A Desert of Busyness

Life gets complicated, sometimes.

First off, we did move again, so here we are in a new state. We actually left North Carolina on the very day that we traveled there last year, in an odd, unplanned coincidence. Now, we’re in the middle of all the unpacking, the tortuous paperwork, and errands involved with relocating the entire existence of ten people. Again. And I’m learning to navigate a new city. Again.

I’ve mentioned before (more than once!) that we are in the middle of a lot of transition. A major faith change from Protestant to Catholic, two cross-country moves in a year, a new job landed and lost, multiple child health issues, a new high school graduate, a house bought and now on the market out of state, and looming financial issues as a stopgap job cuts our already-tight budget in half. My two oldest are learning to drive, too. (Gulp.)

If that weren’t enough upheaval, we might not be homeschooling all the kids this year, for the first time ever. We have gradually felt more and more overwhelmed with the homeschooling, what with all the other craziness, and we’re feeling like perhaps a different path would be better for our family at this tumultuous point in our lives. And so, in a last-minute scramble, we are trying to get our 4 elementary aged kiddos into the local Catholic school, in a town we just moved to a week and a half ago. School starts next week, and they probably don’t have spots for all of them, but it’s likely that at least the younger ones will get in, and Rebecca may homeschool a while longer and enter whenever a spot opens up for her. I’m more than a little nervous, though, about how this new schedule may bring even more upheaval and busyness to our lives as we adjust. Will it be harder or easier? I don’t even know. I just think it’s the road we’re being led to.

So I have kind of found myself longing for just a little blank space in my life. My days are packed full, every minute, every day. But, as I went to bed the other night lamenting to myself about my lack of down time, rest, vacation, about my breakneck firehose life that won’t seem to let up for the last few years, I thought of the Israelites complaining in the desert.

In the desert, God was leading Israel from enslavement to the Promised Land. In between lay the desert, with all its uncertainty, privation, and discomfort. The Israelites did what we all do in such a place, of course – complain. Rebel, even. They were probably really tired and no little afraid. But God wasn’t honored in their complaints, let alone their rebellion.

This long season of nonstop busyness is, for me, a kind of desert – and not the one I’m still homesick for back in Utah, either. I don’t thrive on this kind of thing – I like to smell the roses, rock my babies, and drink tea.  I like to change the diapers, do the laundry, cook tasty things, and mind my own business. I tear up a little, actually, thinking of years past when that is exactly what I did with many of my days. Those quiet days seem so long ago. Simplicity, hygge…these are the things I thrive on.

But, I have to be present where I am. God has put me in this season, this wasteland of an over-crammed schedule and endless crisis management. I can’t change this busyness, right now; all these things I’m doing have to happen, and they have to happen now. They can’t be responsibly set aside. In this my desert, I can only be faithful each day, fulfilling the responsibilities and needs before me, keeping Jesus at the center, attending to my own care as best I can, and trusting God that His manna is on its way, and that he will make a road for our sojourn here.

How about you, reader-friends? If you are in your own desert journey, leave a comment and let me know how I can pray for you. 

 

 

 

 

 

Moment by Moment: the secret of happiness for moms (and everybody else)

“The secret of happiness is to live moment by moment and to thank God for all that He, in His goodness, sends to us day after day.” ~ St. Gianna

So the last few years, my life has felt like one long stroll in front of a firehose. Can you relate? I don’t need to rehash all the things that have happened – some wonderful, some hard, some heartbreaking. Some I have written about, and some are just too personal to share with you all. We all have those times, and even in the times when life is on the calm side, kids get crazy. Like all day, every day crazy!

In the middle of it all, moms have to ride the crazy and be a mother to each of her kids. Every one of them is a blessing and a gift, and each one needs and deserves a mother who is present to them, now, even especially when life Just. Won’t. Stop.

How do we weather these days with grace? I’m not getting any younger, and neither are my kids. I refuse to lose these years to the crazy. My baby boy will only be two once; he can’t wait for when my life stops falling apart and we get all the pieces picked up.

I believe the answer lies in St. Gianna’s quote, above. I need to be present. I need to remain IN the present moment, not aching for the past or being crushed by fear of the future. Each day, each minute, each child, each and every glass of water and skinned knee and sibling squabble and knotted shoelace matters. It deserves my attention. It’s important. More important, even, than my big grown-up problems that never seem to go away.

I’ve also found that remaining firmly in the present moment is the best way to respond gently (or at least appropriately) to the endless stream of needs that a pack of kids will bring. The child standing in front of me has a need. I might feel impatient, because I have been responding to a lot of needs, all day long (and none of them mine). It can seem like somebody is always skinning their knee around here (but mostly it’s just Emily, over and over and over again. That poor kid is, um, accident-prone, shall we say??). But, assuming that the need is legitimate, the ones that came before don’t really matter, nor do the ones that will come after. The need in front of me is what matters.

It doesn’t matter if it’s the fifth band-aid I have doled out that morning; the bumps and bruises of childhood hurt just as much the fifth time as they did the first, and deserve as much mercy every time. (Even for the really clumsy accident-prone 4-year-old.)

It doesn’t matter to my 2-year-old that I have heard all his stories before, from siblings who told me the same ones years before he was born. He needs me to hear him, to delight in him, today.

It doesn’t matter how many glasses of water I have handed out. The kid is still thirsty, and deserves not only a glass of water, but a dose of love and cheerfulness to go with it.

I daresay that if we could apply this principle to how we think about not just our own children and routine chores, but also to how we think of those in need around us, it might revolutionize our attitude.  It’s great if we fed the hungry, clothed the naked, and buried the dead yesterday. The dead may be satisfied, but I guarantee the hungry will get hungry again. Every day, just like the rest of us. One more reason I am delighted to be a part of the Catholic Church is that I get to be a part of the largest humanitarian organization in the world! One person can’t do everything (even us moms, guys. Seriously). But being part of a network where we all pitch in to see to the needs of those around us day in and day out is a privilege.

So, whether life is sailing along or falling to pieces, I’m certain that St. Gianna is right. Each moment of our lives, good or bad, has value, and has a purpose. A life lived well is really only a collection of moments used well, or moments used badly, but learned from and forgiven.


Tweet: Each moment of our lives, good or bad, has value, and has a purpose.


I love this quote from Archbishop Fulton Sheen:

“The second remedy for the ills that come to us from thinking about time is what might be called the sanctification of the moment — or the Now. Our Lord laid down the rule for us in these words: “So do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring worries of its own. Today’s trouble is enough for today” (Mt 6:34). This means that each day has its own trials; we are not to borrow troubles from tomorrow, because that day too will have its cross. We are to leave the past to divine mercy and to trust the future, whatever its trials, to God’s loving providence. Each minute of life has its peculiar duty — regardless of the appearance that minute may take. The Now-moment is the moment of salvation. Each complaint against it is a defeat; each act of resignation to it is a victory.” (From From the Angel’s Blackboard, as quoted in a wonderful reflection on this subject by Fr. Andrew Apostoli. Emphasis mine.)

None of this is to say that we should enjoy every moment; it not a mom guilt thing. Please no! There are so many tough moments in our lives. We just don’t need to make them harder than they are by dwelling on the ones that came before, or the ones sure to come after. Sure, there will be muddy floors, broken dishes and broken hearts in the days to come. Of course there will. And of course, we carry the scars of our past. We just don’t have to live there.

Today’s trouble is enough for today. I have that on good authority.

 

3 Reasons I Chose a Hospital Birth for my Eighth Baby

The necessaries: Please note that I’m not a doctor, midwife, nurse, or anybody else remotely qualified to give you medical advice. Always consult a health professional regarding any medical or health decisions. No information on this site should be used to diagnose, treat, prevent or cure any disease or condition. K? Good.

I’m a natural birth enthusiast. Have been ever since I got (literally) yelled at by my OB almost 18 years ago for wondering if I really needed an IV. I never went back.

The reader who valiantly wades through all my birth stories will notice a recurring theme – over the years, I never felt fully satisfied with my birth venue. Most of my births occurred in the hospital, under care of a midwife. In those years, I would consider home birth, or a birth center birth, and for various reasons (often financial) always ended up at the hospital.

Then, at long last, I decided to have my seventh baby at a birth center. I batted around having her at home, especially as it was financially viable at that time, and the midwives at the birth center we chose also provided services for home birth. But I ended up opting for the center out of logistical concerns – with a large brood and a small house, I knew that my privacy was at risk if I stayed home, and I am not the type to want my kids present at birth. I get very private when in labor, and I also want to be free to yell all I want with no one to frighten. Sure, I could have sent them all to their grandparents’ house – but did I really want to arrange that? At the time, it was a 50 minute drive, and there were six kids, two of whom were capable of babysitting without adult help.

Given my history of precipitous birth, and also the decent chance that all this might happen at 2 am, I took the simpler route – leave the kids at home, and go to the birth center.

But, while my birth center birth went just fine, there were some things about it that I didn’t love.

Getting There

The birth center is closed at night; when you need to come in, you call your midwife, she’ll evaluate over the phone, and meet you there if it seems warranted.

It’s a sensible plan, and probably the only one that they can practically do, not being busy enough to warrant staffing it at night.

But, if the midwife was delayed or didn’t think my always-quirky labor signs warranted getting checked, I would have a problem. I couldn’t just show up in advanced labor and get whisked away like I could at the ER. Anybody can have a crazy fast birth, but with a previous history, it’s not at all unlikely for me to have another.

This worked out all right, but the stress of fretting about it was real.

Medical Emergencies

This is a tough, tough topic, and one that I have held different opinions on over time. I think where you come down on this is overall going to be extremely individual and personal – and I think that is exactly how it should be.

There’s two basic factors, here:

1. Birth is natural and normal.

The female body is designed to carry and deliver babies, and the vast majority of the time, this goes smoothly. It’s been argued (and argued very well) that being in a hospital leads to unnecessary interventions which increase, rather than decrease, risk. For a really well-done and moving documentary from the home birth point of view, I highly recommend The Business of Being Born. I find this argument compelling, and it drove my birthing mindset for most of my childbearing years. It’s still a topic very close to my heart, with important implications in Western medicine.

2. Birth is a major medical event with specific risks and potential for life-threatening emergencies.

Stuff happens in labor. Most of the time, especially for low-risk moms, everything goes just fine. Most of the rest of the time, anything that does happen can be detected early enough to transfer to a hospital for care.

But very rarely, things happen too fast to wait for transfer or paramedics. Honestly, my opinion here has been deeply affected by the death of a mother a couple of years ago in an online community of mine; she was birthing at home and suffered an amniotic fluid embolism. They rushed her to the hospital at the first sign of trouble, but she didn’t survive. A good website on this complication (run by a survivor, I believe) can be found at AFE Foundation. Of course, being in the hospital might not have saved her – but her chances would have been better.

So really, we all have to strike a balance of the two sides:

Birth is natural and normal, but it is also a major physical event with specific risks and potential for life-threatening emergencies.

That’s not earth-shattering. It’s what the vast majority of people actually think, but that can get lost in the politics of birth. Us natural-minded moms don’t like to scare other moms. It’s not good for a laboring mom to be scared of all the stuff that probably won’t happen, so we (rightly) focus on the positive and the safe.

More medically minded folks, though, worry that too little fear will lead moms to unknowingly take foolish risks. It’s important to take those concerns seriously, not dismiss them out of hand.

When parents and caregivers acknowledge that balance between the normal and the hazardous, that’s when there is a solid foundation to build sane birth practices upon.


Tweet: When parents and caregivers acknowledge that balance between the normal and the hazardous, that’s when there is a solid foundation to build sane birth practices upon.


Local, individual caregivers and local hospital policies, naturally, have a huge impact on safe birthing decisions. I have been blessed with caregivers and hospitals which were overall very forward thinking and friendly to principles of natural childbirth and newborn care, which certainly influences my inclination to take advantage of the safety net there. That isn’t the case everywhere – depending on the medical climate where you live, there may be so much unnecessary intervention that it would drive a moderate mama like me back home for fear of cascading interference in my birth.

(Of course, if you can’t decide, I recommend the hospital elevator. All the safety of having a doctor nearby, none of the unnecessary interventions.) (Um, that’s not medical advice. Always consult your physician before giving birth in an elevator, please.)

Postpartum and Newborn Care

A lot of natural birth minded mamas consider early discharge to be a big advantage of a birthing center. It turns out I didn’t like that. I missed being cared for by nurses, and came to appreciate how reassuring that care can be. Without having nurses tracking our vitals, I worried constantly about Emily in the first few days – was her color alright? Does she feel a little warm? A little cool? Do I need to take her temperature? Infection in a newborn can be disastrous, and hours matter. I worried more about myself, too – about infection, hemorrhage, blood clots. I was used to being monitored for those things while I enjoyed my baby, not worrying about them myself.

Does this offset the additional risk of infection that might come with a hospital stay? Well, that’s the big question, isn’t it, and I’m sure not going to be able to put an end to the debate. Unfortunately, the answer probably largely depends on the bias, experiences, and background of who you ask. It also depends on your hospital. If you are satisfied with the practices and safety record of your hospital, that’s different than ending up in a crowded ward with poor ratings. 

Conclusion

Home birth, hospital birth, freestanding birthing center…all those options have great things to recommend them and some scary stuff to run you off, because birth. It’s one of those wild cards life hands us, and there’s no knowing exactly how it’s going to go.

I have had good experiences over the years with midwife-attended hospital births. I have usually felt free enough from overmedicalization and unnecessary interventions. A good midwife can really help with this. I’m sure I’ve been lucky.

That’s my experience. I don’t know if I’ll have any more babies, but if I do I will be faced with answering these questions all over again, as the medical culture here in North Carolina is quite different than in Utah.

If you like this post, you may also like my eight birth stories.

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How our Family of Ten is (hardly ever) Late

~1~

No, really!

Okay, the “hardly ever” is important. We’re late now and then (sorry, Becky). But we’ve developed a routine that seems to work for getting us most of the places most of the time. I can’t remember the last time we were late for church or a doctor’s appointment.

This is not from some personal virtue. It’s more because we all get cranky when we’re late, and we got tired of that, so we thought out a method and tried things till they worked.

~2~

Plan.

Ten people is something of a production to get out the door. If we are going to all have to be someplace in the morning hours, I need to know about it at least the night before or it’s not happening.

I take travel time, plus time to get in the car (at least 10 minutes), plus time to get myself and everyone else fed and ready, which varies depending on where we are going. Going to church? Time for dress clothes, fixing hair, scrubbing faces, buckling shoes, eating breakfast early enough before Mass…all that.

Going to the zoo? We’ll need to leave time to pack lunches, plus making sure kids are wearing sensible clothes and shoes.

Going to an early morning Irish dance thing? Don’t bother going to bed. Just start getting ready at 11 pm the night before. I’m kidding. Kind of.

I then add about 15 minutes into that time for shenanigans. It’s going to happen. Just plan on it.

That gives me our start time, which hopefully agrees with my waking time, or we’ll need even more time for an extra cup of coffee.

~3~

Prep.

The night before, I make sure everyone has clean clothes, and that they know where their shoes and coats are. If they don’t, now is the time to hunt some up. Not in the morning.

If it’s to be an early event, I will also make sure that any packing is done – diapers, dance equipment, stuff for church, whatever.

Alarm is set for whenever I have to get up to get the ball rolling, and older kids are reminded to set theirs too.

~4~

Have a morning routine.

At our house, we’ve established pretty much who does what when we are trying to get ready to go. Through trial and error, we’ve learned that unless I shower first thing when I get up, we’ll never make it anywhere without either being late, or being angry. Or, likely, both. I don’t know why, but it’s true. While I’m showering, Mark will get the kids breakfast. Then I get them dressed and iron out all the details while he showers.

During that time, the older kids attend to their own needs. When they are done, they pitch in with the breakfast cleanup, dealing with sibling mischief, and being an extra pair of hands.

~5~

Say no.

On a normal day, I am pretty laid back. I will usually take reasonable requests for breakfast, allow multiple clothing changes, not worry about little girls playing under blankets and messing up their hair. No problem.

On Sunday morning? Nope. We keep things streamlined, and since I’m looser on the days we stay home, I don’t even feel guilty about it. Which is an accomplishment all by itself.

“Can I have a dippy egg?”

No, we’re having cereal or yogurt.

“I don’t like this dress!”

Sorry, that’s what’s clean. Let’s try to find something different for next week.

“Can I build a mud fortress in the backyard?”

Not today, dear.

~6~

Have a loading routine.

When it’s time to go, I can just yell, “Time to get in the car!” a few times, and most kids will go out and get buckled in. This is also effective for lighting a fire under any dawdlers. It’s harder when it’s winter and I don’t want them to have to sit out in the cold; I usually will have the car warming up for that.

I have several older kids who can take the littlest ones out and get them buckled for me if time is getting tight. While they do that, I can lock up the house, grab some water, put on lipstick – whatever. I try to avoid roaming the house soaking up the peace and quiet and shoving cookies in my mouth when they are all out waiting in the car.

(But, sometimes it happens.)

~6~

Split up.

If there are two carloads going, sometimes if things are getting pinched, the first load will leave the second behind. That actually helps all of us get there faster. It shaves off precious minutes of entering and exiting house, car, and destination by letting some people do that while others are still getting ready or traveling.

And, if it’s one of those times when we just aren’t going to make it on time, at least some of us aren’t late.

~7~

Now, arriving?

We don’t have a routine for that. We just kind of all tumble out of the Tahoe and hope for the best.

It seems to work. Most of the time.

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33 Rainy Day Ideas For Bored Kids

Oi, the natives get restless when they are trapped inside!

My kids play outside. A lot. They have way too much energy to keep them locked up. Our typical homeschool day sees us taking care of the books in the morning hours, and then they get a lot of free time in the afternoon. If the weather’s nice, they play outside – we have a good yard with a fence, and big kids who can look out for little kids, so it’s a pretty smooth operation.

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Ah, the bygone days of warm summer rain.

Except when it isn’t. While I’m not at all opposed to playing in the rain and mud (I like them to be able enjoy the outdoors in any weather), it’s just a sad, sad fact that children can’t be expected (or allowed) to play outside much if it’s raining, windy, and 35 degrees. Or in a blizzard, or thunderstorms, or, possibly, hailing meatballs.

Never mind that last.

Outings

  1. Library. The best…what’s better than the library on a rainy day?? If only they let you have coffee.
  2. Small local bookstores often have a little children’s area to hang out in.
  3. A museum. We like to have memberships to some local fun museums for some getting-out fun when the weather’s bad.
  4. A mall. Lots of space, and most malls have a play area that is free as long as your kids know that you are cheap frugal and won’t put quarters in. Or that you only put quarters in once in a blue moon and absolutely never if they ask! 
  5. When it’s let up enough, splash in puddles and rescue worms.
  6. Invite a friend over. Preferably a kid friend AND a mom friend.

Creative

  1. Paint a picture.
  2. Draw with window markers.
  3. Make homemade play dough.
  4. Make slime. (I haven’t tried these recipes. If you have, leave a comment and let me know if they are any good? Please?)
  5. Roll out some easel paper across the room and let them go at it with crayons or markers – this is a big favorite.
  6. Teach a kid five or up to sew a little stuffed animal: My First Sewing Book by Winky Cherry. I’ve used this with five of the kids so far and they all love it, boys included. It usually takes them a few days to a week to finish it, depending on attention span.
  7. Make cookies. Or popcorn.
  8. Make a vinegar and baking soda volcano. (Bonus homeschool points if you get them to watch a You Tube video about volcanos, too.)
  9. If they are old enough to be responsible, let them use a tablet or video camera to make their own movie. These can be hilarious to watch. Or deadly boring. But, it kept them busy.
  10. Make crayon rubbings.

Tactile

  1. Break out the colored rice, pasta, or beans. I did the rice for my kiddos a few years ago, and they absolutely loved it. I would give them each some in a pie tin and some toys to go with, and it kept them busy for ages. It was kind of a pain, though, because it would get all over the floor and be pesky to clean up (and no fun to step on). When it eventually ran out, from being spilled and swept over and over, I decided not to make more and to try pasta or beans instead. That’s still in the works.
  2. Let older toddlers or preschoolers play in the sink. There’s invariably some spillage, but the fun is worth it. Unless you happen to have an ancient wooden floor badly in need of refinishing. Then it isn’t.
  3. Put baby or toddler in high chair with a little water and some cups and funnels.

Building

  1. There’s always the Legos.
  2. Lincoln Logs
  3. Fort out of couch cushions and sheets.
  4. House of cards. Jonathan used to spend a lot of time on this.
  5. Some kids really get a kick out of dismantling junk electronics and appliances. I will occasionally buy something in that vein at the thrift store. Jonathan is quite good at taking them apart and will be at it all day if I let him.
  6. Build houses out of craft sticks and glue.
  7. Build boats out of styrofoam egg cartons or meat trays.

Quiet Time

  1. Read a book.
  2. Work on schoolwork.
  3. Do chores (No? Oh, I’m sorry. I thought you said you were bored. Just tryin’ to help.)
  4. Draw a picture.
  5. Do a puzzle.
  6. Play a board game.
  7. Watch a movie. I’m not opposed to some good screen time, to be honest. I’m picky about content, and I wouldn’t let them watch all day (unless I’m sick, or they are, then, well…), but some PBS Kids, Wiggles, Veggie Tales, nature shows..that sort of thing.

That’s what I’ve got. Have something to add? Leave a comment!

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