Tuesday, August 29, 2017

How blogging is going to help me fight my addiction to social media

The summer of 2017 will go down in our family’s history book as the one of massive upheaval and change: new house, new job, new school, new town, thrown in with a dose of career change and a new-ish baby.  No big deal.  Everyone has been dealing with the change in their own unique ways, for better or for worse.  My children, God bless them, have had their fair share of intense squabbles, and I’m trying to be as patient as possible. Everyone has lost a sense of control of their environment, and their stress has been manifesting itself. 

I tend to shut down in the midst of too much change.  My brain short-circuits and I find myself escaping the massive to-do lists by easier, less intentional activities.  I used to allow myself to become absorbed by a good Sudoku. Nowadays, however, it’s been Facebook. 

I know it robs too much of my time.  I know it messes with my attention span.  I know it’s ultimately an avoidance of dealing with my own anxieties, and yet, I am constantly drawn to my sleek phone and that little blue icon.

Lately I’ve found myself wandering rather aimlessly in my home, looking despairingly at unfinished projects and cluttered corners and hearing too many opinions in my head.  Too many lists, too much advice, and way too little of my own voice.  By mid-morning I've had to fill up my coffee mug yet again to jumpstart myself from the slump, but it has only ended up making me a jittery, irritable grouch.

I’ve been reaching for the phone instead of doing the dishes.  I’ve been lingering a little too long reading that insignificant article about that celebrity.  Ultimately I’ve been hiding from this one truth: Moving to a new place is lonely.

So I turn to the immediate stimulation.  Social media is quick entertainment.  It’s distanced relationships.  There is no mess and no uncomfortable interaction.  There is a sense of control, as I choose what to click and who to follow. 

And yet, it’s completely superficial. The mindless scrolling produces so much noise, but so little substance. 

Because to have good friends you have to be a good friend.  And frankly, I am not good at that.  It means I have to put myself out there, I have to say, “Here I am! Here are my flaws and insecurities and my quirks and awkwardness.”  It also means I have to listen to the other person, to hear about their own struggles and triumphs, and to put my own story on hold for a few minutes. 

This weekend I was blessed to attend the Catholic Women’s Blogger Network at the amazing Ana Hahn’s house.  The experience was surreal in that I got to meet, in person, so many inspirational writers that I had previously only met on the screen.  They were real, beautifully authentic, funny, and full of joy.  And the truly remarkable thing was that they interacted with each other like true friends will do.  I did not witness small talk and guessing games (What’s the name of your blog again?). There was genuine and graceful conversation (It’s so good to see you again!  I loved reading your latest post about your new e-book.  How is your husband doing?).  And even though I had never attended this conference before, and even though my blog is virtually unheard of, they welcomed me with warm smiles.

By the end of the day, I was hugging these women.  I was laughing with them.  (But I was certainly NOT jumping on the trampoline with them.)

I was able to look in their eyes and find commonality. 

Yes, Victoria, there is community in the blogging world.  We support each other with comments and link-ups, the experienced and popular bloggers sharing their expertise with the new kids on the block.   

Putting a face to many of the witty and thoughtful blogs that I follow gave me hope and purpose.  I will continue to write so that I can connect to these courageous women.  I will take more time to read their own work because I will be supporting and participating in our community.  That is not to say that I will neglect meeting folks in our new town.  There will be plenty of opportunity to meet fellow parishioners, soccer moms, and school families.  But it will take time.  For now, at least, I have a venue where I can share my personal victories and vices.  

(Photos courtesy of the lovely Rosie Hill.)

Friday, August 11, 2017

Back in Action (7QT)

I’m baaaack!  It’s been a while since I have posted anything (good reasons for that, perhaps explained in another post), but I thought now is as good a time as ever to get back into it. I have missed writing.  Even though, admittedly, by the end of the day I feel so fried from breaking up endless sibling squabbles, feeding five littles (simultaneously! And three times a day!), and the maddening to-do list that has so many checks unanswered.  Too often the last thing I want to do is a brain-requiring activity. But the fact remains that I have SO MUCH MENTAL ENERGY just swarming around in my head with nowhere to go. Writing is a release for me, and even if my corner of the cyber world is small and nearly unnoticed, I at least can sleep a little more soundly.  Like children, the thoughts in my head have to get their ya-ya’s out.

I thought I would take advantage of the 7 quick takes format to update everyone on the big changes in the Lynch household:

1.       We have a new Lynch Little!  Baby Lynch #5 was just before Thanksgiving.  Here he is at eight months:  

2.       Hubby got a new job! My dear husband has moved out of the classroom and jumped into fundraising.  He is working at a real gem of a school, Chelsea Academy (check it out!). 

3.       We have a new address!  And I never want to move again.  Blerg.

And yet...the swing set has been resurrected.

Oh, and did I mention that we are right around the corner from Shenandoah National Park?  So there's that.

4.       We are doing something completely different for school! It’s not homeschool.  It’s not public school.  It’s actually not even Catholic.  It’s Montessori.  I am a public school gal, so the Montessori method feels kind of out of my comfort zone.  But I think it will be a great fit for our very independent and curious kids.  

5.       We go to a new parish! And it’s huge! It's been an adjustment going from teeny tiny mission among the dairy farms of south central PA to a packed church of over 1200 families (you mean there is more than just one Mass on a Sunday?).  We went from feeling like the oddball, weird Catholic family with five kids to one of many large families.  It's awesome, but overwhelming at the same time.  

6.       Our kids have grown! Kids' ages are 6 (x2 of course, because twins!), 5, 3, and 8 months. We are in the throws of potty-training (I feel like I ALWAYS have a child who is potty-training), loosing our front teeth, and even beginning to read.  Baby can sit up but hasn’t quite figured out how to scoot or crawl, which is perfectly fine with me 😊

It's all good.

7.       I’m reading a new book! Trying to read more, exercise the brain, get the mental ya-ya’s out, etc.  I have had this one on my to-read list for many months.  Highly recommended.  Stay tuned for my review.

Find more 7QT's at This Ain't the Lyceum!  Kelly has some great tips on keeping a clean home when you actually have a lot of people living in it.  Happy weekend!

Friday, May 1, 2015

I don't know how you do it

I hear the question often, and I've finally gotten to the point where I don't get offended.  Most people are generally curious when they see a small brood of little people dancing around my legs.  I am going to take your question most literally and attempt to answer it here.

For the well-intentioned comment, "I don't know how you do it," let's first define the "it".  My house is often very messy, jobs are unfinished by the end of the day, the family menu is pretty basic and mostly not organic, and I am usually vegging out in front of the TV with my feet up once the kids are all in bed.  So in a lot of ways, the "it" is not very spectacular.  What do you mean by "it"?  That I keep the kids alive?  Well in that case, here are some quick ways to explain how I survive the day.

1.  The kids play together.  This is primarily the way I can get things done throughout the day.  With four kids in one house, there is always a play date happening.  Someone always has an idea for playing....as soon as breakfast is over there are always activities, suggested by the kids.  Obviously little kids' attention spans are short-lived, they do squabble over toys, and often their play gets LOUD, so it's not like I get hours to myself while they play peacefully and quietly.  BUT those dishes I never loaded in the dishwasher after last night's dinner?  I usually can count on at least 15 uninterrupted minutes to clean up the kitchen while they build the latest Lego castle.

2.  Naps.  There are actually only a few times during the day when I have to direct all four children at the same time (mealtimes and bedtimes are the intense moments).  But during the remainder of the day, they are often either entertaining themselves (see point #1 above) or are sleeping.  As in, not mobile, not hungry, not whiney, not anything but conked out safely in their bed or crib.  And even if only one of the Lynch Littles needs to snooze, that afternoon nap is sacred.  I count on it for the child's and my own daily regeneration.  Of course, the other thing I count on is ironically...

3.  No Naps.  Wait, what?  Allow me to explain.  The youngest of the Lynch Littles is at an age where he really can't avoid the afternoon nap, even as much as he fights it.  Even if we are all on the go, he inevitably will fall asleep in the car, or in the stroller.  But the older ones generally have outgrown that stage.  I originally thought I would be in a state of mourning when they dropped the nap, because that afternoon time was so integral to my sanity.  But as I discovered, dropping the afternoon nap equated with an earlier bedtime.  It has also meant that once they are in bed, they stay there.  Bedtime has become so much easier since they gave up the nap.  But wait, you say, there still are kids that need my attention during that afternoon sacred time.  Which brings me to my next point:

4.  TV.  OK, I realize that I may have invited all the perfect parents out there to criticize my decision to let my kids watch TV in the afternoon.  Go ahead and write your nasty comments.  Because honestly, I have very little guilt about allowing my kids to watch age-appropriate shows from PBS for a limited amount of time.  I don't rely on the TV to babysit my kids, but I do take the time when they are watching how Daniel Tiger learns to share so I can catch up on whatever jobs have been interrupted throughout the day.  And sometimes, I even take that time for myself.  I can squeeze in a workout video from my Kindle during a couple of episodes of Wild Kratts!  I even have time to shower!

5. Preschool.  Yes, even SAHM's rely on preschool.  I believe my children benefit from the time they can spend with other children their age, and I believe they can benefit from listening to another adult telling them what to do.  And the verdict?  They love it.  So yeah, I'm perfectly OK with dropping the oldest two off for 2.5 hours, twice a week.  It gives me a chance to breathe from the constant demands of four kids.  It's not an excessively long chunk of time, but enough to be able to think of what I need to do for the rest of the day, and week.  If taking care of my kids is like a track workout, preschool is like the short rest in between intervals.  Preschool also gives me some quality time with the youngest Lynch Littles, and that is invaluable in and of itself.

6. Community.  Even though new life is always joyous, I *may* have panicked a little when I found out I was expecting baby #4.  Who would look after my kids so I could go to my prenatal check-ups?  Who would watch the kids while I was in the hospital?  How would I manage to keep up with the usual laundry and meal planning, all with a newborn?  We live pretty far from family, and the baby was due at the start of my husband's coaching season, and arguably the busiest time of year for a schoolteacher.  But you know what?  My husband's colleagues and their families all rallied.  They brought meals, they allowed me to drop off the older kids for a few hours, they gave me baby clothes and toys, they simply checked in.  The grandparents took their turns to make the 8 hour drive and visit for even a short weekend.  Packages arrived from faraway friends.  Despite all my anxieties, our little baby's birth was a true celebration of life.

Ultimately baby #4 finally taught me to rely on all this help.  When my older kids were first born, I tended to bristle when someone went ahead and folded the laundry, when someone set a plate of food in front of me while I was nursing.  I am strong and self-sufficient, I shouted in my own head!  Stop stepping on my confidence!  It only took the fourth kid for me to realize that my self-perceived independence was really just an outward sign of my own self-righteousness and pride.  With the fourth baby, I had no other choice BUT to lean on others.  I let go of my false sense of control, and it was beautifully liberating.

So that's it.  There is no magic formula or secret system I implement.  And despite all that I've written above, most days are still tiresome.  Joyful, but exhausting.  This parenting gig is hard, no matter how much help you have.

I suppose the greatest answer I have to "how do you do it all" is basically, I don't.  Thanks for reading.

Friday, April 24, 2015

Five Minute Friday

Inspired by Abbey's always-artistic style of writing, I decided to emerge from my winter blogging hibernation and participate in a new link-up.   So this is me putting myself out there, my very first appearance at Kate's site...which is ironic because the theme for today's Five-Minute-Friday is...


Hiding in the Loud

The other night I was lamenting to my husband at how I can never seem to have anything complete: there is always unfolded laundry, the kitchen is still somehow dirty (even though I felt like I was stuck there all day cleaning), I haven’t gotten a chance to exercise, and there are toys everywhere (even though I barked at the kids to help clean up).  And then he gave me a little gem of wisdom:
“It is not about managing four little kids, it’s about creating a home.”

For a minute I started to get it.

And here I am feeling completely lost again, trying to figure this formula out.  The kids are literally running back and forth in our playroom area.  One is dressed, another is half-dressed (pants are optional), and one is still in her pajama’s.  I would like to have lunch.  Do I go into drill instructor mode, ordering them to get dressed and get downstairs?  Do I let them continue to run wild, allowing them to play and be happy, and setting my agenda aside for a little longer?

As Bambi announces to his mom, “Winter sure is long, isn’t it, Mother.” 

Please help me to navigate this impossible ebb and flow of quotidian life, this managing vs. creating.  

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Worth Revisit Wednesday

Trying something new: I'm adding an oldey-but-goodey post to Worth Revisit Wednesday Link-up over at Allison Gingras' blog Reconciled to You.  The post I chose is actually from my other blog,  Catholic Working Mama, but it definitely fits the bill for La Joie Inattendue.  So sweet to re-read these memories from when my twins were barely two!  (And perhaps a good reminder to re-locate those saint baseball cards and introduce them to the younger brothers.  Ahem.)

Read more WRW posts at Reconciled to You and Theology is a Verb!

Giants Meet St. Michael
(originally posted on May 29, 2013)

I never fully appreciated the gift of sacred images and icons until I had kids.  The purpose of oral tradition and visual depictions of sacred history was certainly downplayed in the Evangelical tradition of my own childhood.  In many fundamentalist, "Bible-believing" churches, including the one I attended, a Christian's knowledge of God and faith life come directly from the Bible.  The Bible is the authority.  Unfortunately, this limits the profundity of the Christian faith ultimately to only the literate and so-called educated.  Certainly children of Evangelical parents become introduced to Christianity through the re-telling of Bible stories and pictures they see in Sunday School, but the centuries of thought, philosophy, and Church history are lost when one solely relies on simply reading the Bible; Christian tradition is then grossly incomplete.  That being said, I do not mean to say that the Bible is incomplete, for it is the most complete and sacred Book ever written.  Nevertheless, simple Bible-stories only tell of the faithful heroes who lived in the small window of history recorded and canonized.  What about the scores of saints who lived and died in the faith, and who continue to intercede for us?

I have aimed to tell my twin girls about Jesus and God as early as they could understand.  Whatever interest they show when we are in Mass, my husband and I try to explain.  Most of what they ask is about what they see: stain-glass windows, the images of fish and loaves embroidered on the altar cloth, the statues of Mary and Joseph, and even the Crucifix.  M can recite (as best as a 2-year-old can) the Lord's Prayer, and E can say the Hail Mary.  They understand that Jesus can help them with the challenges of being 2 (sharing, learning to use the potty, and listening to Mom are some of their big prayer requests).  They also know that Jesus heals our boo-boos.  Oral tradition at its best!

But all our explanations about Jesus and His love for us were too difficult for them to apply to their first encounter with a new emotion: fear.  As quickly as their little imaginations had started to develop and invent fun games of pretend princess tea parties, the nighttime imaginations also emerged.  This created an epic bedtime battle (Ironically, it was a Bible story that started it all....I would not recommend reading about David and Goliath before bedtime). I was at my wit's end trying ways to comfort my girls without dragging out a lengthy bedtime routine.  We tried monster spray, a nightlight, we checked under the beds and in the closets.  Unfortunately, despite my theatrics and pleas, a little girl always seemed to end up in our bed at night.  To my disappointment, no matter how much I explained to them that Jesus was watching over them, it didn't sink in.  It was too abstract.

Then an unexpected break.  Another mom from church passed on to us a packet of some pro-life literature.  She also included for the girls a small envelope with 4 saint "baseball cards": each card had an image of a saint on the front and a simple history written on the back.  The images resembled cartoons more than sacred historic icons, but it was exactly their juvenile quality that caught the girls' attention.  The four saints were St. Michael, St. Elizabeth Ann Seton, St. Gianna Molla, and of course, St. Mary.  They listened intently to their stories, but grew especially attached to St. Michael, perhaps because I explained to them that St. Michael chases away the "bad angels".  That night I stuck all four cards on their dresser, exchanged our good-night kisses....and enjoyed an entire night in my bed sans enfant.  The next morning M went directly to St. Michael's card and joyfully announced,  "Mama, St. Michael watching over me!"

Learning about prayer to the saints was one of the prickly points of my conversion.  I was skeptical that prayer to a saint would distract me from my personal relationship with God, or even become an idol in itself.  In my research and discussions with other Catholics, however, I began to understand that prayer to the saints is simply asking them to pray for us, just as I would ask that mother from church to pray that the girls would sleep through the night.  To any skeptical Protestant reading this, let me affirm that God is above all the saints.  Nevertheless, knowing that the saints watch over us and pray for us has increased my understanding of the love God has for His people: not that we would be blessed by only the small number of people who live in the small moment of time as we, but that we would have a team, a cloud of witnesses, so large that it would span generations and cultures.  Saints were ordinary people who struggled with the same sufferings as we do, who overcame, and who speak with Jesus now in Heaven.  How much love does God have for us, that He would give us a family not limited to the living?

The baseball card saints serve as a reminder to the girls that they are not alone at night.  To a two-year-old, Goliath is no match to the image of St. Michael holding his sword high and smiling a goofy, cartoonish grin.  To anyone cognitively limited and/or illiterate (and that pretty much means anyone younger than age 5), icons, artwork, and stories are the window of understanding of God's immense love.  Catholics and Protestants can agree that Christianity is not meant for only those who have the ability to read a Bible.  Stories and images give children and the mentally handicapped access to a holy life.  My girls are learning about how God protects them from all the monsters at night through the images that watch over them.  The images themselves do not protect the girls, but serve as a comforting reminder that they are never alone in the dark.  And that's pretty comforting for the literate Mommy's and Daddy's too.

Thursday, January 22, 2015

7 Quick Takes: Milestones

So I wrote a little something. Then the hubby stumbled upon it on Google+, shared it on Facebook, and BOOM. I check my stats and see over 400 views. I know that is small compared to the many blogs I follow, but it was really a big deal for me. I’m super excited, and maybe blushing just a little from the sudden cyber-attention. So thanks for the love. It is really humbling to know so many people read what otherwise would have remained just a rambling monologue in my own nutty brain.

A friend of mine suggested that this video would make a nice complement to my post:

Yep.  Pretty much.

And then this blog post showed up in my inbox. So much truth! What I loved most was reading that according to some people, four kids isn’t a big family at all….

….which made me wonder, why are larger families less and less of the norm? This post from Mama Needs Coffee provokes a lot of thought.  Has the game of debt truly created so much fear of the future?  Jenny makes a valid argument.  It's all about freedom.

In other news, the baby’s crawling. Which means there will be CD and DVD cases pouring out of our TV cabinet, books pulled from the shelves, blocks dumped on the floor….

But the little guy is so excited he can do new tricks.

(Proud big sis taught him how to pull himself up to stand.) 

Of course, the day when Baby decided to start making his way across the living room floor was also the third day of a brutal cold snap. That particular day the temp never got about 10 degrees. Stuck inside for the third day, wind howling and heat blasting, and wheee! All 4 kids are mobile! But fear not (that's my theme for 2015). Abbey has a great list of indoor activities for the super cold days over at Surviving our Blessings. The Lynch Littles are particularly fond of blanket forts.
A blanket over a crib makes a snuggly little hideout. Good thing the little guy is so willing to share his space. 

Finally, I just wanted to give a big shout-out to the Blessed is She group of writers. The devotionals have been truly inspirational for the daily routine, and I've discovered so much good writing and so many uplifting blogs to follow. Especially during the bleak and bitterly cold days of January, it has been such an encouragement to virtually connect with so many talented and faithful women. You HAVE to check it out. Really.

Thanks to Kelly for hosting 7QT's!  Hop on over and read a few!