Friday, March 27, 2015

Maternity Leave Tips & Tricks from a Working Mom of Six

Let's get the assumptions out of the way so we don't make donkeys of ourselves...heehaw.

 * I am not pregnant (I knew you would ask!)

* This is what I do while I'm on maternity leave after having a new baby, it is not what everybody needs to do or wants to do, but it's helped me immensely.  I get totally turned off by posts that try and tell me how to be my kid's mom, so you go be your kid's mom and take what I say with a huge chunk of salt.

*  Being on maternity leave implies that you work outside the home, and will be returning to work outside the home, and therefore leaving your baby in someone else's care.  So this post might upset moms who are all about attachment parenting and exclusive breastfeeding and co-sleeping, but working moms can't do those things.

Alrighty...let's make like a party and get started...


Do as little to nothing as possible.

Just nursing and nursing and nursing.

When I'm at work and dreaming about maternity leave, I always have these grand plans to clean the house, rearrange bedrooms and cook elaborate dinners.  Then I have the baby and remember it's not the time for that.  Giving birth is a huge feat and our bodies need time to rest and recover.  There's no shame in that!!  My midwife always tells me to just sit and nurse the baby for three weeks, then I can think about doing something else.  I find it hard to do nothing, but binge watching Netflix helps me get over that :)


Let friends and family visit.  And let them help.

Future classmates.

OK, now that you're doing nothing and your house is probably a mess, you think "I don't want anyone to see this!"  But guess what?  You are holding the cutest little distraction in the world, and when friends and family come over to visit, they are staring at the baby, not the heaps of laundry.

And if for some reason, they do notice the laundry or dishes and offer to help...say YES!  It makes them feel good for helping you out, and it makes you feel good to receive that help.  When people say "Let me know what I can do..." I am getting better and better at giving them an answer.  "You can come hold the baby while I shower!"  "Could you pick up some diapers while you're at the store?"  "I could use help picking up my kids from school today." Whatever you need, people are usually very glad to help in a tangible and specific way.  I know I am.


Don't hold a sleeping baby.

Night night, sweet one.

Sure that baby is darn cute and you want to snuggle him all the time.  But when he is about to fall asleep, lay him down in his bassinet/crib.  First of all, it gives you a break to go to the bathroom, eat, shower (see next point), breathe in the fresh air, whatever you need.  Secondly, it teaches your baby that it's ok to sleep on their own.  I am sort of a crazy mom about this one, and when people come over to hold the baby, I only let them do it if the baby is awake.  Let sleeping babies lie.  Lay?  You get my point.  Babies can get used to anything, and starting them off as good sleepers on their own will help not only you but your daycare provider as well.


Shower every day.

Oh, you think YOU had a rough night?

Hygiene is wicked important.  If you breastfeed like I do, you know that waking up every morning with bed head, a sleep-deprived face, sweaty pajamas, leaky chesticles, and a healing "bottom" is not the best way to start the day.  Go shower, put on clothes, brush your hair and greet the day with an "I totally got this" attitude.  Fake it til ya make it.  And while you're at it, get a haircut!


Give baby a bottle.

Gimme all the milk.

Oh the lactation consultants will tell you that a breastfeeding baby shouldn't have anything but the breast...but when you know that baby will be getting bottles as soon as you head back to work, you have to change the rules.

So go ahead and breastfeed exclusively for about 3 weeks.  Then start pumping enough to give one bottle of breastmilk a day from that point on.  Baby gets used to eating from a bottle, and if you time that bottle right, mom can get an extra hour of sleep or two while dad bonds with the baby.  Winning!

When I was a stay-at-home mom, one of my babies ended up never taking a bottle because I didn't introduce it until 5 months.  I learned quickly with the last four that if you introduce it early enough, there's less chance of refusal.  Even if you do stay at home and breastfeed on demand, introducing a bottle can be great for the times when you want to go out when baby is 6 months old.

My friend who is a nurse and breastfeeding advocate once told me "A bottle a day keeps depression away" and I think she was onto something.  For some of us (like me) there is a feeling of being trapped when the baby won't take a bottle, like you can't ever go anywhere until baby is fully weaned.  Just knowing they can eat if something happens to me makes me feel better.


Keep the other kid's routines normal.

What's more exciting, getting picked up from school early or getting a new brother?

When I had my 6th baby, my oldest four were in school and my toddler was at a home daycare.  The day the baby was born, my husband picked everyone up early and they came to the hospital to meet their little brother.  It was a special and exciting day, and we loved it.

But the next day, it was back to and daycare until I got out of the hospital.  Then once I was home, I still sent the toddler to daycare for a couple more days (due to lots of appointments the baby needed for jaundice) and I think it really helped.  The toddler knew life was different now, but it didn't affect him too much.  Once we settled back home and Phil went back to work, I kept the toddler home with me for the rest of my maternity leave so that we could enjoy our time together before he had to go back to daycare.  He bonded with his baby brother, and only having two at home (while the older four were in school) felt super easy!


Go on a date.

Feeding the baby before feeding the momma.

Try and go on a date with that Baby Daddy of yours at least once before work starts up again.  It makes you feel like you're *almost* ready to be back amongst adults in the workplace, and newborn babies are super easy to take to restaurants, they just eat and sleep.  Leave the older kids at home with a babysitter and enjoy your marriage and babymoon.

What else am I missing?  Linking up with Kelly because it's Friday and that's how I roll.  Happy Weekend everybody!

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Does Your Mom Cut Your Hair?

Yes, yes, she does.  Sorry buddy, but 5 boys x $10 a pop = too much money to spend on haircuts.  Clippers and some faux confidence to the rescue.




Goodbye baby, hello toddler!

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

The KonMari Method: Why It's Awesome and Why It Could Be Even Better

So if you're like me from last week, you don't know what the KonMari Method is.  You've never heard of this bestselling book that seriously is changing people's lives.

Isn't the author, Marie Kondo so beautiful?  Doesn't her living room look so peaceful and uncluttered behind her?  The tidying method she explains in her book is called the KonMari method, which is a play on her own name.  Get it?

We are beginning the process of seriously trying to sell our house.  We have a realtor coming over at the end of the month, and we have been saying that we need to get the house ready but have lacked the major motivation needed to do any work.  Six kids and sick kids can do that to the best laid plans, looking at you, Cari.  So there I was, in the middle of Lent, feeling overwhelmed at the thought of getting my house ready to sell and keeping it ready to show.  

Rachel and me in 2011.  I have since started wearing makeup...geesh.

And then beautiful Rachel, who seems so perfect in a non-annoying way (which is tough to pull off!), who is raising six kids of her own, organizing laundry systems, and keeping a gorgeous house to boot decided to review The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up

The book came, and I devoured it in two days.  I started cleaning this weekend.  It's been amazing.  We have given away 19 huge bags of clothes, towels, sheets, shoes and coats and two crates of books.  And we're just starting!  

The secrets to the KonMari Method are:

Treat this de-cluttering and purging stage as a big time event.  She promises that if you do it right, you will never have to do it again because you will live in a constantly uncluttered home with a place for everything and everything in its place.

Clean/de-clutter/organize by category.  In the past I would clean a room or a specific area of the house (my bedroom, the bathroom, the hallway closet) and not categories (books, shoes, papers).  Cleaning by category means collecting everything you have in one category (let's say tops), putting them all in a big pile, and then choosing what to discard.  This is easy to do once you can see all your tops in one place.
When choosing what to discard, you must touch each object and decide if it "sparks joy".  If it doesn't, let it go.

Her method says that if you discard all items that don't "spark joy", you will be left with exactly the amount of stuff you need, and you will have exactly the amount of space for everything.  She does not promote buying any organizational tools or getting extra storage space.  I love that the book is not trying to sell anything but motivation.

When putting away clothes, she folds everything so it "stands up" and you can see it, instead of in piles.  Her socks are rolled and stood on their side, like sushi.  Her closet is hung by size/material/color.


These were the tips I hardwired into my brain so that I could start my decluttering marathon while being so inspired.  However, there were a couple of things in the book that left me feeling a little unsettled, and not just the emptying out of her purse each night - who has time for that?  You see, Marie Kondo has had a lifelong obsession with "stuff".  She has spent her whole life researching the art of tidying, discarding, storing things, so much that these inanimate objects have become more than just things to her.  She often gives her "stuff" human feelings and concerns herself with how they are treated.  I think her method could use a little tweaking in order to sit better with my Christian values, such as:

When discarding an item, she suggests you thank the item, let's say pants, before passing them on.  While I understand that the sentiment is to completely let go of the pants, to free yourself of them, I think you should thank God instead.  So rather than saying "Thank you pants for keeping me warm" you could say "Thank you God for providing me with warm clothing", or "Thank you for my mom who gave these to me" or "Thank you for the job that allowed me to buy these."  But God is the source of all our gratitude.

When folding your socks, she makes a big deal about how rolling them into balls in a terrible way to store them because then they can't rest and relax.  She goes on to explain that balling socks pulls on the fibers and loosens the elasticity and therefor ruins the socks.  I think you should treat all the items you are keeping as best you can, but not worry about their state of relaxation.  In my research, I believe this is a facet of the Japanese culture, so I am not trying to be an ignorant American, but for me, it was a little much.

She writes about how when you get rid of excess items, you feel lighter, the air is cleaner and you begin to enjoy your home again.  She tells of people that lost weight or got their dream job after tidying up their house, all because they are living in a peaceful environment.  I agree that de-cluttering can be life-changing, but it's also because of what it does to your soul.  The added benefits are that you are learning not to be materialistic, helping out others through your donations, and receiving the grace to focus on other areas of your life.  Like a good confession, a weight is lifted and life feels fresh and new once again.  There's a reason why so many religious brothers and sisters take vows of poverty - it is freeing!

She greets her house and any house she enters as if it's a temple.  She literally kneels down when she enters a client's home and talks to the house.  If only we took the time to talk to Jesus as much!  I'll keep my adoring to Him and Him alone, thank you very much.

For me, God and clutter are very intertwined.  You see, for the first ten years of my marriage, we always needed things - furnishings for our home, clothes for the kids, beds and toys and get it.  We weren't in a position to say "no" to any form of hand-me-down, because we were poor and in need.  So we said "yes" to everything even if it was ugly or ragged or not timely.  We accumulated a lot of stuff, and thanked God for providing it.  Just in the past few years, we have started getting rid of it.  We realized that we can now be picky about what we keep, and we can put a limit on the amount of toys/sports equipment/shoes that the kids have because they actually don't need that much!  We can afford to buy a pair of sneakers for Xander and don't need to save him the three ratty pairs that his older brothers have worn out.  We are blessed, and as God has proven over and over again, He will provide the things we need when we need them and we shouldn't worry about being greedy hoarders for the "just in case" times.  Trusting in God's providence (and working hard on our end) has been so freeing in letting us de-clutter our house.

So that's it.  Buy the book.  Change your home and your life, but if you're a Christian, don't forget who is the only true source of happiness and worthy of our praise.

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Happy St. Patty's Day from the Martin Clan (and Jamberry winners)!

The lucky Irish winners are...

The winner of the free sheet of Jamberry wraps is: BONNIE :)

The winner of the mini-heater is: MARGARET (I'll contact you by email)

And if you entered over on my Instagram, go find out the other winner later today!


Friday, March 13, 2015

You Want Quirks, I'll Give you Them Seven Times Quickly

What a weird title, sorry, it's one of my quirks - I write the title before I write the post, then I usually have to go back and adjust it because what spills out of my tappity-type fingers is not what was sitting in my brain file.  Grace wrote about her kid's quirks, and I love that kind of stuff, so I'm joining in with some of the current Martin quirks, one for every kid and their quirk-passing parents.  Oh wait, that will make 8 takes, which is great because...


I love even numbers when I group or list things.  After every odd numbered kid, I knew/hoped I would have another one to make an even bunch.  So if there's ever a Martin Baby #7 there will most likely be a Martin Baby #8.  And wow, that would be a lot of kids!  Right, Michelle?  I also have another weird quirky number thing, I don't like to set a timer or microwave to a number ending in zero or five.  so if I want to heat up some food or set the timeout timer, you can bet it will read 3:01.  I always add an extra second or two.  I can't sleep without a sound machine or fan or something producing white noise.  I'm a wicked light sleeper and every little noise wakes me up, so this at least blocks out some of those.  I always pour myself fresh glasses of water, take a sip, leave it, come back later, dump it out, refill with fresh water and repeat cycle.  Why can't I ever just drink a whole glass?  Prefer my salads at room temperature and my egg salad warm (and homemade) but to really enjoy tuna salad, it must be from a restaurant.


He likes to have all the "work" done at night by the time the kids go to bed.  Then he can relax.  This means he is usually found making lunches while cooking dinner while doing dishes, etc.  I'm always like, let's do the lunches later!  But he wants it all done already.  He also can not go to bed right after everything is finished and the kids are asleep.  He needs some unwind time in the form of TV watching or he feels like his whole day has just been a work day, with no relaxation.  (I prefer sleep as my method of relaxation.)  When he exercises at the gym, he always changes his shirt after for the ride home.  Plus he wears a hat while he works out to keep the sweat out of his face, and uses a towel to wipe off his face.  So after each workout, he has a lot of laundry to do.  He wears old shoes with holes in the bottom even though his wife buys him brand new ones for Christmas.  Won't eat mayonnaise, sour cream, or seafood.


He gets completely lost in books, and is oblivious to anything else going on around him.  Which means he loses a lot of things, then thinks they are stolen.  He prefers one certain brand of boxer briefs and does not appreciate when his younger brothers wear them...oh the joys of a joint underwear drawer.  He loves to sleep in said boxer briefs only, but we make him wear pajamas in the winter months.  Money and gift cards burn holes in his pocket like crazy.  He feels the need to put something funny in everything he writes for school - which so far seems appreciated by his teachers.  He's been wearing deodorant for a long time now, even though he still doesn't need it.

ANDREW (10):

He has this crazy high-pitched laugh that he does when he's acting like a goofball.  He loves to get everybody riled up and into something physical - playing basketball, wrestling on the floor, running around like lunatics.  He can't sleep without a nightlight and stores all his treasures under his bed.  Every night after his shower, he makes his hair stick up a little in the front so it dries like that.  When you tell him to go read, he acts like he's dying.  Likes peanut butter, like chocolate, does not like them together.

EAMON (8):

This boy needs physical touch in the worst way.  He gives these super long and way-too-handsy hugs to us everyday.  It's sweet and disturbing at the same time.  When he eats, he does so sloooooowly and has the tendency to put tons of food in his mouth, then sit there like a chipmunk until he can chew away at it for twenty minutes.  He is always found tossing a ball around or washing his hands.  He has perfected the mommy voice when he talks to the baby, pitch and all.  Likes his cheese cold, not melted.  Will not touch ketchup.


She is the quirkiest about her hair.  She will only wear it in a ponytail or down with a headband.  That's it.  If you want to get her to do something, threaten her with "or I'll braid your hair" and she'll do it pronto.  Even getting it cut is a process, she only allows the hair stylist to spray her hair with water, not wash it in the sink.  Sleeps so heavily in her makeshift hallway bedroom and won't wake up even though people are walking back and forth to the bathroom or turning on the light or talking.  She needs to have like ten stuffed animals in her bed with her, along with her blankie.  She keeps everything and thinks it's under control because she puts them in various boxes and containers around her room.  She can be found Irish step dancing her way through the house, why walk when you can jig?  Will not touch ketchup either.


Bites his nails - all twenty of them {shudder}.  Freaks out about tags, and begs us to cut them off his clothes.  Can physically dress himself but you wouldn't know it by the no-bones-floor-drop he pulls every morning.  Needs a sippy cup of water next to his bed at night, and a pillow with the tag still on to hold as he sucks his thumb.  If he's watching a tv show, he makes everybody in the room be one of the characters..."ok, you're Peg and you're Cat, and you're Ramone..."  Tells us most mornings that he doesn't want to go to school, then tells us every afternoon that school was so much fun.  Has a tendency towards pessimism and speaking without a filter.  Tries to get away with saying potty words by insisting he was saying something else "No, I said but, not butt!"


Hates diaper changes.  Loves his nuby (pacifier).  Throws anything he can.  Does not like to cuddle.  Sleeps on his belly with a blankie.  Is very frustrated by his inability to talk and walk.  Says "mmm" after every bite of food.  Points with his whole hand, a la Vanna White.

Linking up with the quirky and adorable Kelly, and hoping you all have a wonderful weekend and aren't getting yet more snow like us :(

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Forgiveness: Letting it Go and Faking it Til You Make It

Well Lent is almost halfway over, and all the things I've wanted to do are about halfway being done.  I am only listening to Christian music in the car (and dare I say getting used to a couple of the songs they play on repeat), I have been cleaning out the litter box as seldom as possible (though I usually huff and puff my way through it, because I'm ornery like that), hugging the kids comes easy for me, I have been at least more observant of my picking-up-my-phone habit when I'm around people (though I tend to easily justify that one) and the not cheating on Weight Watchers, well that one is dying a slow death.  I really really tried in the beginning, but I was STARVING only eating 26 points and exercising hard.  So I had a couple cheat days, confessed it this past Saturday, and the priest told me it wasn't a sin.  What?!?!  Good to know :)

But my real Lenten journey this year has been one that started back in October.  You see, without going into details, I got into an argument with a friend that turned into a bigger deal than it should have.  Feelings were majorly hurt and it's been a long 5 months of having to see this person and trying to get over all the drama.  

I have always been someone prone to a quick temper, and a lack of filter.  If you do something that makes me upset, you will most likely know it right then and there.  But my saving grace is that I am also quick to forgive and move on.  Just give me a good night's sleep, and by morning I'm over it.  Grudges aren't worth the time or energy, but I couldn't seem to get over this incident.  I confessed this anger to the priest, but he unfortunately didn't cover it (I guess I had other sins that needed more attention!) and I left feeling even more confused as to what I should do.  I wanted this whole thing to be over, but I didn't know how to get over it.

I would alternate between feeling like I should fake it til I make it, and then feeling like that would be deceitful.  How could I smile and act normal to someone whom I can't see without holding back tears of anger and hurt?  But how could I go on with this eating me up inside, like a virus to my soul?  

Then I realized something...forgiveness is like love, it is an act of the will.  A choice, not a feeling.  I was getting too caught up in my feelings.  I could choose to forgive and it was OK not to have my feelings agree with that!  

As soon as I had this aha moment, it was like God gave me bunches of signs to reinforce the decision.  Our cat, whose litter box was way too dirty last night, instantly forgave me as soon as I started cleaning it...purring and showing me affection.  In the car this morning, forced to listen to Christian music, I heard a song about allowing forgiveness that spoke straight to my heart.  The prompt over on Blessed is She's Instagram account is #mercy.  Then I went to morning Mass at our school's chapel and the gospel reading was the Parable of the Unmerciful Servant.  Um, timely much?  

Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, “Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother or sister who sins against me? Up to seven times?”
Jesus answered, “I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times....
Then the master called the servant in. ‘You wicked servant,’ he said, ‘I canceled all that debt of yours because you begged me to.  Shouldn’t you have had mercy on your fellow servant just as I had on you?’  In anger his master handed him over to the jailers to be tortured, until he should pay back all he owed.
“This is how my heavenly Father will treat each of you unless you forgive your brother or sister from your heart.”

Wowzers! So yeah, today my journey of anger ends.  I choose forgiveness, and I hope my feelings can catch up quickly to my will, but even if they don't, I will still have peace in my heart.

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Big Family Parables

When people find out you come from a big family, they usually ask "What's it like?" and when people find out you have your own big family, they usually ask "How do you do it?"  Well, here's what it's like and how we do it, parable-style...

Adding another baby to an already large family is like adding another star to the sky, they brighten your life and add more beauty, but can easily get lost in the shuffle.

Feeding all these children is like going to a Las Vegas all-day, all-you-can-eat buffet.  Except you are the chef, waitress, dishwasher, and entertainment.  Tassles not included.

Being a parent to many is like playing the longest football game ever.  You're the quarterback AND head coach AND the ref, and your team always wins, so the losing team better just get used to it.

Children are like junk food.  You want them and love them, but sometimes you indulge too much.  That's when you need a juice cleanse and can go back feeling refreshed and unclogged.

In a big family, children are like high school cliques.  You have the big kids, the littles, the middles, the babies, the boys, the girls, the teens, the school kids, the preschoolers.  They are constantly being reclassified depending on the event.

Parents of many kids are like the Apostles.  They speak in tongues, so that their kids don't know what they are saying.

A bathroom visit in a big family's house is like a celebrity phone hack.  What should be kept private has become public.

A perfectly clean house with lots of kids is like the planet formerly known as Pluto.  Out of this world, and doesn't exist.

Groceries in a large family are like a lesson in economics.  High in demand and low in supply.

Going anywhere in public with all the kids is like being a card shark.  All you do is count, count, count and hope nobody notices.

Getting everybody to appointments and activities is like learning to juggle.  You try your best, but inevitable end up dropping a few balls.

Breaking up fights between lots of children is like refereeing the Superbowl.  You try to be consistent and honest, but end up with everyone thinking you're so unfair.

Playdates for kids in big families are like facial tattoos.  Highly visible but not necessary.

Living with a big family is like living in a frat house.  There is always fighting and partying going on.  The toddler acts drunk, the baby is up all night, there's dried vomit on the floor, and people end up asleep in someone else's bed.

Getting everybody cleaned and dressed to go to Mass is like running a marathon.  It takes forever, and by the time you're done you're ready for a nap.

Holidays in a big family are like a Monster Truck Rally.  Loud, fun, dirty and expensive.  Ear plugs are recommended.

Watching all your kids grow up and navigate their way through life is like watching a car accident.  Disturbing and sometimes horrific, but you couldn't stop it and you can't look away.

Having a house full of perfect children is like having a stable full of unicorns.  It's just a myth.  They are all donkeys.

Potty training tons of kids is like labor.  You know the end is worth it, but there will be lots of sweat, tears, poopy accidents, and yelling before it's over.

Christmas 2013 with my side of the family

I hope you know I'm joking, because having a big family is truly beyond compare.  Where there is fighting, there is love.  Where there are financial struggles, there are deeper riches.  Where there is testing, there is patience.  Where there is boredom, there are playmates.  Where there is hurt, there is forgiveness.  Where there is selfishness, there are endless opportunities for generosity.  Where there are failures, there is support.  Where there is need, there is grace.

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

That's What He Said

Listening to the Christian radio station in the car (because, Lent, ugh.)...

Andrew: They said the "A" word!!!
Me: What???  This is Christian music! I can't believe they said a swear!
Andrew: No, they said Alleluia during Lent!

At the dinner table...

Me: So what happened at school today?
Andrew: I got to serve Mass, and I was Thurible.
Phil: Well maybe you should try harder next time.

After looking at the dress that changes colors...

Andrew: We looked at this in school!
Me: Isn't it so weird?
Andrew: Nah, it's just an elliptical illusion.

Watching a tv show when they said something about Minnesota...

Xander: I love Minnesotas!
Phil: What are you talking about?
Xander:  Those orange things wif da sugar and we eat them outside sometimes because they are so messy?
Andrew: He means malasadas.

(I say Minnesota, he says malasada)

Walking out of Sunday Mass...

Monsignor: Don't forget, Andrew, you're serving a funeral mass tomorrow.
Andrew: (Big smile) I know!
Me: They love serving funerals, Monsignor.
John-Paul: Yeah, because we love money!!!!
Monsignor: (joking around) You mean you love to pray for the souls of the deceased.
John-Paul: (laughing) No, I just love the money!!!

And a great joke I heard...

Why do teenagers travel in groups of three?

Because they can't even.