When Mom’s Afraid

Vivian-hospital-sleeping2If you follow me on Instagram, then you already know that our sweet 4-year-old Vivian was in the hospital recently for a febrile seizure.  While she’s home now and doing great, I’ve been surprised how few moms have heard of, or know how to react to these seizures.  I hope putting our story out there might help another mom or dad know what to do if it ever happens to their child (excuse all the grainy phone pictures!).

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Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

 

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I hope everyone had a fantastic Christmas jam packed with family, traditions, cozy pjs and hopefully an excited child (or 7) since they make Christmas so much more fun!  I’ve been dying to show you all our family pictures we took on Thanksgiving and now that our Christmas cards are out, here they are!  

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Marilyn’s Birth Story

 

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My chubby baby Marilyn turns 5 MONTHS tomorrow and in order to keep myself from totally melting down into a puddle of hormonal-overweight-newish-mom-tears, I figure it’s time to post about her birth story.

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Baptism, Blessing and Birthdays

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Trials and the Strength to Endure

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I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the hard stuff that we all go through: the emotional and physical and mental struggles that are just part of life. I guess pushing out a baby will do that to a girl.

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Keeping It Real

 

You know how everyone’s always saying that nobody’s genuine on the internet anymore?  Well, I’ve got genuine right here for you.

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This is what crazy looks like, people.

I have been completely, frantically and exhaustingly (that’s a word) overwhelmed.  Apparently homeschooling 6 small children, trying to finish a huge creative project, keeping a house clean, children fed, church obligations covered and a husband happy, all while carrying your 7th child is enough to do that to you.

Strange.

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#fail

 

I just LOVE failing at things.  It makes me feel all warm and fuzzy inside.

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Windy day at the top of a mountain picture = hair fail.

Bahaha!  I’m so funny.  Let’s be real.  Failure sucks stinks (edited for the children).

 I hate, hate, HATE to fail. It makes me feel…um, like a failure.

However, lucky (unlucky??) for me, I have this passion and excitement for life that usually outweigh my fear of failure.  I try new stuff ALL the time and the thought of failure usually only creeps in after I’m committed and it’s too late.  Um, whoops.

I‘ve been thinking a lot about failure lately and wanted to share my favorite teenage failure-turned-success stories.  (I had a lot more time for trying new stuff and a lot less pride back then 🙂

On my 16th birthday, I tried out for cheerleading and made an utter and complete idiot of myself.  It was painful (I don’t mean figuratively…I fell on my head repeatedly while attempting back handsprings).  But did I let that stop me?? No sirree.  I simply moved across the country and tried out again.
Success!* 

 *Well, I wasn’t an immediate success, of course.  The coach actually told me that I was pretty awful and wouldn’t be performing at competitions but she needed an extra body for basketball games and I ‘d have to do. 

 I worked really hard that year, made some great friendships and DID end up in stunts at competitions.  I got to be pretty dang good and even began to love my teenage body because it was strong enough to help me hoist other cheerleaders above my head and catch them all by myself.  (Also a precursor to those years of chiropractic care.  Hey, no pain, no gain, right?!)

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One of our picturesque shots of Hawaii from last summer. A beach always seems so peaceful to me…but then I think about some of the difficult beach sports Hawaii’s known for, like surfing or boarding. How many failures does a person have to endure before he becomes a success at something like THAT?

My other experience happened when I was only months into a new high school and I decided to try student council so I could meet new people.  I signed up to run for (what I thought was) junior class vice president but mistakenly signed up to run for student BODY vice president (as in, over the whole school).  A much bigger deal and something that a sophomore had never attempted before.  By the time I realized my mistake, I was too afraid (read: embarrassed) to back out. 

I jumped in with both feet and ended up running against only one other girl.  I was so afraid of failing that I campaigned like a crazy person.  And I won.  That next year was amazing; I had a so much fun, worked with the school’s adult leadership and made lifetime friends. 

In the end, the fear of failure is just that: fearIt’s not real.  It’s something imaginary that we allow to invade our dreams and keep us from the things we want.

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USS Missouri: fear of failure has to be something very real for members of the military. But it’s not only their pride at stake…usually many, many lives depend on their courage.

As an adult, my propensity to try new things has been lacking lately and I can’t really figure out why.  As adults we like to think that we should have already defined ourselves into a little corner and we therefore can’t succeed at new things.  How many times have you heard an adult say, “Oh, I’m not creative.” or “Nah, I don’t do sports.” Kids would never admit defeat like that, especially before they’d even tried!

We adults also have this terrible thing called pride.  What if someone notices that I screwed up?  What if someone judges me?  What if, what if, what if…??  I’ve realized that I like to fill my home and life full of examples of where I have succeeded to help me remember that I’m never done defining myself.  Isn’t it fun to surprise people?!

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USS Arizona Memorial

I recently decided something.  Any chance I get to feel fear or rejection (plus the accompanying embarrassment), I’m gonna take it.  It’s all just a potential for growth, anyway.  If it’s been a while since you’ve tried something new, maybe it’s time to take a stretch.  What’s the worse that could happen?  You could fail??  Sure, but you could also succeed.

Besides, how boring would we be without failures to laugh about??

Out with the old

 

It’s a new year!!  Welcome to 2015, ya’ll!

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The start of a new year is always so bittersweet for me.  I love the anticipation of new experiences and change is like, my everything.  But at the same time I feel nostalgia for a year already gone.  Did I enjoy it enough?  Did I pay enough attention to the little milestones in my and my kids’ lives that we will never pass through again?  I’m often tempted to give in to my sentimental side and start a bawl-fest over all the little endings that happen regularly in my mom-life.

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I wanted to share all of our family pictures from this Fall, as a fond farewell to 2014.  And also, kind of like saying, “we successfully dressed and photographed 6 small children last year…BRING it, 2015!!”  But then again, that may be tempting fate 😉

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As much as I loathe endings to great things, there really is something special about beginnings, amiright?  New books, new houses, new babies, new clothes, new city or country, new friendships…the possibilities of what the new things in our life will bring is so exciting!

Of course, not all new things are good or exciting.  Certainly none of us wants to experience the loss of a thing or person we love.  Even some of the new things listed above can be heartbreaking under some circumstances such as divorce, job loss or death.

I guess all that means is that we look forward to the good things with joy and gratitude and pray that we’ll have the strength to endure the bad.  So much of what is good can come from those unanticipated “bad” surprises!

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I also almost forgot to share my favorite Christmas video, “He is the Gift”, on the blog!  Click here to see it or watch below.

This is my reminder that whatever goals or resolutions or buzz words I may have planned for this next year, becoming more like Christ should be at the center of everything I do.

Happy new beginnings!!

Pictures by Red Poppy Photo

 

Meltdowns and the Meaning of Christmas

 

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The last couple years the hubs has been out of town for most of the month of December.  Thanks to kindly Mr. Amazon and his free 2-day shipping, being a single mom at Christmastime hasn’t created too much of a problem.

Except, of course, for the stress.  Luke left this week for his second trip of the month and everything was going well the first day, until about bedtime (sound familiar??).  I was trying to get my littlest ones to bed and my big boys kept running upstairs.  I yelled one too many times, they yelled back and then, out of nowhere I found myself sobbing in their room, telling them how hard it is being a single parent, even part-time.

Whoa…don’t even know where that came from.  Get a grip, crazy lady.

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It must have made an impact though, since when I calmed down enough to come back a little while later, Liam was still visibly upset.  I suggested that we needed to make some changes around the house in regards to our relationships and I asked each boy what they thought needed to change.  Toby said something about Mom being nicer (haha!  typical) but Liam just sobbed, “No one needs to make any changes…just ME!  It’s all my fault!”

Wow.  It broke my heart to hear my sweet boy blame himself for my shortcomings.  He even added that this wasn’t shaping up to be a very good Christmas.  Luckily, it humbled me enough to have a heart to heart with him.

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We talked about the reason for celebrating Christ’s birth and how Christmas isn’t simply a chance to remember the day Jesus was born but to celebrate His entire life, especially His sacrifice for us.  We discussed how Christ sacrificed for our sins, but just as importantly, He also paid for our small, daily mistakes.   Jesus made it possible for us to overcome any action, big or small that separates us from God, including when we lose control, yell or treat others unkindly.  Christmastime is a chance for us to remember that because of Him, we have reason to hope to improve every single day and reason to experience JOY.

I’m thankful that my little boy reminded me of this, the greatest truth in the history of the world.

“But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed.”  Isaiah 53:5

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Merry last-week-before-Christmas!!

5 Keys to a Happy Mom

 

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I’m gonna take a quick moment to state the obvious: Motherhood is HARD.  If you are a mother or you had a mother or you know a mother, you certainly know what I’m talking about.

And while the rewards of being Mom can be amazing (sticky hugs and super-smart kids and seeing your genes in miniature), sometimes they just aren’t enough.  Sometimes, you wake up with dread in the pit of your stomach and nothing seems to make up for all the spills and fights and disasters and loneliness.

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When I first decided to be a full-time stay-at-home mom, it was a scary huge adjustment for me.  I always knew that I wanted to have kids but I also always expected to have an advanced degree, a part time job or some other “useful” outlet for my time and energy.  I knew the value of motherhood but couldn’t see myself deriving ALL my personal value from wiping stinky bums and making endless tuna fish sandwiches.

The decision to stay home full-time was a long and personal journey for me (as it is for any mom) and it was full of bumps and adjustments.  But now that I’m in my 10th(!) year of staying home full time with my kids (of which there are now 6 adorable, homeschooled ragamuffins), I have learned some amazing tools for dealing with the occasional emotional slump and ensuring that I wake up happy and excited to greet every single day (alright, almost every day).

Every mom will have different tactics she uses to keep her mom-bucket full, but here are my top 5.

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1.  Take care of yourself. 
I know, I know: gone are the days of the weekly pedicure or the 45 minute blow-out or sometimes even the daily shower.  But how you feel about yourself speaks volumes about how you’ll feel (and treat) your home and family.  Decide what makes you feel good and commit to doing it.

I personally have to shower and get dressed every day.  I don’t always wash my hair or shave or all those other niceties, but if I don’t shower, my motivation for just about anything else is gone and I feel like crap all day.

Also, exercise REEEALLLY helps me.  I know sometimes it’s only a pipe dream (like if you have a nursing baby younger than 6 months) but getting up just a half hour early to take a jog or do a YouTube yoga video makes me 110% more productive and energetic all day long.

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2.  Take care of your cleaning peeves, let go of the rest.
Take a minute and think of the messes or issues that REALLY bother you in a home.  Taking care of these in your own home might be so second nature to you that you’ll need to think of someone else’s home.  Do you despise filthy carpets?  Loathe crumbs on the counter?  Get super grossed out by dirty toilets?

Obviously we all prefer a clean, meticulous home, but if you are super stressed and busy beyond belief and have 5 minutes to take care of something, what would it be?  My top three are laundry on the floor (can’t stand it!), walking on crumbs (blech) and piles of toys everywhere.  Dirty dishes and bathroom sinks (while gross and eventually need to be cleaned) are less important to me.

The recognition of these stress triggers helps me to better manage my time.  I deal with the most annoying things first and, when I run out of time, I let the rest go.  This is hard, especially when people come to your house and you feel guilty or judged for having a mess.  In the end, your peace and happiness are more important than what the neighbors think.  There will come a time when you have all day to clean the house again.  And that is precisely when you will wish you had cute little kids running around to distract you from it 🙂

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3.  Make something beautiful
It took me several years to really understand this one and make it work for me, but when I did, it made all the difference in the world.  I recently did a presentation on creativity for a class I took with other homeschool moms.  I talked about how women are natural creators (we make people!) and that we are drawn to beauty.  I believe that it is part of our human nature to seek out and create things that please the senses.

It’s often hard for us to think past the visual arts in this sense (painting, design or crafting) but ALL of our senses appreciate beauty.  Instrumental music and song, delicious food, home repairs or décor, even fitness or fashion apply here.  Improving ourselves through any creative means will lift our spirits, give us a sense of purpose and fill our lives with appreciation for all of the beautiful things around us.  Read more rambling about the importance of creativity here!

I have found a passion in home decorating, sewing (obviously) and other crafts.  This can be as simple as hanging a picture on my wall.  But after a day of changing diapers that are just gonna get pooped in or feeding mouths that will be hungry in 20 minutes, anything I can do that stays done, is like a breath of fresh air!

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Some spectactularly fabulous college roommates of mine gather together from all over the country about once every 18 months or so to eat, talk, laugh uproariously and generally revel in each other’s amazing company.  I HIGHLY recommend this!


4.  Spend time with friends
Women are unique in our need for interaction from the same gender.  We need friendships with other women unlike men need guy friends.  I don’t know why this is, but it’s a fact (according to me).  When we isolate ourselves, either purposely or accidentally, we lose the ability to see ourselves from an outside perspective.

Give yourself 15 minutes with a few close friends and you will feel happier, more optimistic, less alone and more prepared to face the stress of everyday life (*not a scientific study, it just works!).  If you’re short on close friends, go find some.  I guarantee there are dozens of other mothers (and non-mothers!) in your town who need camaraderie and support just like you.

It helps to look in places where you might find someone with similar interests (the kid section of the library, the step class at the YMCA, church, etc.) but don’t count someone out just because you don’t see much in common up front.  Some amazing friendships can blossom in unlikely places (think church-going conservative housewife and tattooed, single gym rat).  If you feel like life is getting you down, schedule a girls’ night.  Chances are good that you’re not the only one who needs it.

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5.  Look at your kids
Have you ever found yourself, harried and overwhelmed at the end of the day, and realize that you haven’t even really looked your kids in the eye?  Maybe everyone woke up late and you forgot you had to carpool and someone threw up and there were 3 poop accidents.  Regardless of the reasons, I sometimes forget that my “job” includes caring for people.  Little people who love me and look up to me and just want to please me.

Sometimes, if I look into those little eyes, I can see past the 27th glass of spilled lemonade and realize that this kid just wants me to love them and tell them it’s OK.  Life is hard and scary and Mom is the ONLY person (besides Dad) who loves them unconditionally.  You are their entire world and they need you to acknowledge them and help them through the rough patches.  All the messes in the world won’t mean a darn thing to a mom who regularly gives her kids the attention and acceptance they need.

This is not a step intended to invoke guilt for ignoring your kids when you need 5 minutes alone in the bathroom (for the love of all that is holy… just FIVE minutes!!).  It’s simply a reminder that we can be tempted to see a child as a task instead of a sweet little person.

**As a final note, let me say that real (clinical and chemical) depression exists.  It often happens to mothers because of fluctuating birth hormones and then sticks around.  If, after doing everything you can to feel good about yourself, you just can’t seem to feel happy, please see a doctor.  There is great courage and nobility in recognizing that you need help to get your life back.  Don’t waste a single second of this precious time with your babies; seek for help and then reach out to others who might be struggling in the same way.  I thank the heavens that we live in a time of good therapists and miraculous medication.  We deserve to be happy!

Good luck, mamas!  The work you do is not only good, it is the best there is.

If you still doubt yourself, watch this.  Warning: may cause tears.