Sunday, November 25, 2018

Rescued? No.

So yesterday was supposed to be a great day.   Peter's birthday treat from me was a day away, up to Bethlehem, with a walk on the strip and stopping at the shops, then dinner at a restaurant we'd never been to but was highly rated.  In August, life got in the way and we had to reschedule ...  It got pushed to yesterday, in conjunction with our monthly "date night" and kids sleepover with Peter's mom.


Yesterday was nothing short of a disaster.

It started off okay.  I could feel that I was more edgy than I have been because of the excitement of our plans, which were shortened due to life and a lot of kids but still had the potential to be awesome.  We were due to drop the kids after lunch (so 12:30ish) but, due to poor behaviors that resulted in me losing it and yelling (which kills me to admit because I could have held it together, I was just so frustrated ), we ended up not leaving for Bethlehem until almost 3.  Then, not even fifteen minutes out, Peter's mom texts that Michael threw up (phlegm thankfully ) and Maya was complaining her ear hurt.  But not to worry and to keep going.  By the time we were forty minutes out (and not there yet )  the second contact, this time a phone call.  Things were finally settled but Maya was getting worse and could we just do dinner and come back.

At this point, I was barely holding it together.  Why would we drive almost an hour for dinner?  At like 4 o'clock?  Peter decided to keep going and we had barely parked when we were called to come back. He canceled the reservations and we went back to the car.

While I know it didn't help the situation at all, I cried.  I couldn't help it.  First off, date night is about the only way I get through the month.  It's the one night where, for 3 hours  I don't have to be someone's mom and I can just enjoy time with my husband.  Second  this was supposed to be a birthday getaway fitting for a 40th.  I worked to scope stuff out and find things I thought he'd love . To have it ruined once was tough but life is life.  But twice.  I was literally sobbing against the car door.

Finally, I pulled my shit together as we arrived and got Maya.  After two misses with urgent care, our third was successful and she was found to have the start of an ear infection and was prescribed antibiotics . She wanted to go back to sleepover so she did but the date evening was a bust, since Peter dropped off Maya only to collect Ana.  At this point, neither of us had eaten because we had planned on eating away so we went to a meal restaurant that is notoriously easy to get into on Fridays and Saturdays with decent food.  While Ana proceeded to make it the farthest thing from enjoyable, Peter and I ate . Then, he dropped us off at home and went back to do bedtime with the older four.

All in all, yesterday sucked. A lot .

Before taking the kids to my MILs, I took a rescue dose of the CBD.  It did not, however  rescue me.  It actually caused me to turn inward and made me unable to let go of the sadness that hit because of losing my cool and the day going to hell.  I felt tired and lethargic and just really, really sad and noncommunicative.  Peter's thought is that the doses were only about 5 hours apart and that may have been the issue.

On the up side, my joints feel a lot better, which is great, and my accidental encounter with gluten on Thanksgiving resulted in only a tiny rash and minimal swelling, verses the leg and arm rash and joint swelling I'm used to.

But, here's to today being back to the new normal and, hopefully, better days this week.

Friday, November 23, 2018


Ten years sounds so long.  But, just as it did in February when we were faced with Nicholas and Sophia's tenth birthdays, it feels like yesterday.  It feels surreal.


How has it been 10 years since I saw his beautiful face?  Since I kissed his forehead? Since I held him against my chest?  How has the world continued to circle the sun, ten times over   For me, wasn't this yesterday?

I went to a tiny, gourmet kitchen shop to find the perfect, decorative bundt pan and made a dark chocolate hazelnut cake dusted with powdered sugar and served with a chocolate hazelnut Irish whiskey sauce.  The kids sang "happy birthday" and had seconds on the cake.  As I was snuggling Michael tonight, he told me that Alexander loved his cake.  It was all I could do not to break down as I hugged him close.

Happy birthday , sweet cuddlebug...  May all your moments be beautiful until I hold you again.

Thursday, November 22, 2018

Thankful 2018

If you know me in real life, then you most likely know my feelings on Thanksgiving.  (Spoiler Alert: It's not a holiday I dig.)  You'll find me much more in tune with the "Day of Mourning" that many Indigenous People hold to on the fourth Thursday in November in lieu of the typical Pilgrims-and-First-Persons-let's-all-sing-Kumbaya-around-the-fire-with-a-turkey-Hallmark holiday.  My mom is a tribal person and, while we made turkey and all got together on Thanksgiving, in my home growing up, it was the day after Thanksgiving that was the big deal: she would make chicken and dumplings (sometimes turkey sandwiches, too, if there was enough turkey leftover) and eggnog and we would trim the tree and our house for Christmas.  Being "thankful" was supposed to be a daily thing, not something we relegated to a Thursday dinner where we stuffed ourselves beyond recognition. Good food and lots of cooking, yes.  But the holiday itself... No.

When Peter and I married, his mom loved to cook Thanksgiving so it was something that became our tradition.  She does Thursday and then Friday, folks come to my house for leftovers (tomorrow, they will be transformed into a leek, gruyere, turkey quiche and salad!)  Yet, today, I feel especially thankful.

It's been 9 days since I lost my cool with the kids.  9 days since I've felt that familiar anxiety that eroded our home with its rage and frustration and anger and sadness.  9 days since I've felt like I'm not the mother I wanted to be.  It's been 9 days since I woke up feeling like "Oh God... Another day to get through", feeling like I'm already behind before I've started, wanting to just hurl through the hours until it's over and I'm laying in bed again, awake, wondering how to ever make it better.  For eight mornings, I have woken up with hope. 

I don't know that I have believed the people who touted how amazing CBD was or how it literally changed them overnight.

But it has.  Things are different.  And while I fully expect to fight or to argue or to have issues arise, the person who is facing life is different. 

I knew that I would be off from teaching this week for the holidays so I had said to Peter that I wanted to take the kids on a field trip.  They've been begging and, since I teach in the afternoons, it's a bit tough to try and figure that out.  Not to mention, he now works 40 minutes away from home and we still only have one car, so trying to figure everything out is hectic and stressful.  And I hate field trips.  So there's that.  But I digress.  I knew that I needed to and that I should.  And so, preCBD, I decided to suck it up for the team and plan one, even though I knew it would be the same way it always is: a near miss disaster that usually involves a frustrated mom barely holding her shit together as she tries to convince herself not to cry while driving home at the end of the thing, spent and useless.

Peter had a work happy hour and so we loosely laid out a plan.  Someone we would get him to work and I would do a field trip to central PA, then (since I would drive by his exit anyway) we would stop and join him for dinner after happy hour, then drive him home.  Because I'm me, I had a full fledged plan on how this day would schedule in my head.

Which meant that, on Monday, when life threw a monkey wrench in to the plans, I would have an utter meltdown because now what?  My plan was useless!  I.COULDNT.POSSIBLY.DO.THIS.WITHOUT.A.PLAN.

Instead, I calmly told Peter what I needed at a minimum to be able to functionally do a field trip.  He listened and told me what he needed to do that day.  We came to a loose format and, although I couldn't plan for the multiple contingencies that I needed, I was able to wake up feeling positive about the proposed outing.  We dropped Peter off at work and decided to go to a local McDonald's with an indoor playland (this is our typical field trip "treat"; for some unknown reason, the kids love McDonald's pancakes and this has been their field trip breakfast for the last few years.) 

Just as we are approaching the McDonald's, not five minutes after dropping Peter off, awful happens: Lucas throws up.  All over himself.  All over the car.  Everywhere.  He's crying and all I see (and smell) is vomit.  And I'm driving, so I can't just stop.  I can see the McDonald's and I pull in.

Now the me of two weeks ago would already be melting down and probably talking to myself about how pointless even trying to have a good day is and how things always go wrong- you know, being extraordinarily unhelpful because the poor kid did something he had zero control over. 

Instead, I'm calmly talking him (and the other kids) through the mess and the parking.  I don't have anything to clean up, but I figure out a plan on the fly, dumping a bag of Peter's to-be-dry cleaned suit into the back so I can use the bag, getting as many wipes as I can, and starting to clean Lucas and the mess, getting him stripped, cleaned, and dressed and cleaning up the puke, all while the other kids are now laughing and joking (and I'm contributing).  We get everything squared away and I get all five kids out and we walk into the McDonald's...

Where we are greeted by a giant sign on the playland saying it is closed for renovation.  Something that they neglected to mention on their website when I was searching for indoor only playlands.  The next closest one?  No joke- it's near our house.  40 minutes away.  And in the opposite direction of where our planned field trip was.

The kids did not want an alternative and since I was trying to make this a fun day for them, we loaded back into the car and proceeded to the McDonald's- 2 miles from our house.   We listened to Minecraft parody songs, sang, laughed, and finally, over half an hour since we planned, the kids were playing while I ordered enough pancakes to feed a small army.

We ended up having a blast of a field trip (and I can honestly tell you that I don't remember the last time I didn't have a panic attack on a field trip trying to keep up with 5 kids in 5 different directions).  We went for ice cream afterwards at a dairy.  Again, no issues.  We drove back to meet Peter but I got there too early; he wasn't even leaving for happy hour.  So, instead of lamenting what I would do, we went grocery shopping to pick up a wreath for our front door and to get a few things for the desserts we were making (together no less) for Thanksgiving. 

5 kids....  A busy Wegman's at rush hour...  The Tuesday before Thanksgiving.  Can you picture this?  I'll give you a second.... Are you seeing it?

It was fine.  We got what we needed.  We picked out a wreath for the front door and a hanging for the side door.  The kids got ingredients for our baked goods.  We checked out.  The woman next to me actually commented on how laid back of a mother I am (ME???  SERIOUSLY???) and how she isn't that calm and collected with her 2 kids, let alone "Oh-my-is that...3-4-5?"

We got into the car, where Ana proceeded to cry because she was DONE with the car, and then fight rush hour to go a mile or so to where the happy hour is.  We get there, get inside, and get dinner going.  Which meant everyone needed to go to the potty and there was a spilled drink and people wanted then didnt want their meal.  You know... Life with a bunch of little people.

It wasn't that big of a deal.  It turns out when you are calm and polite and you don't escalate the situation by adding your own anxiety into the mix, you are able to keep them relatively calm.  Who knew?  (Peter swears he knew... )

The couple with three kids next to us commented on how well behaved the kids were as I was double checking the booth after Peter paid the tab and started taking them all to the car.  They asked how we managed to keep the entire family so pleasant when they were struggling with their 3 and couldn't imagine what life was going to look like as people got older.

I can tell you, two weeks ago, they wouldn't have asked because I wouldn't have been approachable.  After dinners out with the average disasters that are likely with little people around a table, I tend to throw off a "leave me the hell alone" vibe.

On the way home... Lucas puked again.  All over everything.  About 5 minutes from home. 

No freaking out.  I pulled over in the dark and cold.  I got him changed while Peter cleaned up as best as he could on the side of the road.  And, instead of negative thoughts running through my head, do you know what I thought?  "At least there's a second pair of hands.  It makes this a lot quicker!"

We got home, got Lucas a shower, and I snuggled him while Peter helped get the other kids squared away for bed.

Another example of how I can see a mega change: cooking.  I love to cook- ALONE.  It is my happy place and my solace and, although I've smiled at times when the kids ask to help, inside I'm screaming NONONONONONONONO.  WHY DO YOU HAVE TO TAKE THIS ONE THING FROM ME????????

Maya and Bobby love to help and they want to cook, both with me and on their own.  In the last few days, I've let them help.  I've encouraged them.  I've done nothing but given them praise (even as I'm cleaning up a mess).  Today, as I baked cookies that didn't come out, I wasn't thrilled that they were too thin, but it was a shrug as I plated them and moved on.  As the kids cooked desserts, I smiled and laughed with them and helped as needed.  There wasn't frustration or anxiety, about the process or the outcome. It just was.

And it was good.

There have been some physical differences too.  My RA pain is lessened, although I've read that I would need double my current dosing to see hardcore differences.  Right now, I've noticed less swelling and less pain, although my joints are still not in a great place.  I've found that menstrual cramps are greatly reduced.  Since Ana, my periods have been really awful.  Like 600mg of ibuprofen and constant hot water bags pain that is barely touched by either but they are enough to get me through the day.  Not to mention the bitchiness and frustration.  This period, which started a few days ago, has had one day of uncomfortable crampiness that were easily mitigated by hot water bottles and a lower dose of Advil. And I've been sleeping better.

I feel so incredibly thankful for the last week and a half.  The house is a warmer, more cheerful place. We have laughed more.  We have cried less.  It's been more peaceful.  We've been enjoying our time together.

And so, today, I want to sit around the dinner table and tell my family how thankful I am for them- for being able to enjoy them and for not having these moments slip by in a haze of anxiety and frustration.  I'm thankful to have found a way to find myself again and I'm enjoying the family that I'm so blessed to have. 

And I'm so thankful to say that I am looking forward to my days again.

Monday, November 19, 2018

Mind Manipulation

We've all seen it.  The "game day socks" or the "special pen".  Those little crutches that, through fate or luck have been with us with "IT" has happened, so we decide that, every time we are faced with "IT", we have to have that thing!

When Maya was younger, she was upset with me before I didn't let her wear her Giant's jersey to church.  The last time the Giants had played on a Sunday, she hadn't worn their jersey and they had lost.  She was convinced the two were related.  When they lost, there wasn't much I could do to convince her otherwise!  It was all my fault!  (Not those interceptions... Not at all!)

We all have those little things that put our heads in the right space.

Guess who has had a smoothie every day since starting the CBD... Even before coffee.... Yeah.  This girl.

When I bought the CBD oil from the co-op, they had a smoothie ready to go in the cold case, so I grabbed it.  I like green smoothies; it was good.  Basic: just water, kale, spinach, apple, banana, and pineapple.  I decided to pick up the ingredients from the store.  You can always use a good smoothie, right?

Well, now it's become some sort of a "I've had one every day since I started and I've kept my cool under fire and things are good so.... Maybe I should have one today."

I know.  It makes zero sense and, consciously, I know that having a smoothie is just that: having a smoothie.  But subconsciously???  Maybe I should go pull out Maya's Giant's jersey for Sunday's game...

Saturday, November 17, 2018

How Indeed?

I read this is an article today: "They don’t listen and I have to repeat myself, and I snap. They argue, and I snap. They make a mess, and I snap. They don’t help clean up, and I snap. I am living in a state of anger. How unfair is this to my children? They aren’t allowed to be kids..."

How indeed?  When kids are penalized for being children, how do they learn to mature through their immaturity?  Are they rushed through, forced to grow up early?  Are they forever trapped in that place where they just want to be a child, regardless of age?  What lasting effects do situations like this have?

The scenario weighs on my mind.  While I had my struggles , up until Lucas was born, things were pretty good.  It was harder after Michael, once we started homeschooling.   The emotional impact of feeling like there was no place for us and homeschooling wasn't just the best option but the only one was really hard and it was magnified because I was still coaching cross country and was leading a Girl Scout troop.  I could see all that we were missing.  But by the time Lucas came along, with the stress of homeschooling, special needs, another baby on top of a toddler and two six-year-olds...  Then the PPD...  Man... That changed everything .  Even after climbing back from that ledge, there was Ana's pregnancy and then more devastating news...  It's been a rough go of it, culminating most recently in the death of my father-in-law.  The last few years have just been epic - and not in a good way.

During this time, my anxiety and frustration have grown... And grown... And grown. Alongside that, my plate has gotten heavier with task after task. These don't make for a happy household.

It goes without saying that a house full of kids (at this point: 9, 9, 5, 3, 18 months) is going to be loud and messy and chaotic.  Add in the fact that all of them are home all day , every day  and you can add the word "VERY" in front of that.  Add in a mother who teaches every afternoon from 3-7, who runs a very emotionally impactive service organization, who writes and publishes (and needs the time to research and edit), who volunteers for about 15 hours a week in various functions...  And you now have a built in recipe for disaster.  Welcome home!

As I begin my new path (and , so far  life after CBD does feel new)  I am left wondering how much damage the last 3-4 years has caused my kids.  How much my anxiety, frustration, and anger has scarred them.  Hope much their witnessing of the stress and pain of these last years has impacted them.  How I can undo any damage that is there.  More than anything in this world, I love them and want the universe for them.

Friday, November 16, 2018

Snowed In

The northeastern U. S. (and down into the southeastern as well) was slammed by a fall snowstorm yesterday, our first snowfall of the season.  Sitting here with my hot coffee, I'm watching the sun start to melt through the pristine white that covers my deck and lawn.  It's beautiful.  It feels apropos.

I'm on day 3 of the CBD oil each morning.  Already, I've noticed positive differences.  The things that trigger my anxiety aren't.  The last few days, I haven't yelled.  I haven't sighed written the kids asked to help me do something that I simply needed to get done and didn't really need to delay.    I haven't gotten frustrated when something outside of my plan has happened; I've articulated my feelings and gone on about the day.  I'm here, taking a few minutes to just write and reflect.

Yesterday , caught in snowstorm traffic, I was almost in an accident due to careless driving.  I didn't yell at the other car or shout obscenities from the hidden universe of my own vehicle.  On the way back from the store , traffic was crawling   Ten minutes took over twice that.  I wasn't my typical , annoyed self.  It just was.

As the kids want to snuggle at night and pick the television programming (usually while I'm decompressing study a stressful day ), I've found myself not really caring about what's on the TV and, instead, just soaking in the time with them before they fall asleep. 

Michael looked up at me the other night as I held him while we watched a football game and said, "You're the best mommy ever.". He hasn't said that in a long while.  And it's because I haven't been.  I've been barely breaking even, trying to stay afloat.

I know that part of it is my stress load.  I have to start saying "yes " only to the things I truly need or want in my life, giving everything else a "no". There will be someone else to step in. 

I only have this one life   I want it to matter in the right ways. 

Wednesday, November 14, 2018

Digging for Hope

There comes a time where you have to accept that you aren't being your best self - that you aren't living up to who you are supposed to be.  When you look into your own eyes and cannot find anything you seem worthwhile  that day is the now.  For me  that day was yesterday.

The last few months have been a struggle.  In the fall, I began working 4 hours each afternoon in a community classroom, working with local 3rd graders on math and ELA skills.  While I can honestly say that I love it (and I really do), it is 20 hours each week that aren't going to other things.  It's great to get out of the house, it's great to make a difference, and it's great to feel like I have a real financial contribution to the family.  But it's hard because it's another pull on time.  

Starting the job coincided with Peter transitioning into a new position within his company, but at a site 30-40 minutes away . He changed his schedule to accommodate my hours; in addition, my MIL is amazing and comes each afternoon. It also hit at when our homeschooling year (g5 for the twins, g1 for Michael , gPK3 for Lucas, and g "I'm a PITA" for Ana) .  Needless to say, stress has built a permanent seat at the table. 

The fall hasn't been easy.  We are really settling into our "quaint  farmhouse  (which feels like 3500sqft of renovation projects most days!) and my FIL passed away in early October from cancer.  It's been tough.  Add to that the growing pains of five very unique kids,  2018 being the 10th birthdays for Nicholas & Sophia (February) and Alexander (November), and all of the volunteer obligations that church and scouts bring to the scene, and it feels like so much.

Peter and I hit the big 20 in June and, while I'm enormously proud of our relationship , it, too, has had to cope with the added stresses and issues.  (Monthly date night is a wonderful and needed help.). We also have been working through individual personal issues which, while truly a gift is also hard at times.

Which brings me to yesterday... 

A day from hell...  Really .

My anxiety and frustration have been really banging the gong recently.  The kids are driving me batty and I have found myself turning inward to my eating disorder to regulate my emotions when things are especially bad which, of course, leads to nowhere good.  (As part of my personal mental work, I've been seeking to deal with the underlying issues and causes of my ED , but that is another post for another time...)

So yesterday ...  I'm fighting a cold and not feeling well... Trying to get meals done ... Cleaning up mess after mess... Unable to get school started because of the chaos.

I mean screaming at the top of my lungs, nasty voice lost it.  The kids had this look like the banshee had been unleashed, Maya starts to cry - trust me when I tell you  it was horrible and no amount of apologizing made me feel better.

In the afternoon, as I got ready for work and looked at myself in the mirror, the ghost staring back wasn't me.  It wasn't the survivor, the writer, the marathoner.  It wasn't the singer, the helper, the mother, the wife.  It was this empty,  lifeless shell.  It was this memory of who I was.  It was a corpse, cold and dead.

Give me one reason why the world would be better with you in it, the voice in my head demanded.

And I couldn't 

In that moment, I couldn't think of a good reason.

I finally thought about the families I've helped cope through the worst moments of their lives: pregnancy losses, infant deaths, eating disorders, affairs...  I have made a positive difference in their lives.  But in my own , it seemed, positive differences seemed just out of reach. 

The panic attacks, the anxiety and rage, the crying... The lack of joy in the every day, traded instead for the stress of all that has to be done.  One thing compounded on another, until all that I had was the weight of the tasks breaking my back and eating into my shoulders .

When I texted Peter that my epitaph should read, "She helped others but couldn't help herself", something snapped   I finally broke down and told him that I needed a change. The yelling at the kids... The always being frustrated and upset... My RA flaring... Those "the kids /Peter would be better off without me" feelings rearing their ugly head.  I needed to take my own advice--the advice I've given to numerous clients and friends - and take control. 

To find a way.

That led to me sitting outside of a local Co-op, having just bought a month's supply of Charlotte' s Web CBD.  Between teaching part time, homeschooling, the five kids going through their different kids things, Bobby's special needs, running MHB and working with families (which is my soul work but is emotionally tough, too; this month alone, I've had three pg losses and another couple who are expecting their child to not survive long after birth- as we go into what would have been Alexander's 10th birthday). 

So...  I brought home my extra strength bottle home and took the first dose, hoping that this will be the secret to letting go of the weight of this anxiety and stress.  That feeling it fade will return me to the parent I used to be and free me to start saying "no" to all of the things I need to not fill my limited time with while saying "yes" to the life I want.

Life is too short and we only get this one chance.  I don't want to look back and think I let everything slip away when I had a chance to be better  

Friday, August 3, 2018

An Overdue Update

This space remains as a memorial to my babies who have died, as an homage to my living children, and as a reminder that we are far stronger than we think we are. 

Bobby and Maya will be 9 in a month.  It's crazy to even write that.  (It was crazier to celebrate Nicholas and Sophia's 10th birthday and to know that Alexander's is mere months away...)  Michael turned 5 last month...  Lucas turns 3 in 6 weeks or so...  Ana hit her first birthday at the end of April.  It dawned on me as I checked in here that I didn't even write a birth story for Ana.

So much stays the same and yet... So much changes.

This place is so dear to my heart and yet my time is so limited that I rarely can update.  I can promise to do better, but all I can really say is "I will try".  It's not that I don't care.  It's not that my pain went away.  It's not that life is all sunshine and roses.  But a life not trapped within a confined wall of grief is my new normal; there are too many children and too much going on for it to be otherwise.

You will notice that the web address to this site has changed.  It's no longer (although typing that will get you here).  As part of the revamping of Mending Heart Bellies (more to come on that in a second), this space now resides at:  It's my hope that, not only will it reach more people who will be helped by my journey, but that also by integrating it into MHB, I will find a way to update it more regularly.

MHB initially started as a way for me to work with bereaved families who were trapped in a nightmare and needed someone to hold their hands while they navigated a place they had never dreamed existed.  As the years have gone by, it has morphed and grown.  I am proud to say that MHB is more than just a place for bereavement, but that it is also a place to grow.  We provide a variety of services now, even though my heart is still very much with the loss and bereavement community.

Life is full and yet there is still that hole in my heart that finds solace in memories and the dreams I had for my children who have predeceased me.  I hope that time gives me the change to share more of this life with you as the road ahead unwinds.

Monday, February 20, 2017

Stories from the Storm: Call for Submissions

Mothers who have lost children: I am currently working on a nonfiction project called "Stories from the Storm", where mothers (in their own words) will share their stories of miscarriage (including ectopic, missed miscarriage, blighted ovum), losses related to poor prenatal diagnosis, stillbirth, and neonatal loss from live birth at any gestational age through the first year of life. I can't guarantee that every story I receive will be included, but if you are willing to share your journey through loss and life after, I would be honored to consider your submission to this anthology devoted to memorializing your children and helping parents as they navigate their lives after loss. (You are also welcome to share your story anonymously, if you don't want your name used.) 

I have received numerous responses to this request through Mending Heart Bellies and via Facebook, and am grateful for the support for this project. 

Please submit your stories with the submission form.

(I'm looking to begin edits on this anthology in the Fall, so submissions are due by Summer 2017.)

Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Writing Through Motherhood

This article was written and abridged for the publisher, Crosshair Press.  You can click here to read their published version.  (And, for what it's worth, abridging an article is hard work.  I think they did an amazing job of keeping the spirit of the article while fitting it into their space.)


Sit down.

Computer on.

Open file.

Deep breath.  Cup of coffee.  Quick reread.  Fingers over keyboard.  Type-

“Mommy, can I have a banana?”

It’s the three-year-old.  He can reach the bowl where the fruit is stored, but he hasn’t quite managed the art of peeling the banana yet.  I get up and grab a banana, ripping through the skin to get him started, and sit back down. 

Another swig of coffee.   Another deep breath.  And go-


The one-year-old has now seen what his older brother has and he’s not amused.  He casts his glances between the bowl on the counter that he’s not yet tall enough to reach and me, sitting at the table.  I get up again and get a banana; this one, I peel, slice, and put into a bowl.

Sit down.  Deep breath.  Reread the same section I’ve just read and think about what to write next.  Fingers hover and-

“Mommy, can I play on my tablet now?  I’ve finished with my reading.”

Seven-year-old.  She’s a crazy fast reader and, although she told me that she was reading three chapters of her higher-than-grade-level fiction book (which I thought would buy me a tad more time), she’s done already and lingering by the table.  She reads through the paragraph on the screen.  “What’s that word mean?” she says, pointing to the name of a demon.

“Nothing, it’s- yes, yes, you can tablet for a little while.”  I try to shoo her away without being annoyed.  She bounces to her room with a smile and, in moments, I hear a Minecraft tutorial video start.

I exhale a deep breath.  I can totally do this.  I’ve promised myself that I’m going to try and write 250 words throughout my day.  That’s about a page- surely, I can get that done.  I rub my temples which, now, are starting to throb to the beat of the catchy tune playing on the Signing Time DVD that I thought would keep my younger two happy for twenty minutes (before the banana eating began) so that I could write those 250 words.  I take the familiar position of a writer at their computer and, for the third time, reread a paragraph that now I’m starting to think I can quote by heart.

“Mommy?  Mommy?  Mommy?” 

It’s my other seven-year-old; while his twin sister was working on reading, he was working on handwriting and spelling.  As a child with autism, he tends to be very routine oriented and once his script starts, I know that I should settle in to make the correct responses.  I close the computer and vow to try again later.

Writing as a mother to young children has its challenges; writing as a homeschooling mother adds a new layer to the work-life balance.  While I am secure in the knowledge that home education is the correct choice for our family, I also feel as though I am in a constant battle between what needs to happen (schooling, play, housework, etc.) and what I need to happen (writing, preferably with coffee while it’s still hot).  The heart and mind are willing, but the flesh is weak.  If I had to select a piece of my life that I struggle most with, it isn’t the sleepless nights but rather the writingless days.

All of this being said, I do get work done.  My husband is a great source of support and he will put in a long day as a scientist only to come home and, without a break, move right into the role of World’s Most Fun Daddy.  He will take the kids to the playground or into the backyard, weather permitting, or downstairs to our family room, where they can burn off that nonstop energy all children seem to possess.  While most weeknight playtimes are enough for me to get dinner finished, those weekend Daddy Times have been the biggest help to getting more than a few hundred words written during the daylight hours.

My in-laws live close by and, for years, have taken the older kids for two mornings each week.  Recently, my youngest started going with the older three, which has given me a few hours to work on different tasks.  Writing hasn’t yet made the list, but I hope to change that!

Last summer, I even hired a preteen mother’s helper so that I could finish the final edits on my last two books.  Those eight hours each week were a godsend and my children all benefited from their summertime big sister.  When our newest baby joins us in late spring, one of my first plans will be to line my helper up for some summertime hours.

Even with the additional assistance, I find that writing takes a backseat to everything else going on in my life.  While I feel an internal need to write every day, there is a physical need to make sure that my family is fed, has clean laundry, isn’t living in squalor, and that my children are educated according to their strengths, weaknesses, and abilities.  The two “needs” don’t compare and, when something has to give, it’s writing that does. 

We have tried a variety of methods to combat this as a family.  I’ve tried leaving immediately after dinner to get writing done during the week, but if I’m hiding downstairs or in my bedroom, eventually the kids find me.  Writing in their presence, even with additional adult help, isn’t possible without the noise and interruption that young children naturally create.  Getting out of the house isn’t always feasible; while I love our local coffee shop, by the time I get there, grab a drink, find a workspace, and get myself set up and ready to work, I’ve lost at least a half hour.  Factoring in that I need to be home an hour or so later, can make the entire process frustrating. 

Part of this is me and my personality.  I’m most comfortable working in my own space; since having children, “my space” has become “our space”.  In some instances, it’s become “their space” completely.  Trying to recreate my non-mothering writing life does nothing but continue to inspire my frustration and yet, it is my fall back.  If the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again while expecting a different result, then I am the textbook image of a lunatic.  However, I find my writing habits to be some of the hardest to break.

So, what’s a writing mother of young children to do?  Is there any hope of balancing the homeschooling of toddlers and primary aged children with the work and research of writing? 

Before I had children, I had a steady writing gig for a tristate magazine and wrote a handful of articles for other publications while working full time as a branch library manager.  Being a librarian had been a childhood goal alongside writing and it felt like such an achievement to balance both.  Yet, it wasn’t easy.  I researched and wrote instead of spending time relaxing with my husband; he had his own desires and tasks, so this didn’t cause friction, but it was still a sacrifice.   I was willing to make it, as was he, in the pursuit of a byline and a paycheck.  When my twins were toddlers, I finished and published two books, thanks to part-time preschool; it took me years before I had anything publication ready after that.   

I struggled to meet my publisher’s desires and the needs of my growing household and, by the time my now three-year-old was starting to walk, I was wondering if I would ever write anything other than a sporadic blog post again.  But it was when he was a new walker that I began working on what would become the sequel to a previous novel and I started the trilogy that has fulfilled me as a writer.  Was it easy?  No.  Did it take way longer than I would have thought?  Yes.  But nothing worth having comes easy and, at least in my life, it seems that nothing worth its weight comes without some struggle.

Adding in another baby (and with his birth, a nasty bout of Postpartum Depression), I once again was in the funk of the wordless writer.  Everything suffered before I got a hold on my life again, but it was that experience that birthed my most popular article to date.  I have received letters from countless women to thank me for sharing my walk through the darkness of PPD that they, themselves, had tread.  Who would have thought that from that pain, there would have been the solace that a writer can only find through writing?

Adding children into my writing career has been hard.  The needs for my time and attention are multiplied while both are greatly diminished.  My writing resume boasts fewer lines post children than it did before and, in some ways, I suppose this can be viewed as a failure.  However, as I look at it, I see something else.  I see six books, a handful of articles, and a life well lived.  I see a stack (albeit a small one) of things that I’ve created next to the most beautiful, compassionate children- children that I’ve helped to raise, shape, and love.  Children who have done the same to me.  We often think that it is we who teach our children, but that misses the mark.  Without my children, I wouldn’t be who I am today.  Without them, my best writing would have never happened.  I never would have written my most recent trilogy, if not for our family’s introduction to the autism spectrum and all the beauty and pain it entails.  I wouldn’t have shared a journey through PPD, had I not battled through eight months of hell after my youngest son.  These are, quite possibly, my best works; without the hardship of working through the challenges, they never would have happened. 

As I write, my children play around me underfoot.  It is loud and messy.  There are constant interruptions.  The part of my brain that longs for the quiet of a library and a cup of hot coffee is annoyed beyond measure.  But the part of me that is evolving into a homeschooling mother writer- an evolution that is over seven years in the making and continues to be shaped daily- looks at the chaos with a smile.  My daughter plays with my youngest son, teaching him how to make melodies on a toddler piano.  My three-year-old splits his time between reading to his action figures and kissing my belly, telling his baby sister that he can’t wait to meet her.  My older son is practicing sign language and singing to me, stopping to use his newfound “excuse me” to show me something new every so often.  Is it ideal for working on the great American novel?  Probably not; but it’s still absolutely perfect.