Category Archives: mothering

Laney Bugs Turns ONE!

Elena’s first birthday brought more tears than laughter for this mother. Much like the day of her birth one year ago, there was no time for fanfare. There was simply a red and white checkered ladybug dress and cupcakes to match.  A small homage in honor of the only “bug” in the world I love; our “Laney Bug.”

Her daddy and I knew the moment she was born that regardless of if there will be any more children for our family or not, she will always be “the baby.”

When she entered the world, things were a little dark for our family. Daddy was on the computer writing his thesis right up until mama was ready to push. We didn’t know where we would live, when daddy would graduate or if there would be a job for him.

“Every baby is born with a loaf of bread under their arm” the old saying goes, and our Laney was no exception. Her birth was the first in a domino effect of things falling into place for our family.

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Take Cover! Christmas Bells are Ringin’

The only people who think about Christmas in October are St. Nicholas, people who work in retail and sprinkle Halloween in one aisle and Christmas in the next and, of course, moms.

Although fall is by far my favorite season, a tiny bit of my autumn joy has been stolen since I got married and had kids. My fall to-do list has multiplied since becoming a mom. “Check out new fall TV line-ups” has now been replaced with less “fun” chores.

These tasks are dreaded all year by most moms I know. They include:

The “whose family are we going to for what holiday so everyone we’re related to can be happy and we can be miserable” traditional seasonal fight with your husband:

To be fair, we’ve got the cutest daughters in the world. Unfortunately, they are the only grandchildren in both mine and my husband’s family. So, we’re in high demand. And, of course, by ‘we’ I clearly mean the children. It’s very common for my husband and I to stay up all night packing everything we own so we can crisscross the state through a snow storm in the middle of the night with screaming children. We do this only to arrive at our destination and have our children snatched from our hands and swooned over while we collapse onto the couch without so much as a hello. Once we’re acknowledged it is with a well-meaning “You look awful. You really need to take better care of yourselves. You should get more rest.”

All this is done, of course, so that we can spend the night (if five hours counts as a night), wake up to share a meal with said family and then pack it all up, stuff it back into the mini-van and head out to a dinner hosted by the other side of the family—four hours away.

I have a friend who, in negotiations with her husband, traded every single major holiday of the year just so that Christmas could be spent in her hometown and she and her husband would never have to have this fight again. She should take that poker face to Vegas. I would’ve folded.

In order to please everyone and ensure you’ll still be married by Christmas, negotiations really need to start in the fall. Recently, our discussions on the matter took an interesting turn as we found we were each advocating for the other’s family to ‘get us.”

Shopping:

If there is ever a test of faith, it’s preparing for Christ’s birth in your heart while trying to find a parking spot at the mall. This is done to the soundtrack of car horns honking and people swearing at each other. Once in the mall, you can’t make a purchase without giving out your e-mail, phone number and zip code to the sales person, so you can be harassed and reminded of this experience all year long with ill-timed phone calls.

And there’s always those super uplifting human interest stories about humanity at its finest on TV. The one where people are willing to stampede each other for a $40 toy. Let’s not forget our favorite holiday dance: stretching that family budget to include buying gifts for people because they bought one for you/your kid last year and you were mortified they were not on your list and you were empty-handed.

The Christmas Card Picture:

Please tell me I’m not the only mother who turns into an insane beast of a woman when it comes time to take the photo for the family Christmas card. If I had to pick the worst four hours of my year, it would be taking the Christmas card picture. And, yes, it does take four hours. It is also the hardest workout I do all year, and for what? To capture the fact that my kids refuse to smile for a picture, someone is shoving their finger up their nose, the baby is crying and my make-up is dripping down my face with beads of sweat?

Between takes I scream, “Everyone shut their mouths, stop crying and smile or I’m canceling Christmas!” All of this just so we look like a big happy family in the photo card that has “Christmas blessings” scrolled across it. Last year, I attempted running this marathon while pregnant, and the whole thing actually put me into contractions. We’d already received cards form more successful friends who got their cards out the first week of December. Card after card made me wonder if all of our friends’ children had become catalog models or the face of dental offices.

If you look closely at our card from last year you can see me digging my fingernails into my husband’s leg because we were going on photo shoot hour three, and I was realizing that our photo wasn’t going to have the same fate as every other family we’d ever met. I was going off the edge. Nothing says “Merry Christmas” like a nervous breakdown over a photo card.

Enjoy the Season

This year I’m putting this on my list. Amid all of the stresses the holiday season brings to motherhood, our Church gifts us with the season of Advent. When everything around us defines Christmas by slapping a manufacturer’s label and price tag on it, our liturgical year builds in time for us to prepare our hearts for the real gift of Christmas, Jesus. We’re asked to quite our hearts and our mouths and prayerfully reflect on what this gift means to us.

We’ve decided that this year, no one is going to “get us” for Christmas Eve. You don’t have to travel to meet Baby Jesus. We’ll celebrate in our home and invite others to join us here. They can drive.

We’re not above bribes. We’ll use the kids to lure our families to our side of the state. We won’t tell them they’ll be sleeping on pink and purple twin sized beds in little girl rooms. They’ll also have to get up in the middle of the night to go out in the cold and create reindeer tracks in the snow to enhance the Christmas morning experience for our daughters.

Our daughters will receive three gifts from us. Because if it’s good enough for the baby Jesus, it’s good enough for us.

As for the Christmas card, maybe if I attempt to do a funny ‘out takes” type card we’ll finally get that Norman Rockwell family Christmas photo. It is baby Jesus’ birthday. If our Blessed Mother can ride a camel across her country while nine months pregnant, I think I can pack my kids into a mini-van and drive across the state to see family over the holiday season. I believe in Christmas miracles.

Now Thanksgiving, that’s another story. We’re still trying to work that one out……

I took a weekend vacation and never went back to work

After two years of hard work and 6 months of extreme family sacrifice, my husband recently defended his graduate thesis and received his master’s degree. The very first thing we did (even before the poor sleep deprived man took a nap) was book a mini family vacation for the following weekend.

Over the past few months “family time,” has gradually slipped further and further down the priority list. It was the season of our life and we feel confident the sacrifices we made will pay dividends for our family, but something had to be done.

Have you ever started a deep cleaning project and stopped to take a break only to find yourself mortified by the mess you’d made? Things tend to get worse before they get better.

We put all other pressing things we had let slide over the past month on hold and picked our family up off the floor.

We visited Wisconsin Dells, staying away from most of the tourist attractions and focusing on quality, low-key, family time. We took a horse-drawn ride into Lost Canyon, boarded a “choo-choo” train in North freedom, WI, and had a morning under the big-top at Circus World in Baraboo.

As with any family vacation with small children, there were casualties. Anna was kicked by a horse, there were 4 scrapped knees, mama and the baby got too much sun, the brakes on the van died and Tessa’s ear found the not-so-friendly end of an iron stool on the train.

Amidst the excitement and wonderful family time, the cloud of stress and indecision that had been hovering over us lifted and feelings on recent big changes in our life became more clear.

I recently accepted a position at a parish to work 25 hours a week coordinating Faith Formation. The parish is wonderful and the people working in Faith Formation are wonderful. At first instinct 25 hours per week sounded like a bit much for me. I work from home 10 hours a week, freelance write, and you know- mother 3 kids 3 and under. I was offered flexibility and I do have this master’s degree in theology collecting dust on my shelf so, I signed on the dotted line.

But something funny happened while we were on vacation, taking time to enjoy each other and not letting the stresses of everyday life live in the forefronts of our minds. Somewhere between the picnic lunches, relaxing in the hot-tub and spending family time together, for the first time in recent months prayer found a way to pierce through a barrier it couldn’t break through at home:

Joseph decided this is not what he wants for his family.

I’ve been blessed with a loyal and true man. In the almost five years we’ve been married we’ve had many decisions to make. Some of them were placed upon us and out of our control (medical emergencies), and some of them we brought on ourselves through the mistakes we’ve made. And, we’ve made a lot of mistakes.

It has taken my husband a while to figure out what he wants to do “when he grows up.” It’s been hard, having him figure this out as we had 3 kids in 3 years and while he also had 2 heart surgeries in that time. He’s worked really hard to finish his master’s degree and put himself in a position to advance his career.

The only thing he has been sure of in the five years we’ve been married is that he feels called to help me fulfill my call to write. He doesn’t want me to add something to my plate that does not promote that calling, and does not want me going back to work – taking time away from my callings of motherhood and writing.

How blessed I am with a husband who feels even more strongly about my callings than I do.

I will not be going back to working outside the home after all. I’ll be sticking with my work from home job and freelancing. Since we made this decision we have received several affirmations so we are going to trust in my husband’s plan for our family, and in God, that this plan is the best one for us.

My weekend vacation led to my not going back to work.

Vacations are important (even the Pope agrees). They give us a chance to step out of our everyday responsibilities. They give us the opportunity to see our life through a different lens. This time, for us, that lens was a bit clearer and we were able to identify the mismanagement of our priority list.

There are many ways to take a vacation or “time-out” in life. Sometimes they lead to bigger and better things than souvenirs and pictures for the scrapbook. Have you taken one recently?

The Working Mother

I’m a working mother. In my opinion, the words “mother” and “worker” are synonyms.

I don’t claim to understand the inner workings or mystery that is God. I believe the vastness of His love is too much for our mortal, fallen minds to grasp.

I am sure our worth is not found in a paycheck and that every life holds the same amount of value. That amount does not begin with a dollar sign.

This is not the mind set of our culture. Questions such as “what do you do?” and “what are you?” are quick to form on the lips of strangers and long lost friends. The answers sought are often job titles, and expected as definitions of a person instead of how a paycheck is earned.

When a mother is asked what she “does” there is often a qualifier placed in front of her answer, either by herself or the person she’s speaking to. “Oh, I’m JUST a mom,” or, “so you JUST stay home?”

Don’t cut yourself short, moms! There’s no “just” about this gig! Let’s all get together on one thing; in the language of motherhood, “just” should indeed be treated as a four letter word. Let’s not say it about ourselves or let others use it in reference to our vocation.

There are many calls to the same vocation. This is especially true of motherhood. Some are called to be the family breadwinner; some are called to be home fulltime, some half time. There are mothers who are called to bring new life into the world yearly during their season of fertility in the form of a new baby while others carry the cross of infertility. Some mothers are called to mother children of the world who have no mother.

As mother, the one thing we all have in common is that we are all called to live our lives breathing life into the world, be that into little souls trusted in our care or in the many other ways God calls that breath from us into the world. It is fruitful. It is good, and it is different in each mother.

I am currently called to be a work at home mother. Working from home is stressful, but worth it for our family. I started working from home for a family centered company when our second daughter was two months old. The opportunity was a God send for me.

Joseph and I had just had two daughters in one year and realized we needed an additional source of income. Over these two years my commitment has varied. My role and time commitment has nicely settled into about 15 hours a week.

My freelancing career has grown greatly over these past two years. On average, I am working on freelance assignments about10 hours a week, putting my total weekly working hours at about 25.

The addition of these freelance hours has helped me become a better worker and a better mother. When I found myself too overwhelmed with these commitments I took a step back and really discerned how I work.

I used to “work” all throughout the day. Making a phone call here and there, checking my e-mail every hour and answering e-mails as they came in. At the end of the day I had really only “worked” maybe an hour and a half. Yet, I felt like I was working all day every day and that the TV was babysitting my children.

My husband and I decided this was not working for our family and after much discernment, we decided that although I am still called to be a work at home mother, how I went about it needed to change. With my freelancing growing we decided it was time to make room in our lives for me to have some solid and defined working time.

For the past few months we have set aside larger blocks of time for me to work. Instead of always feeling like my mind was on work while my kids fit between those stresses, we’ve shifted our focus. I work less days but for longer periods of time. This has created less time stressing about work and more time actually working. It’s been a wonderful change for me mentally and it’s been great for my projects and my motherhood. I’ve been able to take on more freelance work and feel the publications I work on for my job have become better as a result.

The last trimester of this pregnancy has been one of great discernment for this work at home mother. I have a masters degree and the student loans that often accompany such a degree. In the past month many have asked me when I am going to “use” my degree.

My favorite question is, “when are you going to stop wasting your degree and go back to work?”

The question boils my blood. I do work. I am a mother, and a working mother at that. Just because I don’t leave my house everyday does not mean I’m not working, that I’m wasting my education or that I am financially lazy.

A few doors were recently opened to me and there was the possibility of me going back to work, full or part time, outside of the home.

During the daytime hours I was able to talk myself into this. I thought of all the debt we could pay off, vacations we could take and stress that would be taken off our plate.

But, the night. The night was another story.

For a few days I was unable to sleep and didn’t know why. Then I started having panic attacks. As perfect as the plan sounded, I am not called to it. I am called to be doing what I’m doing. I am home with my kids AND I work. The way our family pieces that all together is unconventional, but it works for us.

I feel so blessed to be home with my girls, doing a job I really like, working with people who share the same values as we do and building my writing career right along side my family. We are willing to sacrifice to live in the way we feel called. Just as mothers who work full time outside of the home are willing to sacrifice things to fill the role they are called to as a mother. Same vocation: different and equal call.

Like many other things in life, motherhood seldom goes exactly as expected. I learned this lesson in my first days as a mother when I was unable to breastfeed. I was heartbroken. I had convinced myself that to be a good mother one MUST breastfeed. God did not create that opportunity for me. Instead, His plan was much greater. His plan was Irish twins for us. This heartbreak turned into the blessing we call Anna Clare.

As I write this, I am very pregnant. My mother has come for a few days to help take care of the girls and clean my house so I may rest and get ahead on my projects and job to prepare for the birth of our third daughter. On this very day we are both answering the call to motherhood. My mother on her hands and knees scrubbing floors for her daughter and I in a chair, resting so that the daughter in my womb may grow strong and ready to enter the world. Very different kinds of work, but work none the less.

Truth is, there is as many definitions of a good mother as there are mothers. We need not compare our situations and gifts to one another. Motherhood is not a competition. There need not be winners and losers. As mothers we love children, and therefore want all mothers to be winners.

We’re all working mothers. We are exactly the mothers our children need and we fulfill this call in many different ways.

Motherhood, in all its many forms is a high call and a lot of WORK. No ifs, ands, buts or “justs” about it!