Tuesday, January 31, 2023

Ask Me Anything: Ages and Stages

I received quite a few questions along the line of "When do you allow {insert activity} or how do you handle {insert stage}?" So here's a guide to the ages and stages in the Martin house.  Please remember to take this with a huge chunk of salt as I am raising my kids and you are raising your kids and that was by design and not by accident.

Age 3 weeks - Introduce the bottle to my breastfeeding babies.  There will be a time you are away from your baby.  There will be a time said baby gets hungry.  Ain't no stress like a hangry baby who won't take the bottle.  We learned this lesson the hard way with Baby #2 and the rest of them took the bottle just fine.  Phil gives a bottle feeding once a day and I breastfeed the rest of the feedings until I have to return to work, and then I pump until the wells run dry.  After that, it's formula until their first birthday.  This is what worked for us, as a fed baby is a happy baby, and none of it is worth the heartache and stress I used to put myself through.  As my friend, a nurse, used to say "A bottle a day keeps depression away" and trust me, when Phil would do that bottle feeding and I could sleep for a 3 or 4 hour chunk of time...that did indeed keep my baby blues at bay.

Age 1 - Pacifier and blanky (or whatever their comfort item is) lives in the crib now.  Gone are the good old days of sucking on a pacifier willy-nilly.  The baby uses it for sleeping only, and is excited for nap time and bed time to get their precious items.  We find this very helpful to create good sleepers and good talkers.  Also the bottles go away and it's sippy cups only with whole milk or water.  Bedtime is at 7 pm and naptime is only once a day now, after an early lunch, from 11:30 - 2:30 if we're lucky.

Age 2 - Say bye bye to the crib and hello to a big bed.  We do not do the whole toddler bed thing, we just put them in a twin bed with a wall on one side and a bed rail on the other.  My kids still think they are stuck in a crib with this setup and call for us to come and get them when they wake up.

Age 3 - No more pacifiers.  Two of my kids were thumb suckers and thumbs are not easy to throw away ;)  We had them wear a glove to bed that would remind them to try and stop sucking, but honestly they sucked those little thumbies for a lot longer than they let us know.  Our 3 year olds also go to preschool at the same Catholic elementary school their siblings attend.  It's so much cheaper than daycare, so as soon as they are potty trained (which happens in the summer before they attend preschool) off they go!

Age 4 - Ummmm just my favorite age ever.  Soccer starts as do swimming lessons and I feel like you can kind of really see their personality start to shine.  

Age 5 - Chores begin!  I'll do a seperate chore post another day, but Kindergartners are great at wanting to help!  Even if it means I have to do the chore for real after they "try", I still let them try.

Age 6 - Basketball starts.  First graders can pack their own snacks for school, fill their own water bottles, be responsible for getting their homework done, with our help when needed.  

Age 7 - First Reconciliation and First Communion! Bedtime moves from 7 pm to 7:30 pm after their First Communion.  I know, we're wild and crazy over here ;)

Ages 8-9 No major changes that I can think of.  We usually assess the kids interests and talents, move them to a more competitive league if they are showing more skill.  If they are interested in starting an instrument, sometime before age 9 is typically when that happens. Xander started piano lessons at age 6 and Declan started violin lessons at age 8.  Brendan wants to start piano really badly (he's 6) but the teacher thinks he should wait until age 7.  The kids move from baths to showers in these years, though sometimes I make them take a bath when I think they really need to soak a little longer than they scrub.

Age 10 - Double digits baby!  Bedtime moves to 8 pm.  They get a tablet on their birthday.  In truth, they can choose between having a friend birthday party or getting a tablet.  They have all chosen the tablet option except for Eamon, who had the party then bought a tablet with the gift money he received from that party!  He might be our sharpest tool in the shed as he figured out a way to get it all :)

Age 11-12 Bedtimes can get a little later depending on their middle school homework or sports practices and games.  Deodorant appears in stockings and daily showers happen!  Braces are consulted upon and put on if necessary, with the hope of being removed before high school starts.

Age 13 - They receive a Gabb Phone on their birthday, or another smartphone that we dumb down by taking away data and password protecting the app store.  They can babysit younger siblings now.  When they graduate from 8th grade, they receive a laptop for high school (it's required so we turn it into a gift).

Ages 14-15 High schoolers!  No more bedtimes, they just go to bed when they're homework is done or their sports are over.  These are tough years because they need rides everywhere and they want to do everything!  They also need to get a job at age 14 which is when they can get a work permit.

Age 16 - Friend party for their birthday. Open a checking account and get debit card.  Get their driver's permit, having started driver's ed around 15 years 9 months.  Sweet sixteen means they are allowed to date when they have a JOB and a CAR.  Basically, we will not be driving our kids around on dates or financing them.  If you want to take a girl out to dinner, you need to be able to pay for both of your dinners and pick her up and drop her off.  Of course, we talk a lot about the purpose of dating, which is to find your spouse, and encourage them to be friends with the opposite sex and hang out in groups.  When you are sixteen you most likely are not going to start dating your future spouse (though it did happen to two of my siblings!) but you should be dating someone with the qualities you hope to find in your future spouse and stop dating that person when you realize he/she is not the one.  If we could have it our way (insert maniacal laugh) we would prefer they wait until college to date seriously.

Age 17 - Just the same as 16 really except that now they are licensed drivers and their "chore" becomes helping us drive around siblings which nobody seems to mind as it's a chance to drive.  They also get data on their phones since they need to use Maps and check emails, etc.  Once senior year starts, we allow them to sleepover friends' houses as a sort of gateway between living at home and college.  I feel like we are used to them not being home more often than being home between work, sports and social activities now.  It's sad but necessary!

Age 18 - Birthday gift is luggage for college.  For a graduation gift from high school - the boys get a new suit to use at prom and then for college/job interviews (not sure what to get for Maggie yet).  Then they go to college and we just pray we did enough right in raising them and let God take care of filling in the cracks.

Age 19+ Parenting never ends.  Just a friendly reminder :)  And then hopefully, the grandkids come and you can watch your children get their payback become parents themselves!

Monday, January 30, 2023

A Hospice Care Package

Thank you all for the thoughtful advice on what to put in a care package for someone who has entered hospice care.  I thought I would compile the list in case anyone else is in the same position.

Warm fuzzy blanket

Comfy socks

Hanging window prism

Neck Wrap

Wind Charm

Paper Products and snacks for the caregivers

Biotene mouthwash


Case of water

Soft pillow cases

Audio book subscription

Music subscription

Playing cards

Projector and white noise player


Candle warmer

Oil diffuser plus essential oils


Window bird feeder

Puzzle books

Stamps (for sending thank you cards)

Ginger candies

Easy to hold water cup

Here's what I ended up putting together quickly (as, sadly, time is of the essence in these circumstances).  The care package included a homemade card from each of our kids and the following items:

Friday, January 27, 2023

Week in Review: Soccer Stars, Surgery and Advice Needed!

Last weekend, the three high schoolers were down in Washington DC on the March for Life, and only one of them kept me updated with texts and photos.  Guess who?  Ding ding ding, that's right, my one and only girl :)

These four cuties are such great friends and I'm so proud of Maggie's choices.


It sounds like they had a great time, and I watched the rally speakers and was impressed by Jonathan Roumie (who plays Jesus on The Chosen) and Sr. Mary Casey and her sister, Casey.  Sr. Mary Casey is a Sister for Life and her sister Casey is her twin sister who has Down Syndrome.  What great witnesses!  Here's Jonathan's speech:

When I talked to Eamon, he said "Mom I saw Jesus today!"

I was like "I knooooow, his speech was great and I'm soooooo jealous."  

Eamon quips "I was talking about in Adoration, but I saw Jonathan Roumie too".  

Funny cuz it's true :)

Wednesday, January 25, 2023

Ask Me Anything: Schooling Questions and College Decisions

Ellen asks: Do you wish you had made a different decision about what to study at school?  I love Franciscan University of Steubenville and want to encourage my kids to go there but the amount of debt kids come away with is scary.

Erin asks: Can you please give some tips on how to start the post high school/college process?  I have no idea where to begin and I have two high schoolers.

mbmom11 asks: Would you ever send your kids to public school?

Thank you for the questions, ladies!  We always knew we wanted our kids to go to good Catholic schools.  Phil and I both went to a mix of Catholic schools and public schools (and Phil homeschooled for middle school) and then we went to a very Catholic college (Franciscan University of Steubenville) where we met on the Austrian campus.  Homeschooling our kids was never an option for us because we both had to work to make ends meet.  Phil is a high school Theology teacher and gets tuition abatement for our kids because of how long he's been there.  I also worked in Catholic schools in various accounting roles to get the rest of the tuition abatement necessary.  We chose to take lower paying jobs in Catholic schools because we knew the benefit of having our kids tuition covered was HUGE.  

Preschool through 12th grade

Two years ago, I left my job at the Catholic high school as Business Manager and took a job in the public school as the District Accountant.  Seeing the issues that happen in the public schools totally reinforces our decision to send our kids to Catholic schools.  But I know how very lucky we are to have this option and to have jobs that provide tuition as a benefit.  If we did not have tuition covered, we would definitely have to put our kids in public schools as the cost of Catholic high school is $12,400 per student and Catholic elementary school is $4300 per student.  This year alone our cost would total $50,100 for our youngest six kids and our oldest isn't even included in that since he's in college.  Of course, the schools provide scholarships and financial aid and we probably would never have to pay that much, but even half of that amount would be an impossible ask.

OK, now for some college talk.

{WIth the caveat that I have only sent one child to college with my second applying currently}

Monday, January 23, 2023

Things I Used to Worry About as a Younger Mom That Don't Bother Me Now

Today's Ask Me Anything topic was a request from Kathryn, hi Kathryn!!  She asks:

What are things that you used to worry about as a young mom but don't bother you now?

Let me start out by saying that the more years I have under my belt as a mom, the more I realize the less I know.  It's a humbling vocation for sure.  So I think there are a LOT of things that don't bother me as much now as they did when I was 28 years old and already a mom to four kids.  

Back then, I definitely felt an external pressure to make sure I was doing a good job raising kids, not complaining about the hardships we faced, and making it appear easy to others.  I would see a harried older looking mom of many, with her kids wearing mismatched clothes running everywhere and think that she was doing a bad job in portraying big family life.  She made it look hard and dirty and chaotic.  I wanted to be the complete opposite of that, I wanted to make it look attractive.  My kids were on strict schedules, they were bathed each night, they wore matching clean clothes and taught manners and how to behave in public.  They were disciplined swiftly when they needed to be (we used timeouts and talks) and they towed the line.  They were practically perfect little kids, at least in school and in public.

By the time I was 37, having my 7th baby, I had slowly become that other mom.  How judgy my young and perky self had been.  I got her now, she was just plain tired.  She was doing her best and she knew what battles to pick and choose with her kids.  I cared less and less about appearances (still nightly baths though!  We could be clean if not coordinated!) and focused my attention on raising these kids right and not caring what that looked like to the outside world.  I realized my job was to raise my family, not be the poster child of big families.  That was too much pressure!  It's not so much a "giving up" as it was a "giving in" to the needs we had, the energy levels we had, and the different personalities of our kids.  And just when you think you have the mom thing figured out, God sends you a child to test you, believe you me.  

The little ones may have less strict rules because they see what the older kids are doing and want to be involved, where we could keep the older ones in a bubble.  So they played video games earlier, or they stay up a little later, or ate sweets more often and the older kids are great at reminding us of how unfair it is!  There are plenty of times when the little guys will be naughty and the older ones will laugh, which doesn't help with discipline, and I can see why younger kids are often spoiled or bratty.  But there are so many perks to having this wide family too.  Phil and I may be getting older and more tired by the minute, but we have four teenagers who are full of energy and enjoy doing certain activities with the little guys.  Before he left for college, JP took them all to Target to spend their Christmas gift cards they received.  Andrew has brought Declan to his basketball practices and Xander to piano lessons. Eamon and Maggie still play with the littles on a daily basis, making up games on the trampoline and keeping them entertained.  Seeing the family members all chip in this way helps me not to worry about my role as much...if they don't get all the time/attention/lessons from me, they're getting it in spades from everyone else.

Friday, January 20, 2023

Week in Review: Dead Batteries, No Big Kids, and The Best Pants

On Friday, my mom called me around 3pm and I could hear noises in the background, so I asked where she was.  "Shopping at Kohl's" she replied and I said "No way, I am heading there after work ends at 4!"  I had an hour to kill between work and Eamon's basketball game and figured I could use it to make a few returns.  When I walked into Kohl's at 4:20, guess who was checking out?  My mom.  I went over and hugged her and she said "Don't tell me it's already after 4:00?  Dad is gonna kill me for shopping for so long!"  Apparently my Dad was waiting in the car for her outside, having gone to Lowe's and back already.  I said bye to my mom and went to do my exchanges.  When I was done, my mom called asking if I was still in the store.  Yup, I was.  Their battery was dead, and did I perchance have any jumper cables?  I said I was pretty sure I did, and went out to the parking lot, pulled up next to them and found the cables.  

But then we couldn't figure out how to get their car hood open.  It's a newish car (the battery died because my dad had been listening to the radio while my mom was shopping) and so my mom was reading the manual, and I was googling, and my dad, in his gentle Irish brogue, finally just asked a passing guy "Do you happen to be mechanical?" and the guy said not really, but how could he help?  My dad explained the situation and this nice guy was able to pop the hood, with some difficulty.  Then he made sure we had cables and knew how to use them, and left after we assured him that we did.  

I went inside my van and realized that I *also* did not know how to pop my hood.  Oh for the love.  We laughed and laughed and then my dad searched with a flashlight (it was getting dark) while I googled again.  He found it and just as he popped it open, the nice guy was back and said "Let me guess, you didn't know how to open your hood either?" and we all laughed and laughed again.  Talk about a comedy or errors.  This nice guy then thankfully took over and we got the battery charged.  My mom gave him a miraculous medal because she hands those out like candy, and the nice guy said that he already had one, but thank you.  I said "Oh you're Catholic?  So are weeeeeeee!!" as if I just came across a long lost relative.  We thanked him and his wife, who was patiently waiting in their car the whole time (not listening to the radio I'm sure).


1) Do not listen to the radio without your car running.
2) Do not believe a woman when she tells you it will be a quick trip inside a store.
3) Don't be afraid to hand out a miraculous medal.  Though I think it helps when you're a sweet grandma.
4) Know how to pop your hood and travel with jumper cables.
5) People are mostly very kind.
6) The daughter who jumps your battery is obviously your favorite child.  May the will reflect this.
7) It's always an adventure with these two:

I did make it to most of Eamon's game after...

#5 on the court but #1 in my heart (don't tell the others!)