"If the only prayer you ever say in your entire life is thank you, it will be enough."
Meister Eckhart

I have been talking with friends-those with grown children, adult children-about how heart breaking it is sometimes to have them fly out of the nest, but how awesome it is to have them come back and as adults, in some way, shape or form, say thank you.  It swells our hearts and is really one of the most gratifying parts of child rearing.  

We moms are hard on ourselves-we are quick to look back and say "I wish..".  I wish I wouldn't have wasted time on this, I wish I would have trusted my gut more on that, if I had known it would be ok I wouldn't have worried so much, if I had known that would have happened I would have concentrated more on this and on and on.  There isn't anyone alive who lives truly without regret-I once wrote a post on living without regret, and realize now in my older age, it's something that, if we are being honest with ourselves, is completely unavoidable.  Or if we remain closed minded and ignorant maybe it is possible-but life is about a long journey of learning and no one learns without mistakes, doing, being, trying equals mistakes made a long the way.  The effort is what counts in the end.

I want the hard working moms with young ones to know that one day they will experience the same thing-your effort and the time you put into your children, every day, will not go unnoticed or unappreciated.  It is so important-I know that now more than ever-it truly is what counts in the long haul.  That means sometimes making choices that are completely unselfish and self-donative and that often means long days and even longer nights and also some huge sacrifices but it never means perfection-because perfect parenting doesn't exist.  

The acknowledgement of gratitude and appreciation of all that work and time and effort and love is so touching-it means they see us, they notice us who we are to them and what we did and the difference it made in their lives. 

(So go thank your mother.  Thank you Mom!)


Thinking, Playing, Reading

Oranges and lemons
One of my favorite places to shop for my little ones was always Gymboree-good sales, good quality, nice bright colorful cute clothes.  I walked in the other day to the "new" Gymboree and walked out with a bee in my bonnet.  Gone are the matching coordinating bright age-appropriate outfits, and in is the edgy city-living teenager-ish sharp look-for children.  Gosh darn it all, maybe I'm just old-fashioned.  And maybe it was just the store near me, and online might be better, and I say I will send an email, but I know I never will.  Bring back the sweetness!!!

Mom's version:

If you are a Prime member, there is a deal for a bunch of magazines---4 months for .99 cents.  You have to remember, once ordered (give it 24 hours) to go into your Subscription tab and undo the auto-renewal.  I ordered Better Homes, Coastal Living, Taste of Home, and Country Living, just so I get a little surprise in my mailbox for the next four months.

I've been catching up on yard work-I have years to make up for, and it's been fun to do it without juggling child care at the same time-as much as the weather allows, I am working on a section at a time.

I don't want to think about using this for leaves yet, but I bought this leaf blower for Father's Day really for me, and I love it.  We have awful awful luck with outdoor gas powered tools (and they are smelly!), so I bought an electric one.  It is super super powerful-if you don't believe me read the comments.  I've used it on my porch and patio and in my garage and I've been tempted to use it on my kitchen floor on occasion. :)

I was copying my older kids when I bought this card holder for my phone-seems like I have had diapers, pacifiers, Cheerios, books, toy cars, etc in my purse forever-never thought I'd get to this point!  It comes in lots of fun colors.


I can't resist anything vintage and these big board books are beautifully illustrated in an old-fashioned simple way, with classic stories.  (Janey and I love The Three Bears.)

A warning about the really strong language in the book but it was well written and a very eye-opening intimate honest story of what it looks like to grow up in extremely tough drug-ridden circumstances in the inner city.  Heartbreaking but she is a resilient, smart and resourceful woman who somehow, against all odds, makes her life better and manages to pull others up with her.  I'll never forget this book.  


Encouragement For The Week


Love Notes

I love writing my kids letters but often life gets busy and I just forget.  A friend told me that instead of scrapbooking she opened email accounts for each of her children, even as babies, and sends them letters.  Isn't that the greatest idea ever?  I know my oldest son told me that he read the letters Jeff and I wrote him every day to get through high school.  It means more than we think.  I think birthday letters are the best, but I want to do it more.

I mentioned this before, but a friend's grandfather I met and loved recently passed away and one of the special things he was known for was his notes to his children and grandchildren.  It was such a gift to get one of these notes, and it made them all feel loved and incredibly special.  My own mother is great at sending a little card or note.

If you have any neat traditions or ways to remember to do this, could you leave them in the comments?


Thinking, Playing, Reading

I mentioned awhile ago that when I couldn't go to Mass I started listening to homilies on podcasts.
One of my favorite priests is Father Matt Pennington, out of San Luis Obispo CA, a place I never knew existed and after a little investigation seems like Utopia.  He never fails to inspire me and guide me and comfort me-I listen in the car, or on a walk, or when I clean my kitchen floor.


Janey received these paint markers for her birthday and she loves them.  They feel like glue sticks, but the paint goes on dry and they are so fun to use-one of those easy things for a parent/child activity because they are fun for us too-even the boys were sitting around the table using them.

Another cute gift that we both :) enjoyed, and is half price at Amazon right now-we loved it enough that I would buy it again for Christmas and keep a few on hand for birthday gifts.

The End of Normal

I found this book randomly and it looked interesting.  It's an easy read, and very intriguing but also powerful in terms of "another side of the story".  (I am completely unfamiliar with most of what happened when it comes to this subject, so I read it without judgment.)   I felt like it was a very honest, genuine, courageous book to write, from the perspective of Mark Madoff's widow. 


Encouragement For The Week


Thinking, Playing, Reading

That August and September are beautiful months, my favorites, but are the months of mothering sentimentality and nostalgia.  Something about the way the air feels, the crunchy leaves, the chillier mornings, the beginning of change, and the bright bright sun just breed a little bit of something that always makes me feel contented and uneasy at the same time.

This big soccer net was begged for at the beginning of summer with the promise it would be used daily and I have to say it was worth it and they really keep their promise.

The sweetest little sticker books ever-on a certain little girl's birthday list.  I spotted a cute group of girls with these at a swim meet this summer and had to write down the title and brand.  (So fun buying for a little girl because I just really want it for myself.)

At our bedsides:

I loved this book-it's one of those books that I will remember forever.  Andie has a clear, easy to read writing style, and just a loving, tender, truthful voice.  Such honesty and self-examination and no way can you walk away from this book without loving her and loving her story.  

(10 year old boy's favorite-he sports figures being the most read.) 

And my fourteen year old's bed time fun? (Didn't get it from me.)


Encouragement For The Week


What I Know Now

I think I should have a regularly scheduled post of things I discovered after 25 years of parenting that I wished I had been enlightened with long ago, or had been more self-assured and passionate about doing, or had learned from friends and thought "that's genius, why am I not doing this".  Things I wish I had done better right from the start.

Here is one of them:  If your children are capable of doing something themselves than they should be doing it themselves.

Maybe not ALL the time but most of the time.  Enough to be efficient and successful at it.  Enough that we parents are not work horses and maids, but instead get to talk after dinner, relax, enjoy a meal made for us or cleaned up after us, a moderately clean and organized house, and not run on empty all the time or constantly hire things out.  Enough that we should be asking every time we are doing something, who else here is capable of this?

Imagine all the chores and duties that would be off our plates if we implemented this.  It's really an art, this delegation and very very young children can be taught to do many many things.  All one has to do is read a history book to know that children were watching siblings, cooking meals, baking, walking long distances to fetch water or food, hunting, working in factories, running errands, washing clothes, and on and on and on.

I get that sometimes it is easier to do things ourselves.  And I don't think children will be crippled if they can't be completely self-sufficient at a certain age.

But why not enjoy this contribution to our household, so, well, parenting is more enjoyable?  And how awesome that it benefits both them AND us, and the benefits are probably far greater for them than us.  Self-esteem is built, not by words, but by accomplishments and feeling self-sufficient and capable.  Life skills!

I know there are many many way too complicated chore systems, but it does NOT have to be complicated.  It can be a list on the fridge, a daily and weekly checklist, in addition to just asking at the moment.  There are tons of options but the system doesn't matter as much as the fact that they are doing things.

How to do it:

1. Write down everything that needs to be done daily, weekly or monthly in the home, and then try to delegate as much as possible to the children.  They can keep a whole house clean-they live in it for free, why not?  They can learn to take care of their things, their bodies, their clothes, their food as soon as they are capable, and us mothers have a huge tendency to underestimate their capabilities.

2. Teach them at a young age HOW to do everything.  Whether it's making their beds, cleaning a toilet, making cookies, or a quick breakfast, packing their lunches, vacuuming and mopping, cutting the lawn, picking weeds, stripping their beds down and remaking, putting clothes away, etc.  We need to spend time upfront to teach and practice.  The time and patience this takes will pay off incredibly in saved time for us.

3. Be consistent and firm.  Don't feel guilty.  I promise you once they get older you will be thanking your lucky stars you did this, even if it's met with some resistance.

4. Be positive and encouraging and complementary even if there needs to be correction or do-overs.

5. Create habits-which does have everything to do with consistency and when they are young a picture chart might come in handy.  Make the bed, empty the dishwasher, load the dishwasher after dinner, always bring your plate to the sink, wipe off the sink, put shoes away.  Habits are hard to break and easier to enforce and the younger they begin to learn habits the smoother the household runs.

Also, busyness is not an excuse.  As my kids got older their extra-curricular and outside job schedule in addition to studying gave them very little time at home, and although I think it's okay to slack off a little, if a teen has time to spend on their phone, or go out, they have time to keep their rooms cleaned and wipe down a bathroom and care for their things.  That's called learning to "adult"-time management skills and priorities are essential to life.  And really, being clean takes minutes, not hours, if a system is in place.

Some practical tips:

Initial organization done by us makes it easier for kids to know where things are kept and where they are put away.  It does not have to be Pinteresty it just has to be obvious. (A basket where the toys go, and drawers with labels or pictures, etc.) . Making everything easy to reach, and obvious and time-saving is the key.

-Clorox wipes (the extra strong ones work well to wipe down showers and tubs), Windex wipes, Pledge wipes, and Swiffers, make everything easier and less complicated to clean.  I keep the wipes in every bathroom.  Here is my laundry system that I use.

-This cookbook is fantastic-my mom gave this to Andrew as a gift and he loved it and he really is one of our best cooks.

-This panini maker has been a genius find for me because the kids can make hot sandwiches and quesadilla's for themselves with very little clean up (and it somehow seems much safer than a pan and a stove top.)


Gains and Losses

(this little guy is off to college)

I am gearing up emotionally for a couple weeks of big transitions and that dreaded word: change.  School is starting soon and for the first time in decades I will have no little ones home during the day (there was a brief time for four months when I was pregnant with Patrick, and Andrew was in preschool that I was home alone for a couple hours-I went out and bought a puppy go figure!)

We will also only have three children home as my third goes off to college.  I helped moved my oldest to his own apartment in Washington DC-no roommates finally and he is thrilled to be on his own, working hard at a job he loves and meeting new people in a big city.  Our nest gets smaller.  I don't dare take out a leaf in the kitchen table-it just seems like I bought that big long table anyways, so we could all fit, with room for a high chair.  Now, like a boat listing, we will weigh heavy on one end.

This is when I am told, I start thinking about all the things that are just for me.  Maybe a part-time job, volunteering, hobbies, exercise classes, time to cook in peace, to get the worn house in shape and to heal from a health crisis-what makes my soul sing?  That is a wonderful question to be able to ask. What an opportunity to have this time and so many choices.  We worked hard for it, having the gift of being home full-time all those years, giving 24/7, but now the days stretch before me, no little ones to tend to-that has always been by soul's favorite familiar song.  I anticipate a too-quiet house, toys put away, no little voices and pitter-patters.

I am so anxious about the first day of everyone back to school, tears fill my eyes thinking about it. I know that transitions are difficult until the new normal settles.  If I don't gloss the past with sentimentality (something I have a tendency to do), some of those years I couldn't wait for the routine of school to start, for a little more structure to our days, and a little more calmness-some days stretched me to my breaking points, some made me wish for just a moment alone in the bathroom for God's sake.  But I gave them my all, and I wouldn't trade a thing for that blessed opportunity to share my days no matter what they ended up like.  Now the season of little ones home are gone-they seem to have flown by, just like all those old ladies said they would.

Embracing change is the key to enjoying life, especially at my age.  I am going to try hard to look at all the gains I will be experiencing and not the losses, because there are so many gains.  I am going to focus on how grateful I was to experience decades of at-home mothering of littles.  I attended a beautiful funeral this summer and one of the gentleman's famous words were "How lucky we are to feel this way."  Think of how many of life's moments this applies to-loss, and sorrow, grief and exhaustion and of course all the good moments too.

How lucky am I to feel a loss because that means I truly appreciated and adored a long season of life.  How lucky I am to feel grief because that means I truly loved my time with my children with every part of myself.  How lucky I am to feel discontentment because that means I once felt very content. And, more so than ever, how lucky I am to be alive, to celebrate a new beginning.