You know you’re a mom when…

The other week I was leaving the grocery store on a high. I had scored big with sales. And I thought to myself, “You know you’re a mom when the highlight of your week is a deal at the grocery store…and getting to go shopping alone!”

A few days later Timothy ran past me with no pants (or underpants) on and yelled, “Mommy! I went peepee and poopy for you!” As if I should be so proud… And yet I am. And I thought to myself, “You know you’re a mom when poop is a normal part of every day conversation.”funny-moms

So then I asked some of you on Facebook to finish the sentence “you know you’re a mom when…” and here’s what you answered.

YOU KNOW YOU’RE A MOM WHEN…

-when you carry diapers in your purse.

-when you look for products that make you smell and feel as if you’ve showered, without actually showering.

-when you are used to cold coffee.

-when your kids boogers, snot and pee don’t gross you out.

-when you realize you forgot to get dressed for the day.

-when you say things you never thought you’d have to say, like “no we don’t suck on trash cans or dirty diapers.”

-when you find yourself doing the things your mother did but you SWORE you’d never do.

And, you know you’re a mom when you can’t stop praying and offering it up for your kids.

 

Being a mom changes you.

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It’s a conversion, this life of motherhood. Five years ago I would have never imagined my day to day conversations about bowel movements or not being able to shower on a regular basis. I now love to cook and make menus for the week. It’s a game to me to use up all the ingredients in my house. I now enjoy folding clothes at night while watching TV and making my chores part of my “down time”.  My highlights these days usually involved saving money on a good deal or something my kids did or said. 5 years ago my highlights would have been about travel or going out with friends. Then one day your looking at a positive pregnancy test and nine months later everything changes – your hobbies, your dreams, and even your highlights of the day.

But it’s a good thing – the changes; the journey. My husband and I have been watching the Symbolon videos about how our faith is a journey. It seems scary at first to change, to deepen your faith, and what if I have to give up all my fun? But as you get to know the Lord and have a relationship with him, you don’t WANT to sin the way you used to. Your idea of “fun” changes.

It’s the same with your vocation. Your idea of fun changes. As you journey in motherhood and grow to love your children more and more, you can’t imagine life without them anymore. Even with all the snot and boogers and laundry and dishes.

As a child, I use to think my mom was crazy for not waiting to jump in the pool with me or play on the playground. “How can just sitting there and watching me be any fun? How come you just want to be in the background taking pictures?” But as a mom now, I get it. My happiness is watching them be happy. My fun is centered around my family. My desires have grown and changed along with my vocation.

St. Paul says in Philippians 1:6- “I am confident of this, that the one who began a good work in you will continue to complete it until the day of Christ Jesus.”

In encompassing all that motherhood is, we are growing and changing and being brought to perfection through our vocation. The person I am today I couldn’t have dreamed of 5 years ago, but that’s a good thing.

So, you know you’re a mom when you can’t imagine having it any other way!

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From the Spotlight to the Hidden Life

I used to be a youth minister.  I worked in a church where I was in front of people all the time. Talking, leading, and ministering. I had to be on top of my game, spiritually speaking, if I was going to be effective.  Sometimes it was more about deepening my personal relationship, but sometimes it was that outside pressure that kept me going to the UnknownChapel and waking up for daily Mass.  And so there I was, at the Church all the time because I was the face of the youth in our church. I was in the spotlight.

And then I got married. And immediately the kids started coming and I was now at home. All the time. It was more of a hidden life now – for most of the day it was just me and babies who can’t talk. The way I was used to praying involved daily mass and frequenting the adoration chapel, and I no longer had those luxuries for my prayer time. And so my priorities became eating, dishes, and laundry, and it became difficult to find time to pray. “They don’t even know what prayer is; they wouldn’t notice the difference if I prayed or not.” Or so I thought. I convinced myself that my spiritual life wasn’t as important now that I wasn’t in the spotlight.

But I was incredibly wrong. I remember when it hit me. I was in line for confession examining my conscience. It has been a while, but I hadn’t really done anything that bad. I’m a mom now, so I don’t really have time to sin, right? And then I started to recall every time that my husband and I had fought. Every time I had lost it and yelled at the kids, every time that I had failed to discipline in love. I realized that my spiritual life was more important now than ever before because I was responsible for the souls of these tiny children who do not know any better. That I am accountable to my husband and our vows to be leading him closer to heaven.

So while the hidden life, the “interior house life” of a mom may seem inconsequential, it will impact your family and society for generations to come.

I think of Mary, who we know so little about in the Bible, but yet she was the most important person in Jesus’ life. Her role was so great, and yet so hidden. With every newborn comes an adjustment in routine and schedule. But that doesn’t diminish the importance of prayer; I think it increases it.images-2

So now it’s time to be motivated out of love for God, love for my vocation, and love for my family to be striving for sanctity and to find time to pray. Not just to say grace before meals and bedtime prayers, but to find time to be anchored in prayer and to be more like Mary.

“But when you pray, go to your inner room, close the door, and pray to your Father in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will repay you.” Matthew 6:6

 

To Share, or not To Share?

A few months ago this story was a popular thing to share amongst moms on Facebook (and I am only now getting around to writing about it). The article is about why this mom isn’t teaching her kid to share. The first time I read it, I got swept up in her argument and at the end thought, “you’re right, we don’t want our kids to feel ‘entitled’ and not be able to cope with disappointment.”

rule10_final-Conflict-1024x810Then later in the day after I had asked my 3 year old and 1 year old to share for the twentieth time, I realized a few important things that have compelled me to write this blog in defense of sharing.

My first realization is that sharing is practical. I realized that the author’s son is at the current time an only child. It doesn’t matter if she doesn’t want more children, can’t have any, or will have more in the future. She only has one child right now. I have two of the playing age.  If they do not share, they will steal toys from each other and scream until I lose my mind. It brings so much joy and peace to me and to our home when they are playing together and taking turns sharing.

I guarantee, if you DO NOT teach your kids to share, you kids will have NO friends. Who wants to be friends with someone who only thinks about themselves all the time? Who wants to play with someone who wont invite others to play along? This is not entitlement as the author suggests. What IS entitlement is hogging the toy all day long simply because you got there first. A swing or a car on the playground is not yours any more than the next kids. You just got there first.

My second realization is that sharing teaches virtue. They learn to be generous; to think of others; to be selfless and sacrificial. These virtues will go a long way when they are older- when they fall in love, get married, and have kids of their own. When they donate time and money to charities and people in need. This is my goal as a parent: to raise my kids to be virtuous, and so I need to teach them to share.

Certainly there are not hard and fast rules that make sharing work every time. There are different cases and sometimes a child is allowed to play with a toy without sharing. But if Lily has two balls and shares one with Timothy, everyone wins. When there is only one toy involved that they both want, we usually set a timer, and in the words of Daniel tiger, “I can take a turn, and then you get it back. You can take a turn, and then I get it back.” And it seems to work. And sometimes after 5 minutes they forget they even wanted the toy and learn to find something else to occupy them. This, my friends, is teaching them to cope with disappointment. Not teaching them to share at all is the real disappointment here.

Why Am I Worrying?

ImageThe priest as Mass today, reflecting on the Gospel, started his homily stating that he was a born worrier. I can relate. All my life my melancholic self has divulged in worry, guilt, and sadly, grudges. But today we’re talking about worries since that’s what the Gospel was about. And it’s a hard one for me. Listen to how Jesus starts it out:

“Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life,
what you will eat or drink,
or about your body, what you will wear.
Is not life more than food and the body more than clothing?”

Yikes! My thoughts are running through each line:

Do not worry about your life.
How are we going to manage with a third baby? Are we making enough money? Is my husband’s business going well? Am I playing with my kids enough? Are we watching too much TV? What are we going to do this week? Where do we want to be in 5 years?

Do not worry about what you will eat or drink.
Do I have enough groceries for the week? Am I within our budget? Do we have enough fruits and vegetables in our diet? Do I have snacks for the kids and to satisfy my pregnancy cravings? What am I going to feed our dinner guests tonight? What am I going to have for breakfast in the morning?

 Or About Your Body.
I feel like a fat whale. I am definitely bigger than this stage the last two pregnancies. My hips hurt. My belly hurts. I’m starting to not sleep well at night and get pregnancy acne again.

What you will wear.
Does Timothy have enough 3t clothes? Do my maternity clothes fit? Nathan doesn’t have any clean clothes? That means I have to do laundry again tomorrow? Didn’t I just do it a few days ago?

 Is not life more than food and the body more than clothing?
I guess so, but I sure can forget it in the daily grind of life and in all my worrying.

It seems as mothers that our main goal is to provide the corporal works of mercy for our family by feeding the hungry and clothing the naked, and I can get so wrapped up in it that I forget about providing the spiritual works as well.

I heard a speaker recount a story in which a lady in the grocery line was commenting on all her kids and asked how she was going to get all 7 of them through college. She responded, “I’m more concerned with getting them all to heaven.”

 Thus today’s Gospel ended with:
“Your heavenly Father knows that you need them all.
But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness,
and all these things will be given you besides.”

When has God not met my needs? When has he not provided? Many, many people have lived on less than we have, so why am I worrying all the time?

Jesus, I trust in you to provide for our family, for the new baby, for my husband’s business, and most importantly for our holiness. Help us to seek you first.

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Humility…and the Crown of Thorns

I have an appreciation for the Rosary, but I’ve never gotten giddy over praying it. I always knew it was important, but it wasn’t until this year that I have looked forward to praying it. There’s something about dropping off my tiny bundles of energy in the nursery and gathering with other moms for some prayer and sharing every Wednesday that makes the rosary so much more appealing! Peace, quiet, prayer, meditation. Ahhhh.

The other week at my mom’s group while we were praying the sorrowful mysteries, the meditation on the crown of thorns hit me in a new way. In recent weeks we had talked about ways to bring our kids into the Lenten season, including the toothpick crown of thorns for sacrifices leading up to Holy Week. So my first image as we started the third decade was Jesus wearing that toothpick crown, but as we were praying, I was wearing the crown and realized Jesus was telling me something about my motherhood.  I kept thinking about the humility Jesus had to wear that spiked crown, knowing all the while that He is the King of Heaven, yet quietly submitting to the pain and injustice of it all.

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I started to realize that I have almost zero of that humility that Jesus had in wearing his crown of thorns. I don’t allow injustices. I correct them, even (especially!) with my husband and children. I want to appear to have it together in front of other people. Who doesn’t want to seem like an amazing parent? Who doesn’t want to other people to respect and admire them? Well, Jesus.

So it’s making me think: Am I, like Jesus’ acceptance of the crown of thorns, quietly submitting to the will of God or am I trying to have other people congratulate me on what a great job I’m doing? Am I writing this blog to get other people to like it, or am I writing because God has given me insights to share? Am I posting things on Facebook or sharing with other moms because I want to wear the glorious crown of appearing like a good mom, or am I like Mary who quietly and humbly kept all things in her heart?

As Lent approaches, I want to spend more time meditating on the crown of thorns and how I can grow in humility. What kind of mortification is it going to take to help me to be more like Jesus? How can I humbly accept the pains and sacrifices of raising children without kicking and screaming along the way? How can my motherhood be more of the simple and humble way of Mary?

Lord, show me what my crown of thorns needs to be this Lent so I can grow in humility and become more like you.

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The Snuggles Remind Me: All We Have Is The Present

Last week was a little different around here. My husband was sleeping on the recliner in the basement while recovering from his surgery, while my mom was in town sleeping in Timothy’s bed, so my two-year old was bunking with me.  It was actually kind of fun snuggling up to my sweet little boy at night since he’s not always so sweet when he’s awake.

Lately Timothy has been into reading the book, “Love You Forever.” It’s about a mom who, as her little boy grows up and drives her crazy throughout the day, comes into his room at night to rock him and say, “I’ll love you forever/ I’ll like you for always/ as long as you’re living/ my baby you’ll be.” It’s quite cute, except for the part where she drives through the night with a ladder to climb through her grown son’s window to rock him. That part is just creepy. But when we are finished reading sometimes Timothy asks me to rock him back and forth and sing to him.  I gladly oblige because suddenly this newborn became an almost 3-year old and soon he will be a teenager, and then there will be no more cuddling.

Also, it makes up for the terror he’s been during the day. I’m exhausted by noon from his frequent temper tantrums and potty training efforts.  A friend recently quoted, “The days are long but the years are short.” And I’m trying to remember that. The days are quite long until Nate comes home to rescue me, but yet my kids are growing up before my eyes. I am already halfway through my 3rd pregnancy and I have no idea where that time went!

The snuggle nights last week and the bedtime book are good reminders for me to enjoy this time because it won’t be long before he’s grown. He can be so difficult during the day but the cuddles at night make up for it. I recall the time my mom was pushing Timothy in the stroller and said that she didn’t mind because one day it will be Timothy pushing my mom in her wheelchair.

I guess what I’m trying to say is, all we have is the present. As much as I want my kids to grow up and be independent and stop driving me crazy, there are beautiful moments every day to be cherished while they are young. Like it says in James 4:13-15:

 “Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we shall go into such and such a town, spend a year there doing business, and make a profit” – you have no idea what your life will be like tomorrow.* You are a puff of smoke that appears briefly and then disappears.  Instead you should say, “If the Lord wills it,* we shall live to do this or that.”

Lord, help me to be present to my children each day.

Making Peace with Motherhood: Raising Saints

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There’s the kiddo at 10 weeks! Nathan thinks he/she looks like a dinosaur…

Here’s the big news: we are pregnant with #3! Our oldest, Timothy, will turn 3 in April, and baby #3 will be born at the end of June! Nathan and I will have been married 3 and 11/12 months by then. That’s a lot of threes!

The week before my brother’s wedding in October was a nerve-racking one as I waited to take a pregnancy test. Post-partum charting is much more difficult than people led me to believe, and while we wanted to space our children farther than 18 months apart, we knew there was a possibility we were pregnant again. That week we were just playing the waiting game before being able to find out for sure.

My good friend was in town for the wedding (since it was her sister marrying my brother) and I was crying to her that I was pretty sure I was pregnant again and I wasn’t ready.  I sobbed to her that so many other moms have this “mothering” thing down and it’s just not coming easy to me and now I’ve got to do it all over again.  I just wanted a time when, like it seems with so many other moms, I was wanting to get pregnant again versus having one thrust upon me. I was obviously not at peace with motherhood.

Then came the day of my brother’s wedding. The priest began Mass saying, “The greatest tragedy on this earth is to not become a saint.” That was a good starting point for my mini-journey toward peace as I was reminded that that is what marriage is about: getting each other to heaven.  Then, during the wedding vows, I heard my brother and new sister vow to “accept children lovingly from God.” Those words rung in my ears. I hadn’t accepted Lily so lovingly at the beginning, so I renewed my own marriage vow and promised to love this potential new child I might be carrying as a gift from God.

And then I started thinking about my Confirmation saint, St. Bridget of Sweden. One of the reasons I picked her as my patron saint was because she was a mother. She had 8 children, some of which also went on to become canonized saints. Even as a 13-year old going through Confirmation, I somehow knew that motherhood would also be my path to holiness and that I wanted to raise more saints.

And I realized that although I’m a supporter of NFP and all things Catholic, I was still holding on to a “contraceptive mentality” that we had to be able to have enough space and money and leisure, and having too many kids just wouldn’t be a part of that plan.  I was “open” but I still wanted to be selfish. I had never wanted to be one of those large, crazy homeschool families but I am realizing more and more that that’s what we will be turning into. And I’m becoming OK with that now.  Because my marriage is my path to holiness, and accepting children lovingly from God is my vocation. It’s what is going to make me into a saint, even though it won’t be easy.  So I’m making peace with that.

The night of the wedding I went home to take a pregnancy test that turned out positive. And this time around, although I am still scared of how it will all work out, I am thankful. Thankful that God has believed in me enough to grant me the opportunity to raise some saints. Thankful that so far I have two beautiful, healthy children and an amazing, supportive husband.  Thankful that I am making peace with this exhausting, diaper-filled way of life with 3 kids under the age of 4.

And thankful because I am starting to fully realize my purpose in this life: to raise saints and help my husband get to Heaven. In this, my vocation, there is peace.

Motherhood…and detachment

For once in my life, I am thankful that I don’t own nice stuff. There is sharpie on the couch cushions, scratches all over our tables, unidentifiable food stains on my shirts, and I think every game in our closet is missing at least one piece.

Being a fairly frugal person, I used to get bent out of shape when something broke or was lost because I didn’t have much and wanted to preserve the material objects I had. But now, my thought process (usually towards my toddler) is more like this:

 “Your fire truck doesn’t have sirens or lights because you left it in the pool and the batteries don’t work? Good thing I only paid 75 cents for it at a garage sale.”

-Or-

“You broke a glass while ‘helping’ mommy unload the dishwasher? Who cares that we don’t have a matching set anymore and I can just buy more glasses at Ross.”

Motherhood is teaching me a lot about detachment and that objects are just objects. It’s the people and your experiences that can’t be replaced. But I’m learning not just about material detachment from objects, but detachment in other areas such as sleep, plans, and social events. I’m not going to be able to go out whenever I want. I’m not going to get to sleep through the night. I’m not going to be able to get my whole To Do list done today, so I better just embrace my cross and die to self.

There is freedom and holiness in detachment, and my kids are helping me to see that. I remember hearing a homily about St. Francis of Assisi in college that shared this on Francis’ poverty:

“Francis reasoned, what could you do to a man who owns nothing? You can’t starve a fasting man, you can’t steal from someone who has no money, you can’t ruin someone who hates prestige. They were truly free.” (http://www.catholic.org/saints/saint.php?saint_id=50)

So here’s to detachment. Thank you, children, for helping me to realize what it means to be truly free.

Fruit flies…and sin

imagesA few weeks ago I brought fruit home from the store…and the fruit flies started to appear. I have spent countless hours trapping them with inverted cones, vacuuming them up with our dust buster, and killing them with my bare hands. We have had hundreds overtaking our house at one point. They’ve also taken over my sanity since all I do is think about fruit flies. I see them in my bedroom, I dream about them in my sleep. I stop what I’m doing to track one in the kitchen for a good 5 minutes until it’s dead.

Over the weekend I finally made the traps with banana bait and a paper cone. I easily caught over a dozen in each, but that wasn’t the last of them. Every day since then, I keep thinking that I’ve gotten them all and I let down my guard. Then I see one flying around and I kill it with my hands. Right after that, I see two more flying around the kitchen. Nate tells me they aren’t asexual but I swear they can replicate on their own. Timothy thinks it’s a fun game to run around the house hitting a wall saying, “die, fruit fly, die!”

Just when I think its safe and I put the fruit out again, several flies re-appear from hiding. When I’m not paying attention and I leave food out, there those flies are again. And that’s just like sin, and those fruit flies are seriously the devil. The wages of sin is death (Romans 6:23), and we must always be on guard against temptation to sin. 1 Peter 5:8 says, “Be sober and vigilant. Your opponent the devil is prowling around like a roaring lion [or sneaky fruit fly] looking for someone to devour.”

Yikes! For some reason I thought that moms didn’t sin that much since they have so much else on their mind. It seemed temptation wouldn’t be the same as it was in my youth. Although my sinfulness hasn’t changed (just ask my husband!) the kinds of sins are different. And that’s when temptation comes the easiest – when we aren’t paying attention and when we least expect it. I find that in motherhood my biggest trial is making excuses, sadly usually using my kids as my excuse. My kids made me crazy, that’s why I did such and such. I have no time to pray because I’m taking care of the kids. I can’t go to confession because I have kids…

Last night I was in such a bad mood as I tried to catch a fly in our bathroom. Those *&$# things really are making me crazy and I was letting my husband know it. As he watched me, he said, “Why don’t you offer it up?” And truthfully, it hasn’t crossed my mind to allow this opportunity to make me holy.  But I guess it did teach me a lesson about sin. We always have to be on our guard against sin and temptation in any form. Until heaven, we will never be safe. And now if you’ll excuse me, I just found another fly to go hunt down and destroy.

“Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. Amen.”

A personal letter to women considering abortion

We dated for about nine months before we got engaged. Our engagement was nine months long and then, on our honeymoon, we got pregnant. Thus, nine months later our son entered the world.  When he was nine months old, we got pregnant again.

When I took the pregnancy test to confirm my suspicions about being pregnant the second time around, there was a moment of elation, followed by a moment of terror, and then sunk in the depression.  We had a nine month old who had barely learned to crawl, was hardly eating solids, and definitely not sleeping through the night. Now we have to do it all over again?  I was just starting to lose my pregnancy weight and would have to pull out the maternity clothes again. We had had people living with us for the last six months, I was working part time, and my husband had started his own business. How was this going to work?

So I cried and I prayed, “Lord, I would be ok if I had a miscarriage.”  That is not to make light of anyone who has miscarried, it’s to show how dark this time was for me.  And then I got angry, telling God all the reasons why now was not a good time to have another baby.  I cried some more, saying “I don’t want this baby.”

If I wasn’t a woman of faith, I don’t know what I would have done.  But my body was obviously designed to create, grow, and give life, so I just let my body do its thing. When our daughter was born, it was a beautiful moment kind of like out of a movie. Our time in the hospital was magic. But when we got home, the struggles were difficult and I sank into post-partum depression.  I found out another friend had miscarried, and my first thought was that she could have my daughter.  I was in a lot of pain from thrush and nursing problems and I was angry that my baby was hurting me. But slowly, we started to get better. And then during her baptism, I heard a voice inside me say, “There’s a reason she was born. I have a special plan for her.” The Lord was telling me that this little girl had a reason to live, a purpose, a bright future full of hope. And from there the depression and the pain started to fade away, and I was able to really start loving this child that God had given to me.

Lily is 7 months old now. I love her to pieces! Yes, she shrieks and cries and drives me crazy sometimes, but her smiles make my day, and I cry now writing this at the thought that there was a time that I didn’t want her. I can’t even imagine anymore what life would be like without her:

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Dear mother considering an abortion:

That’s what you already are: a mother! I don’t judge you for whatever feelings you are having because I have been there. You are not an evil baby-killer; you are scared and overwhelmed at the thought of raising another human being. I too have felt that way! But do you really want to live life without knowing the color of your baby’s eyes or if they have curly hair, or a temperament like yours? What he or she will be when they grow up? Who they will marry?

There are not only physical, but many psychological and emotional side effects to having an abortion that no one really talks about. There is anxiety, depression, and guilt for going against your body’s design to give life. Whether you agree that abortion is killing a baby (which I do), there are still other consequences to you, the woman that can last a lifetime. And I don’t want you to have to go through that.

I knew a girl in college who had had an abortion. She hadn’t told anyone, and ended up coming to get prayer for the guilt she felt, and that’s how we met.  She had started to pray and to heal emotionally, when her ex-boyfriend found her and raped her. She got pregnant, had another abortion, and left school.  She was so depressed- it scared me how unreachable she became. She ended up getting back together with that guy and moving back to her hometown, although her family would not take her in because of all her choices. Long story short, she got pregnant again, but this time she decided to keep the baby. She dumped the guy, reunited and reconciled with her family, and had a beautiful baby boy. She has been working and going to school and raising her son, but she does it all for love of him, and she is happy to do so. That doesn’t mean life has been easy and it has required a lot of sacrifices, but so what? We only live once, and what better way to live than to share it with our own flesh and blood.

Dear woman considering an abortion:

It can seem like there are all these so-called “good” reasons to “terminate” your pregnancy. But to what end? Underneath all the sleepless nights and ear-piercing shrieking, there is joy. Unspeakable joy that I wouldn’t trade for the world. I beg you to see that abortion is never the answer. Not for the baby OR for the mother! So my heart goes out to you, dear mother considering an abortion, and to all women who have had an abortion and the burden they now carry. I will offer up my struggles today for you!

Love,
A fellow mother

p.s.- If you still can’t imagine raising your baby, please consider adoption. I know women out there who want children so badly but can’t on their own. You could make a miracle possible for some family out there.