Ordinary Days & Things I Have Learned (And Re-learn Sometimes Too) & A Great Book

February is almost over, and we are heading into spring!  We've had a few very warm days and they have been heavenly-a reminder that we won't be stuck in cold dark gray depressing days for long. The little bursts of warmth and sunshine really helped me escape from a February rut.  I have my Lenten resolutions all ready to go and a new cleaning routine (I am doing 30 mins of general house cleaning, and 30 minutes of deep cleaning one room every day for spring and it is working lovely-if I skip days-and I do-I know eventually it will be finished).

We bought a new computer-a Mac-and that has taken some getting used to but I do love it. I was so nervous about it-my oldest kids were laughing at me-but I was just really nervous.  I fear two things-making a mistake and losing all our family pics, and making a mistake and spending four hours talking to someone I can't understand halfway around the world.  The latter has really happened long ago, the first one never (as I type that my heart flutters, knock on wood.)

The change forced me to through my entire photo library which was ridiculously full of meaningless photos.  I more than halved the entire library and it is so nice and organized and I am thrilled.

The change also has me thinking of new ways to scrapbook-I think I might use chatbooks instead of printing photo collages and just stick a little book in the big scrapbook every year or so, along with a few old-fashioned paper pages.  I've been looking for a way to cut down the time AND to stay on top of each event as it happens-adding captions as I remember them in my old mind-not when I am rushing to catch up and forgetting everything, and I think this is my answer for the three youngest kids.  It had been feeling like a duty and now I feel happy about it.



 She found her old carrier that she spent days and days in and it sure brought back memories.
(We also have a new smile for photos as you can see.:)

Abbey visited and we both couldn't get Valentines chocolate hearts off our mind, and so we sat in the car outside of Rite Aid after our purchase and split each chocolate.

Janey was so so happy.  She misses Abbey so much.  
As a side note, I love rides back and forth to college.  It's the best time to talk and we sure do about everything under the sun.  I've said it before but the drop off never ever gets easier. 

On one of the nice warmer days, Patrick was able to go fishing with his BF and this is second only to basketball on things that make Patrick happy.

On one of my "escape from my rut" contemplations I decided that I needed to find some really good books.  My friend loaned me this one and OH BOY did I love it. It is very much like "The Glass Castle".  I highly highly recommend it. Know that there is some language but this is a true story and it is part of the story.  I will never forget it and have been telling everyone I know to run out and buy it.  There is so much to think about-so much to talk about-I really feel like this book just has to bring about some great conversations from politics (not nasty politics, but thoughtful politics), to poverty, to parenting and more.  If you have a Marine in your life, I think they would enjoy this especially.

I also started writing down little things I have learned on this parenting journey.  I am sure I have written about all these things before but as they come to mind I want to jot them down.  Some things come to mind as I hear or read terrible advice given to younger moms (pretty much everything in those parenting magazines), or I relearn a lesson that I've learned several times before, or I talk with friends that I admire so much as mothers.

-If you constantly feel overwhelmed and stressed when you are a mom (unless you just had a baby and even then this can still apply) you need to eliminate things from your life until you feel calmer and life runs more smoothly.  There are things you can't and shouldn't eliminate-kids :), and church, and maybe kid's school (unless it's preschool, which isn't at all necessary.)  Children rebel against crabbiness, and stress and rushing in the home. They also rebel against lack of attention and lack of consistency.  There are things that maybe are hard to let go of, unless you think of it as a temporary letting go for a season of life.  With each child added to the family, things need to become more centered on home life and house running and child raising.  This is BIG work-enough that it deserves most of our attention. This is not mainstream thought by the way.  The underlying mainstream message today is "don't change your life for your family" at the same time mainstream talk is saying "family comes first". Those two trains of thought are completely incompatible.  We only have ONE husband to pay attention to,  we are ONE mother to each of our children, it is enough to be that ONE well, if we are anything at all.  These roles reap the most reward when they are our priority and some of that reward is our deep satisfaction and joy in family life.

-If you are wondering how someone seems to do it all-I'd say, "stop comparing" but also "no way" while still being present to their family.  There are no miracle workers out there and no one who has more hours in the day than anyone else.  I doubt very much anyone has such an arsenal of time management and skill that a life spread with many big things does not magically cause considerable stress on a family of young ones. I think sometimes the culture we live in today is a giant spreader of delusion.  I called it lies, but my daughter corrected me and said that sounds too purposeful and maybe delusion is a better word.  She is right.  I try to teach my kids that what they see online or on the TV or on social media, must be taken with a grain of salt and some real sensibility and discernment.  We moms need to do this also. Usually the behind the scenes perfection takes a big personal toll or the toll often times gets handed off to the kids.  We all know what reality looks like-it's what is right in front of us and has nothing to do with a screen at all.  We need to pay way way more attention to our reality.  Even when it comes to advice or information, if we take the time for thought and connection-real connection with our own families, we will get the answer-the answer is rarely "out there" from some "expert",  but what's in our hearts and our minds when we are calm and connected enough to our families to listen to our heart and mind. (See first paragraph.)

-If there is something running very true and similar among close happy families, it is a culture of family togetherness but at the heart of it all, it is a strong marriage.  A marriage where the husbands builds up the wife and the wife builds up the husband.  A marriage where the wife is pointing out to the children her husband's strengths, and not his weaknesses and vice versa.  The best book I've ever read on this subject is called "The Proper Care and Feeding of Husbands". It is excellent.

-If there seems to be not enough time in the day step away from the tech-phones, laptops, etc.  It is a time sucker like no other and little distracting minutes add up so quickly to hours out of a day and the cost is way way too great, not only for us but for our families too.

That's all for February!


Let Your Light Shine

If I even say that phrase I start singing the hymn that we sang every week at Mass while attending my beautiful grade school.

The homily this last Sunday was on exactly this-letting our light shine, the talents and gifts that we ALL have, each one of us, to make the world a better place. I love that our priest mentioned "in the home" also.  I've heard some stay-at-home moms mention to me over the years that they have been questioned about letting their gifts and talents and education "go to waste" caring for their children.  I think there is NO better place to channel those gifts and talents, and that education! There is NO place that those gifts and talents and education will make more of an impact for eternity than in the home!  "The hand that rocks the cradle rules the world"-it's absolutely true.  I've known doctors, lawyers, MBA's, very skilled women, make the choice to stay at home and shine their "light" upon their families full-time, while the needs of their children are so great.  That light is a gift!  The days our children our home are so short, such a small percentage of our lives.

Our priest also mentioned that it is a responsibility to not squander this God-given gift.  The purpose is to share.  It is false humility to think that we don't have anything special to offer our families.  I often think of a mom who once said to me, after she asked me what I "do"-"I could never stay at home, I don't know how you do it."  I always wish I would have engaged her further in that statement-it makes me sad to think of what sort of warped view she had of what it "takes" to be a mom. I know every and all sort of stay-at-home moms, there is no "right" sort of personality type, no "right" sort of skills needed.  There is also no training-the first day of the job is when that baby arrives in our arms. We go from there and learn hands-on. It's a journey-a journey that takes decades.  I can only think someone must have told her, in some way, shape, or form, that she wasn't "good enough" for this job-as if she had to be some Barney (does anyone even remember Barney?) type of character every day, know what she was doing right off the bat, and be totally happy and satisfied-never get impatient, or unsettled, or stressed and if she does, well she's not cut out for it and her children are better off with hired help every day as her fill-in.  That train of thought leaves no room for the journey-no room for personal growth.

When I look back on twenty-two years of parenting, I can't imagine any other work teaching me as many skills as I have learned (and I'm still learning). I can't imagine any other work that has pushed me physically or emotionally into tremendous growth, any work forcing me to learn new things, things I couldn't have imagined being part of the job description, than that of stay-at-home mother.  It has stretched me in ways I could never have fathomed as a new scared-to-death, twenty-four year old mother.  I think we should be encouraging mothers to be home with their children-that they are enough for their babies, THEY are what their babies need more than any one else-they are more than enough, no one is worthy of taking their place, they are the ONLY one who can be mother! They are worth that tiny blink of an eye of time that it takes to raise a baby up, and no other job will reward them more than letting their light shine through their daily motherly presence.



Some things I have to remember about this precious girl at age four-

I am always writing funny things she says down.  I want to remember them forever.  Jeff took her to Five Guys one day for lunch and when we drove past weeks later I couldn't understand what she was saying-she said, "I love that place, that's where I want to go!"  She kept saying, "Everything Guy!"  I finally understood what she was talking about. She calls Hobby Lobby "hobby wobby". She has the cutest little voice ever. I know I will watch videos when she is older and cry at the sound of her little baby voice.

Her two favorites foods are french fries and ketchup.  A close second potato chips and dip.  So healthy!  She also loves granola with strawberries in it, thank the Lord, and will eat most everything.

She is starting to get feistier with her brothers.  "Don't touch my stuff Patrick!" that sort of thing. But the minute Patrick leaves to go to school she says she misses him.  She misses Abbey terribly.

She will play with her kitchen and her babies all day long. She is a pack rat. I call it the natural "gatherer" in girls that make these little ones pack all sorts of things in every bag they can find.  She once walked down with a backpack on front and one in the back, carrying two purses stuffed full of things.

She has the ability to go from crying to laughing in seconds.  Which is why we can recognize easily the "faker" in her.  The boys can make her crack up in the middle of sobbing.  It's the cutest thing.

She is and always has been my buddy. She goes with my everywhere and is always so good.  But she is very shy and won't say hi to anyone, or answer their questions. I am sure she will outgrow this with a little prodding.

Her favorite movies are Sound of Music, any Curious George shows, and Mary Poppins.

Her favorite thing to do ever is to play with our neighbor who is six years older than her. She talks about Mary Carol every day and her whole face lights up when she hears a knock on the door.

She is so flexible but how can one not be if they are #6? And I guess we do have long slow days together so there is that consistency but weekend games, or mom and dad having to go to a meeting, or geez, the older kids coming and going, I always wonder what might go through her head with all the activity around here. My mom told me once though that I was her "constant"-it is true I guess, I am almost always here, and we are together a ton. (Not that she doesn't love her daddy, she sure does.)

I try really hard to not go back and think about "the last time I'll have an infant or baby or 1 or 2 or 3 or 4 year old in the house".  It's too hard too live that way. It's like the "live every day like your last" quote-I always think  "if I did that everyone in my house wouldn't be clothed, educated and we would all be starving".  I do and always will miss my baby days. I will always wish I would have babies forever, honestly, but I guess I'd have to admit that I also don't picture me aging at the same time as having babies forever, so there you go.  I have pictures up of the three oldest ones when they were all at home together playing-I try not to idealize those days but they were so different than now and there was something so special about them-not that I knew that then, I didn't so much.  Motherhood is such a journey-the things I worried about when the oldest were young, or the things I hear younger mothers stressing about today-most of them aren't worth the space in our brains.

I was thinking about what advice I'd give to my own children when they become parents and wives/husbands.  I should start writing down little snippets.  There is so much margin in how you raise kids, but there is sometimes not too. Sometimes there is just "this is right" and "this is wrong."  I think when kids start to grow up too, you see that some super super good parents, have adult children that make decision that crush them or maybe even just merely disappoint.  And children from parents who were downright neglectful or irresponsible in their parenting, sometimes have a child or children escape from that and become stellar adults and parents themselves.  There is no ONE thing that has to happen to "make our kids turn out" ok.  If it was that easy.  It's so much care, and concern and prayers and love and attention and sacrifice.  And with all that, life happens and there are things that affect these children, individual circumstances, tragedies, hardships, just LIFE that affect them also-good and bad.

I know that I also, looking back, would tell myself first to stop worrying so much about this or that. Just love them, and be with them, and thoroughly enjoy them. But I can see myself in 15 years, telling myself the same thing about the teen/young adult years too-asking myself why I worried so much, and why I just didn't put those worries aside and not let those worries invade the joy of raising the kids.  I can make the excuse (and it's a valid one) of how hard this culture is for parents today, but there is good to be found everywhere too.

A friend and I were talking about this the other day.  I was listing out loud to her some thoughts in my head about "what I wanted" for my children.  If I'm honest with myself, it was what would make ME feel like I did what I set out to do with all the hard work I have done. Any by the time I got to number ten I was laughing at myself.  We were both cracking up.  Because honestly, it's ok to have high expectations, but as my friend put it best is "what you want is heaven". Heaven, where everything is just smooth and perfect, and there is no struggle, no heartbreak, no hard lessons full of learning opportunities, and nothing to ever worry the parents or nothing to ever break my heart to see my child, no matter how old, walk through.  No weight on my shoulders, no pride lost, no humble learning experiences for me, no late night begging prayers of "please God".  Just happy happy kids and gloriously awesome grandkids with no struggles of their own? Ridiculous. That's not life!  That's heaven!  And as wonderful as heaven sounds, I would choose to be here and struggle through it all, to celebrate the joys of the journey and find grace when the journey gets more difficult.  Even looking back as a parent for 22 years, which is not that long, the "tough" parts-watching a child struggle with school work or with fear, helping a teen with heart break, or dealing with disappointment over a mistake they've made and pushing through that correction with them, seeing them grow-those days are looked on as just as precious as the "easy" days too.  What a gift to witness-those times have forced my growth as much as theirs, if not more so.

Sorry for the ramble, this was supposed to be a post about things I don't want to forget about Janey.

Happy Groundhog Day!  I'll take the sunshine, shadow or not.