Wednesday, December 3, 2014

"What do you do?"

"How do you do it? What do you do?" These are questions I get asked. These are also questions I ask of mothers of more children than I have, whether it be five, six . . . eight . . . twelve . . . or sixteen children. "How do you do it? What do you do?"

Today was a frustrating day for me (okay, I may have stormed into my husband's home office and declared it a "Stink Pot Day"), but it wasn't the worst. It wasn't our best, our most smooth. It was life, it was not unusual. I have so many opportunities to learn patience, wisdom, counsel. My salvation can clearly be worked out through my family!

One Wednesday

22-month-old (AKA "Baby") is sick with a cold and awake from 1:00 to 3:00 a.m.

5:15 a.m. Baby is awake for the day. Ignoring him prattling in bed and crawling over me for half an hour doesn't make him go back to sleep. Why, oh why?

Nurse baby.

Drink tea, eat snacks to abate pregnancy nausea.

Check email.

Fold load of laundry.

6:00 a.m. Kids come downstairs.

Do Advent calendars.

Kids eat their "start bowls of cereal." This is their first breakfast.

Read one chapter of my holy reading amidst constant interruptions, half a sentence at a time. Not really sure what the content was of that chapter, but God knows I tried.

7:30 a.m. Husband and 8-year-old depart for Eucharistic Adoration. (Okay, he turns 8 tomorrow, but let's just say 8.)

Empty dishwasher because 8-y.o. is gone.

Finish blog post that has taken me four days to write in spurts.

22-m.o. hits his head and got a big goose egg. Nurse him.

Lead family prayers because Husband isn't home yet.

Kids aren't hungry and run off to play and are actually playing peacefully. (But they make a huge mess, which Mama discovers later.)

Mama decides to take advantage of their peacefulness to do her violin practice. 22-m.o. screams until she pauses to nurse him.

9:00 a.m. Second (hot) breakfast.

Boys return.

Get everyone dressed, everyone 3 and older makes beds, Mama supervises teeth, hair, clothing in hampers, etc.

Baby is crying, Mama is nursing him to calm him down. Fights among the other siblings break out, there is much screaming, discipline ensues.

Send 8-y.o. to school room to wait for me. He plays, does no independent school work.

Start laundry.

Mama tunes 6-year-old's violin.

3-year-old needs help going potty, 6-y.o. helps her while Mama tuns violin.

3-y.o. begins screaming, discipline ensues.

Violin is mysteriously out of tune again, so Mama tunes it again.

After noticing sticky keys on piano, call piano tuner for appointment. 3-y.o. screams over phone call and is removed to another part of the house.

6-y.o. begins practicing violin by herself, no one to hold her accountable because I have to supervise school (or I could supervise violin and then the other three would run wild--I feel like I've tried every combination).

10:15 a.m. Discover that school room is such a pigsty from earlier peaceful playing that I can't teach school. Angrily clean up room, knowing that I could use the teaching moment and the kids would take an hour to clean up or I could clean up in 15 minutes.

Hear 6-y.o. looking for a pencil to check off her list of songs, wonder why it is taking so long.

3-y.o. finally stops screaming. I'm not kidding, she was screaming that whole time.

10:35 a.m. Finally start school with 8-y.o. (our daily goal is an hour earlier)

Mama is so hungry (with pregnancy) but determined not to pause for a snack because I will lose everyone's attention.

Start Spelling. 8-y.o. spells one sentence, then has to use the bathroom.

3-y.o. is listening to "Blueberries for Sal" on the CD player.

8-y.o. completes his spelling dictation while hiccuping. He never stops moving around the room like a whirling dervish. I assign jumping jacks.

Nurse baby while teaching 8-y.o. grammar.

11:00 a.m. Leave 8-y.o. with instructions to complete grammar worksheet. Check on 6-y.o. She hasn't had her list this whole time and has spent an hour reading books in the den. Don't scream, don't scream, don't scream. Return to 8-y.o., he did none of his worksheet. At this stage of parenting, I think my children will be 27 before they ever do any independent work assigned to them. Don't scream, don't scream, don't scream.

Little ones burst into fighting. Send 3-y.o. to her room.

6-y.o. does handwriting by herself.

Supervising the handwriting of grammar is agony for Mama and 8-y.o., like always. 

3-y.o. returns with a stuffed animal gift to appease baby.

Do Spelling with 6-y.o. while other three play. Fight breaks out among them.

11:20 a.m. Mama does addition facts flash card with 6- and 8-y.o.s. Turns out they love the competition and are jumping up and down with excitement. This feels like our first winning moment of the day.

11:30 a.m. Start making lunch. 6-y.o. reads aloud her science to me. 8-y.o. practices his piano. Interrupt many times to get him back to the piano bench. 6-y.o. makes her own ham-mayo-lettuce sandwich.

Serve lunch.

Wash dishes and supervise children wiping table and sweeping floor.

Assign 8-y.o. to organize and sweep out the leaf-filled garage, a job which really excites him and which will expend some physical energy.

Overhear that 6-y.o. had been giving 3-y.o. a piano lesson and has taught her the first line to "O Come, O Come Emmanuel." Mama's heart feels happy.

Assign 6-y.o. to do her piano practice.

Take 3-y.o. for potty check, set up "Stuart Little" on CD, and put her in Quiet Time with a one-hour timer.

12:20-12:40 Nurse down baby for nap. 6-y.o. interrupts halfway through to tell me excitedly that she found her list of violin homework. "That is great, honey, but you shouldn't have interrupted the baby falling asleep." My body weary with growing fingers and toes so desperately wants to stay lying down and take a nap, but that is not to be.

Check on 8-y.o. in garage. 6-y.o. has finished both piano and violin practice. Set them up playing chess on the computer so Husband and I can do our December budget planning meeting. Budget meeting is interrupted three times: to help 3-y.o. with potty and twice discipline fights that broke out between older siblings.

1:50 p.m. Check on kids playing chess. 3-y.o. Finished quiet time earlier. Retrieve her from watching chess and bring her with me, letting her watch cartoon on my iPhone while I do 20-minute exercising. I want to do so many things other than exercise but it is really important for my pregnancy health. 20-minute workout takes 40 minutes because baby wakes up in the middle and wakes up slowly with crying and nursing.

2:30 p.m. Mama comes downstairs. I sit down to check email, baby crawls into my lap and promptly vomits up masticated toast onto my clothing, a snack he had just found on the floor and eaten. I give up on email.

Gather the children to fold laundry.

2:45 p.m. Kill two birds with one stone. We are woefully behind on school today, so I take the children outside for Outdoor School, alternating playing in the backyard with one child at a time doing school with me in the sun room.

Despite many interruptions to push children on the swings, break up fights, and rescue children from bees, we got through Catechism, Math, and History.

4:00 p.m. Step inside, supervising three children playing in back yard through open door. Where is John? I quickly check email and search online for where to buy a new St. Lucia crown (found a Swedish store!). Then I go hunt for John and find him in my sewing room with a big swath of red cloth and my sewing shears, needle, and thread, most of the way through fashioning himself an authentic Roman soldier costume. My history lesson (today reading "How to Be a Roman Soldier") must have been really good.

4:15 p.m. Call in three children for washing up and watching a TV show while I cook dinner. (I can't supervise outdoor play of 3- and 1-y.o.s while cooking.)

Start cooking dinner.

5:15-6:00 p.m.  Serve dinner, then supervise wiping and sweeping while I do dishes.

Husband is taking 8- and 6-y.o.s to an orchestral concert (and they leave at 6:45 p.m.). I help them dress and I do Mary's hair the way she likes. I put away the day's clean laundry and do the Jesse Tree with the 3-y.o. I get the littles into pajamas, brush teeth, do potty checks, say prayers, read a story, and leave the 3-y.o. in bed listening to "Stuart Little."

Baby is asleep by 7:30 p.m.

I sit online for 15 minutes.

7:45-9:00 p.m. Wrap gifts for eighth birthday tomorrow and St. Nicholas' day.

Plan menu for the rest of the week. I attempt to place my grocery order online and receive this message:

 Note: Registration is not required to view content on our site.We are upgrading our website. During this time our Login page will be temporarily unavailable. Everything should be back up and running by 8AM on 12/4. We apologize for any inconvenience. 

I was counting on this grocery order for dinner tomorrow and the next few days, including hosting people at our home, and for St. Nicholas festivities. So, guess what I'll be doing tomorrow after breakfast instead of teaching school? I am sooooooooo exasperated!

Mama hopes to be asleep by 10:30 p.m. but will have wished to be asleep two hours earlier.


  1. I'm so sorry you had such a rough day! What I think is most important is that you put forth an outstanding amount of effort, and sometimes that's all we can do during difficult days. You tried to do school, you tried to check your email, you tried exercising, you tried ordering dinner, etc. the fact that you tried all those things is really great. You could have just thrown in the towel in regards to school and let your kids watch TV all day in order to somewhat successfully accomplish your own goals. I have so much to learn from you as someone who greatly aspires for motherhood, and I love these honest, raw, insightful forays into some really difficult days.

    You can do it! Your readers are rooting for you ;) -Emiliann W

  2. From a friend off-blog: Your post today made me think, no one really does anything differently we all have those same experiences. Working hard but feeling we accomplish nothing, exasperating noise/mess/smells from children, wondering if other people’s children squabble this much, etc. etc. its just that some days you can see it in perspective and some days it is overwhelmingly difficult and those days often coincide when you have little sleep and/or other physical demands like pregnancy. This too shall pass and knowing that is one of the many beauties of having many children!

  3. From a friend off-blog: Thank you for your "stink pot day" post. I feel like I could've written that myself, and I only have three children! :)

  4. Reads like a script synopsis from a '40s screwball comedy starring Myrna Loy as Mama, Cary Grant as Husband, and 4 adorable moppets as "the kids." At the end of the day (literally) it is a wonderful true life narrative of arguably the most important job there is, warts and all.

  5. Boy I can relate to this like crazy.