Let’s just call this "How the Houghs do Easter" Installment 1…

Good Friday service started at 12:30. I had to be there early because of choir, so I drove over to the church and Brian and the kids met me there. I had a rare moment of quiet in the church. I took the opportunity to say my rosary, choosing to meditate on the Sorrowful mysteries. My mind began to wander, as it often does, as I closed my eyes in prayer. (This used to be something that would frustrate me, the mind wandering that is. But I have finally figured out that this is usually God’s way of guiding me to what I am to pray for.) As I was focused on the Sorrowful mysteries and Jesus journey to Calvary, my mind drifted to a Good Friday from about 13 years ago. Brian and I had taken the kids to church. At the time we only had the three oldest.  (That is so hard for me to even imagine now!) The twins would have been 5 and Jake would have only been 4. (Again, that is so hard for me to remember!) We read through the Passion and the congregation began to line up to venerate the cross. We had explained to the kids that we would all walk up to the big cross that the altar servers were holding and you could kiss the foot of the cross or touch it or just genuflect. This is to represent an expression of gratitude for the amazing gift that Jesus’ cross symbolizes. The kids were a little bit unsure about it, but each of them went up in their own little way venerated the cross. After we were back in our seats, Coley crawled up onto my lap and I noticed that she was crying. I leaned down and quietly asked her what was wrong. She looked at me with tears just streaming down her little freckled face. “It is just so sad!” she said. That moment struck me so strongly. Here she was, only 5 years old, with a very real understanding of what was going on. In her own little way, she realized the gravity of the moment. And she was absolutely right. It was so sad. I felt tears fill my own eyes as I held her. I think of that moment each year on Good Friday and this year was no exception. My prayer intention was that we can all remember that simple little thing. The Passion, the Triduum, the whole Easter story is so sad. But it has one heck of a Happy Ending!
After the Good Friday service, we went home and as is our tradition, we remained unplugged. As a family we don’t watch TV or use any electronics. The kids played outside for a while. We read books and worked on a few last minute Easter decorations. I made dinner, pierogis, fried shrimp, fried fish, homemade french fries and fruit. Basically it was a heart attack on a plate, minus the fruit of course. This is the one meal each year that I know will be completely eaten, actually devoured or inhaled, because Brian and I along with the older kids fast on Good Friday and the little kids do not eat between meals. You would seriously think that the kids hadn’t eaten in months the way that they attacked dinner. It was a pretty laid back evening consisting of bathtime, some reading, The Passion movie (for some) and sleep.
Holy Saturday is always a weird day. It is like a day of limbo. Technically it’s not Lent anymore, but it’s not Easter either. It’s like a weird waiting game all day. Waiting for Easter to come. I felt so emotionally exhausted from Good Friday, but excited for Easter and slightly panicked because I still had a bunch of stuff to do. The weirdness passed quickly because we went to Brian’s Mom’s house for Easter dinner and an egg hunt.
Babee’ and Jonathan in the Great Egg Hunt
Checking out the loot
Hannah and her Band-a-loom slingshot…she was born for the Hunger Games!
Gia getting some air!
I am not quite sure about this face that Aiden is making, but look at his hair. Now you know why we (affectionately) call him Fuzzhead. 
Gia and Noah with their blossoms.
This picture just cracks me up. They all look so funny!
Me and my baby….whether he wants to be or not!
Dinner was delicious and the Great Hunt was “eggcellent”!  Once all of the excitement wound down it was time for DJ, Jake, Isaac, Brian and I to head to church for the Easter Vigil. Coley, being the awesomeness that she is, brought the little kids home. Not only did she make sure that everyone was bathed and ready for bed, but she also let them help her decorate sugar cookies and they all watched Hop. She is a rock star of a daughter and big sister. But this post is long enough for now, so keep your eyes out for the next installment of How the Houghs do Easter….

It’s been a rough week, month, whatever…

Warning!!! This is not a post about a funny kid story, you know like when Jonathan colored himself blue or one where I tell you that he dumped a half gallon jug of vinegar on my hall way carpet. (Unfortunately a true and smelly story…) No, this is definitely not one of those type of posts.

Being a mother is the single greatest blessing that I have been given. It is also exhausting, frustrating and at times, utterly heart breaking. I know that without a doubt, motherhood is the vocation to which I am being called. But there are definitely days when I wish that I could turn a deaf ear to the call, jump in my car and head north or south or anywhere but here. There are the days when nobody will listen to a word that I say. There are days when no matter what I do, everyone is upset with me. Apparently my sole purpose in life is to make my children’s lives utterly unbearable. Being the overachiever that I am, of course I excel at this. Just ask them, I am sure that any of them will tell you, in detail, how horribly mean and unfair I am. Last week, Hannah demanded to know why I insisted on bossing her around. This was after I asked her for the nine trillionth time to wash her face, brush her teeth and comb her hair and…wait for it…change out of her pajamas. I know, I am scarring my children for life. How dare I expect them to be (gulp) clean and hygienic?! The wailing and gnashing of teeth that occurred in my house every morning last week was deafening. What detestable, unfair terribleness was I inflicting on my kids? I made them wear pants to school. Yep, pants. It was a whopping 37 degrees outside and I had the audacity to make them wear pants. My cruelty can be unparalleled.

While these things are typical and normal kid things and (what I believe to be) typical and normal parental actions, it can be overwhelming when everything that you try to do to, and for your kids, is met with resistance. You just want to scream, “HELLO!!! Can’t you see that I am doing this for your own good!!!???” As a mother it is our job not only to nurture and take care of the physical needs of our children, but also to teach them how to be good, functioning, loving human beings. How can you feel that you are anything but an utter failure at this when the tiny humans that you are responsible for battle you at every turn? There are days when I feel that I have done just the opposite. Instead of kind, compassionate and hardworking (and clean) people, I have raised a herd of selfish, angry and lazy (and sometimes smelly) people. It can be utterly deflating.

When I look at my children, I try to see them through the lens of love and delight through which God sees them. This can feel almost impossible when your kids are screaming, “You are the meanest mom in the whole world!” Ouch. I don’t think that they realize how deeply their words can hurt. It is a little bit easier to let it slide when it is one of the littles. They are so young, I don’t think that they realize how hurtful they can be. Besides they are always quick with a snuggle and a kiss. (Not to mention the fact that I can only understand 1/3 of what they say anyway.) A good hug can go a long way to heal a hurt. But when the words are coming form the middle kids or especially the big kids, it can be different. Our feelings get hurt and our heart breaks a tiny bit with each mean or nasty comment. They know that what they are saying isn’t nice. They say it with the intention of hurting. But I don’t think that they realize how much they can hurt us. Just because I am the mom, doesn’t make me invincible. If anything, it makes me more vulnerable. I know how much I love my kids. I know how much I want for them. I know that I would do anything for them, anything. My heart beats for them. As a mom 97% of what I do on a daily basis is for them. To have that thrown back into your face with a back handed comment can be devastating.

Devastating?!? Seriously? Aren’t you being a tad bit overly dramatic?? I know that you are probably thinking that. In fact I have felt that myself. I get frustrated when I get so caught up in the drama of it all. I am the mom. I should be “above” that. But I am not. I am not “above” it. I am, in fact, smack dab in the middle of it. This week has been particularly difficult. Maybe it’s the fact that the weather is anything but springlike and we all have a bad case of cabin fever? Maybe there are just too many hormones floating around this house? Who knows? Maybe I just need my prozac upped? All that I know is that I am exhausted and frustrated. I am sick of battling kids to dress appropriately for the weather. I am sick of battling my daughter to eat every and any meal. I am sick of putting the baby in bed 14 times before he finally stays. I am sick of being the referee of a 30 round wrestling match between 4 little boys. I am sick and tired.

And then it hit me. What did I do the last time I was feeling this way? I started to make myself the priority. I started to take time for me first. I would exercise and pray first and foremost. Once I had my rosary and morning prayers said and my exercise finished, I felt better. I had more energy and more patience. Both of these things had been severely lacking. With more energy and patience, I was a much nicer mommy. I had a better sense of humor and it was much easier to let things roll of my back.  You know things like, “You are the meanest mom ever!” or “You just don’t like me! That’s why you won’t let me wear shorts to school today!” Instead of being so hurt by these things, I would just laugh them off and eventually the screamer would come around too with a sheepish grin and a “Oops, sorry mom.”  I set the tone and mood in this house. When I don’t respect myself, how can I expect my kids to? When I make healthy choices and put my well being first, I have so much more to give to the kids. This last month or so has been so incredibly busy that I have let my exercise slide. There went my energy… Instead of making my prayer time a priority, I was just squeezing it in right before I went to bed.  Adios, peace and contentment…I continued to give and give and do and do for my family, because that’s my job. But instead of recharging my batteries, I let them die out. It got to the point where I had nothing let to give. I am at the point where I have nothing left to give. I have no doubt that tomorrow the kids will still be fighting me at every turn. The difference is that I am going to wake up tomorrow and put myself first. I am going to pray and run and pray some more. I am going to be ready to do my job. My job as a mother can be a thankless, unappreciated, exhausting job. But I know that it isn’t just my job. Motherhood is my God-given vocation. Vocations come with grace and blessings. Right now I need a little bit of a reminder of how big of a blessing my kids are. So I am going to tiptoe back the hallway and peak at them while they are sleeping. Every mother knows that nothing can pull at your heart like an angelic sleeping child. Good Night All!