For most of my marriage, I’ve been a stay-at-home mama and home school teacher. My spouse has been the sole bread-winner. When we purchased a restaurant in December of 2015, I assumed that the effect of our decision would be confined to my husband’s employment only. I never dreamed that our choice to buy an eatery would have such radical repercussions on our whole family life, including our home schooling. Continue reading
We’d just finished showering, the two-year-old and me, when I reached for the towel bar. Unfortunately, since I hadn’t planned in advance for our dual exit from the hot, steamy shower into the frigid, meat locker that is our bathroom in winter, my hands met with one dry towel and one damp one (left over from my husband’s solitary shower a few minutes earlier).
In a split second decision, I grabbed the dry cloth first and wrapped it around my little one’s pink, naked body. Then I proceeded to use the chilly, wet towel on myself. Working in high speed, I figured I could whisk away enough water from my limbs to stave off hypothermia.
Once this step was accomplished, I was forced to tip-toe across the icy tile floor to get from the bathroom mat to the laundry room rug (because again my morning brain hadn’t thought to have our clean clothes laying at the ready.) READ the rest HERE
For years, at about 3pm on Christmas Day my kiddos would hit the wall one by one. After a long Christmas Eve followed by a too-early-rising, their energy stores were depleted and just past midday they’d drop like flies: a snoring pre-schooler on the couch still clutching his new light saber, a drowsy teen sprawled out on the floor amidst her books.
Additionally, I often noticed an air of disappointment creeping in once the last gift was torn open, the evening meal digested and the boxes hauled out to the trash. Honestly, I sensed it in myself almost as much as I detected it in my family members.
READ more about the 4 ways we’ve reclaimed the Twelve Days of Christmas on Raleigh Moms Blog.
“What are you, an idiot?”
It wasn’t the first time his parents had resorted to a litany of name calling. It seemed to be their routine form of communication: an insult here, a slight there, a sprinkling of profanities, a rude retort or a less than flattering moniker. Honestly, I’d been disgusted from the start, but on this day I could no longer silently stomach the verbal assault his parents were launching rapid-fire in his direction. Continue reading
Rounding the back bumper of our 15 passenger van, we began our routine for loading up the crew. The chatty teens readily made their way to the rear seat while our younger daughter buckled in the toddler.
Dropping the stroller down to the closed position, my husband instructed our 9 year old ball of boy energy to move the bottles of water and take his seat next to his 7 year old cohort. While our feet were dog-tired from the full day of walking around the fairgrounds, the kids’ energy levels seemed to be drawing off of some endless reserve. Continue reading
Freshly picked bouquets stacked in bunches, lovely hydrangeas planted in bright pink pots, cards spilling out into the store aisles and 1-800-BUY-HER-THIS commercials repeating on the radio: all reminders that Mother’s Day was on the horizon.
Envious, I longed to be pampered, fussed over and honored. Desperately, I wanted to expect cards in the mailbox and notes in my inbox. I fantasized about getting one of those carnations they give out to all of the moms after church.
I wanted to be just like every other mama on Mother’s Day.
But I was not.
Mothers Are Special
Mothers are special people. Well, all people are special, but only a mama can contain and grow life within her.
Most sacrifice their bodies in order to nurture wholly new persons. And even those moms who don’t carry a person in their wombs, cradle sons and daughters in their heart. Mothers give up sleep, comfort and personal space in order to satisfy the needs of another.
It’s no surprise that we’ve designated a day in order to shower them with attention and praise. Except for some women (like I was), Mother’s Day can seem more like a cruel date on the calendar than a joyful celebration.
My Arms Were Empty
My arms were empty that first Mother’s Day. There was no cooing babe swaddled in them, no wriggling toddler perched on my hip. I had no stroller to push, no diaper bag to haul nor cradle to rock.
My firstborn had died the previous summer, so I bore no “proof” of my continuing motherhood. I felt like a mother, but I appeared to be a childless woman.
Ashamed by my conflict, I was caught between two realities (the one my heart understood and the one the world saw).
An awkward position in a time when people are heralding children as a choice, the unseen child cannot be justified by many. Then others, who aren’t sure how to comfort a grieving mother, think it best to ignore what has been lost.
How I wished to remind everyone that my son had been real, not some temporary dream or imaginary person. He had been flesh and bone.
Stuck in Limbo
And his very existence in the world, while brief, had changed me into someone new. That first son had made me a mommy, but his absence left me in a (painful) limbo.
I am not suggesting that we scrap the holiday in some ridiculous, politically-correct attempt to “level the playing field.” No, mothers deserve recognition and we all need to remember the countless ways in which women give of themselves to care for their children.
The truth is that when a woman becomes a mother, some part of her becomes forever entangled with her child. A lasting imprint gets left on her heart and in her mind.The truth is that when a woman becomes a mother, some part of her becomes forever entangled with her child. A lasting imprint gets left on her heart and in her mind. Click To Tweet
Thankfully, my own mother sensed my grief that first lonely Mother’s Day and sent me a delivery of sweet-smelling roses. My husband knew my dilemma firsthand and he, too, gave his best effort to make me feel cherished.
Those tokens of support and acknowledgment meant a great deal to me. They also allowed me to shed my shame and embrace the reality that I was truly a mama.
How You Can Help
If you know someone who has lost a child, especially a mother who’s lost her firstborn/only child, please remember to wish her a Happy Mother’s Day this Sunday.
Send her a note, a text or a card, call her on the phone or drop some flowers on her doorstep to remind her that you recognize her motherhood. Tell her that no matter how long she was able to carry her child (whether in her womb or in her arms) she remains a mother forever.
When we started out, just the two of us, my husband and I were clueless. He is an only child and my siblings didn’t show up until I was 10 years old. We both were accustomed to the limelight, tranquility and praise, but we’d always longed for the joys of sibling companionship. My husband says he actually referred to himself as a lonely only when he was little.
I remember eyeing all those bare breasted women and half-naked children on the cover of Time Magazine when I was a kid and wondering why. Why didn’t their culture adopt some semblance of modesty and fashion. Didn’t they see the value in covering up their sensitive parts or donning some designer label jeans with a cute matching top? Now folding mountains of clothes I fantasize about a life without laundry (albeit after nursing eight babies I kinda like camouflaging my drooping bits). As if ten pairs of socks, shorts, t-shirts, underwear, and pj’s weren’t enough to handle daily, there’s also that one sweater that keeps turning up in the middle of the mound (you know, the one that still has the creases in it from the last time you washed and folded it which was yesterday).
Between juggling home school lessons, tending to baby and coordinating teen work/commitment schedules, all those Pinterest ideas are little more than eye candy. Just when I contemplate reaching for the glue gun or sewing machine, I see the unmade bed, the unbrushed hair, and the fingerprints. A thousand other chores bellow for my attention.
My grandmother managed to keep her family bonded, even after her youngest fled the nest, by officiating a once a week family supper to which we were all expected to return. Those meals not only filled my belly, they nourished my spirit, my heart and my mind.
Everyone sits for dinner together.
Only one meal is served and everyone must eat what is served.
You are free to leave food behind, but you cannot have dessert if you can’t finish your dinner.
No one leaves the table without being excused by dad or mom.
Everyone remains at the table until dinner is declared over.
Being the only ones to beat my grandparents’ record (they had 6 kids), we inherited their dining room table. That table was actually a deciding factor when we were house hunting as we needed a room big enough to house it (with both extension leaves installed). We all sit down together every night. This is our time to regroup, to recount our day, and to hash out plans. Everything else revolves around dinnertime to the extent that we set schedules to insure we can eat a healthy meal together. Television, radios and cell phones are not invited to the table or anywhere nearby.
My kids are highly motivated by dessert which generally consists of a small bowl of ice cream or two cookies. We learned with son numero uno that it is no fun to dedicate our nightly conversation to begging, bartering and cajoling a kid into eating his broccoli, so we don’t. The policy is simple and everyone knows we stick to our guns, so our darlings police themselves when it comes to wiping the plate clean. Now I have heard the complaint that this can teach children to overeat, but I disagree. If they help themselves to reasonable portions, they should eat what they take (or receive). If their tummies are too full to finish, they are too full for dessert and late night snacks. And if a sweet one opts to skip a meal in defiance, trust me, they will not starve to death over night!
I shake my head (internally) every time I hear a parent complain about a child’s eating habits right after he was allowed to bolt from the table mid-course. Like I said, dinner is about more than food and so everyone needs to be present. Having children ask to be excused (and waiting for your reply) teaches them respect for your authority as well as respect for the other guests at table.
Everyone remains at the table until dinner is declared over.
An occasional brief, rest room break is acceptable, but dashing up out of the seat before the meal is declared done is not. Sitting a while longer allows everyone to have a chance to talk, to listen and to digest. And it inspires those less than happy eaters (the ones leaving the squash on their plates until the last minute) to continue grazing from their plates. Additionally, if everyone leaves the table together, then no one is able to mysteriously disappear at clean-up time.
We place a lovely salad on the table first and everyone takes a serving. In the past, when we used bottled dressings we ate smaller helpings of salad. Then we switched to homemade Invisible Dressingand now it isn’t uncommon for kids to ask for seconds. One of our sons is responsible for making the salad. Here’s our recipe (as handed down to us from Poppy):
Add the olive oil and be sure to mix the crush garlic into it. Let sit for a few minutes.
This recipe should make you one gallon. Feel free to add or subtract sugar or juice to suit your taste.
1 Cup sugar
2 Cups boiling water
10 Cups cold water
To get the juice out of the lemons, I use one of these things:
But any other juicer or even just your hands work as well.
Just another week in Brelinskyville I say. And by that I mean: traveling to celebrate our first graduate, hosting 86 of the world’s most awesome party guests, a stray peacock, field tripping to the beach and an extra blessing to count.
1. I’ve already gushed HERE over my very first home school graduate, but now I’ve actually got the pictures to document the achievement. We opted to enroll our high schoolers in Seton Home Study, so my son was eligible to participate in a graduation ceremony in VA. What a thrill to be among 100+ other graduates (from all over the country and one who came all the way from the Philippines) and those were just the graduates who chose to attend the event.
I can’t say enough about how well Seton met our needs as a family and prepared my son for his future as an intelligent adult and a Catholic capable of defending his beliefs. Quite frankly, while I knew I would stay the course throughout my son’s high school education, I was somewhat intimidated and overwhelmed at the prospect of having to calculate his credits, double-check his requirements and create his transcript. Enter Seton where they do all of that and more. Four years and three high schoolers later, I am satisfied that we made the right choice and the tuition is worth every penny.
|Class of 2014|
|Jude’s First Holy Communion|
2. When we throw a party, we like to really throw a party! Years ago we decided to host big, all-inclusive, family-sized shin-digs. When the oldest two were little I did the kids’ only, themed birthday parties (think Veggie Tale donuts, pirate treasure hunts and paper mache pinatas) complete with preplanned games and a gift unwrapping break. However, as the size of our brood increased that plan seemed less than ideal and honestly kind of un-fun for the adults and siblings. I mean hosting 8 birthday soirees would book up our whole summer and fall (since our bdays span from March to September). So the big bash idea sprang up and we’ve been sticking with it ever since. Now the kids entertain one another (no need for me to orchestrate games) and no one is left out since there is a least one (or six) somebodies your age to hang with. Moms and dads are then free to enjoy the company of other adults since the kiddos are so busy together. Of course, being southerners and all potluck is the way to go. This cuts down on expense and allows friends to share something rather than feeling obliged to bring gifts.
This go around we and 76 of our friends and family spent the afternoon together celebrating this year’s sacraments and milestones (with a confirmation, communion and graduation in one spring there was oh so much to celebrate).
|Kevin (named in honor of the bird from UP)|
3. Okay, so normal people might happen across a stray kitty or puppy, right? But here in B-ville we find ourselves adopted by a stray peacock! No, really, a peacock literally flew into our field of fowl and he’s decided (against our best efforts to discourage him) to make this home. Occasionally, he perches on our high roof, but most of the time he sits near the hens that he is trying so very hard to impress. Quite comical, when the hens walk passed he fans out his tail feathers and shakes them ever so purposefully whilst turning slowly so as to remain within
the hen’s line of sight. The chickens (like innocent, college girls in a frat house) don’t quite understand his oh-so-subtle flirtations (or they’re just not interested in inter-species romance). If the girls here aren’t diggin’ him, I guess he’s decided the food makes up for it. Anyone got any peacock tips?
|Mr. B and the sea|
4. How is it that a whole year has slipped by since I carried my big bellied self to the beach? Well, it has and it was high time to soak in some RR on the coast of NC. A more perfect beach day we couldn’t have prayed for (okay well the freezing cold water may have been a deterent for some of us but as you can see from the pics the kids numbed up fast enough to enjoy the chilly waters) as the temperature was warm but not sweat-worthy, the life guards were on duty, the parking lot was nearly empty and the sky maintained its Carolina blue.
We barely even bothered with the radio as the soothing sounds of the waves were enough to captivate our attention. God also graced us with just enough wind to lift our kite, but not so much as to require us to wrap up in towels for comfort. The coast takes a bit of navigating for our crew since we live a few hours from it, but as always the day trip gave us that little timeout we all needed.
5. Putting this post together, I have to admit my shame in adding this last thought. Just across the way from our favorite beach spot is the Bodie Island lighthouse, so this trip we decided to check it out (not sure why we hadn’t in the past). Happy to have arrived an hour before its closing, we filed out of the van and began snapping pictures. A tour guide was about to usher in a new group and she advised that we’d need to purchase tickets inside to join the next grouping. Unfortunately, once inside we realized the pricing was too far outside of our tight budget, so we had to settle for looking at the curator’s picture book of the lighthouse interior.
Glad for the portrait view, I was internally bemoaning. Our budget is more often than not tight, but I hate saying no again and again. I wanted to say, “Yes. We’ll take ten tickets!” I wanted my kids to race up the spiral staircase, to peer out from the top, to imprint a lasting memory, but thoughtful planning dictated that we needed to forgo this expense as our traveling is not yet complete for the summer.
How silly I feel now for my ingratitude as I detail the abundance of blessings that have been poured forth these last few weeks. So what that we missed the spiral stairs in that black and white structure we’ve witnessed sacraments, welcomed loved ones, met new friends, experienced unfamiliar settings and stored up an ample cache of mental souvenirs.
Once again, this domestic church I call home succeeds in raising my eyes upward.