1st, 4th, and 5th grade siblings.  It has been a bittersweet transition for us…. It’s always hard to accept that your babies aren’t babies any longer, but at the same time, we have reason to celebrate….YAY!! We made it this far!  I could easily spend my days sadly longing for those early years- our days were simple and very routine, our calendar was practically empty, and our children were safely sheltered in our home.   But by God’s design, we all must grow and change and face new seasons as they come…..

I am wrapping up my first year as the librarian at my kids’ school.  When our youngest began Kindergarten in the fall, I returned to the (wage-earning) working world.  I have a really great job!  I work just three days a week and enjoy the same days off and breaks as my kids.  When my kids are at home, so am I!  In truth, my heart is still at home, and I predict it will always be.  But, in order to carry out our plans for our children, my (extremely modest!) income serves a very specific purpose.

If you are a young mother or mother-to-be struggling with the decision to stay home with your children, let me be an example of at least one thing:  You CAN have it all!!!!....... JUST NOT ALL AT THE SAME TIME!!!!  I kicked off my adulthood with a job I enjoyed and left it to pursue my calling of motherhood.  I am a teacher by trade, but a mother forever.  The years I spent (eleven in all) at home with little ones were gone in the blink of an eye.  Never will I look back and think, “I wish I would have worked more” or “I wish I would have had a nicer car, vacation, wardrobe, television, etc.”  None of that matters!  Chances are good though, that if I’d made the opposite choice and continued to work, I most likely would have regretted it.

I believe that God shares these children with us.  They are not OURS.  They are HIS!  He handpicked these four to be called ours on this earth, and I believe God wants us to be the ones to spend our days and nights with them, loving and protecting and nurturing them, and leading them to HIM!

“There is an appointed time for everything,
 and a time for every affair under the heavens.”
Ecclesiastes 3:1

Julie's Story

...

Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.
-Robert Frost, The Road Not Taken

The goal of attending law school and becoming a criminal prosecutor was firmly implanted in my mind by the sixth grade. I never wavered from this path. I secured a scholarship at the end of high school which enabled me to attend a prestigious womens’ college in Massachusetts. Moving onto a very enjoyable law school career in the great city of Chicago, I developed an affinity for legal research, writing, and editing; criminal law; and Moot Court. The highlight of my life at that point came when I was sworn in as an attorney. I then immersed myself in criminal appellate work, during which time I was introduced to a tall, handsome, attorney at an engagement party for a law school classmate. Nearly one year later, he and I were married. Ten days after we celebrated our first wedding anniversary, we welcomed our first born son. I had worked up until my due date at my position in a litigation division of the criminal prosecutor’s office. Suddenly, the young, aspiring attorney found herself on maternity leave.
My uncomplicated pregnancy that extended 5 days past my due date led to a labor and delivery time that spanned about 28 hours. The doctor eventually resorted to forceps to avoid a c-section and encourage the impressive head of my son to make its debut in the world. The pure joy of our baby’s presence was overshadowed within twenty-four hours. He became fussy, refused to nurse, and began to run a fever.  The hospital conducted repeated lab tests and even performed a spinal tap.  Sepsis was suspected.  In the middle of the night, a new resident physician even told us that our baby had meningitis. Thankfully, that was not the case; however, for the next several days in the neo-natal intensive care unit, he received around the clock administrations of antibiotics to combat the infection.
It was nearly impossible for me to leave him late each night when the nursing shift changed. The seriousness of the situation forever changed me. I experienced a defining moment in the NICU one day where, had it been audible, would have sounded like a gear switching. An unmistakable “click.” I knew, beyond a shadow of doubt, with the greatest conviction a person could have, that nothing in the world was more important than taking care of this precious life. Nothing. No case. No brief. No oral argument in federal court. Anything related to practicing law could be quite competently performed by another lawyer. No one else, however, could mother my son and love him as much as I could.

Despite these life changing events, however, the temptation later arose to take a part-time position in another litigation division. The weekend arrived when I would agonize over whether to take the position and embark on a path to try to balance work and family life or remain home with our son.  My husband quietly slipped into the background, praying all the while, but pledging his support for whatever decision I made.  We had one car (I stubbornly learned to drive as it was a stick shift), lived in a rented 2-bedroom apartment, and owed a fairly impressive amount of combined school debt. We had agreed, however, from the onset of our marriage, to make financial decisions that would allow us to live solely on my husband’s income so that I would always have the option to stay home should this exact situation arise.
While I did not realize it at the time, my husband was fairly convinced that I would not be able to leave our son. Nevertheless, he expressed great relief when I communicated that I would turn down the part-time offer. He confessed that it would have caused him stress to think that someone other than me was caring for our son. He also absolved me from the guilt I felt at the fact that he was now paying back my loans. We both knew that little financial incentive to work existed, for child care expenses would consume my modest government salary. I felt exceedingly grateful to know that I had his unconditional support. Truly, though, the best evidence I offered for my decision was love. Love and a new found belief that although law was my chosen profession, being a wife and mother represented my true and God-given vocation.
My first three children are separated by 16 months so that by the time my oldest was not yet 3, he had a younger sister and brother.  I always felt that this close succession of babies was God’s way of assuring me that I had made the right decision and that there was no looking back. That is not to say that other, well-intentioned persons along the way have not expressed surprise or even disappointment that I do not currently practice law. The education I have received can never be taken away from me. I am an attorney whether or not I choose to practice law. I would even argue that many more persons, once learning of my status, have treated me with greater respect than they otherwise may have. The lady with half-a-dozen children has a brain! Yes, indeed, though we all know that it certainly does not take having such an advanced degree to be considered smart or to be a great mother.

When I talk to my oldest daughter and other young women, I encourage them to finish their education and pursue a career with flexibility and work-from-home options. Marrying the right person is also key.  It is never too soon to pray for a future spouse. At some point, marriage is a great leap of faith, but finding a man who will be a wonderful husband and father is critical. I would also recommend, once married, living on one income as well as within your means so that the option to stay at home always exists. Remember always that no one will ever care for your child and love her as you will.  Also, joyfully welcome each child that God sends. He makes no mistakes.
I turn 45 in May. We now have 2 cars (both have automatic transmissions) and a minivan, a home in which we more than comfortably fit, and no debt other than our mortgage. I have repeatedly witnessed how God always provides. Most importantly, we have 3 high schoolers, a 3rd and 2nd grader, and a 3-year-old. This year my first born will begin college. Next year, his sister will leave us and begin to chart her own course. I can tell young mothers with the greatest conviction that I have no regrets about staying home to raise my children. It is the most important “work” which comes with a weighty responsibility.  The entrustment of forming 6 souls is not a light undertaking. Children have needs at every turn of the corner, and I am profoundly grateful to be present for it all. The sacrifices we have made to live on one income and send them all to reasonably priced private schools have not gone unappreciated by the children either. Our school-aged children are conscientious, thoughtful, high achieving students with good moral formation. They value their education and express how grateful they are to attend their particular schools.
Alone I can do nothing, but with God, everything is possible. His plans for my family far surpassed any I could have imagined. And the road we have taken has made all the difference in our lives.

(A special acknowledgement to my first born son who partially contributed to this entry, and to my husband and children, who are my treasures, my “jules,” as my license plate reads!)