Intentional Motherhood

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Earlier this month, I attended the wedding of my childhood best friend. We’ve been friends since we were in first grade. She might as well be my sister after we have been through as friends. I was honored to be a member of her bridal party. The wedding was a child-free event, so my husband and I left all four of our boys with my aunt for the four days and took our first real childless trip. I have never been away from my children longer than one to one and a half days. Almost all the occasions that I have been away from my boys have been hospital stays- such as when I had my spinal fusion, and Mark always brought the boys to see me. So I had pretty much had never been away from my children. However, the boys did fantastically, even our youngest William, who is three did great. I honestly was worried about how he would do because he doesn’t like me going to the store without him. Mark and I had a wonderful time. We had the chance to reconnect as a couple outside of our identity as parents. The wedding was wonderful. I had the opportunity to see tons of old friends, who I haven’t seen since I graduated high school.

Interestingly enough, I was pretty much the only mother there in my age group. Of the bridal party, there was only one other mom. The majority of the bridal party, the bride, and most of the friends of the bride and groom had no children. I knew this when I was preparing for the wedding, and it caused me to have what I can only call an identity crisis.

Up until the weeks leading up to the wedding, I have never felt bad about being a stay at home mom. For as long as I can remember I had wanted to be a stay at home mom, even when I was a kid myself I knew that ultimately I wanted to have a family. I got married young. We started our family right away. We chose to have a larger than average family. We decided as a couple that I would be a stay at home mom- a homeschooling one at that. Never once have I felt ashamed of that choice or inadequate for being nothing more than a stay at home mom, until I was preparing for my friend’s wedding.

All of a sudden, it didn’t feel like my choice to be a mom was enough. I was about to spend four days with six women, who all worked outside the home. Two of them are nurses. One runs a non-profit. One was a teacher, up until she had her son a year ago. One has traveled the world as a dancer and is now pursuing a career on Broadway. The last one works at the university in our hometown. All these women are doing great things. They are out contributing to society. As I was packing for the trip, I didn’t feel like I was doing anything worthwhile like they are. I don’t bring any income into the home. Some might even say I squandered away my intelligence and college degree. All of a sudden, I wanted to be doing more than just being a stay at home mom. Except, did I want to be doing more or did I merely feel like I should be doing more because of societal standards? I agonized over my clothing choices, not wanting my clothes to shout that I was just a mom. I fretted over what topics I was going to converse about with the other guests.

I spent time post-wedding reflecting on being a stay at home mom versus working outside of the home. Somewhere along the drive home from D.C., I had an epiphany concerning myself and motherhood. I have nothing to be ashamed of. The jobs of the other bridesmaids are no more important than my role as a mother. I am not saying their careers are unimportant; instead, I believe all our jobs are valuable. My children are important; they help to ensure the continuation of society. If I am happy being a mother, why should I feel ashamed? The answer is I shouldn’t. Motherhood isn’t something I accidentally fell into. It isn’t something I chose because I had no other options. I decided it because I wanted to be a mom. For me, there is fulfillment in being a stay at home mom and raising children. I have sacrificed my health to have my children. Each day, I choose to get up and be a hands-on mommy, despite my chronic pain. I force myself to go beyond my pain and be present for my kids. Being a stay at home mother is a worthy choice. It can be easy to fall into the trap of society that tells us motherhood, especially stay at home mothers, have no value. However, this is false. Motherhood is beautiful. My intentional motherhood is a beautiful and valuable thing. It is my life. These photos are a glimpse into what deliberate motherhood looks like in my family. Are you a stay at home mom? Have you ever been made to feel inadequate for being just a stay at home mom? What helps you to remember that your job as a stay at home mother is important and just as valuable as careers outside the home?

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Leaving Baby Season

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For eight years we’ve been in baby season. For eight years I’ve either been pregnant or had a baby in my arms. Like clock work every time the baby in my arms became a toddler we would decide to try for another. God blessed us with being able to easily conceive. However, I didn’t do well pregnant. Pregnancy wasn’t kind to my body. I wasn’t one of those women; who loved being pregnant. Frankly; I hated pregnancy but I loved the end result. The end result was worth all the pain and misery pregnancy brought. I loved the ending so much we had 4.

The fourth coming after a spinal fusion and he is our last. My poor back can’t do another pregnancy. Another pregnancy has a high potential to put me in a wheelchair and put my pain to a point were pain management can no longer help me. The thought that he is our last makes me sad but it isn’t the devastating sadness I felt when the surgeon told me I couldn’t have William. It’s more of a fond sadness. A wistful sadness that I won’t ever hold my brand new baby and fall head over heels in love with another being. A love so strong that it’s all consuming. That I won’t ever get to see my husband hold his new child for the first time radiating love. That I won’t ever see my sons light up with joy when they meet their new sibling.

In 9 days I will be having a hysterectomy out of medical necessity. The surgery is final. It says with a decisiveness that we are leaving baby season. That our time here in this season of new life is up. That we must move on. Move on we will.  It opens up new adventures for us to take. So, while there might be some sadness that this season is coming to a close there is also a sense of excitement for our new adventure.

As we prepare to move on I am left with a handful of wishful thinking items that I am unsure of what to do with. Things I held onto with the intention that one day I would give them to my daughter or daughters. However, there will be no daughter. Despite my prayers (and Paul’s prayers) God did not bless Mark and I with a daughter. I wouldn’t trade any of my boys for a daughter but I do wish there had been a fifth baby that was a girl. Yet, for reasons I do not understand God wanted me to be a mom to only boys. I think the lack of a mother-daughter relationship is what makes having a hysterectomy most difficult for me. Knowing that now there really is no chance that we will ever have a daughter. There are things and experiences within a mother-daughter relationship that just doesn’t exist in a mother-son relationship.

There is a part of me that mourns the loss of that potential daughter so strongly that I want to throw caution to the wind. I want to cancel the hysterectomy and roll the dice and get pregnant again. I want to roll the dice and say who cares if I end up in a wheelchair. So, what if my pain gets to a point that pain management can’t help me anymore. The pain; the loss of being able to walk would all be worth it if it meant that I could have a daughter. If it meant I could give Paul the baby sister he so desperately wants and still asks for on occasion. But, I can’t do that. It’d be the height of folly and would make me a terrible mother and wife. I can’t be that selfish. Mark deserves a wife that isn’t in a wheelchair in agonizing pain. My boys deserve a mother; who can be a mom. That potential daughter deserves a mother; who can be a mom. To try and have a daughter means I give up the ability to be a good mom and wife and I can’t be that selfish.

So, instead I prepare for a hysterectomy. I prepare by snuggling with William and breathing in his sweet baby scent; knowing that I won’t be able to call him baby much longer. He is one and before I know it he will be a totally independent toddler. I prepare by getting rid of the baby items as he out grows them. Donating them; so that they may bless other families. Lastly, I prepare by carefully boxing up the dreams that were for Alexis. It’s time to say goodbye not only to baby season but also to Alexis; for she will never be.


We Have A Walker

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William is a full fledged walker now and has been for about two weeks. Walking has always been my favorite milestone. I don’t dread the extra mobility and mess that comes from having a walker. Watching the little one teeter and totter as they explore their world at a completely different view brings me incredible joy. It’s also nice not to have to carry them baby everywhere! However, there is something very bitter sweet this time around as I watch William enjoy his new found freedom being a walker has brought him. I am reminded that he is now approaching one and soon I won’t be able to call him a baby. He will be a toddler. I am acutely aware that this is the last time I will watch my baby learn to walk. Never again will I watch and cheer on my baby to take those first few steps. Never again will I encourage my baby to have the confidence to trust himself and let go of the furniture to walk unassisted. William is our last.

I have known that William was our last; since I was put on bed rest 2 weeks before he was born because of debilitating pain. I knew when the midwives and OBGYNs couldn’t come to an agreement on inducing me. There were those that were in favor and than there were those that didn’t want to deal with the extra complications my back added to the picture. My surgeon said it was probably unwise to have another baby. My pain management doctor said it would be disastrous for my health. My body tells me daily that it couldn’t handle another pregnancy. Knowing all this has made me want to savor every moment of his babyhood. I am acutely aware of what a miracle he is and how blessed we are to have him.

I have carefully saved our baby stuff since Paul was born. As each boy outgrew things I would carefully pack them away for later. When the next baby needed them I would retrieve them from storage. This has been the cycle for the last seven years. However, this time there is no need to pack things away for the next baby. So, as William has outgrown stuff I’ve sold or donated most of it; keeping just a select few clothes to turn into a quilt. It has been incredibly hard to give away the baby stuff; not because I am a huge sentimental person and want to keep every little item but because it makes the knowledge that William is our last a reality. It confirms that my body has betrayed me and can not carry another child.

You hear of those women; who say they feel done. That they can’t imagine having another child. I find myself envious of that because I don’t have that. It’d make things easier if I did. I can’t imagine not ever having another baby. I hate pregnancy….I loath pregnancy but I love babies. I love being a mom. It’s something I dreamed about for as long as I can remember. I tried to adopt a baby at 10 years old. Not as in I wanted my parents to adopt the baby. It was a full fledged case of I wanted to adopted the baby myself and be her mom. I was certain I would make a better mom than her biological mom.

I can’t say that if we were able to still have children we would. I just want that option. I want the option to have another child be there. But, it isn’t an option; so instead I find myself making sure that I am enjoying every ounce of babyhood that William has. I am basking in it. As I watch him toddle across the living room I am reminded of all the reasons why this is my favorite milestone. I celebrate it. Soaking up the joy but in the private recesses of my heart I might just cry a little.


Family Fun on the Cheap

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I love going out as a family to experience new things. I love taking our kids to museums and other activities. However, with 4 kids it can get expensive. We quickly figured out that even with just 2 kids it could get expensive. So, my goal is for my children to be able to get great experiences but do it in such a way that we don’t break the bank! Here are some of our favorite ways to have family fun.

Explore Local/State/National Parks: Many parks are free or very cheap to get into for the day. If you will be going to a lot of national parks getting an annual pass is well worth the cost. It’s $80 for a family pass. However, there have several different kinds and specials. If you are a military family you can get a free one. With 58 national parks there is something for everyone. Go here to search and see what parks are near you or near your vacation spot. State parks are also a great place to visit. It’s easy to find these with a quick google. Same for local parks.

Museum Passes: For our family it is almost always a better value to buy a yearly family pass to local museums, aquariums and zoos. Most of the times they pay for themselves in 2-3 visits. Also, many of them have great reciprocal programs that can be used if you travel often to visit out of state family. The three best values that I have found (that get you access to the most museums/zoos/sciences centers are the following two. Boonshaft Museum of Discovery and CuriOdyssey. I always suggest that if you are buying a membership (especially if it isn’t local) and planning to use the reciprocal program on a regular basis that you call the places you are interested in using it at and make sure they are still part of the program.

Groupon: This is a great place to get discounts for local places. You can also find off the wall places that you might not normally have found. Two years ago when we visited Oklahoma for our Godson’s baptism I was able to get a groupon to The Museum of Osteology in OKC. This is a totally unique off the wall museum and my kids loved it. They wish it was close to us so we could go back on a regular basis. I always encourage people to check out lesser known museums. There are some real gems out there. This summer on our way home from a family reunion we are planning to make a slight detour and take our kids to see The Unofficial Lego Museum.

Blue Star Museums: This is specific to military families. From Memorial Day to Labor Day many museums across the USA take part of the blue star program and give free admission to military members and their families. You can find a list here. The list for the upcoming summer will be available in May.

Tents for Troops: Another program specific to military families. This program is a collaboration of camping sites across the USA that allow military members and their families to camp for free. Info on this program can be found here.

Free Bowling for Kids: This is a great program that families can take advantage of during the summer. Info can be found here.

Free Skating for Kids: Another great program for families to take advantage of. This one is all year. Info can be found here.

Community Programs: A great place to find things to do is to check your local town or nearby towns websites. Often you can find things like concerts in the parks, theater performances, farmer markets, parades, festivals and other free/low cost activities. Not only do you get to spend some good quality time with your family but you also help teach your kids the importance of community.

Local Library: A great place to find things like story time and other fun activities. Our current local library shows new kids movies on a big projection screen every couple of months. It’s free to go. My kids get the experience of going to the movie theater without the price tag.

$1 Movies and Movie Nights at Home: Some communities have dollar theaters which is a great way to take your kids to movies without it costing an arm and a leg. Regal Cinemas offers a program called Summer Movie Express where they play family friendly movies for $1 a piece. Info can be found here. We like to do movie nights at home on a regular basis. We will either borrow a new movie from the library (libraries are a great free way to enjoy new movies) or rent one from Redbox. We’ll have popcorn and sometimes I’ll buy a couple $1 boxes of candy for the kids. Everyone will get into their pjs and we’ll all hang out in the living room and watch the movie together. Here are some other ideas from interest to make movie nights at home more special: Drive in Movie at home, backyard movie night, Dinner Themes to go with Disney Movies and Concession boxes.

So, what is your favorite way to have family fun on the cheap?


Birthdays Galore Without Going Broke

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It’s birthday season in our house. We have three birthdays between January and April. Needless to say by the time we get to the end of April this momma is birthday out. However, birthdays are important in our house. For example with one son born so close to Christmas I always want to make sure his birthday doesn’t get lost in the celebrating of Christmas. With their birthdays so close it can be tempting to celebrate them at once but I want them each to have their own special day.

Growing up birthdays were a big deal in my family. My father use to wake me up at 5:24am every birthday to wish me happy birthday. He said he wanted to say it at the exact moment his greatest joy was born.(Funny part of it was that my birth certificate says I was born at 5:24pm. He swore it was a misprint.) Even, after I moved out he would still call me at exactly 5:24am my time. That meant for the 5 years we lived in a different time zone he was actually waking up at 4:24 his time to call me. His birthday call is probably one of the things I will miss the most now that he is gone.

For most parents birthdays are an extravagant expensive occasion. It is an occasion were hundreds of dollars is spent. I am part of several mom’s groups and I think for most a birthday party cost somewhere between $500-$1000 by the time they pay for the party and gifts. I just can’t wrap my mind around spending that much on a child’s birthday. You times that by four and Mark might very well have a heart attack. Time and time again I hear parents say kids have to have these fancy parties. It’s what ever one else is doing. They expect it. You build your child’s expectations.

Our children always enjoy their birthdays and  we are not spending $1000s of dollars on them. The birthday boy gets to pick where they would like eat for dinner that night. (It’s almost always chic-fil-a) We do cake, ice-cream and gifts together. They pick a family activity to do. In past years we’ve had movie night at home, visited museums and picnics at the park. As they get older we start having small low-key parties at our house. Nothing fancy. We invite a few friends over: play and share cake with them. The kids have a great time. The stress is low for me and it doesn’t break the bank.

So, here’s to making birthdays special and remembering that to make them special it doesn’t need to cost a fortune.


Fake It Till You Make It

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“Fake it till you make it” is what my good friend Lauren likes to say. She’s a fellow gimp; a sufferer of chronic pain. Every single person has experienced pain at some point in their life. For most people pain is temporary. It’s something that goes away with they get better or their circumstances change. Then, there are people like me and Lauren, who suffer from chronic pain that by definition either persists for a long time or constantly recurs. A better definition is pain that never goes away and has no end in sight. I have had pain; to some degree for the last five years. I had a nine month reprieve when I was pregnant with Antonio. The pain subsided and went into hiding but came back with a vengeance when he was born.

I was eight years old when they diagnosed me with scoliosis. Scoliosis that was so severe they thought I had bone cancer or something. I thought it was pretty crazy at the time. How could there be something wrong with me? I didn’t hurt. I didn’t feel sick. Six months later I started wearing a hard shell back brace; my personal torture chamber. If I hadn’t hurt before I did now. They said it was going to fix me but all I knew was I went from not hurting to hurting for eighteen hours a day and wanting to do nothing but cry. I had to learn how to function in pain and how to push past it. (This was good training for the future) I wore the brace for three years. Imagine my relief when they said I was done and never had to wear the brace again. If my parents would have let me I would have burned the thing. (I believe it is somewhere in their attic; so maybe one day I’ll get to!)

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Similar to the brace I wore

At 11 years old I thought I was done with scoliosis- done with the pain. Up until high school that was true. In high school I started to have flare-ups. They were almost always in times of high stress. I would end up in horrible pain for several weeks and then it would subside. I had to have special accommodations at my job because I couldn’t stand for 4 or more hours without ending up in pain. I had to quit a job because they couldn’t accommodate my need to be able to sit down.

However, for the most part I still lived a normal life. I was able to go hiking, play sports, go dancing (badly), wear high heels and do things quickly. I had no clue the sort of limitations chronic pain could put on you. When Mark and I were engaged I saw a back doctor and did a bout of physical therapy because of a bad flare-up. This doctor told me I wouldn’t need a spinal fusion till I was an old lady. I thought I had decades. Fast forward five and a half years later Mark and I were sitting in a different doctor’s office and he was confirming what we already knew. I needed a spinal fusion and I needed it as soon as possible. We saw him in April and I had surgery June 6.

My scoliosis had progressed at an alarming rate in the previous five and half years something that was highly unusually. When someone with scoliosis reaches skeleton maturity (around eighteen.) their curves stabilize. If they do worsen it is by half to one degree a year. My curves changed between twenty to forty degrees each. At the rate they were progressing I was going to start having issues with my internal organs in the next few years. My surgeon ended up fusing from T-3 all the way down to L-4. Basically half my spine.

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The black box shows the portion of my spine that was fused.

The pain right after surgery was the worse pain I have ever experienced. Those first few days I was sure that I was going to die because of the pain. Given the amount of pain drugs I was on I shudder to think of what that pain would have felt like without medication. When I woke up in the ICU my pain level was so high I remember begging for pain medicine despite the fact that I was on a morphine pump. Mark says I pushed the button constantly and kept saying the stupid thing wasn’t working. I didn’t even know who Mark was. I just knew that he was important. My lifeline holding me together. The first several months after the surgery are a pain filled haze. There are large holes in my memory.

We had hoped that a side effect of the surgery was going to be no more or at least significantly less pain after I got through the recovery. Pain relief wasn’t the reason we did the surgery; stabilizing the spine and preventing damage to my internal organs was. But we were hopefully it would greatly help with my pain. Originally, we thought it had been successful. Six months out of surgery I still had some pain  but it was way less. As long as I didn’t overdo it. The only part that was still extremely painful was my left shoulder blade area but it wasn’t all the time. It was occasional and I wasn’t going to complain.

July 2013 Mark was deployed and I was preparing to move the children and myself to a new rental house. During that process I started to have pretty severe pain in my right hip/lower back area. At first I thought I had just over done it. However, even with rest and doing every trick I knew to help with muscle strain nothing helped. The pain just got worse. Pretty soon it was radiating into my butt, upper leg and lower back. I started to have trouble walking and started to hear a popping sound. Off to see the back doctor I went. He diagnosed it as dysfunctional si-joint. Also, by this time my shoulder had gone from an occasional pain to an all the time pain.

I have accepted that pain problems will always be part of my life. I’ve been blessed that we have good health insurance and I have good doctors who work with me to try and manage my pain. But managing my pain doesn’t make it go away. It is simply a band-aid fix. We simple put a bandage on the pain to lessen it. When that bandage falls off my pain returns full force. I hurt every single day. Odds are I am not going to tell you that. I am not going to acknowledge it even if you ask.  I am probably not going to tell you that I hurt or I will play it down. When I tell you I am fine when you inquire as to why I am limping it isn’t because I think you don’t care. It isn’t because I am a masochist. It’s because talking won’t change it. Telling you about it won’t change that I hurt and most people don’t get it. I’ve had people tell me it’s all in my head. I’ve had people tell me if I just tried harder to think positive I’d feel better. I’ve had people tell me I give my pain to much power.

I don’t talk about it because it’s hard to explain to someone; who hasn’t experienced chronic pain what it’s like. It’s hard to explain how chronic pain affects every single aspect of your life and the lives of those closest to you. I can no longer go hiking. Some days even walking the couple hundred yards to our mailbox is more than I can do. My children ask, “Mommy are you hurting to badly to do this today?” “Mommy, can I sit on your lap or are you hurting to badly?” My six and four year old shouldn’t have to ask that. They shouldn’t have to understand that sort of physical pain. However, it’s their reality no matter how much I wish it wasn’t. I can no longer do days of activities because it wears me out and leaves me hurting. For example this past weekend when we went to Laura Ingalls Wilder’s house. I had to spend the next day taking pain pills and sitting in the recliner with the heating pad to recover. Next week we are going to the zoo with the homeschool group. I have already cleared the next day of our schedule because I know that I am going to be out of commission.

People wonder why I would want to live in an RV with my family. Part of the reason is because I would be able to take care of the space. I would be able to keep on top of cleaning an RV. I am physically unable to keep our almost 2000sqf home clean even with Mark helping me. Something that takes a normal person five minutes takes me ten to fifteen minutes. That’s on a good day. On a bad day it can take me twenty or more minutes. Mopping just the dining room makes my shoulder/neck hurt so badly I have to take a thirty minute rest period. Vacuuming the main carpeted areas puts me out for at least a hour and a half. One a bad day I am incapable of doing either of those things. On a bad day I can barely manage to make meals for us.

The other night I got up to use the restroom and my hip gave out on me. It caused me to fall. Since, Mark was at work I had to drag myself across the floor to our bed and then use the bed and night stand to hoist myself back into bed. Come morning I was unable to get myself out of bed. Mark had to help me. This is the reality I live in. I have to measure everything in terms of if I do x I won’t be able to do y and z. I need to not do x so that later I can do y. My new pain management doctor told me he didn’t know how I was functioning. I told him because I had no other choice but to. My kids deserve a normal mommy- a mommy who can play with them and take them to do things. My husband deserves a normal wife- who doesn’t hurt all the time. So, I’ll fake it till I make it. I will keep putting band-aids on my pain. I’ll wear a smile on my face and pretend I don’t hurt.


The Crazy Dream

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Anyone who knows my husband knows that he likes to save money. He has crazy budget spreadsheets that project out for years. A lot of the times he starts talking numbers and I struggle to keep my eyes from glazing over. It’s mind boggling to me his ability to budget so far out and talk big numbers. He dreams of early retirement and being able to retire when William heads to college. We’ll be in our mid-40’s at that point. This dream and love of saving money means that on occasion he throws out crazy ideas; ideas that I promptly shut down and veto. Sometimes, after the initial veto I will take a moment to reconsider and open up to the idea; like when he suggested we become a one car family.

The other night we were having our monthly budget meeting to talk about upcoming expenses. We were talking about where we could cut our expenses and had pretty much came to the conclusion the only place really left to cut are transportation and housing. All of a sudden he threw out the idea of living full time in a travel trailer. He threw it out there facetiously. Imagine his surprise when I took it seriously. Not only did I take it as a serious idea; I thought it would be a great.

I can see it now you are scratching your head and thinking, “Wait, don’t they have 4 kids?” or “Why, would she want to live in such a small space with 4 kids?” All legitimate questions but it is entirely possible and do-able to live in a RV with four kids. Actually, a ton of people live full times in RVs with their families. This family does it with 11 people. This family does it with 6.There are websites like full time families that are dedicated to helping families find resources needed for their travels and connect with other full timers. There are facebook groups, books, etc. The amount of information out there is astounding. They come from all sorts of walks of life but there is one resounding element found in each family- they want freedom and family time.

I was all ready to start this adventure when our current lease is up next fall. 11 months to plan and prepare were more than enough time in my mind. Mark being the voice of reason pointed out some things that made this unlikely…mainly the cost of an rv that would be comfortable for our family size. He also pointed out that a radical lifestyle change like this is something one should be well researched and prepared for. After the initial disappointment (what can I say I really love this idea!) I could see his point. So, with that in mind my hope and dream is that in three years when it comes time to pcs again we can buy a RV and become full timers. (Mark still isn’t sure what to make of my enthusiasm. He is still wrapping his mind around it being a viable option; because he never thought I would go for.) Now, we won’t be able to travel for most of the year because of Mark’s job; that will have to wait till after he retires. We’ll be stationary most of the year.

However, we’ll save a good amount of money than if we lived in a regular house. We’ll be able to save more towards his dream of early retirement. We’ll be able to travel more when he takes leave. Traveling can be difficult when you have 4 kids. Hotels become expensive. Camping is much cheaper. However, I am not cut out for tent camping. RVing I can do. I want to be able to show my kids all the amazing things our country has to offer. I want to take them to see the Grand Canyon (when we are pass the toddler stage. Taking toddlers to the Grand Canyon makes me feel like a panic attack is coming on!) I want to take them to see Yellowstone and so much more. All of that becomes a much greater possibility if we live in an RV full time; own a RV.

It’s not just about the freedom to travel either. Yes, living full time in an RV will have challenges but it also simplifies things. There will be less space to clean. Less spaces means less stuff because you simply don’t have room for it. Living in a large house it is so easy for your stuff to overtake you. For you to end up with more stuff then you really need because well you have the space for it. That isn’t true in an RV. There is a simplicity that comes with living in an RV and having less stuff.

So, there you have it my crazy dream that I want to make a reality.


Laura’s House

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 laura's house Standing outside the farm house.

My love affair with reading began when I was 7 years old courtesy of a librarian named Mrs. Street. I can still see her friendly smile in my mind. I was bored with school and the picture books that were given to me to fill my spare time; while I waited for the other children to finish. My teacher sent me to Mrs. Street with the request that she find me a chapter book to read; something that would keep my interest and keep me from chatting with my neighbor. Mrs. Street handed me The Little House in the Big Woods by Laura Ingalls Wilder. I devoured the book in three days. I had officially caught the reading bug. From that point on I read book after book. I finished the entire series in the space of a month. I would go on to re-read the series over and over as a child. The set I was gifted fell apart from being read so much in the ensuing years.

I was obsessed with Laura and her stories of life on the prairie. I wanted to be her. I wanted a family like hers and to have adventures like she did. I would disappear into her world for hours. I read her, I played her and I learned everything I could about her. My great-grandmother made me two prairie dresses to wear. I adored those dresses and wore them well beyond their life span turning them into long tunic shirts after they became too short to be dresses. I use to pretend the bottom bunk of my bunk beds was a covered wagon. I had a doll that came with a trunk to store her clothes and accessories in. I used the trunk instead to pack what I would take with me on my trip west. I made a rag doll to be my companion like Laura’s doll Charlotte. I decided that someday I would go to visit all her homes.

My love of all things Little House has not waned over the years; as Mark will attest. The second winter we were living in Virginia we had a huge snow storm that left almost a foot of snow on the ground. I had never seen so much snow in my life. I promptly sent Mark out to buy maple syrup; so I could make snow candy like Laura’s grandma did in The Little House in the Big Woods. The kicker is I don’t even really like maple. I’ve had maple sugar candy and I don’t like it. But, I wanted the experience. I wanted to be able to say I made maple sugar candy just how it was made in the book. If I could have tapped a maple tree and then heated the syrup on a wood burning stove I would have! Alas, our rental house didn’t come equipped with a wood burning stove or maple trees.

pecan tree

Well, this weekend 20 years after I read my very first little house book I had the opportunity to go see Almanzo and her home in Mansfield, Missouri. We drove out there this weekend and it was amazing. It was everything I had ever dreamed it would be. The only thing that would have been better is if I could have actually touched the items on display. I will admit despite the no touching sign I did just briefly touch the top of her writing desk. It was awe inspiring to walk through the house that she walked through and lived in. It was overwhelming for this fan.

I have always loved the idea of being like Laura. Growing up I wanted a farm and use to dream about owning one with chickens and a garden. However, that’s just a little girl’s dream. Reality is I don’t like getting dirty. I can’t grow anything for the life of me. I like modern day conveniences like a washing machine. I always thought it would be cool to churn my own butter but now days churning butter would put me out of commission for at least a day due to my chronic pain. My body couldn’t physically handle the work that would come with living like Laura did.

Walking her house and seeing her belongs reminded me of just how much I loved the little house books. How my love transcended to all things Wild West and pioneer related. I use to make lists about what I would pack if I was traveling by covered wagon and had to fit everything in one. What would I bring? What would I leave behind? Life was more difficult back then. Work was harder. Yet, in a lot of ways it was simpler.

This past August when we moved (even after purging a ton) our household goods weighed in at almost eight thousand pounds. The amount of stuff is overwhelming but yet society says we need all this stuff to be happy. We need a large home to be happy. The upkeep that comes with that stuff and with having the large house is tiresome. I feel like I can never quite catch up. I think that is what appeals to me the most about Laura and the little house on the prairie. I think from the beginning at 7 years old that is what appealed to me. My life has never been simple…my childhood was filled with things that no child should have to worry about. Life was never simple. Simplicity is what I found in her books and what I craved. I think it’s still what I crave.

laura


Ready for a Baby?

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I recently had a conversation with a friend. She expressed that she wanted a baby but wasn’t sure she would ever be ready for a baby. Her sentiment reminded me of some of the best advice I ever received about being ready for children. It came from our priest during our wedding.

I don’t remember much of our nuptial Mass. It’s pretty much a blur that I spent begging God for my mother not to cause a scene. Thankfully, she didn’t. However, while I don’t remember the Mass clearly I do remember the key message of the homily.  The message was you’ll never be ready for kids. There will never be a perfect time to have children. If you wait for the perfect time; you’ll never have them.

That day I didn’t know how true those words were. I can look back at all three past pregnancies and this current one and tell you all the reasons why it wasn’t a perfect time to be pregnant. Why it wasn’t the perfect time to have a baby. However, while it might not have been perfect in our human time it was perfect in God’s time.

There is no amount of preparing that will ever have you 100% ready for a child. It doesn’t matter if it’s your first child or eighth. There will always be something that you didn’t plan for- that you weren’t ready for. However, when they place your baby in your arms for the first time none of that will matter. You will fall in love with that beautiful little person harder than you ever thought was possible.


Less Stuff, More Living

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In January we decided we had too much stuff. We were overwhelmed with the clutter and general messiness of our home.  We started talking about looking at moving into a smaller house because realistically the large house we are in is too much for me to physically take care of. Thus, started the great purge!  We desired a home that can be easily kept clean without feeling like we have to clean all the time. We wanted to feel like we could just go hang out at the beach as a family without a long to-do list hanging around our necks stealing our enjoyment.

Some things were easier to purge than others. For example: I had over a dozen vases but I only ever use two of them. I got rid of all put the two that I really like and use often. A pretty purple vase and a crystal vase with tulips sculpted around the edge of it.  Another easy thing to purge was cookbooks. I simply boxed all of them up and out the door they went. I get so many of my recipes off the internet I couldn’t see a point to keeping the actual books. I bought a pretty binder and when I find a recipe that we like I print it off and file it in the binder. It has gotten rid of all the loose recipes and made it super easy to find a recipe without having to get back online and print another copy.

I had an entire box of formal dresses and accessories from when I was in high school. I had been holding onto them out of a feeling of obligation. I kept one timeless classic dress that fits nicely for any fancy occasions that might come up. I then contacted a local organization that helps provide dresses and accessories to girls who otherwise wouldn’t be able to go to their proms and other formal dances and donated the entire box.

Some things are harder to figure out what to do with. Things like yearbooks. I have every single yearbook from kindergarten through senior year. I don’t know if I want to keep them or if I should get rid of some of them.  The things that are the hardest to get rid of are the things with emotional baggage some of it good; some of it bad.  It’s been a learning experience to go through that sort of stuff. I’ve learned that as I let go off stuff that I had been keeping out of a misplaced sense of obligation or guilt that I feel lighter emotional and mentally. As our physical space becomes less cluttered everyone is happier.

I hope to have the great purge finished by the time we move in August. We want to fit all of our stuff; except what we need to bring with us in the suburban for our day to day living in a 16ft long by 8 feet wide and 7.5 feet tall storage container!