Friday, August 18, 2017

Another Response of Sorts

In response to all those people who like to say the following:

"I would never have a large family because I knew a large family growing up where the kids did all the work and the parents did nothing other than just keep having babies. Kids should not have to change diapers or help at home. Large families keep kids from being able to be involved in activities and becoming individuals. The kids will all lose their faith. I will never have a large family."

Here's a response to consider. What would you say to the following:

"I would never have a small family because I knew lots of small families growing up. And those kids were almost all spoiled brats. They never spent any time together as family. The kids got every single new gadget and gizmo they ever wanted and never seemed to be thankful for the things they were given. The families are not at all close now that the kids are older and their parents are alone. I will never have a small family."

Can you see how neither one is worth basing your own decisions on? Every single family is different. Every single child is different. Each couple will discern on their own what is right for them. Have a large family. Have a small family. I really don't care what you do. Just quit trying to tell us that we are ruining the earth or being irresponsible or you would never do what we are doing because you are convinced all large families ruin kids. Or maybe remember that entire idea of using NFP as a default for every Catholic marriage is a very modern construct.  Or something.

And in the midst of this idiocy, remember to pray for all those couples who are desperate to have the very family you may take for granted.

Thursday, August 17, 2017

How Do We Do It?

A week or so ago my husband shared a few posts from this blog on an NFP facebook group. This resulted in questions regarding how on earth can we justify having so many children (from a Catholic NFP group which makes me say, um, we have gone so far off the rails here folks) when we rely on other people to meet our financial needs. So I find myself in the position of having to answer these gross misconceptions.

First, let's consider what parents are obligated to provide for their children. I think we can all agree on the basics. Food, clothing, shelter, a safe and stable environment. As Catholic parents, we are also obligated to provide our children with a Catholic education. Yes, obligated. This obligation can be met in numerous ways. You can send your kid to a Catholic school (assuming the school is truly Catholic and not just calling itself Catholic while promoting values and beliefs that are contrary to the Faith). You can enroll your child in a parish based religious education program (providing, again, that the program truly teaches Catholicism and not some kum ba yah washed down version of what someone thinks is Catholicism). You can teach your children religious ed at home (using authentic resources folks). But it is your obligation to make sure the kids get the real deal stuff no matter how you chose to teach them. You are the one who is ultimately responsible so stay involved. Oh, and love of course. Cause they are your kids folks.

That is it. You are NOT required to provide sports and music and art classes. You are NOT required to provide cars and video games or even a college education. No mommy and me classes. No pets. They can even share bedrooms. Gasp! You are not required to provide the exact clothes your child begs for or whatever food they decide they want to eat. Or cell phones. Or vacations. Or movies. Or any of the other trappings that people seem to think go hand in hand with providing for children now a days. No wonder we are raising a generation of entitled people. Gracious, it is enough to make your head spin.

So now to the question: do we rely on other people to meet our basic needs? Nope. We do happily accept hand me downs, extra garden produce, bikes kids have outgrown, books no longer needed. We do scour thrift stores and even pick up things off the side of the road on occasion. I will acknowledge that we have been blessed with free cross country skis (which are often used in the huge backyard), computers folks didn't need, bikes, tvs, fridges, a piano, and even a couple of free cars. Yes, we have been that blessed. Folks have passed along diapers their kids outgrew, a few cribs, outdoor toys, and furniture. And we do the exact same thing. When we no longer need something or just have no storage space, we pass things along to those who can use them. For FREE. I'm assuming most people do the same thing. I know there are those who must sell everything because, well, they want to. But I'd rather have it out of my house and in the hands of someone who can use it without the headache. So, yes, we accept things people are passing along and have been given some pretty big gifts from time to time. But we are able to provide the basic needs of our children on our own.

How do we do that? That is not a simple question. My husband works a regular job and a part time job. He also does some free lance work on the side which sometimes brings in some change but is mostly a hobby that feeds his soul.  I stay at home with the kids because I truly believe children need a parent at home with them. We also homeschool, obviously, so that cuts down on certain requests and fund raisers and all the assorted stuff that goes along with attending school. It does also mean we cover all books ourselves as well as art, gym, and music classes. I admit that Grandparents often chip in on school supplies every now and again which is awesome and allows us to cover extras instead of just basics but again, I'm talking basics vs extras. We don't have cable and everyone in the house lives in hand me down or thrift store clothes most of the time. But I'd do the same if we had 2 kids. We can and freeze food. We grow or raise some food ourselves. I budget like a crazy person to keep the food bills down and often negotiate with companies for lower costs on services we do pay for. We drive cars until they die. My mother-in-law sends us the coupons they don't use every month. I follow the pantry principle and stock up on items when they are at rock bottom prices. I aim to maintain a 2 to 6 month supply of everything we consume in the house. I'm not afraid to ask for discounts ever. Large family/group discounts, military discounts, homeschool discounts. I ask for them all. We take advantage of discounts from places our kids work if that is a farm, restaurant or fun place to visit. We even do things like pick up the mistinted paint at the hardware store instead of picking colors ahead of time. Our kids pay for their own college education. We help friends do things and they help us fix things. Networking and bartering and learning from other folks.

And what I feel makes the difference: we donate to church and to others in need. Both as a couple and as a family. We share the awesome deals we find on food with the food pantry. The kids often volunteer with parish programs. The boys are altar servers for regular Masses and for funerals. One works with the A/V folks at church and another is training to be a eucharistic minister. One helps with the youth group. We are often around to set up and clean up for fund raisers and parish activities even though we can almost never afford to attend them. We bring meals to folks who need them. Yup, we do that NFP teaching and promoting thing. And we place our trust in a God who has never let us down.

Years ago I clearly heard God telling me two things (different occasions). One was that I needed to learn all the older skills and new ones so that I would be able to take care of this large crew of ours as it continued to grow. This is what led me to learn to can and sew and bake from scratch and all that sort of jazz. The old fashioned home making skills that seem to have gotten lost in the past couple generations. Another was a day when God told me to trust  Him more. We had maybe 4 or 5 kids at the time. Alan was on the road as always. An unexpected bill left us with a very tight budget so I headed to the pantry to do an inventory before making out the meal plan. And discovered it was hit by pantry bugs. Awful things. I had to throw away 90% of our food because it was all stored in the same closet. I do believe there might have been a few tears. So I cleaned out the kitchen, made a list and headed to the store with the kids and the credit card. (Never buy groceries on a credit card, just saying.) The next day our neighbor came over. They were going up north for the summer and wanted to give us all the perishable foods in their kitchen. I kid you not, they brought over almost every single item I had put on the credit card the day before. It was very clearly God telling me that I needed to trust more. He sent these kids our way, He will send a way to provide for them.

I am not saying the way is always easy or simple or what you want to do. Yes, you may be asked to swallow your pride sometimes and ask for help.  Yes, you may be asked to give up that thing you were saving for because your kid needs something more. Maybe you'll have to use drying racks for a while and save up for a new dryer (my life now). Maybe it means cloth diapers (because they are cool anyway). Maybe it means 4 kids share a bedroom.

No matter how you make it work, you won't regret it. The truth is that a healthy Catholic couple getting married in their 20's truly should prepare themselves to raise a brood of 6 or 8 or more. This is as it has always been. There is a reason Catholic wedding vows include accepting children willingly from God and bringing them up according to the law of Christ and his Church. It's just not a negotiable thing. Maybe we took it a bit far with 13 kids but we like to take things to extremes it seems.

So, yes, most of my kids are happily sporting hand me downs right now. So am I. Two of the vehicles sitting in our driveway were gifts. At least one of the tv's in the house was picked up off the side of the road and the second one was given to us. The baby currently plays in a bouncer we picked up for free. Grandparents send the kids' restaurant gift cards for their birthdays because they know we neither need nor want any more toys around here. They send school supplies or books the kids might want to read or a box full of snacks every so often. When they heard one of the kids had started piano lessons, they offered to help pay for them. And yet I don't consider tv's, restaurant meals, bouncers, cookies or piano lessons to be necessities. I'm fairly certain our kids would be just fine without them.

So how do we do it? I will simply say it is a God thing. I've stopped asking how things will work out at the end of each month but I know that they will.

Monday, May 15, 2017

The Circle: A Book Review

The book The Circle is written by Dave Eggers. Eggers spins a story of a future that is truly not too far off from the world we are currently living in. A future where everyone shares every single aspect of their lives on-line. A future where cameras are every where and privacy is looked upon as something suspect.

This book follows the life of Mae Holland as she lands her dream job at a company called the Circle. This company actively encourages folks to track and share all of their life online. They promote the idea of community and closeness with those you have never met but converse with over the web. Obviously, the parallels to what we are seeing in our world today are many.

Those who chose not to share their every waking moment online quickly find that they are unable to interact with anyone freely or to easily earn a living. As the Circle begins to promote the slogan "Privacy is Theft," those who are uncomfortable with sharing their every thought are looked upon with suspicion. 

This book left me looking at my own online presence in a different light. I will admit I often find myself feeling thankful that the world of Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram was not around when I was in high school and college. I find myself feeling tremendous pity for those teens who find things shared about them against their wishes and have found I am less likely to share things about my own children in recent weeks. I've also noticed some push back from those who think that everything should be shared now. Eerily similar to the book. It has made me examine a few things more closely. 

The book does contain several sexual scenes which are more than excessive and unnecessary in detail. For this reason, I caution parents in sharing this book with your teens until after you have read it yourself.

Overall, I found The Circle to be an enjoyable book that definitely gave me a few things to ponder in my own life.

Real Life Math

Forget algebra kids. We have for you today a real life math problem. Or, as my husband corrected me, a Catholic math problem.

You must feed 12 people dinner (it is Mom and Dad's date night and they will eat after the children are in bed). You are serving hot dogs tonight because it is that kind of a night. The hot dogs come 24 to a package. The buns come 16 to a package. The baby will only eat baby food. The youngest toddler won't eat bread yet. The oldest toddler won't eat the buns but will want one to sit on his plate and hold his hot dogs before he devours them. The rest of the eaters are 6, 8, 9, 11, 12, 13, 15, 17, and 19. So how many of each package will you need to feed the crew and come out even?

This is the math they need to teach in school because this is the daily struggle, I tell you. You get it wrong and the teenagers will ransack the pantry after the littles are in bed and devour two weeks worth of snacks in one night. Oh, who am I kidding. They will do that even if you get the math right.

Thursday, May 4, 2017

How to Make Dinner. . .Or Something

Read carefully for an easy step by step tutorial on how to take dinner a family other than your own. Be sure to follow along exactly. If not, disaster may strike.

Step 1: Remove the chicken and broccoli casserole freezer meal you made a few weeks ago from the basement freezer the night before and place it in the basement fridge to defrost.

Step 2: The next afternoon, send a child downstairs with instructions to bring up the casserole from the FRIDGE, place it on a baking sheet, remove the cover, and put it in the oven at 300 degrees.

Step 3: A little while later, ask another child to please make 3 cups of rice in the rice cooker.

Step 4: Ask who wants to make brownies to go with dinner. Assign task to the willing 9 yo.

Step 5: Ask another child to please shred cheese and top the casserole with it. Said child notices the smell of brownies when he opens the oven and makes sure to ask if the cheese went in the right location because he realized cheese covered brownies would just not be a good thing. See, he was paying attention.

Step 6: Make a salad to go with dinner. Discover that the 1 yo has eaten almost all of the cherry tomatoes but decide that it will be ok with less than planned.

Step 7; Retrieve applesauce and salad dressing from the basement pantry and head upstairs to start packing the meal for delivery.

Step 8: Discover that the rice did not cook. Upon talking to the child who was assigned to make the rice, discover that they only plugged the rice maker in but never actually turned it on.

Step 9: Discover that the casserole put in the oven was retrieved from the FREEZER and not the FRIDGE and is a chicken parm casserole, not chicken and broccoli. And is now covered in cheddar cheese.

Step 10: Discover that the brownies are still mostly raw because they were placed in a 9 by 9 inch pan but cooked using the time for the 9 by 13 pan.

Step 11: Panic. Just a little. Because life. And it is now time to be out the door to deliver said dinner.

Step 12: Stop by the store and pick up cake and ice cream and pray it makes up for the chaos.

Step 13: Arrive with dinner and hear the kids say "But we already ate dinner." Laugh at the craziness of it all and say "Well, this can always go into the freezer for another day. And there's some ice cream so just make sure that doesn't get left out." Because ice cream makes everything better. Or something.

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Paschal Candle Thoughts

So I just finished making our Paschal Candle for 2017. Yes, I made it. No, I made no attempts to collect the kidlets around me and make it a meaningful family project or anything. Just nope. And as I set it down on the mantel in our bedroom, I noticed our 2016 Paschal Candle. Still sitting there. Unlit. Covered in dust. Because life. The real kind of life with 10 people down with the flu. At the same time. While Dad is out of town for a month. The kind of life where you laugh at the idea of dusting. Where you just changed 3 diapers in 5 minutes. Just life.

Yes, I am now a certifiable Catholic Mommy Blogging failure. And I'm totally ok with that. I no longer have any illusions of focusing on all the awesome feast days and liturgical awesomeness. Because I'm too busy. Because I'm no longer thinking I have anything new or different to share with folks. Seriously, it has all been done before from the at home altar to the crocheted roses for family prayer time (love them) to the rosaries made out of cupcakes (because sugar).

I've listened to Moms with far fewer kids go on about how there is never a reason for a kid to ever misbehave in Mass or make noise. And gone home to laugh. I've listened to a priest say if you can't keep your child silent in church, you and your spouse must attend separate Masses. And wanted to explain how life just is not that simple (not for single parents, not for parents where one spouse is out of town, not for folks with a deployed spouse, not for lots of folks). And perhaps gone home to cry and yell and shake my head in frustration.And felt the urge to point out to said priest that so many studies show that when Dad does not attend Mass with the family, the kids lose their faith. So, um, there is that and the empty churches now but sure, we'll make sure no child ever makes a peep, ever. I've taught several kids with sensory issues to sit through and eventually enjoy the very experience of Mass which was at one point absolutely painful for them. Listened to the two year old announce loudly "Jesus Coming?" while pointing at all the statues and looking at me like I am a crazy lady for suggesting such a thing when He was clearly already there.

So I guess we are now focusing on hit and miss liturgical parenting. Yes, that is a thing. Because I just made it one. :) We still have our rules. No children's liturgy or cry rooms because we are just do not work that way. Ever it seems. No Santa or Easter Bunny. No Christmas parties during Advent. No egg hunts during Lent. Hit a few feast days every year but don't stress over which ones. Mass is a non-negotiable unless you are ill. We don't focus on attending our home parish but rather on attending together as a family. Because I have done too many years of Mass without my husband to do it now on purpose. No thank you. We don't do the toys in church thing but we do buy donuts most of the time if everyone behaves. The kids know the word tabernacle and what it means and how to find it. The boys serve funeral Masses, even for those they don't know because there is no greater gift to give than your time. We don't participate in most parish fund raisers because we frankly cannot afford to. I swear you have to have an extra income just to participate in these things which strikes me as terribly elitist to be honest. We don't send the kids to religious ed because it is wishy washy as long as you are a good person everything is ok junk.And at $145 for 3 kids, I laugh when they say the cost for classes only covers the cost of materials used. Who are they kidding. And sacraments are an extra fee on top of it. No one has time for that.

So, hm, what am I saying? I'm still learning and growing. Sticking much more fiercely to the things that truly matter and letting go of the extras. Because no one has time for that. Least of all me.

OH, RIGHT. If you want to make that Paschal Candle for your home, here's the print out. Seriously an easy project. All you need is a $1 tall votive candle from the grocery store, a bit of glue, and a print out. Even your 5 year old could do it, it you want to share with them. Or one tired burned out Mom. Either way.

Children, Rain, and Life

So the middle kids are on spring break. Not the older ones, of course. Schedules aligning like that would just be too awesome for words. The younger ones are supposed to be catching up on work since we all got so, so, so horridly sick the month Alan was gone. No, I am not willing to force the kids to plow through school work amidst the flu and a stomach bug and attempts to get people to just drink something, anything, please. And babies and chest x-rays and you know, he just might have asthma the doc says. Of course, the doc hasn't seen his face turn red from the coughing and gagging because the little dude is happy as a clam when he's not puking on you from coughing too much. :)

So spring break. Somewhere in the back of my mind I had plans to take the kids somewhere this week. But then reality hit. Reality that says you don't have a car ever lady. So instead I told the kids "Turn the tv off and go outside." Or something of the like. But then it started raining. And somewhere in my mind I'm thinking hm, maybe they shouldn't be outside because it is raining. Then I thought but it is not thundering and they aren't in the house so let them be. Except they decided rain wasn't enough. Apparently you must stick your head under the broken gutters and take a shower outside, in your clothes. Ah well. That is what towels are for, right? Except for the one boy who found the movie on the Eucharist and begged to be able to go watch that one and who am I to say no to such a request.

All 3 little ones are asleep in various places around the house where they fell. Kolbe might have fallen into my arms but he's the baby so he gets spoiled. And I would love to just fall into bed myself and nap but I must go in a bit and pick up the husband from work. Because I did need the car this morning for an appointment. And someone must leave the house and earn the money. So now someone must bring Dad back home.

Tonight we shall head out to celebrate DD2's birthday. We discussed how Holy Thursday really isn't the best time to be out partying. Yes, she was born on Holy Thursday but she is now old enough to understand that maybe the tail end of Holy Week is not the time for celebrating a birthday if it can wait or come earlier. Time to return to Holy Week being a time of something different. A time set apart. So tonight dinner is on Grandma and Grandpa and the biggest question is will the birthday girl be allowed to order off the adult menu. I'm thinking yes.

So not much amazing or wonderful going on except life. Life is decidedly wonderful. And crazy and stressful and strange.