Friday, February 26, 2010


Well, I did it. I bit the bullet. As part of my Lenten sacrifice this year, I gave up Crackbook.. ahem, I mean FACEBOOK for the full 40 days. To those of you who don't participate in this social networking "stuff", or only participate peripherally (how do you do that?!), this may not seem like a big deal.

You're probably saying, "OK, so what? So, for 40 days you don't read about 100+ people and their hourly trials about being exhausted or cold. So what if you can't find out what kind of mom you are (Crunchy Granola, by the way!); don't you know already have that figured out? Who cares if you don't update everyone about how many diapers you've changed today?" And, you know what? You're right!

However, that's precisely why I gave all of that up. It was wasting my time! Every chance I got, I would check email and then bounce over to Facebook and try to keep up with all of the updates, quizzes, games, and posted pictures since my last check-in... 15 minutes before that! There are so many other things a busy mother of 6 could, and should, be doing.

Here's my problem, though: I thought it would be hard. Really hard. I thought that I would be offering up some really difficult thing by not participating in my favorite time-waster. But, it's not hard. Not at all. Hmmmm....

While, Facebook has been a wonderful way to reconnect with old grade school friends, catch up with current friends, and have mini-cyber-family reunions, it has mostly been a way for me to avoid doing the things I hate doing. Namely, laundry and dishes.

Now, don't get me wrong. The laundry and dishes get done. But, they get done at the very last minute, in a hurry, and with a really bad attitude because I have let everything accumulate.

After 2 days of no FB, I figured out that the true sacrifice was cheerfully doing all of the things I had ignored while playing online. I found that if I smile while I throw a load of laundry in or fill the dishwasher, the chore seems less onerous and goes more quickly. I also find that I stopped muttering things like, "Oh, why can't someone invent disposable clothes?" or "Do we really have to eat dinner every night?". Sounds simple? Try it some time! You'll be amazed at how difficult it is to smile through a hated task, and even more amazed at how much better you feel once you DO smile!

Keep in mind that part of my kids' chores include doing dishes and laundry, so it's not even as if I have to do all of the dishes and laundry. Sheesh! I'm a real whiner, aren't I?

So, I guess what I really gave up for Lent was complaining?????

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

The Old Woman Who Lived In A Shoe

"There was an old woman who lived in a shoe. She had so many children, she didn't know what to do. She gave them some broth without any bread; Then whipped them all soundly and put them to bed."

When I was a young child, I had a book of Mother Goose nursery rhymes, and the above rhyme was one that held a particular fascination for me. I can clearly recall the illustration that accompanied this rhyme: a very large old boot with a roof and chimney, under a tree, with children spilling out of every gap, running around on the grass and an old woman brandishing a large wooden spoon was chasing them all around.
I can remember slowly counting all the children in the picture over and over again, and always reaching the number "13". I can also easily remember saying to my mother, "Thirteen children isn't a lot!". I just could not understand why this old lady was so confused and cranky.

Fast forward 30+ years, and I am beginning to understand that old woman.

For argument's sake, let us say that The Old Woman (TOW) was once a young woman, recently married and holding her first baby. As she inhales that fresh newborn smell, she thinks, "I will bathe you only in all-natural, herbal soaps, diaper you in the best diapers money can buy, dress you in designer clothes, and make homemade baby food from organic foods. I cannot imagine that you will ever do anything that will upset me, mostly because I have read all the parenting books and I know how to stay in control.".
Yup. I am sure she also thought she would lose all the baby weight in one month, never dress in frumpy clothes, and never have a diaper bag full of old grocery receipts instead of clean diapers and wipes.

My dear TOW, we have all been there. More specifically, I have been there. And, how sweet, naive, and blind I was all those years ago. I almost want to reach out and pinch my young and dewy cheeks!

These days, I would never dream of under-nourishing my kids before spanking and sending them all to bed. But, that is about the bottom of the "parenting ladder", is it not? Now, I might be maybe one or two rungs up that ladder.

Hearty chicken soup (that I defrosted from a batch I made a while back), salad-from-a-bag, with french bread and butter is still nourishing, right? Sternly (and loudly) admonishing my kids for fighting with each other, then saying bedtime prayers before shooing them off to their rooms is not the same as whacking them with a spoon and sending them to bed, right?

While TOW is an extreme example of how parenting more than one child can test even the patience of a saint, it is not that far from the truth. I think most women who enter motherhood, arrive with the best of intentions. As time marches on and more children are born, you begin to reason with yourself: "what's the difference between homemade applesauce and the store-bought organic kind?" which somehow becomes "hey, it's really almost the same thing as applesauce, if I just peel this apple and let my baby gnaw on it...". Convenience wins out over sanity, in many cases.

But, what I recently realized is that most of the things I wanted to do as a new mother, were just that --- things. All of the ideas and principles that were truly important to me have not only survived the years, they have gotten better.

For example, I was firmly committed to breastfeeding my babies using the Three E's Rule: Exclusive, Extended, and Ecological. And, I can honestly say that as of today, with Baby #6 still nursing, I have never fed my babies formula or even expressed breast milk (we don't even own a baby bottle!), I have allowed them to lead the weaning process (we average 2- 2.5 years for age of weaning), my infants nurse on demand, and we co-sleep. Before I had my oldest child (almost 15 years ago!), I knew these things were important to me, but I wasn't sure "how it would go". Now, both my husband and I realize that this commitment to The Three E's has resulted in healthier babies, stronger bonds between parents and children, and the natural spacing between children has been a gift to our marriage. But, that's a whole separate post...

My early-on commitment to, not only attending Mass every Sunday, but bringing our children with us to Mass (no matter how unruly they were being) was a scary proposition at first. But, now I can easily see the fruits that promise to myself has yielded. In the last 15 years, there has only been a handful of Sundays where we haven't heard a compliment from fellow parishioners regarding our children's good behavior. Many times, other parents and grandparents have asked us what our secret is for instilling good behavior. I am saying this with a lot of humility, because most of the credit goes to my children's temperaments, my prayers to their guardian angels, and a approximately 4000 lollipops. Somewhere in there, though, was the fact that my kids always know that Mass with the family is non-negotiable and, if they have to go, they might as well make is as pleasant as possible. Some days they even pay attention to the homily and discuss it with us and/or each other! ***This same commitment also applies to taking kids to restaurants!***

So, what I realized was that I am not a "bad mom" because I buy the majority of my kids' clothes at Target, or because not every piece of fruit that they eat is organic. And, neither is any other mom who started out with some very unrealistic ideals, only to find herself caving into the siren call of convenience items in order to simplify her life. What makes me a "pretty darn good mom" is that I eschewed a lot of materialistic (or non-essential) ideas in order to be able to keep up with the ideals that truly matter. It's nothing ground-breaking or mind-blowing, but it something we all need to be reminded of, periodically.

Maybe that's how the whole TOW rhyme got started: a mother with a few kids lost her way remembering what was important in raising a family, and she never took the time to review the "whys" and "whats" of what was important to her. Or, maybe the nursery rhyme is supposed to serve as a reminder to all of us to take the time to do that kind of evaluation every so often.

Of course, it could just be that a long time ago, some old lady had had a really bad day with her kids and needed to vent. That reminds me..... Where is my wooden spoon????