As the Family Goes

JP II Quote

"As the family goes, so goes the nation, and so goes the whole world in which we live." John Paul II

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Sometimes Life can be Crappy

Our fifth son Aaron is absolute perfection at two months old.  He is always happy, rarely cries, and even when he is fussy is soothed simply by our presence.  He eats every few hours through the day, sleeps through the night, and is a generally content little baby.  I marvel at him every day.

Yesterday I took the big boys and Aaron to the museum.  And as I sat with my perfect little baby while the big boys did a craft with an employee in the discovery area, my little darling started to fill his diaper.  The worker, a young guy, was busy instructing the kids on what to do, and I smiled sweetly at my baby hoping the sounds he was making were not too obvious.  Then I felt something warm on my hand - it was coming out of the side of his diaper!  Trying to be inconspicuous for the sake of the instructor (you never know with guys whether they are cool with babies, or if that would have completely grossed him out!) I turned Aaron the other way so he couldn't see what had just happened, managed to find a small piece of paper towel to clean out the little that had come out, and waiting for the kids to finish their work.  After which I promptly scurried them down to the washrooms so I could change my little stinker.  When I put him down onto the changing table, I noticed a wet spot on my shirt where I had been holding him.  And that's when I realized - my little one had an explosion out of his bum!  What a mess!  But he smiled sweetly, I joked with him as I cleaned him up, and it was all good.  What else can you do?

As funny as it is, it's pretty true that life, as with babies, can be pretty crappy sometimes.  I wish I could handle all of life's messes with as much grace as I handle the baby, but the truth is I have a lot of work to do.  It's crazy how quickly I go from calm to despair at the slightest sign trouble.  Like two children throwing a tantrum while my supper boils over.  Or someone falling off the top bunk while I'm nursing the baby.  Or a toddler who just needs to be in my arms while I have to vaccuum three days of crunched up snacks on the floor.  Those are the times when I lose my cool - when I find myself thinking, "why does everything go wrong all at once?"

It's easy to keep things in perspective when the cause of your upheaval is a sweet little two-month-old who is practically perfect in every way (okay, except maybe one!)  What takes work is remembering that the older kids are also just as sweet and innocent as the baby, and that the chaos is no more their fault than it is the baby's, it's just part of life.  And there is something incredible that is gained from maintaining composure and handling these situations with grace.  You live life and experience it, instead of allowing it to consume you.  You get through the tough times with joy, with the people you love supporting you through it.  And who knows, you might even be able to laugh at it together, this crazy life that you are all so privileged to share.  That way beats blowing your top, sending the kids to their rooms, and grumbling under your breath.

Lord, help me to see all of my children in the same in the same way I see the baby - to marvel in joy, be positive in difficulty, and clean up life's little (and not so little) messes together.  May I never allow despair to rob me of the beauty in every situation that comes our way.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011


I learned something today - that any mess can be cleaned up.  Okay, so it's not earth shattering.  In fact, most of you probably already knew that.  I thought I did too.

This afternoon I painted with the kids.  And can you believe that in the six and a half years I've been a mother, I can count the number of times I've done this on one hand?  Occassionally if the little ones were napping, I might be inclined to set the older kids up with some paint while I took care of some housework.  But even that's risky, because as soon as they get up from the table with their paint-filled hands it's a disaster waiting to happen.

A few weeks ago, we started homeschooling our oldest son.  And seeing the artwork he brought home from Kindergarden and his first few months of grade one, I knew I wanted to continue to encourage those same skills at home.  Homeschooling makes it necessary for me to completely schedule my day, and so while I would previously set the kids up with their art supplies and leave them to amuse themselves while I tended to the countless other duties that need my attention (Moms, you know what it's like!), now my job is teacher.  Specifically, from 1:30-2:30 on Tuesdays, Art teacher.

So I did some research, found a simple project, and painted with the kids.  I helped them make outlines, mix paint, and then did some painting of my own.  Long after the older boys had finished and gone off to play, my three-year-old son and I remained - I painting, and he...well...experimenting with "watercolor" (is that what you call it when you paint a picture, and then drizzle your paint brush in water and soak everything you just painted?)  It was so therapeutic for me, because I love to paint and create.  As I looked at the growing mess, I did not feel the need to clean it up right away.  We were having too much fun!  And besides, it wasn't 2:30 yet.

Sometimes schedules can be restrictive, but I'm finding more and more that they are also freeing.  They say, "don't rush away just yet, the time for work will come.  Play with your kids."  I always thought I would be the kind of Mom who just did this intuitively, and yet I allowed myself time and again to be consumed with the daily duties of running a household.  Now, with more on my plate than ever, I am feeling way more in control and at peace in my life.  And it's because I'm spending more quality time with my kids.

I thought I knew that any mess could be cleaned up, but obviously I didn't.  Because I held back on doing so many things with my kids, for fear of making a mess that I would inevitably have to clean up.  Maybe that's why God lead me on this path of homeschooling.  Because He knew I wouldn't want to reach the end of their childhood and say, "I wish I had done more with them."  I'm starting to learn that it's worth it to have a big mess to clean, if you had a good time making that mess with people you love.

I love teaching, learning, playing and creating with my children.  And if things get a bit messy along the way, I say bring it!  The best things in life always take a little extra work.

Monday, January 17, 2011


I regularly apologize to Jeff for giving him my leftovers.  You know, whatever's left of me by the time everyone else has had their fill.  Which isn't much, considering there are so many people who need me so intensely.  I'm not complaining, I love being a Mom to my five beautiful children.  Still, I do find myself feeling a bit neglectful of my husband.

This past Friday night Jeff came home to an empty house, as the kids and I had an outing for homeschool and then supper at Mom's.  When I arrived with our whole crew in tow they were down for the count, and we carted our sleepyheads off to bed.  It was still early in the evening, so Jeff and I curled up together and watched TV for a bit, revelling in the silence of a house full of sleeping children.

The following day, Jeff laid out a plan for the evening well in advance.  Once the kids were down for the night we would share a glass of sparkling wine, rent a movie, and snuggle up together.  And that's when it hit me - just because it's leftover time, doesn't mean it needs to be wasted time.  Kind of like leftovers from a really great meal, sometimes they taste better than the meal itself.  But far too often we allow what's left over to spoil.  Jeff is teaching me that as we should not do that with our food, the same is true of our time together.  It's a lot of work to arrange babysitters and drive the kids back and forth, especially in the evenings.  But it takes little effort to just say to each other, "keep tonight free for me".  Sometimes staying in and pampering each other can be just as good as a night on the town - maybe even better.

I love my crazy life, with all my crazy kids.  Mostly because I have a crazy, romantic, completely awesome husband by my side through it all, who never ceases to remind me that the best things in life can be found in the simplest moments.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

That Family

Today, because we have some issues with our septic field that need my husband's immediate attention while the weather is mild, I had to take the kids (all five of them) to mass by myself.  I knew not to expect anything stellar of them, keeping in mind their ages and the fact that mass seems to bring out something in them that makes them get completely wired, and the fact that I only had about four solid hours of sleep last night.  Instead, as I prepared my heart before mass, I focused on the fact that this is important and that's why I'm willing to even try it by myself.  And that it is not about me but about all of us, and the greater benefit I know we will receive from being there.

You know how sometimes you just can't prepare yourself for the storm, no matter how hard you try?  That's how I felt.  We sat at our usual seat in the front, where a Christmas tree had been erected and decorated for the season - I should have picked a different seat.  Trying to keep my kids from removing the ornaments and redecorating the tree, and from jumping all over my infant in his carseat (who, praise God, stayed asleep throughout the entire mass - my only comfort!) and trying (and eventually giving up on) keeping my toddler from screaming throughout the entire consecration, to the point that a parishioner, feeling sorry for me, swooped her from my arms and took her for a much-needed walk - left me physically and emotionally exhausted.  Amidst encouragement from the priest and parishioners after mass (they are so forgiving!) I ducked my way out as fast as I could, and it was everything I could do not to burst into tears as I packed my little darlings into our van.

When we got home I sent them to timeouts or to play outside (depending on their level of disobedience at mass), and sat down, frustrated and thinking about how much I desperately hate being "that family" at mass.  You know, the one everyone stares at with thoughts like, "oh she has her hands full!", or "can't she control her children?", or even "why did she even bother to bring them when it's clearly too much?"  Week after week I feel like a spectacle at the front of our church, and God bless the lovely parishioners who are so patient and understanding at our church, because it's the only thing that allows me to keep my sanity (hanging by a thread though it may be).  I kept saying to myself, "there is dignity in motherhood, there is dignity in motherhood" because at the time I really needed to be convinced.

As I sat in the quiet of my house trying to calm my frazzled nerves, I thought about why I had even bothered in the first place - because this is important.  If I accomplish nothing else in this life, so long as my children know Jesus and how much He loves them then I have given them everything.  I knew this going into mass, and it wasn't God that was causing me to question that.  It was the voice of another, a dark one, whispering lies and causing me to feel shame and humiliation.  One who wants me to just say, "it's too hard."  I won't give in.

I also realized that I have my own struggles which make this situation so much harder than it needs to be on myself.  Because as much as I don't want to be "that family" that everyone thinks is crazy, there is definitely a part of me who wants to be "that family" with the perfectly well-behaved children, who sit still and listen attentively at mass.  Aren't they holy?  Aren't they such great parents?  Look at how good their children are.  Clearly there is something deeper going on in me, and as the Lord is breaking me of my pride the fact that it hurts so much shows me how very far I still have to go.

As I leave my quiet time to immerse myself in the rest of the day, I praise and thank God that He is so merciful to me, and pray for the grace to live up to the true dignity of my calling.  "For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are - yet was without sin." (Hebrews 4:15)  Jesus must have been tempted to wonder where the dignity was in His life as man, yet He did not cling to His glory, but submitted His entire life to His Father. And after being made the greatest spectacle, His true dignity was revealed.

Sometimes things are not as they seem.  Help me Lord to see the goodness in tough times, and to be humble enough to submit myself to You, trusting only in Your mercy.  Far greater than I have walked far more difficult paths.  May I truly be grateful for the trials You allow me to endure.