Motherhood Truths as School Begins

It took me awhile to write this post as I sit back and feel a bit sad that my children are returning to school. Yes, I am looking forward to that schedule, but I’m not going to pretend that our lives were chaotic with no schedule during summer. For everyone who knows me well, knows that I can’t live without schedules. I love to-do lists and planning my day. It doesn’t mean that we are doing something each moment, but I like everything to be in order, it’s one of my obnoxious personality traits. So, yes, it will be nice to have a few hours during the day with two children, instead of all four, since most of the older ones don’t take naps anymore…but it’s also not easy for me to let them go. As I sit and ponder why it’s getting harder for me to send them to school each year, instead of easier, here are a few of the “Mom Truths”that best describe my thoughts as another school year begins.

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Credit: DMHeckenkamp
  • As I stay home with my little ones and get to witness their first words, first steps, and much more, I don’t get to see all these firsts with my older children when they are at school. It’s part of letting them have independence and learning on their own, but I don’t get to see their first smile from meeting a new friend, or the feeling when they receive a treat for a job well done, or how they play in gym class. Yes, I get to hear about it, but I miss seeing these firsts and sometimes I wish I could be a fly on the wall.
  • It’s exciting to know that my children are learning to develop and become independent people as they step out of the house and venture into a new classroom. But, honestly, it’s really hard to let go. It’s hard to not be their only happy place. I’m so grateful that my children have a wonderful school to attend with loving teachers and I know it’s part of motherhood, to them fly, but it isn’t easy.
  • I didn’t always cherish these moments, but I have learned to love any extra time with my children when they desire me to be by their side. They haven’t reached the moody teenage years yet and they still want to sit next to me or hold my hand. As they enter a new grade this year and are another year older, it’s making me more aware that these days are going to end.
  • No matter how tough it is to be in the thickest waters of motherhood with four little ones, it’s getting hard to let this phase go with some of the older ones as they become independent. I am appreciative that the older ones are much more self-sufficient than the 20 month and 3 year old, but it does sadden me to know that they no longer need my help as they once did. I still remember feeding my oldest child yogurt in the living room over seven years ago on a lazy morning. Those were the mornings before I had any children in school and it could be a whole day of play. Now that I focus attention on more than one child, there are many more responsibilities and less time for lazy days.
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Credit: DMHeckenkamp

I am so happy that my children are growing into beautiful people who one day will need to thrive on their own without my help. It’s our job as parents to provide all of these life lessons in order for them to succeed, but as we do, we also give up a bit of ourselves. That is the hardest part. It’s beautiful to love, but it sad to lose a bit of ourselves with each life lesson we teach our children. But, isn’t that the ultimate gift of love? To remember that our children are only on loan to us and they have their own missions in this world. Let’s hope that we are all giving them the tools to succeed and make it a better place for everyone.

Motherhood is More than a Mirror Image

We all do it. We all stand in front of the mirror every morning, some mornings are less hectic than others. But we all stand in front of that mirror looking for the flaws, the pieces of us that only we can see. The pieces of don’t really make us into the person we are inside. This rings true even more so with mothers. There’s something about mothers, who sacrifice each day of their lives for the sake of their family, but only focus on the negatives and I am no exception to this bad habit. It’s time that we truly begin to value our worth and learn to love ourselves as we are. We stand in front of that mirror with self-pity, something my grandmother told me to never have, yet there it is creeping in. But why? Why do we allow ourselves to only focus on the mirror image?

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Credit: DMHeckenkamp

Maybe it’s from the fact that we spend more time getting our children ready than ourselves. Shower? Who has time for a shower?

Maybe it’s because we spend hours making dinner, but only get an opportunity to finish the toddler’s plate of picked-over food. We really can’t blame the toddler for our actions.

Maybe it’s because we no longer find the desire to go shopping for clothing because it either won’t fit or it will only get covered in food from the two year old’s fingers.

Maybe it’s because we would rather spend the time sleeping than taking a shower and putting on makeup. We have all been there.

Maybe it’s because leggings are more comfortable than anything else. Don’t get me started on my opinion of leggings as pants.

Moms. These aren’t good enough excuses. Yes, we have a tough job, one of the toughest as we teach our children how to obey, behave in social situations, and learn life lessons, but they still aren’t good enough excuses.

We are all tired, and yes, there are many different stages of motherhood. Of course, if you just had a baby, you get a pass. If you are going through mental turmoil, you get a pass. If there is a death in the family, you get a pass. But don’t allow these passes to become part of your everyday routine. If we want to teach our children to be upstanding citizens one day, then be their first example. Teaching is more than just speaking words, it is actions. Just like the infamous saying, “actions speak louder than words.” Something my grandmother would repeat to me on a daily basis. What are our actions saying to our children?

Are we telling our children, by our behavior, that only high expectations apply to others? Or are we setting the bar high for ourselves making it easier for our children to follow, because they will follow. Are we showing ours friends, family, and strangers that we have given up on life during this “stage”? Because if that’s the case, then motherhood doesn’t look very appealing to young women.

Motherhood is difficult, but did we really expect it to be easy? There are countless expectations from society and even ones we put on ourselves. Motherhood is a gift, a true vocation of pure selflessness. That doesn’t mean we should take care of everyone else and not ourselves. We must also care for ourselves, because if we don’t, our families and friends will also suffer the consequences.

Motherhood is not a mirror image. What you see is not what you get. EVER. But that is fine. We must only be able to recognize who we truly are within ourselves so that we may help our families thrive and our children learn to grow in virtue and goodness. If we are to look for what is good, true, and beautiful, as mothers, we should be the first to portray that image. For if families cannot be the first to give this gift to society, then what do we have left to rely upon? Because the world is dark and full of heartache, yet, what better place to bring light than through ourselves as mothers and through our children. We can’t change the hate in the world, but we can start by taking care of ourselves which will in turn transfer to our children – the ultimate gift from God.

 

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Credit: DMHeckenakmp

How Do You Like Your Coffee?

There’s something very telling about a person and how they drink their coffee. As a mother, I survive on many cups of coffee, but that wasn’t brought about by motherhood. I was an avid coffee drinker before children. I’d have to say that my coffee taste has changed from a light blend of coffee with cream and sugar to a dark roast with only half and half, no sugar. Have you ever thought what your cup of coffee might say about you?

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Copyright: Danielle Heckenkamp

Black?  Cream?  Sugar?   Flavored syrup?  Whipped cream?  A touch of cinnamon?

Whatever your coffee preference, you will be surprised how it relates to who you are as an individual.  Do you make the most of your talents and experiences while using them to further your passions, career or hobbies?  Or do you sit by the wayside hoping someone will notice your talents and only plan on utilizing them if you are given constant recognition?

Our culture has attempted to eliminate “personal pride” with a fear of offending others who might not have achieved the same as us. That’s no way to live life as God has given each one of us unique abilities. So, instead of comparing, or allowing jealousy to ruin relationships, spend that energy on improving yourself and ultimately for the good of society.

We only get one chance at life, don’t waste your limited time. As a mom, I quickly discovered my need for personal time to decompress and what my talents were most needed in my vocation. That might be through running, cooking, reading, crafting, painting, event planning, whatever it might be, find the time to discover your passions.

What does your coffee drink says about you?


Black Coffee:  If you prefer your coffee without any teasers, then you probably don’t easily change your mind and it’s difficult for you to stray from a consistency.  This is a great quality, as you are very reliable, but be prepared, your opinions may not always be the best for everyone else.  Show your talents, use your God-given gifts, but remember to occasionally step out of your comfort zone. Caught you! This is your chance to take your big dreams and put them into action. Stopping dreaming and start making things happen – you have the abilities.

Coffee with Cream: You can’t drink coffee without cream?  Then you are reliable, organized and flexible.  You are probably stubborn, because unfortunately you can’t drink black coffee or coffee with sugar; you have restricted yourself to a specific taste!  You know what you want in any given situation and can make quick decisions. You are flexible not only with your creamer, but with any curve-ball thrown your way as well. Try to focus more on the details – this might not come easy, but sometimes the details are extremely important. You are able to vary the amount of creamer without freaking out, most of the time…

Coffee with Sugar:  These are the people who love the sweet things in life.  Not just sugar-wise but they take advantage of every adventure life throws at them.  Talk about flexible, these people are willing to try anything.  However, they like to try many things all at once, they get really excited and they may have a difficult time following through as new excitements pop up.  If you want to have a great time, find a coffee-mate who loves their sugar! (These include all of those addicting tasty treats: Frappuccino concoctions and syrup laden lattes)

Espresso: If you are one of the rare people who prefer a shot or several shots of espresso then I salute you. Once in a blue moon this is my drink of choice, but it’s normally after a night of absolutely no sleep or a day I choose to forget. If you drink espressos on a daily basis, and I mean, every. single. day. then you are natural born leaders and like to view life as black and white, but that also means it is difficult for you to let loose and enjoy the sweet things in life. Maybe next time, liven up your espresso with caramel sauce and whipped cream, just for something different. Do the same thing in your life, take a few days off from your demanding job and drink your espresso alone at a coffee shop without your phone (no technology!), you don’t event get a book. This time just sit alone with yourself and think in quiet, if you can do this, then next time choose a book that motivates you to be even a better person.

 

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Copyright: Danielle Heckenkamp                     A fun, yet inspiring book!

Now this isn’t an exact science, but it sure was a great conversation starter at my last dinner party.  It’s your turn. Ask your friend, “how do you like your coffee?”

Finding My Place As A Mother

I had a one-of-a-kind experience last week. For those of you who don’t know me well, I graduated with a BA in Political Science and then earned my Paralegal Certificate after college. I worked several years in the legal field, it was enjoyable, yet stressful all at the same time. After giving birth to baby #1, I made a career change and became a stay-at-home mom. Off and on, I still work for the law firm, but mostly by working at home on extreme part-time hours. Last week, I filled in for a paralegal who was on vacation. It wasn’t exactly full-time hours, but it was close and it was an experience I will never forget.

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I have not worked full-time since having children, and on the tough days as a stay-at-home mom, my mind occasionally drifts to a “calm” office environment – free of the tantrums, demands, and disturbances. Yet, after spending four days working busily at a desk, I missed being home with my children, even the demanding 18 month old. It was nice to have a break from the daily routine and to interact with adults for hours on end, but looking back, it wouldn’t be the best choice for our family long-term.

I can’t even tell you the loads of admiration I have for working moms, because I was barely making it through the day. I was doing pretty good, until I picked up my kids and my energy levels were suddenly depleted. I felt horrible that there was barely anything left for them. Everything became an annoyance, and it wasn’t their fault. They were only missing me. I admire the moms who work everyday out of the home and still run an effective house, while also keeping up with all the family activities. I personally know so many of you. You are truly amazing!

Looking back, I know that the right decision was made when I chose to stay home with the kids. Yes, I miss those moments of completing work assignments and interacting with adults on a professional level, but ultimately, I personally need to be with my children, because that’s what is best for me. We all make choices in our lives, and no matter what any other mother chooses to do (whether work outside the home, inside the home, or to be solely a homemaker), it’s a beautiful choice and I hope that every mom out there is able to truly understand and be appreciative for their role in society. Because, no matter your job, degree, or social standing, all mothers (biological, adoptive, step-mothers, or foster mothers) are remarkable. Mothers make the world a better place, and last week has taught me to appreciate where I am with my family, for it all passes away too quickly.

boysPhoto Credit: @dmheckenkamp

Thanks to that experience, I am more grateful for my role as a stay-at-home mom than ever before. It is truly a gift.

  • I am grateful that I am able to fold piles of laundry during the day, rather than after the kids are in bed.
  • I am grateful that I can change the dinner menu at a drop of a hat, because it’s easy to run to the store during the day. I hate crowded stores!
  • I am grateful that I can wake up and only get myself half dressed before dropping them off. I can always take a shower later.
  • I am grateful that I don’t have to drive the extra distance each day to drop my kids off at my parents’ house during a work day. The additional 2 hours of driving each day was killing me.
  • I am grateful that I can drop off and pick up my children from school. I can be involved in school and after school activities. It’s a luxury!
  • I am grateful that I can have a mini writing session for my book while the 18 month old takes a nap and the 3 year old watches a show.
  • I am grateful that I can do homework with my kids before dinner and then have time with them after dinner to play or read books.
  • But most of all, no matter if I worked in the home or outside the home, I am grateful for the gift of life – my children’s lives. I am blessed to have four amazing children who are so different in their own way, but each exemplify the beauty of God’s greatness through their daily actions, hysterical laughs, or tantrums. For they are truly my world and they are such a blessing to my husband and me. We could not imagine life without them and I am grateful to be at home with them – watching them grow through each milestone.

Surviving Motherhood: It’s Not What I Envisioned…It’s Even Better

Motherhood brings so many different phases. Places we never thought we would go, decisions that seemed so far away when the baby was born, and dreams we thought were simple to attain. We all have dreams and goals for our lives as mothers – whether working out of the home or working in the home. As my oldest reaches her 8th birthday in three and a half months (yes, she has been counting down the weeks), it has brought a sense of reflection for my role and place as a wife and mother.

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It took me a long time to truly value my role as a mom. Yes, it was exactly what my husband and I had wanted and we were so excited to begin a family, but until baby number 4 graced our family, it was a whirlwind experience. Each pregnancy was so different and each child was even more different. I look back at those early years and I was just surviving. Surviving to wake up for the 8th time in one night to nurse an infant. Surviving to stay awake until nap time and entertain the toddler. Surviving to stay on top of the laundry, the cleaning, and the cooking, while also wishing for the next step of motherhood. But what was that next step? Have you noticed that we always wish for the next phase in our lives, but we never know what that entails and somehow we still desire it?

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Looking back, those early years of toddlers and infants were extremely difficult. It was all a new experience for me. My beliefs of what motherhood really included were only slightly true. Somehow, in my dreams, I failed to imagine the screaming two year old who only chose to express himself with a long, loud wail. I envisioned laundry, but somehow I forgot it has to be put into the drawers or hung on a hanger. The thought of cooking for a family sounded creative and fun, but I never thought of the little picky eaters who wouldn’t appreciate the effort (luckily, my husband is very appreciative).

But I eventually learned to call these disappointments “graceful moments”. Small moments of my life as a mom are not what I envisioned. Instead these are moments of self-sacrifice – a true act of love for my family. I don’t have much to give the world through material items, but I can give my love. And isn’t love the greatest gift of all? It is what we all desire in one way or another. We seek love in our spouses, our family and friends, our children, our neighbors, and even from a stranger. A kind word or smile goes a long way.

So through all these small moments, I have realized that motherhood is even better than I imagined. Those sweet kisses and hugs from my children wouldn’t mean as much if I was never tired. Even that screaming two year knows that his mama needs a kiss (even if it’s on my knee while I’m cooking dinner). The self-sacrifices that mothers give and give more each day of our lives is what makes this world beautiful – it continues an ongoing story that has lasted through the ages. So don’t view frustrations and exhaustion as disappointments, they are only small moments of time, but they give us the opportunity to embrace the experiences of motherhood. This may sound like a dream, because in the moment of doing the 5th load of wash with a screaming toddler, it’s difficult to find joy. But we must remember that eventually the laundry will stop, the cooking will slow down, and the screaming toddler will become a 2nd grader and we will look back at those struggling days with joy, because motherhood wouldn’t be such a beautiful vocation if it didn’t involve hard work and self-sacrifice: a true act of love.

 

 

 

Creating a Life for the Common Good

An organized life is a beautiful life – a ripple-effect for the common good. Every now and then we all have those days, or weeks, where everything feels like it’s spinning out of control.  There are just too many things to check off the list, too many appointments in one week and of course this is all equaling to a boat load of stress and tension.  So how can we overcome and get pass this stress, this fast-paced uncontrollable lifestyle.  Well, there is one word to live by that will help organize, de-clutter and slow down this crazy world.  Simplify.

I have learned with life’s experiences that it’s time to simplify and choose priorities.  I know, I know, everyone talks about this, but do we ever actually take a step towards this process?  We are here to give you a few suggestions, steps that have worked for us!  Take what works for you and personalize it for your own lifestyle.

As a mom of four little ones, most of my days feel like this, but then I snuggle with one of those noise-makers at the end of the day and all is right in the world. The craziness truly doesn’t matter, but it’s up to me to find my priorities and create an organized life for myself (as much as possible). When my daily life is organized, I am more at peace, and therefore my family is also happier. It’s a beautiful ripple-effect that will touch every person we com in contact with. It’s time to focus on finding the common good for ourselves, our families, and for the whole of society.

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Simplify, Simplify, Simplify

1. Keep a Schedule.  Day to Day and Month to Month.  This will help you keep track of events, meetings, appointments and day to day tasks.

2. Each day write a small list of your goals.  Keep this list simple and reachable.  If you are able to cross off everything for that day, it will keep you motivated to continue with this the next day and the next day.

3. Keep a cleaning monthly schedule.  This way you won’t forget to wipe the blinds, clean the fans or wash the curtains.  Do one major task each week to spread it out.

4. Remove the clutter and organize your material possessions.  Eliminate what you haven’t used or worn in over a year.  It’s not worth keeping and someone else may be able to use it.\

5. Keep the social events under control, including play-dates, lunch dates with the girls, nights out, happy hours, fundraising events, etc.  Spend more quality time with close friends and family.  Those are the people who matter the most!

6. Admit when your schedule is full and learn to say no.  You can’t do everything and be fabulous at everything, so learn what will fit best into your life and your family’s life.

7. Make family life a priority.  Yes, you may have passions outside of family life and that’s great, but never let those take over your daily schedule.  Your children, husband and close family/friends come first!

8.   Keep your spouse as a top priority and he will do the same for you!

9. Your children are important, as a parent they are your daily gifts and miracles, so take care of them: emotionally and physically.  Not only by clothing them and giving them the daily necessities but providing emotional and loving support.  You are their everything, you are their world!

10. Spend time on yourself.  Whether this means taking a weekly exercise class, fifteen minutes of daily reflection, a walk in the park or a monthly spa date.  Keep a healthy diet, exercise often and drink a lot of water, flush out those toxins.  You need to rejuvenate yourself, often.

Give a Little Love

Take a moment to smile and change the world – any small act of love. Last week I took all four children to the grocery store (I know that’s pretty crazy, right?) and typically my older two like to color pictures and give them as “gifts” to the unsuspecting check-out person. Well, at first I was irritated with myself because I chose the aisle with the crabby lady who wouldn’t crack a smile. My first thought: oh great, she’s going to ignore the pictures and the children will be upset. Note to self – address the situation later in the car. Luckily, my children didn’t notice her mood right away and enthusiastically handed her the colored pictures. The woman apprehensively grabbed the folded papers and assumed they were garbage. She was about to throw them away, but I explained the children made presents for her…and then I waited for her reaction…you will never believe it, but her entire mood changed. The lady loved the pictures and was extremely chatty and kind to the children after receiving the gifts. These little ones who were so excited to color a picture for the check-out person (even though they didn’t know her) completely turned this lady’s day around. I’m sure every nearby shopper heard my huge sigh of relief.

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This experience reaffirmed my belief that adults are jaded (yes, none of us are exempt). We rely too much on our emotions and creating lasting impressions. Adults are self-centered. We truly need to become more like little children and give ourselves completely to the happiness of others. I have heard many people question the deterioration of their own sanity by giving all of themselves to others. Let’s be honest, society constantly asks the same selfish questions day in and day out. “What have you done for yourself today?” “How will you reward yourself?” It starts again with the uncontrollable reward system. Let’s look at this from a different point of view. It’s about time that we love for the sake of loving and helping for the sake of offering unconditional love. Working together, we can create a unified community. The more love and attention I give to my children and husband, the less I focus on myself and interestingly enough, I am transported into a sublime state of happiness. My love has grown leaps and bounds for my family over the years. The more children we have, and the more I dedicate my entire being to the welfare of my family, the more I love them all. There’s an amazing never-ending supply of love. Don’t reserve that love for only close family and friends (even though they greatly deserve it), but spread it to all.

We will never regret loving another person, even if they aren’t receptive, but there will definitely be regrets if we never try. So, instead of “paying it forward” only around Christmas time or a few moments a year when social media reminds us; it’s time to give ourselves (all of ourselves) everyday. Every person deserves to be loved – family, friends, and strangers. We are social beings who desire love, so let’s unconditionally give that love, while also raising our children to do the same, because ultimately, what is life without love?

Bucket List of Unconditional Love

  •  Invite a friend/family member over for dinner who is lonely.
  • Bake your favorite cookies and drop them off at a neighbor’s house.
  • Pick a handful of flowers and visit an elderly relative.
  • Smile at a stranger everyday (you will never be happy in your own little bubble)/
  • Enjoy every  moment with your family and friends. You will never get a repeat. Those closest to us are sometimes the most difficult to love, but all the more reason to show them respect.