"When we had our children, our ideas changed somewhat. Thenceforward we lived only for them; they made all our happiness and we would never have found it save in them. In fact, nothing any longer cost us anything; the world was no longer a burden to us. As for me, my children were my great compensation, so that I wished to have many in order to bring them up for Heaven" -- Saint Zelie Martin, mother of St. Therese of Lisieux, canonized October 18, 2015 along with her husband St. Louis Martin.

Monday, October 22, 2012

I'm bailing

The 31 day challenge I was trying to meet, namely to write for 31 days on the topic of post-partum depression, is going to end in a bail-out.  I think my timing was just off. I've been wanting to blog again for a while, but to start up a new blog and then confine myself to such a limited (and heavy, I might add) topic has made it difficult for me to create my space here.  I guess I hit a wall.  So, I'm leaving my thoughts stand as they are, and moving on.  Of course, if some brilliant piece of wisdom strikes, I'll happily share it here!:)

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Oops, Day 10

My awesome sister stopped by this afternoon.  She called before hand and asked if I wanted Starbucks. A) Who am I to decline coffee ever and B) I was actually struggling after a 5:10am wake-up with my baby and a gray, rainy afternoon stretching out before me.  I told her to just get what she got...
So, being the super-generous, fun and loving sister that she is, she got me a venti (that's FOUR espresso shots, girls) caramel macchiato. And it was good. I was doing greaaaat for several hours.

Mmm. Then I crashed.  But, because I've been working so hard at battling depression, I said to myself "It was the coffee!" So, the disastrous house will not get me down.  No. That will be tomorrow's work. I am not a failure, I just can't drink that much coffee in one...week.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Looking for Peace, Day 9

I think that sometimes we get caught up in our own minds.  I notice this with myself when I am at a playdate with a group of moms.  We all sort of verbally "emote"  and it just feels so good!  You know, talking as fast as possible between interrupting children and running them to the public restrooms, we tell each other all of those things that wear on a mother's heart.  From nutrition to mother-in-law drama (oh, did I not mention that no one is EVER allowed to start a "trump this" mother-in-law dish session? It's never a good thing.) we vent, and then our friends swoop in with consolation and sympathy, understanding and advice.  I think that women need this.  But then, we have to stop.  We cannot sustain the emotional drain of a constant purge session.  And let me tell you right now what any wife of over 3 months must already know: no husband can tolerate it either!

What we are looking for at the end of our ranting, ultimately, is peace.  No one can really bring peace to our hearts because only God can bring us that gift.  We need to turn to Him in our struggles and offer our sufferings to Him, accepting His consolation if He deigns to send it.  I know that I personally start running away from what I know I really need to do to find peace.  I distract myself with reading blogs, shopping online, or calling a sister on the phone.  What I really need to do is sit still and let God send His Spirit. I need to be still so that I can know Him.  I need to listen for Him in the Whisper, because we know he is not in the whirlwind we stir up in running around looking for something else to fill our longing hearts.  I try to remind myself of the famous words of St. Augustine:  "You have made me, O God, to live forever in Your love, and my heart will not rest, until it rests in Thee."

I think when we're struggling it can be helpful to assess how much running we are doing.  It has been necessary for me to say no to activities when my soul needs tending to.  It has also been necessary for me to stop talking about my worries and bring them to the Lord.  That's when I really notice changes for the good.  Go figure.:)

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

My sanctuary, Day 8

I'm just going to credit Kimberly Hahn right now for giving voice to what has become a very meaningful reality in my life as a stay-at-home, home educating mother: my home is my sanctuary.

The feminist movement loves to paint women as trapped in the cage of their house, a slave to the man whom they call "dear" and the children they begrudgingly bear.  Well, things have changed a lot and I think we'd have to look pretty far to a) find a man who really wanted that many children anyway or b) didn't pressure his wife to find a way to supplement the family's income.  I think that the feminist movement is basically out-dated on many fronts and really doesn't speak to the reality of the modern woman.  In my experience, chatting with the random woman pushing her child in the swing next to me at the park, I have found FAR more women who wish they had the luxury of staying at home with their children, at least while they were young.  I didn't say some women don't choose to pursue a career, and I didn't say that women should be discriminated against in the workforce. I'm just saying, there are a lot of women out there who would love a) more children and b) to stay home with them, but c) those darn feminists have changed the dynamics of our society and economy so that the average mother feels she ought to work outside of the home (in order to justify her existence in society), and certainly that finances require that she do.  This is sad, and it is especially demeaning to the importance, the work and vocation of wife and mother.

Women have a right to be fully supported in their work as wives and mothers. We need to have full confidence to embrace our vocation and live it out as we best see fit, without letting washed-up feminist ideologues make us feel inadequate or insecure about our choices.

So, go ahead then.  Make your home your sanctuary.  Make it a place that you love to be.  Make it your haven and let your entire family flourish from the work of your hands.  You want to heal from post-partum depression? Let me tell you: a warm, home-cooked dinner that is gobbled up by a thankful husband and children does a wealth of good to a sore heart. Why? Because they think you are awesome, amazing, and wonderful. They might not verbalize their thanks on a daily basis (unless you bring out ice cream for dessert and they actually start cheering, I mean, a girl needs her perks, I'm just saying you could try it), but they'll notice.  Plus, when you know that you did a good job, it melts away feelings of inadequacy and self-deprication. You can see that clean kitchen and pile of folded laundry and feel that you are worth something.  Depression is a bunch of lies.  You are loved by your family and they need you.  It helps when you show yourself something you've done that even you have to appreciate.  Even just one little corner of a room at a time.  Just dust that mantle and light that candle.  I bet you'll go on from there.

My advice today is: be a mom.  Whether or not you work, be a homemaker.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

As I was Sweeping, Day 7

It was a lightbulb over the head moment for me.  I was sweeping my kitchen floor. I had just gotten my kids to bed and done the dishes.  I had considered not doing the dishes, laundry, and floor, but I knew tomorrow was Sunday and I was supposed to rest.  As I realized my kitchen was looking a whole lot better, and I was feeling a whole lot better about my prospects for the next morning on account of it, it dawned upon me that my baby hadn't woken up for his usual fuss-nurse about 15 minutes after I put him to bed.  No, he had remained asleep through the older kids evening time, prayers, and bedtime...and beyond! It was now surely a full hour later, and I wasn't tucked in with my baby for the second or third time.  My kitchen was also getting clean.  Ding! (That's my brain connecting a few things.)  I remembered that feeling of success, of "I can do this!" or "I think I'm doing better on the home-front!" that typically comes as my baby nears two years old.  You know, around the time they aren't really babies anymore.  I had forgotten that these really hard days are directly related to the age of my baby...and that they are as fleeting as the precious days of babyhood.
Babies need their Mamas.  Mamas are women in high demand by every member of the household, and perhaps even people beyond the household.  Babies, however, get the trump card on Mama.  They cry, we go. That's the general idea anyway.
How this relates to post-partum issues? We are routinely flouted in our efforts to accomplish the work of our day.  I'd love to do laundry if someone would hold the baby so I could throw in a load. I'd do those dishes if I wasn't nursing the baby. Our work piles up around us and all we can do is watch, baby in arms, and feel increasingly desperate, inadequate, frustrated. But this is a time for overcoming such emotions. They are human, but I do not believe they are from the God who loves us. I came across this passage in one of my favorite spiritual books, written by a Jesuit that you may remember from a series on EWTN.  "A Closer Walk with Christ" by Raymond Thomas Gawronski, S.J., is a personal Ignatian Retreat, also available in video form from EWTN.  He writes:
     Perhaps the greatest virtue we can cultivate, as we place ourselves under the standard of Christ, is       patience.  Impatience is near the root of our disobedience--arrogance of will that will not wait upon God in trust but rather seeks to "jump the gun," to get out from under humble obedience, to move out from under the standard of the humble, patient Jesus.  Impatience fosters arrogance and rancor, which are the stance of Satan and his followers.  The evil spirit is quick to thrive in an atmosphere of impatience, the self-indulgent pride behind it breeding arrogance and rancor.  Patience fosters humility, a humble submission and pliability to the will of God as it reveals itself in events, which is always the stance of Christ Our Lord, the Good Shepard who Himself is led by the Father.  It is the way of suffering, of embracing the Cross.
     I think we need to be patient with ourselves, with our housework, with our families who need us.  Patiently wait for the moment when our hands are free to do the work that awaits us.  Humbly accept that our homes, our wardrobes, our exercise routines are not perfect (or even happening) in the meantime.  If we humbly, patiently wait upon the Lord to give us even the very work of our hands, then we free our hearts to love.  We are freed of all of that pent up anger and frustration because we are temporarily relieved of our duty.  We are free to do nothing at all except lay on our bed with our newborn, snuggling and nursing him to sleep.  Free to linger, drinking in each sweet little breath, stroking those baby cheeks, smoothing that fuzzy little head and loving our baby and loving that we are this baby's Mama.
We are free to let go of our anxieties ("Martha, Martha").  We put them on ourselves, but He tells us that "one thing alone is necessary."  Let's just sit at the Lord's foot and do His will, even if the dishes sit longer than we would prefer.  Humbly accept His will that we stop trying to run everything according to our desires.  We free ourselves to love in each moment according to His will, and we gain peace in return.  

Friday, October 12, 2012

Forget all that, Day 6

Remember all of the posts you've been reading? Dump all of that now.  Well, it's in the recesses of your memory, and that's a good place for it to stay right now.  Why? Because you woke up today and still detected the same old feelings encroaching on your day and trying to relegate you to a dark bedroom in fetal position.

This morning we begin a new phase of dealing with PPD. It's the active phase (and yes, there are many parallels to being in labor in my discussion of PPD).  Just as the midwives recommend staying active when labor picks up, I do to.  Forget the talk about PPD. Forget that you're thinking about it on this blog.  We are turning the page and looking at a fresh sheet in the scrapbook.  Let's make it pretty!

So, what is it you like to do? Garden? Knit? Cook? Decorate? Stock up on things that help you focus on the things that give you joy and make you the creative and unique person you are.  Go to the library and check out a stack of books on aquarium keeping, fitness, nutrition, or whatever it is that will fill your mind with positive and forward-looking thoughts.  I have planted a total of two tomato plants and three bean plants in my entire life.  But I am crazy about gardening! We have to leave the state for two months out of every summer, so I have yet to actually put into practice what I've been dreaming of. That said, there is something so edifying about sketching garden plans in a notebook with a stack of beautiful gardening books next to me.  It makes me happy just to think that they wait for me the next time my kids are asleep.  And that is what we are looking for.  Find your thing, get that new yarn or fabric.  Buy that new book on the current political situation of our country.  Get your mind working and your talents flowing.  Call it distraction, call it pushing past. Whatever, it's good.

<a href="http://www.elizabethfoss.com/reallearning/2012/09/31-days-to-remind-myself-of-the-mission.html" _mce_href="http://www.elizabethfoss.com/reallearning/2012/09/31-days-to-remind-myself-of-the-mission.html"><img src="http://www.elizabethfoss.com/.a/6a00d8341c543553ef017c323f2b90970b-pi" _mce_src="http://www.elizabethfoss.com/.a/6a00d8341c543553ef017c323f2b90970b-pi"width="125"height="125"border="0" alt="31 days Misson"/></a>

Thursday, October 11, 2012


I realized that the titles of my posts have been a little dour.  It made me laugh at myself.  I'm going to admit right now that taking on a challenge of 31 days of posting on post-partum depression might not have been the greatest idea considering that I'm just getting a new blog up and running.  The truth is, this one is my second.  I got rid of my first blog during a time of depression after my 6th.  It seems fitting to write, then, about the thing that prevented me from writing in the past.  I'm looking forward to moving on to other types of posts, and I might just throw some out there from time to time, but for now, I do believe that there is so much to address on the subject of PPD that it's worth my time to keep posting what comes to me for the next few weeks.  If this is not your struggle, or if my take on PPD does not resonate with your experience of it, just visit my blog again after about 25 more days!:)

Waves of Pain, Day 5

One evening as I settled in after putting the kids to bed, I sat thinking that it had been a good day.  We had had a nice afternoon as a family, the kids had been cheerful, and bedtime had come early.  I felt peaceful.  Peaceful? Yep, I had had a break day.  In Ignatian terms, a day of consolation.  God had been merciful to me, and my sufferings were relieved for a time.  I noticed it, and I drank it in.  I'd been through this enough times to know that times of consolation never last. Neither, however, do times of desolation.

It hit. A painter was due to arrive at 8 am and I knew he'd be doing a walk-through of our entire house. I rarely have all levels of my house visitor-ready at the same time.  After drinking my morning coffee and looking at 7 children in pj's, knowing my husband had to get off to work and I had a pile of dishes in the sink, I prepared myself for the brewing storm.  Sure enough, those clouds gathered and at about 7:45 the boom hit.  I took a breath and realized I hadn't been breathing.  Anxiety.  My kids were trying to help and looking cluelessly about, asking what they should do next.  Apparently the dirty laundry, piles of trash, strewn books and toys didn't draw their attention.  I said something to my oldest son along the lines of "can't you help me more than this?" and my voice was shaking.  I realized that I wasn't doing well.  I walked out of the room and put the baby in his highchair and loaded the dishes in the dishwasher.  Someone announced the arrival of the painter.  I thanked my children for their efforts and answered the door.  The painter was extremely nice, encouraging, and said his wife would be jealous because she wanted 6 kids but they had just gotten married a year ago and "hadn't gotten started yet".  He said our house was very clean when I said we'll "see what kind of a job the kids did on their rooms" as I led him upstairs.  And after he left, I thanked my husband for his efforts in helping me.  He said all he'd done is take a shower and get ready for work, but that's not true.

In case you missed it in my understated and restrained retelling of this morning's events, that part where I had to leave the room? I had experienced something like a volcano erupting in my head and I actually choked back tears at another moment.  No, I hadn't physically injured anyone and I hadn't lashed out verbally too egregiously, although I think it was pretty clear to my children that I was stressed and I probably made them carry some emotional baggage as I tried to go drill sergeant on them.  I have my regrets, but I'll take those to confession.  I also see that I've learned to walk away, to bite my tongue, and to get space and breathe deeply when things escalate. That's a victory.

Later that morning I realized that I felt miserable.  I was suffering.  The chaos had passed, but the depression had returned.  I gazed at the golden light reflecting through the autumn leaves outside my family room windows.  The felt healing.  I soaked in the silence, and I knew I needed to step outside and breathe in some fresh cool fall air.  I was entering "recovery" mode.  In recovery time, you get space and regain peace.  You drink in beauty and refill your depleted emotional tank.  You snuggle your baby, get a big strong loving hug from your husband, and the more siblings that join in the hug the better.  Rub their smiling fuzzy heads, their golden curls and smooth cheeks.  They love you. You love them.  You're healing.  God is good.

Practical advice: get take-out during recovery time.  You need to take the pressure off where you can.  Really work on giving yourself a break. Ask for help. Explain to your husband what will help you: time for exercise, time for prayer, time at a salon, coffee with a friend.  Don't stay gone long, don't do it all in one day. A little at a time.  But don't forget to keep a look out when the sea goes calm, because the waves keep rolling.  It's ok, we just have to navigate one storm at a time.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Day 4: silencing the voices

A beautiful young mother came to me today, her 8 month old daughter in tow.  This mother-daughter pair are indisputably beautiful, and their dark hazel-brown eyes match.  The mother stays at home, makes homemade baby food, takes her daughter to mommy-and-me swim class, and just got a new pink Schwinn with a baby seat on the back so the two can bike around the pond at the neighborhood park.  The baby's pink bike helmet with giraffes on it is the cutest thing I've seen.

I was at this mama's home last week.  There was a dark wicker basket filled with gourds on the kitchen table. The house was tidy and I was offered a drink.  There were baby gates to keep the baby safe.  This mother cooks dinner the majority of nights, and her meals are intentionally nutritionally balanced.

So why, with tears in her eyes, did she tell me this morning that she had suicidal thoughts and wanted to die?  Why? Because someone had suggested that she needed to read more to her daughter. "I read for hours to my..."

And now she thinks she's a bad mom.  Couple this with tiny little errors (oops! that piece of corn from my Mexican food was too spicy! Quick, baby, let's nurse! There, that's better) and it leaves a mom feeling like the happy wind got knocked out of her mommy sails.

Today, I'm giving my advice on those voices. Your Mother-in-law, the lady at the grocery store, the other mom at the park.  Voices being any words, kindly or unkindly meant, that really really threaten your inner peace.  Here's the cure. Ready? NEVER REPEAT THEM TO YOURSELF. Not over and over again as you go about your day, not as you shower, not as you lay awake at night feeling miserable.  Place those words and the person who spoke them on altar of our Lord and His Blessed Mother.  Unite the pain with Christ's in His Passion, offer it to Him for the salvation of souls and forgiveness of sins and move on.  Leave that pain with Christ and forget the words. Remember that whoever said something is also loved by God, so pray for the one who persecuted you (even unknowingly).  It will feel so blessedly good if you do.

Remember that chair I told you to find?  Go get curled up in it. Light your candle and get out your Bible. Read in the healing peace of the Word.

Now, firmly resolve to forbid old words to creep back in.

If I'm honest, there's probably one thing you could do before shutting these words out forever.  Honestly assess the criticism if you must.  Do you agree with the criticism? Do you think something needs to be done about it? Are you already doing that? Ok, then you're good.  You are accountable only to God for your behavior, and He understands your every need.  He is there to help you and strengthen you.  Ok, so you read a book to your baby today, or maybe a stack of books. But soon you realize that this stack of "sparkle n' shines" doesn't make you a good or bad mother.  It's just one little drop of all of those good things we want for our children because we love them.  We love them, we want what's best for them.  And we'll fall short here or there, but in case anyone cared to take stock, we will always  fall short because our children were created for someone much greater than us. They were created for Him.  Our love, our good things, are just a way of preparing them for the relationship, the life of love that is to be lived with their God for all eternity.  A bike ride on a glorious fall day might just as well replace the touch and feel barnyard board book on any given afternoon.  But you didn't need that argument, because we're not here to answer the voices. We are here to heal ourselves in the sanctuary of our heart where Christ dwells within us.

Or not. (PPD Day 3)

Or, you just don't do all of those great things I suggested. Fine. Because some days taking care of yourself means taking off the pressure of trying to take care of yourself.  I'd still suggest you try to drink more water, just because it really helps you feel better and it's one of the easier "chores".  Did I mention fish oils?  They are supposed to be so helpful with moods, and if you are good at taking supplements, do it!  I'm bad at it. I fall into the "I can't be bothered with all of those bottles" category of laziness that follows close on the heals of the "wash my face?" category.  But today is for the "skip it" days that can be so necessary as we seek to regain equilibrium and peace of heart.  It's the genius of a dieter's cheat day.  If you go ahead and have a brownie or three, you might just have the strength to hit it hard again the next day.  We're human, we're weak, and sometimes the very best thing is to present ourselves before God exactly as we are.  We need to love ourselves in our weakness; God does.  Don't let it get you down if you're homemaking efforts have dissolved into sloppy mess all around your kitchen sink and onto the floor.  Don't even get on a scale if you've been trying to lose weight and just dove into the kids halloween candy stash the day before.  Forget it! Today is a day to draw inward, not in depressed agony, but in holy prayer.  Find your favorite chair or corner of the couch. Light a candle. Find a quiet hour. And for just five minutes, breathe in the Holy Spirit.  Regain joy.

Monday, October 8, 2012

Day 2, PPD, Titus 2

Titus 2 is Bible passage that tells us older women to pass on our wisdom to younger women.  The trouble is that us older women sometimes don't think of ourselves as particularly old or having particularly much wisdom to share.  I guess I'll preach it here and then try to better at practicing it in real life.
So, in addition to everything I said in my first post, I'm going to add a few more pieces of advice. First, it helps to overcome depression if you have some work to distract you from your miserable feelings and bring you out of yourself.  A major home project is a good one.  You may want to do some simple redecorating to beautify your surroundings. A new throw or pillows for your living room.  Maybe you find a new comforter to change the look of your bedroom. Some pretty scented candles. This is the fun and easy part. Have fun!
The less fun, but very therapeutic second half of this effort is to roll up your sleeves and get to work setting off all of your new pretty things with a clean, orderly background.  If your mind goes to the dishes and you want to be sick, forget the kitchen for now.  Vacuum the living room with the new candle and dust the mantle it sits on.  Rearrange your nick-nacs and set a favorite statue of the Blessed Mother or St. Joseph near your candle.  Ask for a new pretty rosary for your upcoming birthday, feast day, or Christmas, and cherish it more than jewelry. Prayer and beauty goes a long way. Once the room of your choice looks like a sanctuary to your sore spirit, you might just scour that kitchen (and bathrooms) to give all of that disorder a kick outta town.  Yes, your kids will trash it in one meal flat. But you know that just one massive pile of dishes ago your kitchen looked good. Get it back, cheerfully if you can.  Be joyful that you are creating order and beauty (and sanitation while you're at it) for your family.  A clean kitchen might inspire you to revamp your meal planning.  Make a nice warm dinner and bring in one of your new candles for the table.  It feels so very good to serve a beautiful and healthy meal to your family.  Or not. Know when you've done enough for one day.  Aim for Sunday's meal to be special.  Plan your attack and be excited for your husband to notice your successes.  Purge your house of unnecessary clutter. Bless someone else with the excess or the lightly worn that you are happy to pass on.  Now organize what's left.  Yep, you're spring cleaning and I don't care what month it is: this is your new springtime! You have a new baby after all!
My baby's crying for me, so that's it for tonight!

Sunday, October 7, 2012

31 days to Healing, Day 1

I've been feeling older.  With 7 kids in tow, I don't care how young I was when I got married or how fast my babies came along, I'm not 16 anymore...or 26.  I'm pushing mid 30's, and I've got over a decade of marriage under my belt.  So, while I feel pretty silly giving advice, I'm doing it.  I'm going to channel my thoughts of "ooh, lookin' rough" as I glance at new wrinkles and remind myself that I really need to start taking better care of my skin, to thoughts of wisdom that I can share.

I'm going to start with the nastiest piece of wisdom that I haven't learned yet, but I'm fighting for it mightily.  I have insights into this little corner of motherhood that I'm going to share for what it's worth to those who resonate.  If this isn't your problem, just skip on to another blog.  Have you noticed I've delayed saying what it is?  Post-partum depression.  Ugh.

I'm breathing through this because it is so. flipping. hard. to talk about...especially when you're in it.  My PPD hits late, like clockwork, 6 months after my babies are born.  Sometimes it manifests itself as anxiety (read, attacks: the type that hits when my husband leaves me alone with the kids or I'm trying to rush at a store and either can't make a decision or am stuck with a s-l-o-w cashier).  Sometimes it's just good old-fashioned "I hate myself, but I reject that thought because I know it's a sin, but I still feel miserable".  I'll stop there. If you've had this, you don't need me to enumerate what it's like.  I had a friend ask me about anxiety once, wondering what it was like. Sweetly, she suggested "is it like biting your nails?" I probably shouldn't have, but I said the first thing that came to my mind, "Well, in my case it's more like gnawing off your own hand".

Ok, so now the wisdom and grace part. Grace. Grace and mercy. Oh good Jesus! We draw near to the font of Thy goodness and mercy.  You love us.  Even if ...  all that. You love us.  Even though ... and  ... You await our love in return.  You sprinkle us with grace in our baby's eyes, and smile.  The glorious fall colors, warm sunshine.  And here's the Titus 2 woman wisdom I'm passing on today: your job is to notice His love, and to bask in it.  Heal your weary heart.  He loves you and wants to make you happy. I don't care if you feel worthy: no one is.  Count those blessings and number them to 1,000. Do it. Write them in a journal or store them up in your heart. Do what Ann Voscamp tells us to do in her gift 1,000 Gifts.  That book helped me a lot with my depression. It's not depressing, though.  She tells us to be a beauty hunter. Do it. Hunt Him. Hunt his love. Seek Him out in the fresh cool morning air. Drink Him in with hot chocolate (or a Pumpkin Spice Latte. I'm just saying). Hug him in your children, and in your husband.  In your husband.  Have you had a hard time giving yourself to him lately? Because when you're hurting so bad inside, do you really want to give any more? We give all day. We're tired.  So sleep.  Nap. Do it. It's so good for you. Then find a moment to paint your nails, freshen your make up, buy a few new clothes.  Honestly, have you done that since the baby came? It really really helps. Drink more water.  (I'm throwing my advice out there fast and furiously now, so take notes). And exercise. Don't start crying on me now. Do something, anything!, to get yourself sweating every so often. Once a week is a good start, but add more!  If two weeks slide by with nothing but housework wearing you out that's NOT GONNA HELP you, but don't let that get your down! Just get going again. Start over again.  Confession.  (my next advice). Do it. Go. Get clean. The "starting over again" of exercise reminded me of this sacrament. Make use of it. Then if you come crashing down hours after being absolved, make an Act of Contrition.  Jesus will forgive you again. And again.  You know this, but do it.
Then go get Him. Get Him for real, in the Flesh and Blood. Go to the Eucharist. Eat Him. He will heal and strengthen you.
And then?  Walk that path to Calvary with Him. Walk as you go back to your home, your family, your world. Keep Him with you. Easter Sunday will come. Many Easters. Count them. Thank Him for each resurrection. It takes tremendous courage and tremendous trust to go on as a mother.  See? You're a hero. God loves you. And all of that PPD stuff? Phooey on it!

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Saturday, September 15, 2012

just when you think it's bad enough...

you go ahead and give yourself brain damage.

I shouldn't joke.  I did bash my head against a metal piece jutting out of the roof of our ugly-van (should we just call her "Ugly"? Our van's technical name is "The Golden Beast", the kids named her. You name your vehicles, too, right?).  I did this on Monday and now it is Saturday.  The medical professionals seem to agree that I did something to my spinal cord, something to the nerves. I'm not sure what or how to explain it because quite honestly everything is a bit of a blur right now...and you know what the worst thing is? This is so bad. I blew a kiss to my older-aged neighbor man, who is a newish neighbor and not someone I do not have an easy rapport with.  I actually mistook him for my husband driving my boys to football practice. I not only waved and blew the kiss, but I proceeded to double-hand-wave the vehicle on, looking for my boys in the back seat (I forgot to mention they have an even bigger  ugly van, but along the same lines as ours- you know, bread-box lines) and when the extra row of seats that differentiates a 12 from a 15 passenger van made it's way from my ocular nerves into my very fuzzy mind, I slowly turned on my front step and walked indoors. Where I will stay. For, perhaps, ever.  And I might must send my husband over to explain my behavior...or maybe we can quickly move homes. Oh, I'm embarrassed.

Monday, September 10, 2012

School days

Did I mention that I love home schooling? No, I LOVE home schooling.  It's basically my "handle" on how to be a mom to seven children. You see, when you have something along the lines of a herd of children, you have to work extra hard at cherishing each child as the exquisitely unique gift that he or she is.  This isn't hard for a mother to do, it's just easy to forget in the craziness of the daily hustle and bustle. The "herding", if you will.  When you are way late and trying to round everyone up into your ugly "big van", wrangling with the seat belts, diaper bag and snacks in tow, catching the football as it rolls down the aisle (yes, because these vans have aisles), going back for a juice cup and noticing the kitchen, post-breakfast, that will await your return.  That's when you are tempted to think of "them" (the unique blessings) as a "bunch" (and where on earth did they all come from anyway?).  Since those moments happen pretty much all day every day, home schooling is my solution.

When I ponder my children and the benefits of home schooling, I immediately start to break the "group" down.  For example, my oldest is easy for me.  She's a girl, and we get along.  However, I could pretty easily slip into being too much of a "friend" to her, and lose the proper respect and authority that I sometimes have to remind myself that I need to keep for a few more years;).  She's fun for me to joke around with, but home educating her helps me to see where she is still a kid in need of guidance and, well, education.  It helps me to be demanding of her so as to help her grow in talent and virtue.  With a big family, it's easy to let the "easy ones" to their own devices while you go after that squeaky wheel (or stinky diaper, whatever).  Having to teach my daughter, and taking my responsibility seriously, forces me to step up my own behavior and concentrate my efforts on her in spite of those wheels and diapers. It's what I would have to do anyway (if I sent her to school, for example), but home schooling holds me accountable and prevents me from shirking and sloughing off where I might otherwise be tempted to do so.

Then there are my two boys, 18-months apart.  All they do is play sports, usually together, usually outside.  This is, again, a bit of a dream for a very busy mother with a toddler, a baby and a big house to run.  But over the course of the summer I begin to sort of miss my boys.  I feed them, kick them outside when they're rowdy in the house, and tuck them in bed at night.  They don't hang out and chat like my oldest might...so...I notice days going by without having spent much one-on-one time with my buddies.  School days find me pulled up next to my boys, pointing to their books and painstakingly working through their syllabi, rubbing their crew cuts and thumping their strong backs.  I explain things, I cheer them on. Oh! And one of my favorite things is being that "womanly influence" that is just so very needed by all men! You know, the mom who makes her boys learn poetry or sing a song...or knit.  Something a "guy" doesn't necessarily launch into on his own, yet which he enjoys in spite of himself, and which begins the life-long process of refinement and civilizing that some day his wife (or maybe the Holy Spirit, if he has a vocation to the religious life) can perfect!  Having them at home, by my side, during the long school hours helps me keep a close relationship with my sons in a way that I'm not sure would be otherwise possible.

You are probably getting the gist of why I love teaching my children.  I get more time with them and I have to direct my attention to each child, individually, each day.  In the school room, whether my child reads readily at age four or struggles to read at age eight affects me very personally.  It holds repercussions for me as a mother that it would not hold for a child's homeroom teacher in a brick-and-mortar school.  This leads me not only to be an effective teacher, but it opens my mother-eyes to layers of my children's personalities.  As I fret over their schoolwork, I ponder their virtues, their talents, their temperaments.  I love school days because home educating helps me be an attentive mother.  It holds me accountable and it opens up opportunities for me to actually be a good mother.  I absolutely need all of that time to be with my children if I am going to be even close to what they need me to be.  I know it probably seems like a mom of a bunch of kids would be the first one in line to get them out of the house for the large part of the day.  Not me. I honestly don't know how I would have a hope of being the mom I want to be for my children if I didn't get to be with them pretty much all of the time.

I know I have to cut this post off, but there's a whole lot I could say about how awesome education is.  Learning IS fun, and the world is a marvelous place. I definitely want in on getting to pass the stuffs of knowledge on to my kids!  I love to teach, and teaching my own children is pretty much my idea of a great time.  I know it's not like that for all moms, but besides all of the philosophical pros I listed above, I am blessed to just like it.  And yes, I'm going to read this post for inspiration on many a difficult afternoon.

Friday, August 3, 2012

Wedding Morning

My sister is getting married today.  I prayed hard for her last night.  I considered whether it is allowed to make a morning phone call to a bride on the day of her wedding.  As I'm her sister and also because this is my daily routine, I gave her a call. Everything in me awaited the tone of her voice. I'd know by what she said and how she said it how she was really doing.  The phone rang.

Her voice was a clear spring morning and a fresh breeze. She was peaceful, happy, confident.  Thanks be to God! His grace is with her, sustaining her. My prayer is that this is just the beginning.  God is faithful.  He has been faithful to my sister, and He is a tremendous lover.  She has walked the path to calvary with Him, carried her cross with Him. I pray that today is an Easter in her life. I believe it is.

Thanks be to God for His Church, our Mother. With wisdom and mercy she has arms for her children in every situation. My sister was in an abusive marriage for 5 years. She has two beautiful daughters.  With the annulment came healing.  With Mike there came a chance to again be in a full vocation: married! Wife and mother.  Family. The sacrament of Holy Matrimony. Thank God for His grace and for the sacraments which bring His grace to our souls.

My kids are out playing in our neighbor's yard, getting sweaty and muddy. I have to round them up and throw them into a sudsy tub. My girls get their hair done at noon. Then we throw on our finest and drive to the church. Wish me luck (especially with no A/C in the church, a nursing baby, and (gulp) I have to wear spanx with my dress! aaaah!) Say a prayer for my sister and her new husband as they begin their new life together!

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Midsummer Musings

I was sipping my morning coffee and chatting with my husband when he kindly said, "I'm sorry [for interrupting], but I have to point this out to you." There was a fawn nestled in the leaves on the edge of our lawn where the forest begins. It looked just like the scene from Bambi when the "little prince" is born and all of the forest animals are excited to meet him. So darling! As the day went on, the little prince would get a little perky, stick up his head with his ears upright and look at his world around him. This morning the Mama doe was laying in our woods, nursing her baby.  I felt a kinship with that beautiful and graceful mother. We both had babies to feed.  I think we both enjoyed the quiet morning, looking out at the world, with our sweet babies nearby.  Then she had to go off and forage for 8-10 hours.  I had beds to make and dishes and laundry and shopping.  But we'd both be back and tucked in with our nurslings again.  Motherhood makes for beautiful rhythms like that.  I'm glad to take notice, because those peaceful moments of beauty are all too fleeting.  If we're attentive, though, we'll find them cropping up again and again.  My 9-year-old boy just ran past my window in his roller blades, on the grass, actually, on the muddy hill-side of our house, huffing and puffing. Now there are earsplitting shouts from the front yard.  My other children are enjoying the warm summer sun, and each other. It can fill your heart with joy, if you will sit a moment, and let it.  There really is so much to delight in!