Sunday, May 30, 2010

Relationship math- a baffling equation

    Tim and I put the kids to bed a little early the other night and had the rare opportunity to talk, just the two of us.  It is so rare that we get this chance that our conversation ended up being about our lack of communication.  We talked about how much we used to enjoy spending time together, how we used to talk and laugh and have fun doing nothing, how we used to discuss everything and really feel connected to each other.   Unfortunately our conversation was cut short because Tim had to log onto the computer for his 2nd job and so I was left alone to ponder things for a few minutes before I headed off to bed.
    My thoughts turned to all the things that seem to take precedence over our time together.  I thought about my life of home schooling, taking care of the house, changing diapers, shuttling kids to appointments, activities, occasional play dates, etc…  I thought about Tim and his two jobs, his responsibilities around the house, the ministry he works so hard on.  Now, the kids and I are done with school for the summer but as I thought about the busy lives Tim and I lead, and the effect it has on our marriage, I found myself thinking about math.   Our dilemma sounds a little like the word problems my children’s math books are full of:  “Between five kids and two jobs and endless distractions Kari just doesn’t seem to have the chance to connect with the one person she vowed to share her life with.”   Mathematically it looks a little like this:  5k+2j+1000000...x= -1 
    You know what?   I’ve never really liked math.  I, especially, disliked word problems.  I could never figure out exactly how to solve those confusing story problems and I am pretty sure this one does not add up right, no matter how you approach it.  In fact, I am feeling a lot like I am back in school again, sitting in front of an equation that continues to baffle me no matter how I try to solve it.  We don’t want to subtract the 5 kids, of course.  We cannot subtract the 2 jobs, at least not if we want to pay our bills and eat, which we do.  It would be great if we could divide up some of distractions but well, if we knew how to do that we wouldn’t have so many to begin with.  Maybe I should multiply myself and then there would be time for everything.    If only that would work….for now, Tim and I have decided to change the equation around a little.  We were thinking that if we could have 1 night when the 5 kids went to bed two hours earlier (we would let them read in their beds for a little while before going to sleep) then maybe we could have a little time for each other each week.  That equation would look a little like this:  (5-2)-1=2.  5 kids in bed, 2 hours early, 1 night a week= two happy parents.  Now, that is an equation I can understand, and I hope and pray that it does add up right because, unlike some of those silly word problems in my children's math books, this is a math problem that really does matter.

Monday, May 24, 2010

A few of my favorite things....

    A few weeks ago Tim and I bought a new camera.  We had actually just bought a different new camera only about two months before.  We had been financially responsible with the first purchase and got a camera in our price range... and I hated it.  The quality of the pictures was terrible, they came out grainy and blurry half the time and the camera would sometimes take a few tries to even snap the picture so we missed out on so many cute photo ops.  If you follow my blog you’ll know that Tim and I could certainly not afford to buy a new camera, especially not a mere two months after just buying a new camera.  And since we couldn’t afford it in the first place we could definitely not even think about buying a good camera, but we did it anyway.  We are very rarely so irresponsible with our money.   However, it says in the Bible that where your treasure is, so also your heart will be.  My children are most definitely my treasures and where my heart is, sometimes in such a profound way it hurts.  And, I know, all to well, how fleeting their youth is.  It will be in no time at all that they have grown and changed.  I will never get these days back.  Pictures are so precious and I want ours to be, not just good, but fabulous, amazing, beautiful.  I want to somehow, capture on film (well, our camera is digital so, I guess, not film exactly) the moments of wonder and love that sometimes happen in the course of our busy days.  I want to save and savor the everyday moments when my children are playing or learning or just hanging out being themselves and looking so cute.  So, despite the fact that we did not have the money Tim and I bought a nice, new DSLR camera.  It was way out of our price range but already I love it.  Our pictures are so much better and I have had so much fun playing with it and experimenting with all its features, most of which are way over my head, photographically speaking. 
    Now that I have adequately justified our irresponsibility.. I have been very wary, so far, about posting pictures of my children on the internet.  I may be a little paranoid, maybe a little overprotective too, but I don’t really trust the internet and I worry about having my children’s pictures available to the whole world.  I love my new pictures so much though I can’t help but show them off a little.  So, in my own slightly overprotective, paranoid way…here are a few of my favorites…

Friday, May 21, 2010

Kids say the Darndest things Friday-- the turtle...

    We were at the park feeding the ducks and turtles in the pond one afternoon a few years ago.  My children and I were talking about all the cute little turtles and the big hungry ducks and watching them eat the bread crumbs we tossed them.   I saw one turtle whose shell was covered in green moss, “Look at that turtle.  He looks like he’s covered in algae,” I said pointing him out to the kids.  At home later that evening, the kids were talking all about our day at the park.  They were reminiscing about all that we had seen and the fun we had.  Then, I overheard my daughter, who at the time was about 4 years old say, “Remember we saw that one turtle who was covered in allergies?”  Algae, allergies…there probably really isn’t much difference, at least not to a four year old.

For more fun stories and Friday laughs...check out Kids Say the Darndest Things Fridays at

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

My first book review!

My husband has been receiving free Catholic books.  Lots of free Catholic books.  So many, in fact, I have asked him to find a way to receive a free bookcase next, to house the extensive library he continues to acquire.  All of my teasing aside, I believe you can never have too many books and so I decided to get in on the fun. All it takes to receive the books, all completely free of charge, is to read them and write an honest review for the book distributor to use on their website.   I received my first book a while ago and am excited to announce I contributed my very first review this evening.  Though it is not yet officially approved and posted on the "Tiber River" website (, for distributor Aquinas and More, I wanted to share it here as well....

    After 5 years of home schooling my 5 children, I was feeling a little burnt out.  Actually, more than just a little burnt out.  Yet, despite my struggles I did not feel God was calling us away from home education.  Ironically, as I was trying to discern what was best for my family a good friend of mine was considering homeschooling her own children.  In her research on the subject she read a lot of books and, because she knew I was stressed, she recommended one to me.  So at her recommendation, I sent off for a copy of Catholic Education: Homeward Bound and it was with great expectation that I dove into Kimberly Hahn and Mary Hasson’s “Useful Guide to Catholic Homeschooling". 

    The book is very well written, very thorough, and perfectly organized, addressing many common myths and questions about Catholic home schooling.  It is full of practical information on everything from establishing good habits to setting up a schedule to picking curriculum choices.  It includes well researched facts concerning the success of home schooling in both the academic realm and the ever-controversial area of socialization.   It has a section for dads, which I did share with my own husband and includes blank lesson plans and record keeping forms.  In short, I found the book to be all that my new-to-home schooling friend had said it was and all that the titled implies- a wonderful asset and invaluable tool to any Catholic family who is considering or just starting the journey and adventure of home schooling. 

    It was not, however, as motivational or inspiring as I had hoped.  I found as I read that that was not what the book was intended to be.  It truly was written as a guide for those just starting out.  So, for veteran home schoolers, like myself, who are looking for a little pick-me-up to encourage them and help them through the inevitable challenges that will come up along the way this is not the best book to buy.   I enjoyed the book for the reminder of all the reasons I have chosen to home school to begin with, but I think I may lend my copy to someone who will benefit more from the practical advice in getting started.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

A shot in the dark

    I want my children to be safe.  Like any good mother, I want to protect my children from harm, from illness, and from suffering as best I can.  When I was an inexperienced young mother I assumed the best way to protect my children was to follow the advice of my pediatrician to the letter.  When she said to vaccinate, I did.  Every vaccine, at every scheduled time.  I did not even consider NOT vaccinating.  As my older children grew and my younger children came along I became more aware of some of the controversies concerning vaccinations.  I read up on some things, talked to some friends, and starting questioning more and more.  I did not like that some of the vaccines were developed using aborted babies.  I was concerned about the anecdotal evidence linking autism to vaccinations.  And the additives and preservatives, like mercury and aluminum, surprised and upset me, as well.  When my 4th child was a baby I was much more hesitant about his shots.  I shared my concerns with our pediatrician and though she highly recommended that my son receive ALL his shots (like his 3 older siblings had) she was supportive of my questions and open to discussing my concerns.  In the end, my son did receive all his vaccines except for chicken pox. 
    When I was expecting my 5th child I started researching vaccines all over again, in order to be confident about our approach before she was even born.  I read books and magazines and looked at endless websites on the topic.  A few decisions were easy.  Most of the them were much harder.  I spoke with my pediatrician again, and then again about it.  I just wasn’t sure what to do.  We ultimately decided to take things slow.  I did not like the idea of pumping her tiny body full of foreign chemicals and manufactured antibodies when her little immune system was still developing, yet I did not want her to be struck with any preventable disease either.   She has received only a handful of the recommended vaccines up to this point and, so far it has seemed to be an okay decision on our part.  She is a very healthy and happy and well adjusted nine month old.  
    This was confirmed at her 9 month well-baby visit to the pediatrician yesterday.  Unfortunately, despite her good health and normal development the appointment ended up being extremely stressful.  As usual it went fine until the question of vaccines came up.   Our previously very supportive, very understanding, very patient pediatrician was less so this time around.  I don’t know if she has just gotten fed up with my uncertainty on the issue, if she was having a bad day herself, or if there is more pressure on her to make sure her patients are all fully vaccinated but she was much more pushy about the shots and much less tolerant of my concerns.  I tried to stick to my guns but am still so insecure about what my mothering instincts are telling me to do and just want someone to give me a guarantee one way or the other.  I apprehensively agreed to three immunizations rejecting the many others that were not-so-gently encouraged. Even then, I was a nervous wreck as the nurse injected my daughter questioning all along whether it was safe or right to be doing it.  I left the office feeling tied up in knots, though admittedly as much from the doctor’s demeanor as the shots themselves.
    So far, baby seems to be handling the vaccines fine.  I see no sign of reaction or ill effects but still I am upset about the whole thing.  I know, deep down, the reason behind the vaccines is to save our children from suffering.  Yet, no parent, no doctor, no one at all can really eliminate suffering from life.  Life is not suppose to be free of suffering.  Suffering is redemptive.  It unites us more fully with Christ.  It teaches us to depend on Him and to trust in Him, because He will see us through.  Of course, as a mother, I still want so desperately to protect my children from it.   Yet, I cannot.  For many people vaccines have eliminated certain suffering.  For some people it has caused suffering.  I guess, that is the way of life in this fallen world.  Suffering will touch us all one way or another.  No matter how hard we try, or how many antidotes we come up, we will all experience it.  In the end, we must simply put our trust in God.  
    I’m not sure this issue will ever be easy for me.  I am not sure I will ever be fully at peace or confident about either getting or refusing the vaccines offered for my children.  I am sure that I will never want to watch my children suffer but I am also sure that when it happens, however it happens, God will comfort them, and me, and we will all be strengthened and blessed through our difficulties.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Everything but money

    Money is tight.  Tim and I have never known a time in our marriage when money hasn’t been tight, but these days it is even worse than normal.  Tim hasn’t been getting many hours at his second job.  In fact, his hours have been almost cut in half in the last few weeks and, of course, as soon as there is less money coming in, the unexpected expenses seem to increase.   This has led to a few heated discussions, a lot of creative meal planning, and a bit more stress in the house.  This morning,  I was trying to make the grocery list and, once again, creatively plan our meals for the upcoming week but I wasn’t feeling very creative.   How many nights can you eat spaghetti before you are just plain sick of it, I wondered.    As I sat there, watching the baby play and pondering our food options a book on the bookshelf caught my eye. 
    A few years ago my grandmother had given my daughter a few old books of hers.  The books are full of people’s personal stories of life in the Great Depression and one of them is entitled, We had everything but money.  It may seem unusual that these books were given to a child of, at that time, about 9 years old but my daughter loves history, loves books, and loves to hear old stories so for her, it was a perfect gift.  Anyway, I put aside my grocery list and pulled the book out.   The stories were all about family life, pulling together in tough times, and doing without luxuries, without feeling like they were doing without at all.   The “author’s” of each little story were writing about their own memories, years and years past the time of the Depression. The book was actually published in 1992 (by Reiman Publications, in case you are interested in getting a copy), but none of the stories spoke of it being a time of hardship or depression.  Instead their struggles were seen as opportunities to depend on their friends and neighbors, to help each other out, to live their lives more simply with family at the center.  It all seemed quite idyllic. 
    I am sure the reality was not really so ideal.  I am sure there were moments of worry and stress, maybe even resentment, that life was so challenging.  But, in the end, they felt better for having endured the struggles and they remembered the good times.  They appreciated what they did have, which was the love of their family and a commitment to making the best of a bad situation. 
    This country has come a very long way since the Great Depression, but in all honesty, I am not sure we are doing as well as they did back then.  No one seems to value the simple things in life quite as much as they used to.   Neighbors don’t depend on each other anymore.  I don’t know too many people who even believe you can have everything if you don’t have money.  I, myself, get way too frustrated when I can’t afford to splurge on an extra little treat at the grocery store or an occasional frappucino at Starbucks.   Those things are nice, of course, but the truth is what I really want is a happy family who works together.  Those families in the Great Depression realized that the things that mattered most were strong relationships and well-ordered priorities.  When they focused on family and friends, money seemed a lot less important.  Today, what our country needs most is a return to those priorities.  With the economy going the way it is we just might get to learn that the hard way, like our grandparents did, but even if not, I am grateful for the little reminder.   No matter what happens with the economy of the country, I pray my own children will remember our “lean” times, not for the spaghetti dinners we were eating twice a week but for the love and strength that saw us through it.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Frenzied feedings

Baby formula makes me nervous.  First of all, it’s the name.  The word formula conjures up images of laboratories and men in starched white coats with protective goggles on their eyes.  Second is the smell.  That smell is not quite natural, nor is it very appetizing.  And last, but not least, is the cost.  Formula costs a fortune and babies drink it like it is…ummm….water!??!  Anyway, in my life I have been very blessed to be able to avoid baby formula.  Thankfully, I have been able to nurse each of my babies.   I know many women who, though they tried and tried, were unable to breastfeed for very valid reasons.  For them, formula was certainly a wonderful blessing, offering an almost perfect substitute for nursing and allowing them to nourish their babies in the best way possible for them.  I also know women who were just not interested in nursing and for them, too, formula worked out well.  I have always been very grateful, though, that I am able to nurse my babies. 
    In the beginning, when my children were little, after we got through the struggle of the newborn days and settled into it, nursing was such a beautiful encounter.  I remember snuggling them as they ate and just staring at them in wonder.  I would lovingly gaze into their little baby eyes and delight in their return gaze, so sweet and trusting.  Even in the middle of the night, nursing was a good experience.  I would gather my baby into my arms and conveniently feed them without even leaving my own bed.  Both baby and I could doze during the feeding and our nights were as peaceful as they could be considering we were not sleeping through them.
    As pleasant as nursing is in the beginning and as natural and wonderful as it is for growing babies, it has always become a little less enjoyable for me as each of my babies got older and busier.  My youngest child is now nine months old and I am quickly remembering the less pleasant experiences of nursing.  What was once a blissful time of bonding and cuddling now feels a little like a wrestling match at times.   My daughter still wants, and needs, to nurse fairly regularly throughout the day, yet she doesn’t really want to slow down and enjoy the time together.  She is a very busy girl these days, with so much to see and so much to do.  She is crawling all over the place, cruising along furniture and busily discovering everything the world has to offer a curious infant.  So now when it is time to nurse, she wants to do it on the run, twisting and turning and looking around so she doesn’t miss anything as she eats.  She squirms and she wiggles and, at times, I feel I better hold on tight or she might just tumble out of my arms.  It is nearly impossible for me to nurse discreetly because she stops to check things out, looking around for a minute than turning back to nurse again, then peering around the room for another minute then taking a few more sips of milk.  Even in the privacy of my own home I feel quite exposed so I have had to learn to be quick and cover myself every time something new catches the baby’s eye.  The last feeding before bed used to be my favorite time to nurse.  It was peaceful, the other kids were not demanding things from me or interrupting my time with baby.  It used to be a time when I could really relax and nurse in blissful tranquility.  Now, though, baby often fights sleep and nurses restlessly, preferring to kick the arms of the rocking chair and play with my face rather than lay still and drink her milk. 
    I have always persevered through the challenges and nursed my children for the entire first year, though I have never made it much past their first birthdays.   I had thought maybe this time I would nurse a little longer.  I thought about shooting for 18 months or so, because I have heard nursing is very good for toddlers too.  I don’t know if I’ll make it, I‘ve never been much of a fan of wrestling….  Nevertheless, I will make sure my youngest daughter gets what each of her siblings got and I’ll continue nursing until she turns one.  After all, one year is not so very long and nursing really is a beautiful thing even when it is full of more inquisitiveness, curiosity, and distractions than peacefulness, relaxation, and snuggles.

Friday, May 7, 2010

Mother's Day surprises

    My children are probably the most generous people I have ever met.  They aren’t very good at sharing, especially with each other and they cannot stand helping out around the house these days, but when it comes to gift giving they really excel.  For my birthday, a few weeks ago, they each had gifts for me.  Each gift had been well thought out, taking into consideration everything my children know about me.  One was a homemade memento featuring characters from one of my favorite stories, one was just what I needed for a favorite hobby of mine, and one was perfect for helping me to get more organized, a goal I have been working on all year.  Each gift was either made or found by the children themselves, no help from daddy.  They had been preparing for months and as the day grew closer they would ask me what I wanted, checking to see if my birthday wishes had changed, though I am sure they had already planned their gifts by that time.  On my special day they were each so excited to present me with the adorable little gifts they had thoughtfully and lovingly prepared.  They had all wrapped the presents themselves in sheets of printer paper that were covered in as much tape as paper.  I have never seen anyone give gifts with more love and excitement than my children.  Their beautiful gift giving is not reserved only for me either.  They give with just as much gusto to their dad, their grandparents and each other. 
    As Mother’s Day rapidly approaches there have been four very busy children in my house (well, actually all 5 kids have been very busy but the youngest is busy crawling and “cruising”, getting into every little thing her siblings have left around and inevitably tasting it all…that, however, is another blog altogether!).  The older four children have been whispering behind closed bedroom doors and plotting some special surprises all week.   I was asked, out of the blue earlier this week, what my favorite cereal was and then it mysteriously appeared in my grocery cart as I was picking up a few things at the store later that afternoon.   At home, they have been borrowing things like tape, clear contact paper, and construction paper working on what seems to be a pretty big project.  In addition to all their hard work and their secrecy there have also been quite a few disagreements and arguments.  The other day there were more than a few tears as the two oldest children got into a fight over I’m-not-sure-what.  Emotions were running quite high and I can only assume it is because the projects are so important to them.  Nevertheless, I had to remind them that what I really want most for Mother’s Day, and everyday, is a happy family and that if they could not work together lovingly, no present would be worth it. 
    I have to admit, my curiosity has been peaked.  I cannot wait to find out what Sunday will bring.  I am sure no matter what gifts I receive, the love they are given with will make them more priceless than gold, just like the hearts of my wonderful children!

Monday, May 3, 2010

Busy, busy, busy

    Saturday was yet another busy day at our house.  Tim had to work all day, taking his youth group kids to a conference in Tampa.  I spent the morning mopping the kitchen, scrubbing the bathrooms and throwing in load after load of laundry.  The afternoon found the kids and I at a very exciting Little League game (my son’s team won, thanks to his amazing pitching in the bottom of the last inning!).   We have had so many busy, non-stop days in the last month it seems we have had no time to just be together as a family.  Thankfully for first time in a long while, our evening was completely open.  We decided it was high time for some family fun, so we discussed some ideas over dinner.  “Game night,” suggested our oldest.  “A movie,” said our 2nd born.  “Let’s go watch the sunset,” I offered.       
    We all agreed the sunset sounded like the best idea.  Last summer we went every few weeks to a little stretch of beach not far from our house to watch the sunset.  Tim and I would sit in our beach chairs and hold hands watching the beautiful colors of the setting sun while the kids frolicked in the shallow water and built sand castles at the shoreline.  It had been a long time since we had visited that little stretch of beach, in fact, the last time we watched the sunset as a family was the weekend before we welcomed our newest little family member last August.   So after dinner was cleared away, the kids ran off quickly to put on their swimsuits and gather up their beach toys and then we were off. 
    The evening couldn’t have been more beautiful.  The weather was warm, with a nice breeze.  The sky was clear and the sun was a bright orange ball just starting to sink.  I pulled the beach chairs out of the back of the van while the kids took off immediately to get their feet wet and to start searching for hermit crabs in the salty Gulf waters.   I am usually so relaxed as I watch the kids play at the beach.  I delight in their excited smiles each time they unearth any small treasure- seashells, little snails, the harmless comb jellyfish that float along in the gentle lapping waves.  I truly savor the moments they play together building sand mounds that they envision as majestic castles.    I always feel closer to and more appreciative of my family when we have time together in the midst of God’s beautiful world.   This time, though, I never actually sat down in the beach chair to relax.  I was so busy taking pictures of everything and trying to stop the baby from shoveling handfuls of sand into her mouth.  Tim was too busy, helping our sons find crabs, sea stars, and other hidden creatures, to sit and hold my hand.  We went to the beach to escape our busy life but ended up being so busy enjoying the time away that we pretty much forgot to watch the sun that set silently behind us as we played.  But, that is the kind of busyness I could really get used to!  In fact, we had such a good time, I think this summer we may have to find the time for family busyness at the beach every week.


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...