Category Archives: Family

When We Struggle in Church with Young Children

I find it very difficult to let things go and not bother me.  I usually hang on to the hurt and review the play by play in my head long after.  This past Sunday, when we visited a local Byzantine Catholic Church, an old lady was visibly annoyed with us.  During the sermon, little Eric was unable to stay still.

Christ Blesses the Children

I was holding John on my lap because he was a bit overwhelmed in a new place, and Nathaniel was dealing with Gregory and David.  So, Eric slipped away and decided to spin around in a circle right in the middle of church.  Then he looked up and smiled at everyone.  He was as sweet as can be, but he was a disruption.

Then I heard a loud “humph” from the back and looked up to see the woman staring daggers at me.   In a parish as small as that one, Eric’s distraction could go unnoticed.  Nathaniel quickly grabbed him and placed the wild little man on his lap.  Just a bit after that, another child was being incredibly defiant, so I picked up Eric while I was pulling the other child by his arm and left the church.  What a great first impression we had made.

Needless to say, I was incredibly discouraged by the time we drove out of the parking lot.  At our parish in Kentucky, we had a system that worked for us.  That doesn’t mean it was easy; dealing with five young children in church is never easy, but we did have their godparents and friends who would help out.  I rarely felt completely alone, even if I did feel overwhelmed.

Recently, Sarah wrote a good post called “How to Encourage that Young Mother at Church.”  I recommend this for everyone, whether you have children or not.  It is so important to encourage those who are struggling.  And I guarantee that, at one time or another, every parent is struggling in church.  Thankfully, in the end, the struggle is worth it. IMG_20150823_112238

Coming Out About Comparisons

Make sure you read Part One and Part Two of this series as well.

Skies

Scrolling through social media and blogs has the ability to make even the greatest, most accomplished, most patient, most crafty, most musical, most over-achieving moms feel inadequate.  The reason is quite simple: the internet rarely tells the whole truth.

We all post photos about our greatest accomplishments, not our deepest failures.

Do you want to see the pile of laundry on my bathroom floor OR my daughter reading to her little brother?  Do you want to see how the puppy chewed up yet another toy all over the living room floor OR the craft the kids did?  Do you want to see my child throwing a fit on the floor OR my baby smiling beautifully for the camera?  The answers to these questions is obvious.

No one wants to see the hard stuff. 

It might be a nice change of pace to see a post or read something about someone who has embraced the fact that life is messy and chaotic, but these are few and far between.  More often than not, we see happy smiling children eating homemade treats while doing crafts in a beautifully decorated home.  Forget the fact that in the other room is a dog chewing up a dirty diaper (Not that I know anything about that…).

As a mother, it is difficult not to compare yourself to other women who seem to have it all together.  But I will tell you the truth: even the most perfect mom in the world has her bad days.

I openly admit to having a Super Mom Complex.

I pin so many amazing ideas on Pinterest, but will never have enough time in my life to do them all.  I love to sew and craft, but leave projects unfinished.  I menu plan and then end up eating out for dinner.  I do crafts with my kids and get frustrated when they make a mess.  I homeschool and some days I want to give up.  I make green smoothies and then eat candy bars.  I snuggle my kiddos and then tell them to go into the other room to give me a few minutes of peace.  I succeed and I fail, but I always get back up again.

This is what parenting is all about.

“What I do you cannot do; but what you do, I cannot do.
The needs are great, and none of us, including me, ever do great things.
But we can all do small things, with great love,
and together we can do something wonderful.”

~Mother Theresa

It isn’t about what you do, it is about how you do it.  Stop comparing yourself to other moms.  We all have different gifts and abilities.  No two moms are the same.  No two people love the same or need love in the same ways.  Work with what you have.  Embrace it.

Be the best parent and person you can be
and forget about what everyone else is doing. 

Of course, you won’t be able to do this every day and some days you will feel completely inadequate once again.  But do not be discouraged.  We all have days like this.  This is normal.  The most important thing a parent can do, above anything else, is to love their children and to teach them that God loves them more than they can even imagine.

Beloved, let us love one another, for love is of God;
and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God.
He who does not love does not know God, for God is love.
In this the love of God was manifested toward us,
that God has sent His only begotten Son into the world,
that we might live through Him.
In this is love, not that we loved God,
but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins.
Beloved, if God so loved us,
we also ought to love one another.

1 John 4:7-11 (NKJV)

Coming Out About Fussy Babies

One Sunday morning, my husband and I walked into church, with our four little ones in tow.  We attend a young church where many people have babies or young children or both.  Our baby was just seven or eight months old at the time.  He had spent the majority of that time crying, fussing and being held by me.  It was one of the most difficult times I’ve experienced in my life.  I had very little sleep and was exhausted to my very core. 

When I looked around and saw many other babies, happy and content, I broke down.  I stated weeping and had to leave church.  I couldn’t handle the fact that my child was so very difficult and others had it much easier.  I was angry, jealous, depressed and worn out.

Jump ahead a couple of years and we are dealing with this again with Eric.

IMG_20140524_154010

Eric wants to be held by me almost all the time.  He doesn’t sleep well, especially at night when he wakes up almost every hour.  I rejoice at getting two hours of sleep in a row. If he is content with my husband or the other children and then sees me, he falls apart.

It seems like he can do well without me for a short period of time and then he needs to be cuddled for a while.  I’ve noticed this pattern since he was very young.  He will play on his own for about ten minutes, maybe twenty on a good day, and then he needs me to hold him.  Many times, he will just lay there on my chest or in my arms, looking up at my face.  It seems to regulate him, and then he is able to play on the floor again for a little bit.

John was even worse.  He cried and fussed for nearly ten months straight.  We tried to diagnose him to determine what was wrong, but, all in all, John is a very healthy child.  He is very intelligent, curious, inquisitive, funny (SO funny!), loving, a great eater, friendly and painfully shy.  He is also gorgeous, I might add.  He is an amazing child.  So, when we looked for answers as to why he was fussing so much, we came up dry.

I recently read an article called,Why It’s Not ‘Just’ Colic or Fussiness and it hit home with me probably more than most articles I read.

The author lists ten results of having a baby who fusses all the time:

  • the sleep deprivation
  • the isolation
  • the crying
  • the being judged
  • the unpredictability
  • the feelings of failure
  • the no down time
  • the second guessing
  • the impact on marriage and family
  • the lack of bonding.

I have encountered all of these at some point in time with each of my fussy babies.  For me, the worst part is the isolation which directly affects the feelings of failure, the impact on marriage and family (and friends), and the second guessing.  Isolation is also affected by the sleep deprivation, the crying, the being judged, the unpredictability, the feelings of failure, the no down time, and the lack of bonding.

IMG_20140526_141638So, for me, it appears that isolation is the number one problem that comes from having a fussier-than-normal baby.

Obviously, you can’t go out in public because your baby will scream, you will have to hold him all the time, you will feel judged by others, you’ll compare your baby to the other babies that you encounter, and you will be worn out by the end.

So, rather than looking forward to going out and seeing family and friends, you become anxious and stressed about leaving the house.  And if you do leave the house, you come home feeling depressed and discouraged.

And then, you are isolated again because you stay home until the effect of the bad experience of going out has worn off a little bit.

Being a parent is hard enough without having a baby who cries and fusses all the time.  So much of parenting is about giving of yourself for you children.  It isn’t always easy, but, even after a sleepless night, you can look into the beautiful face of your child and know it was worth it.  And the good news is that it does get better… eventually.

More on this topic to come…

Our Lenten Candle

Several years ago, the children and I decorated a candle for Lent.  We only used it during our morning prayers, and it lasted a long time.  Now, we are in need of a new candle.  I bought a simple vigil candle at the grocery store in the Mexican food section.  Our previous candle had been decoupaged, but I wanted to do something a little bit different this time.
coffee filter art
I pulled out the liquid watercolors, coffee filters and a dropper.
I let each child make their own designs on a coffee filter.
coffee filter art
coffee filter art
coffee filter art
They enjoyed it so much that they even used the leftover colors on the paper towels to make more decorated coffee filters.
coffee filter art
In the end, I only needed three coffee filters to cover the candle, so I’ll have to come up with something fun to do with the other…. twenty.

I took this photo tonight, so the lighting isn’t perfect, but you get the idea:
lenten candle

A Review: The Hidden Garden by Jane G. Meyer

The Hidden Garden by Jane G. Meyer Our family has loved all of Jane G. Meyer‘s books, and The Hidden Garden: A Story of the Heart is no exception!  Our copy of Jane’s latest book arrived while we were away.

The next day, I sat down with our three year old and read the book to him.  He was enamored by the beautiful illustrations and listened intently to the story.  When we had read through the entire book, including the lovely section at the end called “To Help Tend Your Garden,” which contains practical tips for growing in the grace and love of God, I asked my son what he thought.

He paused for a moment and then said, “grow flowers in your garden, and grow beauty in your heart, too.”  I quickly wrote this down, so that I wouldn’t forget how he, a three year old child, was able to understand this book, rich in spiritual depth, which teaches such a beautiful lesson.

The Hidden Garden by Jane G. Meyer

The Hidden Garden: A Story of the Heart is an inspiring book that demonstrates the beautiful redemption that can be found through faith in Christ.  It is an encouragement for all, young and old, to seek beauty and truth in all things with the knowledge that God is always with us.  We need only to open the gate to let Him in, and our lives can be transformed.

I am not going to give anything away regarding the storyline,
so you better quickly go HERE and buy a copy for yourself!

Blessing Our Home

Our annual house blessing is one of my favorite events of the year.
I love having our house prayed over from corner to corner, room to room.
It gives me a feeling of peace.DSC_0538

Houseblessing 2013

Houseblessing Grace

Orthodox Houseblessing Upstairs

Each family is considered to be their own small church, and in their home there is a home altar or icon corner where they can meet together and pray daily.  When the priest comes to bless the home, he brings with him holy water that has been blessed on the feast of Theophany.  He prays that God will grant mercy on the house, rid evil and fill it with blessings.  During this small service, the family is prayed for as well as loved ones who are important to the family.

As the family processes, with the priest sprinkling water over every inch of the home,
they all sing the hymns of Theophany.

Through the Prayers of Children

Miracles happen through the prayers of small children. Whatever they ask of God He gives them because they are guileless and He hears their pure prayer.
I remember one time our parents had gone out into the field and had left me in the house with my two younger siblings.
The sky suddenly darkened and a torrential rainstorm began.
“What will our parents do now?,” we said.
“How will they get back home?”
The two little ones began crying.
“Come here,” I told them, “we will ask Christ to stop the rain.”
The three of us knelt down before the family’s icons and prayed.
In just a few minutes the rain stopped.
– Elder Paisios of Mt. Athos

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An ambulance screamed past us on the road one day, and out of the corner of my eye, I saw my oldest son make the sign of the cross. Then he kindly admonished me, saying, “Mommy, we need to pray for whoever is sick or hurt.”  One way to teach our children love and compassion, is to teach them to pray, especially to pray for others.

When we pray with our children, we have them pray for those who they love, especially our family members, godparents and friends.  By doing this, we are not only teaching the importance of praying for others but we are showing them how we are all interconnected through prayer.  Even though we may live far away from family, this does not mean we cannot be in prayer for and with them.

I thank my God upon every remembrance of you, always in every prayer of mine making request for you all with joy, for your fellowship in the gospel from the first day until now, being confident of this very thing, that He who has begun a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ.

Philipians 1:3-5 (NKJV)

St Nicholas Day Traditions

Our family has a wonderful set of traditions that we follow
every year in honor of St Nicholas.
St Nicholas and Our Family

We begin with a Vespers service at our church on the evening before St Nicholas Day (December 6th), and after the service, St Nicholas visits our parish!
St Nicholas Visits He tells the children the story about his life as they sit by his feet and listen intently.
ST Nicholas Tells a Story
St Nicholas tells a story
Each child asks for a blessing from St. Nicholas
Gregs gets a blessing from St Nicholas
and they are each given a little bag filled with treats.
John Gets a Blessing from St Nicholas
Oranges, nuts, chocolate coins, pretzels and apples are among these tasty delights.
david and grace gets treats

After we arrive home, the children take off their shoes and place them by the front door. Then, when the children are sound asleep in their beds, St Nicholas visits our home and leaves more treats in their shoes.
Shoes for St Nicholas
Coin from St Nicholas

We also made St Nicholas Bread this year. It was delicious!