Survival Mode: Not Quite a Book Review

I don’t do special events well. Birthdays and holidays stress me out because they seem to just be a lot of extra stuff to do. My house suffers from a lack of decorating and prettiness because I’m doing my best to get it picked up and clean (and mostly failing). Time for myself and to spend with my husband or individual kids is hard to come by. I am always, always overtired.  This is what I call survival mode.

Every morning I make my list of things to do. I try to pick out the three most important ones to really focus on, and I have my regular list of things that are supposed to get done every day. Every night I go over my list and realize that I have achieved about a third of those items. I usually get the most pressing things done on time, but not always.

So when the writer on one of my favorite blogs, Crystal Paine at moneysavingmom.com, came out with a book titled “Say Goodbye to Survival Mode” I ordered it right away.

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Crystal’s book is well written and has very good, time tested tips for organizing your life and your time. It is packed to the brim with common sense and ways to apply these ideas to your family. It’s a good book. I give it 4 out of 5 stars.

But.

As I read it I found myself getting more and more distressed. What is wrong with me that I can’t do these simple things that are so very obvious? I put the book down for a couple weeks and came back to it feeling the same way. Of course simple changes are not necessarily easy changes, but there was something more as well that was nagging at me and I couldn’t figure out what on earth it was.

Finally a couple things occurred to me:

1. There are two kinds of people in this world. Well, more than two kinds but I’m splitting people, specifically mothers, into two kinds for this immediate moment, you can divide yourselves differently later on if you like. One kind is like a dear friend of mine, and like the author of this book. Logical thinkers and active doers. She sees something that needs to be done and then she does it. No hemming and hawing, no excuses. She is good at focusing and staying on task.

One time I had my friend over to help me clean out my playroom. Oh my heavens, she was a slave driver! She kept me on task for hours and wore me out entirely. But I realized recently that while that task was draining for me, it was energizing for her. Kind of like how extroverts and introverts gain their energy in different ways, she was able to pull energy out of the task of putting things in order. I, on the other hand was exhausted by such a task. I tend to be more creatively based. I am energized by making something, decorating, fussing around. Some might call me distractable. They’d be totally correct.

While my friend can focus like a telephoto lens, I operate on a more wide angle basis. I can see the things that need to happen, but can be easily overwhelmed by the enormous scope of possibilities. As a child I was often called lazy for the outward appearance of not doing anything. What I realized as an adult is that I am not at all lazy, I am efficient. What I am doing while people bustle around me getting stuff done is to calculate where my effort is best spent. I guess that does make me lazy in that I am not willing to put any of my energy to waste. The problem arises when I take all my time deciding where to get to work. “Say Goodbye to Survival Mode” was helpful in showing me what some of the important things to work on might be, but it was unhelpful because it assumed a mindset that is not natural to me.

2. I really like to read mommy blogs, there are some really good ones out there and I love that we can share in this vocation together instead of living in isolation. It is so easy to feel alone when you are up to your eyeballs in dishes, diapers, and laundry, and everything you clean is immediately undone. I learn a lot from these other mothers and look to them for recommendations on how to save money, deal with discipline situations, and organize a family life.

But I noticed an interesting thing this past week, in going through this book, reading other blogs, and wondering why I still always feel like I’m three steps behind. Many of these mothers start pumping out advice when all of their children are between the ages of 3 and 12.

Ah. That explains so much. The years when your kids are between 3 and 12 is the sweet spot of parenting. You have left behind the diaper bag days, everyone can buckle themselves in the car and carry their own gear, most of the time you can sleep through the night, there aren’t any raging hormones (outside of your own body, anyway), and the kids can usually participate in the same activities or at least occupy themselves at a sibling’s lesson or practice. Oh yes, I envy them these years and I hope they enjoy them for what they are: temporary. It is very easy to feel like you have everything figured out during this time of parenting, because for that time, you kind of do. There aren’t nearly the curve-balls that babyhood or adolescence can throw at you during that time.

That is not to say it is easy, parenting never is. But for that short time, it is more straightforward.

I don’t exist in that time of parenting. I have kids in that zone, but I also have babies, teenagers, and young adults. It is the older ones that can really keep you hopping. Their crises are much more full of stress and future consequences, not to mention drama and hormones.

When I realized that this author was writing from that sweet, holy place in the middle of parenthood, that I am not in, I was finally able to let myself off the hook. My life is not similar to hers, therefore I can’t compare myself to the things she achieves. I don’t claim that my life is harder, but I do think I have a few more plates spinning, which keeps my attention more diffused.

As a parent I am straddling almost all of the developmental milestones at once – it is one of the gifts and burdens of a large family or a wide age spread in children. What I need is not more solid control. I need an outline of a plan, held with an open palm like the tenderest of slowflakes. I need the ability and flexibility to switch gears at a moments notice. This flexibility can look and feel like chaos. When I can do it well it feels more like a dance.

I like this book, I will put to work what advice I can fit into my life from its pages, but it is not a life changer, except in the way it helped me to understand my own personality and family a little better.

 

7 Quick Takes 2014 vol. 10: Stepping out of Normal

1. I wasn’t around last week because we took a little vacation! Just three days, but for once all the kids had Spring break at the same time. We piled into the van with our six youngest kids, and went for an Arizona Road Trip.

Montezuma’s Castle was our first stop. There isn’t a ton to see there but the kids were relatively interested and it was a pretty walk.

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Then on to Tuzigoot, which is more fun because you can walk in the ruins.

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The next day we hit the Grand Canyon. Both days of driving, every time the kids would see a mountain they would ask, “Is that the Grand Canyon?” and every time we would tell them that the canyon was more like a hole than a mountain. They were very impressed when they finally saw it. Tessa (age 12) said she expected it to be like 20 feet across. There was a lot of fighting over the binoculars, and a little bit of Gus trying to get through the fence, but we had a nice time. The kids lasted a whole hour there before they were saying, “Is there anything else to do here?”

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2. Staying in a hotel, is always kind of treat for me. It’s just so nice to have a clean room, with very little clutter (just what I bring with me) and a made bed, it’s just a different scene that is cozy and comfortable. I think I could go on a vacation and never leave the hotel room, except when there are a whole bunch of kids along. They liked it too, and although we were split up into two rooms, it worked out very well. We took a lot of walks around the halls, though. Lily said that the hotel was the best part of the vacation. I guess the Grand Canyon isn’t all the grand when you are six.

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3. What to do? On our second evening at the hotel, we were trying to figure out an activity that we could do that wouldn’t make us crazy trying to corral Gus and Molly, but that the bigger kids could enjoy. There was nothing worth seeing in the local theater, and we ruled out the local observatory which sounded really cool, but we just didn’t want to bring our already squirrely kids into a place where there was expensive, fragile stuff. The pioneer museum was unanimously voted down, so we hung out in McDonalds for a while to let the little guys run off some steam and then went to Target. We bought some yummy snacks, and a couple of games we don’t have at home (Apples to Apples Junior, and Don’t Spill the Beans) and went back to the hotel to order pizza and have a game night. Aside from a little drama from some sore losers, this was a huge hit.

4. Changes ahead. We have been planning to move closer to the kids school, which is about 20 miles away, but our timetable has been about two years. We figured that it would take us that long to save up a down payment, clean up and fix our house, and then sell it. But just the other day I talked to my favorite realtor, who is also a wonderful friend, and she suggested we rent for a year or two while we do those other things. This will get us closer to the school, and save me a lot of time in the car, and allow us to sell the house while not being in it. I about have a heart attack while thinking about living in the house with all these monkeys while trying to keep it clean enough to sell. And it turns out there are a lot of houses that fit our criteria for renting that I had not seen on my own web searches. Yay for realtors! So I think that we will be moving in June.

5. Which means I have to declutter. Hardcore. I have to look at every last thing in the house and ask myself if I want to move it. Twice. It makes me tired just thinking about it. I wanted to declutter, but this adds a deadline and a purpose to it that I didn’t have before. I am optimistic. I think this will be very good for our family, but I’m also a little stressed. Every time I open a cabinet right now I think about how many boxes the contents will fill.

6. To encourage myself to use my creativity, I signed up for Adobe Creative Cloud. This has also inspired me to take more pictures on my real DSLR camera instead of just whipping out my phone for snap shots. Phone pictures are great, and I will still take a lot of those, but I’ve been really lazy about relying only on those for events and times when I could use my real camera. I am having fun learning photoshop and lightroom, although I am sure I am making tons of mistakes. But this is how I learned how to use the computer – punching buttons, changing settings, finding out what things do. I like doing these things, and I feel challenged by them. If you know of any good sites or guides for these programs, feel free to send them along.

7. While I was in my fit of creativity, I redesigned the blog here. What do you think? Even when I made the old design I didn’t like it a whole lot, it just felt too much like a 90’s website. Maybe I was retro or something. But the new design feels cleaner and lighter and less distracting to me. Do you think it’s too pastel-ish baby colors?

Head on over and see Jen @ Conversion Diary for more 7 Quick Takes!

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7 Quick Takes 2014 vol. 9: Goodbyes, Problem Cookies, and Chaos

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1. Tell me all about it! I really had intended to write another post this week with real, non-list, non-link up content. But this week was just kind of terrible. Have you ever had one of those weeks when you keep working and working and only end up farther behind than you started? Tell me about it! No seriously, tell me about it. I need to feel like I am not the only person with my proverbial tires spinning in mud. And then we can all laugh at ourselves. Because sometimes if you can’t laugh, you’re just going to have to cry.

2. The Terribleness. Here is what my week entailed, and I told myself I wasn’t going to post about it since I already had one long post this year about things being terrible. But since I asked for yous stories, I should tell mine, right? This week entailed, among other things: my husband out of town, lots of throwing up, bloody noses, a 2 year old with a mysterious limp-causing foot injury, packing up one child’s whole bedroom, sending that child (Okay, I admit it, she’s an adult.) to the other side of the planet (almost) for the next 6 months, homework meltdowns, extra extracurricular activities (not a typo), and the usual chaos. All of this is, thankfully, very temporary. Still, it made for an exhausting week.

3. She’s gone. My little Posy left for her job as an Au Pair this Wednesday. Let me tell you, that was HARD on a poor mama’s heart. While she may come back to live with us again, or may not – she has some other plans for when she returns – it will never be the same. Trust me, I’ve had one bounce back home and leave a second time. It’s just never the same as before, when they had only been with you, only been the child of the house. There were tears all around as we dropped her off. And I stayed to see her walk all the way up to security, excited and scared about her new adventure. I’m happy for her, but I mourn for the part that is over.

4. Some of the Goodbyes.

Tessa holding Gus, Max below her, Posy holding Molly, Lily in back

Tessa holding Gus, Max below her, Posy holding Molly, Lily in back

 

Ben said goodbye at home. He's not so much her "little" brother anymore.

Ben said goodbye at home. He’s not so much her “little” brother anymore.

 

5. Ugh.

posy plane 2I’m glad we got a picture with Posy, but this is one of those pictures that I looked at and immediately thought, Ugh, how far have I slid? I mean, I know it has been a hard year and all, and I haven’t really been physically on top of things since November sometime, but I really need to stop cutting myself slack and get my act together. It is time to get out of the yoga pants!

6. Right after these cookies. I’ll eat better/exercise/do all the things.

DO YOU SEE WHAT THE PROBLEM IS? I do. Now I need to figure out my approach. Any ideas for a stressed out, time crunched mama?

7. Pondering… If you were me would you want the piano where it is super easily accessible, but in an active area of the house or in a more out of the way spot where they can’t play it if the two year old is napping, and there will be less distraction for practicing? Maybe I will remember to keep you posted on what we do.

7 Quick Takes 2014, vol. 8: Being a Grown Up, Lenten Focus, and a Cleanse

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1. I’ve read a lot of books about getting my act together. Or maybe I have read a lot of parts of books about it. It’s pretty much the same thing, right? And then there are helpful blog posts too, on the same subject. I finish reading almost all of those I see. What I am coming to discover though is that they all have the same idea at their core. Grow up. Act like a grown up. Be all self disciplined and stuff. Prioritize everything – your time, your things, your relationships. And I think to myself – why haven’t I got this figured out yet? Why haven’t I grown up? It really annoys me about myself to be honest.

I think there is something more to it though. I do act on my priorities. I am just not as good at spelling out what those priorities are, for myself or others. I set my priority tasks every morning, but I so often miss those things entirely, that it is more than just not doing anything – I’m doing things all day. I just do something other than what I set out to do. For example, this morning I put “mop wood floors” on my list. It has been a shamefully long time since it has been done. Then when I went and looked at my list later I thought, Nope, not going to happen.

I need to figure out how to put the things I will actually think are important during the course of the day on my list, not just the things I know need to be done while I am sitting in my pre-coffee stupor.

Just thought I would share a little of my self discovery with you…

2. Things I didn’t give up. I spend a good deal of Lent thinking of things I probably should have given up instead (or even thinking that I should have given up All The Things) and being tempted to forget about the things I did decide to work on during Lent. Mind Games, people! I did not give up fast food, sweets, blogging, coffee, facebook, or a lot of other things, but every time someone else says they did I think, Yeah, I should add that to my list.

Then I remember that I have some legitimate issues I am really working on (giving up on goofing off on my phone and managing our grocery budget better to name a couple) and if I try to add in a bunch of other things I will fail at all of them.

I seriously had a few hours yesterday when I was telling myself that I should just go fully Paleo and workout every day for Lent. I should be tracking my calories and not eating any sugar, and, and , and. I realized that this would lead me to use my phone a lot and was probably not a good idea right now – even if it is a good idea in general (and even that is debatable.)

All I have to do right now is put the phone down, and plan the meals carefully. That is a list I can remember.

3. Poor Molly is having a cleanse. Her GI doc recommended we fully clean her out and then start on a regular regimen to keep her, um, moving. Hopefully this will help her constant stomach pain, but I feel so bad for her. How do you tell a four year old she has to poop all day and can’t eat any solid food? Unlimited popsicles and movies, that’s how.

4. I made it to mass on Ash Wednesday. I just have to say that I am really proud of myself. I was feeling very overwhelmed by the orchestration it would take and all the things that are starting to pop up all over our calendar these days. I just wanted to hide. But I contacted my fellow carpool mom, she was okay with me taking her kids to mass and then late to school. Then I called my mother in law, since my car was full of my little kids and carpool kids, my mother in law came and picked up one of my older kids and brought her to mass and then to her school, which is quite far. But we did it! Between us we got 8 children to mass and to school on Wednesday. What a relief.

5. I am finally reading Pride and Prejudice. I feel like everyone else in the world has read it. Part of my “Act more like a grown up” plan was to select a short list of books and give myself a deadline. The only other Jane Austen book I have tried to read is Mansfield Park, and that was such a snore-fest I never finished it. This is much better. I really like it so far, but every time I look up the house is a little bit messier. I solve that problem by reading more.

6. This is the Best One. But I’m burying it down at number six so I look all cool about it and not freaked out at all. I get to write a real column, for a real website, with a real deadline. Now I’m reading articles and columns online and feeling like I am not a Real Grown Up at all and am so not ready for this. Don’t worry, I’ll post a link when it’s a published reality.

7. My Baby Leaves Next Wednesday. I’m so happy her her, but we will miss her terribly. Posy is going to be an Au Pair in France for something like six months. She is perfect for the job, and can handle the kids easily. How many 19 year olds do you know who can take 3 children with them to the store and act like it is not even a big deal? I don’t even do that! I know she will do great and will have a wonderful adventure while she is gone. This is new to me, though, having part of my heart half a world away. Bon Voyage, Posy!

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Lent, We Meet Again.

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I generally am terrible at Lent. But then I am pretty bad at Easter too. I just don’t seem to deal well with out of the ordinary things. They catch me off guard and shake me out of my comfortable pattern and then I don’t quite know how to cope any more. But I think that is the point. I could very easily slide through life on an easy path of normal days – everything all the same – and be half asleep all through it. Instead I have to be shaken awake by the screaming alarm clock of an imminent liturgical season.

It messes with my dinner plans.

And no matter how much I drill myself that it is coming up, I am always caught off guard that it is really here. Ugh! I’m supposed to be an example to my children about all of this too! The pressure!

As a church musician, my husband has a lot of extra events through Lent and Easter, and that complicates things. Bedtime these days is not simple task for our four youngest. I joke that I give up my husband for Lent, but it is kind of true.

I mean, I love that he can do these things. He has such an incredible gift in his voice. It is just hard, to be alone more than usual. Alone in a chaos-on-a-playground sort of way.

I didn’t start this post to complain about Lent. Well, maybe I did, but I’d rather not keep heading that direction. So.

Last year we did a new thing in Lent. We used this devotional by Ann Voskamp. (Scroll all the way to the bottom of her post for the download.) It worked very well for us. We made a little Lenten Tree for our table centerpiece (see photo above) and even lit candles – one for Ash Wednesday, and then one for each Sunday of Lent. We had to have candles… otherwise what would the kids fight over after dinner? There are only 14 entries in this devotional, which meant that we had some hope of finishing it, although I think we only got to 12. There is a small reproduction of a real art painting to go along with each Bible reading. I cut those out and laminated them and we hung them on our Lenten tree. The kids tolerated the readings well, but the real test was when they saw me assemble the centerpiece (ACK! I still have to go to Michaels one more time!) they remembered what we did and started talking about how they liked Lent.

Seriously! The kids with the mother who tries to find a way to NOT go to Ash Wednesday Mass (It’s not a Holy Day of Obligation!) are starting to like Lent. And that is something.

I do plan to go to Ash Wednesday Mass this year. My kids aren’t in a Catholic school anymore, so I figured it really is important for them to go. It will help them (and me) to really grasp the beginning of the season. My older ones seem to like to get to school and be one of the few who have the forehead smudge. Plus it gets them out of class for a bit. Win/win!

The bottom line is – Lent is here, whether I am ready or not. I guess that is how most things happen. So let’s do this!

My Lenten Goals/Sacrifices/Resolutions:
1. Lead a more hands free life. Friends, I have a problem and it’s my phone. When I am overwhelmed and stressed, I hide in it. There are lots of pretty colors and challenging games that trick me into thinking I have accomplished something, when in reality I have only sat and stared at a tiny box. I haven’t fully defined how I am going to live this one out. I know I need to start by deleting my games. (Which makes me think, “No, I’ll just hide them so I don’t lose all those points I have saved up!”) Delete. Delete. Delete. No more phone games for me.

2. Dinnertime Devotions – We’ll do the same one as last year that I described above. Maybe we’ll make it to 13 this year.

3. Focus on the Grocery Budget, which is a little excessive out of control. My ultimate goal here is to come in under budget and add that money to our giving. I cut my coupons this week.

4. Adoration at least 3 times during Lent. It’s just hard for me to get a babysitter during the day. And then it is hard for me to go and sit still.

For our family:
1. Get everyone to confession at the start and end of Lent. This just needs to happen!

2. Memorize Psalm 23. I had to memorize this for Sunday school when I was in second grade. I was recently reading it and realized that learning this Psalm helped to build my image of God in a very positive way. I hope that it does the same for our kids.

There is my Lent so far. I’m sure I’ll have more to whine about say later on in the season. (Like, for example, I have lost my go-to cheap penitential meal of fish sticks and mac and cheese due to a gluten intolerant child. Now what?)

What are you doing for Lent this year?

The Burial

It’s drizzling quietly outside and I’m wondering if I really want to drag the words for this post out of my brain. I’d rather do it sooner than later, so here goes.

On Thursday, we laid our little unborn baby to rest. It was a beautiful day, sunny and 80 degrees, and our time was beautiful as well. I wished all day for pictures of my moments, but the day was too precious to mar with fussing over a camera. The few pictures I was able to take were the times when I could take out my phone and snap a picture as quickly as possible and put it away. I’m glad I left the day in peace like that, but I still wish I could revisit the images in my head in a more tangible way.

We kept the kids out of school, which made for a morning that went at a quieter pace than usual. There is always a bustle to get this crew out the door, but there was still less stress. I was very grateful for that.

First we met Fr. L at the convent at our parish for mass. Their little chapel was just big enough for the family. The chairs are separated so that the sisters can go in and pray, so I worried about having the little ones out of reach during the mass, but it wasn’t really a problem. Gus (age 2) got our of his chair a few times and wandered, but there was no one but us for him to bother. Fr. L mentioned after the mass that it was nice to say a funeral mass where everyone, even the small children, knew the mass parts. (Very often at funerals there is very little participation.) And the kids did know the mass parts. They all sang their little hearts out!

After mass, we all had to travel to the other side of town (about a 45 minute drive)  to pick up the baby in its little casket at the doctor’s office and then drive another 10 miles to the cemetery. There was a short delay at the doctor office in getting the casket sealed, but I think that helped me to get through the cemetery part. I was able to ride a little wave of stress through it.

Queen of Heaven cemetery has a little hill in the middle with a statue of the Holy Family on top. They have reserved this hill for burying babies born before 20 weeks gestation. There is no headstone or label for individual babies, but this service is free to those who wish to have a burial for their lost babies.

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The tiny casket

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Baby Ambose’s place is almost right in front and very close to the statue. The green board was for kneeling, the hole is right under the flowers.

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Jay placed Ambrose into the grave, and each of us threw a handful of dirt onto it. This was the saddest part for me. When James threw his handful in, Gus said, “Good job, James!”

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Jay and Lily start to walk back to the car. You can see the chairs and platform under the tree where we had the little graveside service.

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Paisley carried Molly back to the car.

In setting all of this up, I really worried that I was making a bigger deal than was necessary, but I really think that this was a healing moment for our family. It was a big deal, even if we hadn’t known about the baby for very long. The kids treated the whole thing with deep respect.

After the little service, we took the family out to lunch and took the time to relax a bit. I wanted to end the experience on a positive note.

I’m doing okay these days. I’m not really moping around sad all the time. But I do find that my emotional energy is pretty low right now, so I know that I am still processing all of this a little bit, and probably will be for a while. I am just trying to give myself some space and as much down time as I can manage.

Again

There was not a pithy title for this post, anything seemed to casual or too blunt. Even “Again” sounds all wrong to me, but I have to stick something there.

I gave myself last week off from writing the 7 Quick Takes, even though it was my primary goal to go through March writing one every week, and even though I have already missed one so far and this one makes it two.

But my baby died on Thursday. Or maybe Wednesday. Probably Wednesday. And then I fully miscarried Friday morning. And I just really didn’t want to write about anything at all. I figured I would regret just about anything that came out of my mouth (or fingers) that day.

On Wednesday, I woke up and felt fully nauseated. And I was relieved, because I had only been feeling a little gaggy so far. I had a good breakfast and got busy around the house, taking kids to this school and that, picking them up… but I forgot to eat lunch. I didn’t feel sick to my stomach like usual. That seemed wrong. I had a snack and later on I had some soup for dinner. But I still felt just fine, not even tired really. When I still wasn’t tired and had trouble falling asleep at 10pm, I knew. I just knew that it was all over. I have never been so sure of anything in my life.

Thursday morning when I got up, I took my temperature – it was much lower than it had been. And I knew. When Jay got up, I told him that it was all happening again. He tried to comfort me but I really needed to not cry – to not fall apart until the kids were safely at school. That was hard. I broke down on the drive to school and was so thankful for loud music and my sunglasses to hide behind. I don’t know if they saw. I cried through my rosary on the way home. By the time I got home I was fully bleeding and cramping and I called the doctor.

My doctor’s office was about to fit me in at 1pm. Jay was at work on the other side of town, but my oldest kids were able to babysit and do the school pick up. I drove an hour to the doctor office. It’s usually a 45 minute drive, but I missed my freeway exit. By about 10 miles. So it was a little longer that Thursday. I arrived and checked in. Everyone greeted me with sad eyes. I was told to get ready for an exam. They asked, can the student come in? And I said no. They left before the exam to see if they could schedule an ultrasound right away, and when they came back, they brought my husband with them. I can’t even describe the relief I felt, to not be in this alone. He had called off his afternoon job and come to my side, my knight in shining armor, and I didn’t even ask. But he’s like that.

After the exam, we went to McDonalds so I could drink a bunch of sweet tea for my ultrasound. I haven’t let myself have sweet tea in at least 6 months, but I had some then. And after that we went and waited in a very crowded ultrasound/x-ray place, Jay had to stand because there were no more chairs. The ultrasound was torturous, it hurt – I was cramping badly and I could see that there was no little flashing heartbeat on the screen anywhere. I just closed my eyes and cried quietly through it.

Then there was the long drive home. Jay had to go and drop something off, so we parted for the drive. I was actually thankful for the afternoon traffic. As much as I felt bad – my head was pounding and I was cramping, I wasn’t looking forward to getting home and facing chaos and telling the kids. When I got home I went straight to bed, to cry, to ball up and try to soothe my head. Jay got home and got dinner on the table. I went out and had some turkey soup from the other night. I knew it would make me feel better. It did.

We told the kids. The big ones already knew, but the younger ones didn’t and they were confused and sad. Max, age 9, came up to me later and told me he thought the baby would be okay because he prayed two decades of a rosary for it. I don’t remember what I said to him, but it clearly wasn’t sufficient because he still was thinking the baby was going to be okay on Saturday night. Then we had to explain it to him, and he cried.

I passed the baby the next morning, about an hour before we got the ultrasound report that confirmed the miscarriage. Then I had to untell about my pregnancy on Facebook. I felt a little embarrassed, but I was so amazed at the outpouring of love and prayers from our friends. I know that those prayers have lifted us up and keep us moving. I am so thankful for the support from our friends and family.

Today is Sunday, and I am still so tired. I would like to stay busy right now, it would be an easy way to keep my mind off of things. But I keep getting a terrible headache when I am up for too long at a time. So I have no choice but to rest.

Later this week we will have a burial for the baby. We named him Ambrose, because it was Ambrose’s preaching that converted St. Augustine, and we hope our own St. Ambrose can quietly speak to our hearts and the hearts of those close to us.

No More Secrets

Last month I did something I regret. I put myself in a position of hiding a big part of myself from my friends and family. I didn’t mean to do that, it was just how the events unfolded.

On December 12, I found out I was pregnant.  Since it was so close to Christmas, we decided that Christmas morning would be the perfect day to tell the kids. All we had to do to make it the perfect surprise was to keep our mouths shut until then. We had a great plan to get an address plaque with the number 10 on it and have the kids open it as they were opening presents.

But our hopes were quelled just six days later when I miscarried.

This was our first loss. We were very sad, but grateful that we haven’t experienced this before and that if it had to happen, it was early on.  The physical part wasn’t terrible, aside from the knowledge of what it was, but I was left emotionally drained and depressed. And I didn’t feel like I could talk to anyone about it after the fact. I felt like I would be trying to make excuses for myself for being in a bad mood or for needing to take it easy, so I just tried to carry on as if nothing was happening.

I felt lonely and isolated from my friends – but it was my own doing. I found it hard to write or even journal because I was trying so hard not to put any of this into words at all. I was one of the walking wounded, trying to act like I wasn’t.

I remembered clearly what one friend, who has had several miscarriages, told me once, “Tell the kids right away, so they can pray for their new little brother or sister.” I was sorry that I had deprived them of that knowledge of their sibling.

I know, my plan wasn’t excessive secrecy, I was only trying to wait a couple weeks. So maybe I should have said something right away when I realized that the baby was gone. I didn’t though. I can’t really kick myself too hard since I wasn’t thinking clearly at the time.

I’m feeling better now, emotionally and physically, especially with getting this secret of ours out in the open, which is good because I don’t want to keep that secret again.

Because, in His amazing grace, God has seen fit to bless us again, just a month later. I don’t know if we will get to meet this little one in this life or if he or she will join the other baby we have in heaven. I am an older mom now, and I know that makes it all riskier. Nevertheless, I want others to have the opportunity to pray for our baby, to hope along with us, and to hold our hands if this ends in sadness.

We have hope; hope that we might meet this one at the right time, healthy and living and ready for all kinds of adventures and fun in this crazy family.

We take this next step, like we always do, excited for our future and terrified of the possibilities while trying to lean on Jesus to sustain us. I hope you will pray for us and with us for this little one.

What Did They Destroy Now?

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Lily and I went to mass this evening (Saturday) because tomorrow is going to be so busy picking Max up from camp.  When we arrived home, Jay had dinner ready and on the table so we all sat down to eat.

Halfway  through dinner Jay looked at me and asked seriously, “Did you see the couch?”

My heart fell. What did they DO? What have they destroyed now? I just put a new slipcover on one of them last week. They couldn’t possibly have…

No, they could. I know the destructive potential of these kids.

“What happened?!?” I demanded, probably with a look of horror on my face. (Because that’s what I was feeling!)

Jay laughed and said, “Nevermind, I guess you haven’t.”

So at that point I was up out of my seat. I went to the living room first, but the couches looked just their normal amount of wrecked, nothing special. I headed towards the family room but Jay said, “No, in the living room!”

And I said, “WHAT???”

He was about dying laughing by this time, and said, “The couch is empty…”

I think it took a full minute for the adrenaline to pipe down before I could remember that when I left, the clean laundry was piled high, waiting to be folded. He folded it all, and was justly rewarded by an entertaining show of his wife freaking out over WHAT COULD THE KIDS HAVE DESTROYED NOW.

And just to drive home how awesome the whole thing was, besides a great laugh, my amazing husband let me go to mass with no babies, made dinner, and folded no less than 7 loads of laundry.

He’s the best!

Be My Island

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Last summer we had a priest friend over for dinner and some swimming. We all had a lovely time, but as he was leaving he remarked that he was a little surprised at how exhausting swimming with a bunch of small children could be.

At the time we had three kids in the category of “Almost a Swimmer”. They could swim, but had a tendency to get overwhelmed easily if they were out in the middle of the pool. Their strategy is, of course, to grab on to the most solid thing they can – anyone swimming close by. And since Fr. H was the fun new guy, they all flocked to him and did their best to nearly drown him.

I can swim pretty well. I can’t do any nicely formed strokes for lovely efficient laps, but I feel confident in the water. But when I am in the middle of the deep end and suddenly I have 3 little bodies hanging on me to keep them afloat, if can really become a struggle to keep my head above water.

When I thought about it, that kind of sums up being a parent, especially to a bunch of little ones. My family is depending on me to keep them above water, and well, sometimes I am in over my head.  but my best strategy in the pool is to always stay where my feet can touch the ground, then I can support the rest of them.  In real life, that means I have to be realistic about what I take on – there will be no amazing accomplishments from me. Most days keeping up with the dishes AND the laundry at the same time is enough. Because if I take my eyes off these little ones so that I can do something great – something that is out of my own reach right now, all of use have different reaches – we can all get in over our heads pretty quickly. I need to focus on the task at hand, supporting my children and keeping their heads above water until they are strong enough to do it themselves, because that is amazing all by itself.

And as for the ground that I stand on – that is another post.