Seven Quick Takes

Seven Quick Takes


coffee, donuts, and coloring after mass

I just loved this moment captured after Mass on Sunday when all four kids, having been satisfied with donuts, sat down to work on coloring pages. One lovely mom sets up a coloring station for them on Sundays when they have coffee and donuts and I so appreciate it. In this picture the personalities of all four of them come out so clearly to me. Bella is a bit of a blur because she’s running back and forth getting markers and stickers. She’s very carefully colored her picture with naturalistic colors and decorated it with stickers. Sophie is very diligently coloring inside the lines and her colors are mostly right, flesh tones for the face and hands and a nice red dress. The hair is blue, though. She sits much more calmly, none of Bella’s fidgets. Ben is happily scribbling all over his picture, content to have something to color. He’s put a couple of stickers on, one he moved when he changed his mind about placement, leaving a bit rip in the paper; but he doesn’t notice such details. Meanwhile, Anthony has somehow joined two markers into a mega marker and is coloring on his hand.

Sophie with her coloring page

Here’s Sophie, proudly displaying her picture.


When Sophie and Bella are dissatisfied with their handwriting they say the letters are “woggley.” I think it’s a brilliant word, a sort of combination of wiggly and wobbly. And it reminds me of Pooh who says that his spelling wobbles.

Fortunately they are both getting better at not breaking down into tears every time their letters get woggley. Sophie especially has this perfectionist streak and just melts down when she can’t get something done to her own satisfaction. All I can say is that the apples don’t fall far from the tree. I may be satisfied with my handwriting but in other areas I too get easily upset when I fall short of my own self-imposed standards of performance.



Bella with a turkey drumstick. She was so excited to get this huge drumstick: “It’s as big as my head!” she exclaimed.

I bought a turkey on Monday and roasted it Thursday because chickens were $1.10 a pound and turkeys were $.59. And i won’t be making a turkey for Thanksgiving anyway as we’ll be eating with the in-laws. I’m fine with that but I do like to have turkey leftovers to play with and in some ways it’s more fun before Thanksgiving.


It was 54 degrees today—and felt colder—and I look up and Ben’s outside barefoot and with only short sleeves. When I made him come in for shoes, socks, and a jacket I discovered he was also poopy when he was unable to sit comfortably in a chair for me to put on his socks. When I confronted him he admitted that he was cold and that “it hurts.” Diaper rash, ugh. But was he doing anything about it? No.



Sophie is so super cute. She was absolutely devastated Saturday before last when they were out of cider donuts and was so upset she didn’t get a treat at all while Bella had a chocolate cupcake and the boys split a cookie. Last Saturday she chose this gorgeous sugar brioche. Boy was she happy


Chicken stock

My most recent batch of chicken stock. It’s pretty dark, not the clear golden color of the stuff in the box. This batch had kale stems, I think as well as other random vegetable bits. It might not look pretty; ut this stuff is liquid gold, I tell you. Especially when I’m sick.


Sorry I’m all out of juice. I’ve got several posts I’m working on but none are really coming together for me. Another day gone by and I need to sleep. So I’ll just publish this now, ok?


for more Quick Takes visit Conversion Diary



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  • Oh Melanie, I’m so sorry. I had no idea. I have never had PPD and, while I am an introvert, I don’t think I’m as introverted as you are, so I don’t pretend to know exactly how you feel.

    I’d be happy to watch the kids for you if it didn’t involve an 8 hour drive. smile

    I love Calah’s distinguishing between recreation and me time. Right now I get by with me time primarily because it is very hard to get recreation with so many little kids, especially being pregnant. To some extent, I accept the me time to get me by until the kids are a bit older and I can get some recreation. Not ideal, but it is okay for now. I do try to get to adoration every 2 weeks or so for some quiet prayer time as well.

    Part of my strategy is to try very hard not to stretch myself too thin or overdo it. If I know I’m going to have a long day, I try to keep the morning more laid back so I have reserves for the rest of the day. Sometimes that is easier than others but sometimes it involves banning the kids to the playroom with the choice of either playing in it or cleaning it. Sometimes it means I just tell the kids I’m tired and I need a break and they need to play outside without me. And sometimes it means I put on a VeggieTales for Teresa. Not every day, or necessarily even most days, go the way I’d like ideally, but you and I are in our 8th month… and recognizing the importance of not overdoing it, not taking on too much, not exhausting ourselves – for the sake of our unborn children, for the sake of ourselves, and for the sake of our families who suffer when we become grouchy, exhausted and drained – is not a rejection of a cross, but the embracing of one. It isn’t easy and it isn’t the way we’d really like things, but if it keeps us from losing our temper or getting depressed then it keeps us from the ocassion of sin. Most of my adult interaction comes from my parents, who live with us, and one family whom we see at most once a week but at least once a month, who also have 4 kids and homeschool (and the internet). Personally I wouldn’t recommend trying to connect to strangers which, for me at least, takes even more energy and stress, but would wonder if there is someone you already know, maybe a family member or other homeschooling family who could visit even if only once a month? No more than you could handle, however often that would be.

    You know you best. What would help YOU recharge? Would it be having company for adult conversations or would it be more like your birthday? Maybe you and Dom could arrange a Mom’s Day Off once a month and, if it became a regular thing, the kids wouldn’t drain you so much the day afterwards? Trips to the beach and zoo and the like are fun, but I know when we took the kids to the aquarium, it was exhausting. Taking four young children anywhere not baby-proofed is tiring, especially if you don’t have other adults to help. I guess what I’d wonder is, in an ideal world, what would you want to help balance things out? Would you want to take a lesson like Calah or just have quiet time in your room or go out by yourself? I completely understand what you mean by things being out of balance, but the question is what would work best for YOU to restore/create a balance. If you can figure out what would give you that charge, then maybe things can start falling into place.

    Again, I’m sorry I can’t come by and watch the kids to give you a break. I hope I haven’t been preachy or presumptious… I certainly didn’t intend to but as I tried to put Teresa’s socks on my own feet this morning, I can’t say it is one of my best mornings. smile Hang in there. Less than 2 months to go with blessed Advent and Christmas to help. smile

  • Dear Melanie,
    as I also can not offer you “personal” help, I will take you to mass with me this evening. You have given me so much with your writing, so this is the least I can do. And oh yes, I can understand it very well when every good advice seems to be another task in which one fails. Will pray.

  • Dear Melanie, my heart goes out to you. I understand. I understand the loneliness and the isolation, the being introverted, and the not knowing quite what the perfect solution would be, or even what the workable solution would be, and most of all, I understand just how hard it is to ask for help, to want help, to wish there was someone who could just show up …

    We aren’t in the same places in our lives—my children are older than yours, and I don’t know if I will ever again be blessed with pregnancies, babies, breastfeeding, and all the hormonal fluctuations that go with that!

    But I am in a similar place nonetheless: disabled from a brain tumor, primarily homebound, chronically sleep-deprived from the pain, no close friends nearby (they all live far too far away to visit), adult conversations that are few and far between; it is extraordinarily difficult to find help with rides, meals etc. I am lonely. And it is hard to admit that. (Why, I wonder. I suppose because I have always been the ‘strong’ one, the self-reliant, runaround do all the work without a second’s hesitation sort of person. And now I can’t).

    I am an Oblate in a Monastic Order, and I come to the Monastery on silent retreat every couple of months. It is a balm to my soul. I love my children dearly, I will grieve deeply when they are all grown (not too many years left now), oh that I would be or would have been blessed with more … I ponder too, actively discern, my calling to the monastic life. But. I might be too disabled to answer that call: it might not be reasonable, you see, for the Monastery to take on my care when all I can give, literally, is prayer. There is much physical work to be done, and few hands. Without either of those callings being fulfilled (a larger family and so expanding the years of my active motherhood, or the monastic life) … Whatever am I to do with the remaining decades of my life? Which meanderings take us off the path of this post …

    You wrote: “maybe right now this loneliness and lack of support is my cross to carry” and tears sprang to my eyes because I too, feel the weight of that cross every day. And so I wanted to tell you so, in the hopes that knowing that others understand, are struggling with the same cross, and are holding you in their thoughts and prayers, helps, even a little.

  • Is there a Catholic pre-school to which you could send your children twice a week in the afternoon when the younger ones nap and you could either nap, pray, read or write?  You are not a failure if you find some relief from the relentlessness of child care.

    Are you trying to do too much with all your children so young?  I am amazed at all the prayer, reading and writing you do (which I realize restore your soul) but home-schooling, writing, cooking, cleaning, baby care, etc., etc., etc.—just reading about your life makes me exhausted. 

    I have wondered how you were doing these days and I ache for you and will keep you in my prayers in the days ahead.  Sadly, I’m half the country away so can’t act as Grandma.  Love reading about your children and you are an inspiration spiritually also.

  • Melanie,
    As only a blog reader in Indiana and a very, very rare commenter, I can’t be part of a closer community to offer you support. I can’t offer to help with a mother’s day out or other physical support …. I am offering up my prayers today for you.

    That said, I just wanted to say thank you for sharing of yourself, especially the messy bits, because it reached out and grabbed my heart about where I am in my own life.  It was so illuminating.  From one fellow introverted mother of four under seven to another …. thank you.  There is more I want to write and also read it over again … but the baby cries…. and I have to think about dinner …. Please know I am so deeply appreciative that you wrote and posted this entry.  Just praying for you,

  • Dear Melanie, my heart goes out to you.  I preface this by saying I am not a parent, so I can’t speak from that viewpoint.  But you have a LOT on your plate.  You have four small children, and there is soon to be another.  I know you are committed to homeschooling, but reality is that there are not enough hours in the day to tend to everyone AND tend to yourself.  From what I’ve heard from other mothers, there is some amount of catch up time/breathing space that can happen when kids are in school.  In addition, there is some socialization that happens in school and that can relieve you of the worries of trying to arrange playdates, etc.  That might give you some pockets of time when you can recharge.  Would you consider that as an option?

    What concerns me is that you seem to feel guilty that you can’t manage it all.  You’ve got a lot of demands on you AND you are pregnant, which further drains your energy.  It’s not like you have a whole neighborhood of stay-at-home moms (at least I’m assuming you don’t, as you don’t mention that) with whom you can trade off babysitting, etc.  You are alone, all day long, with four small people who always need something, as children do. 

    I guess my point in all this is that something has to give.  There is no shame in acknowledging that you can’t be all things to all people.  If you decide not to homeschool for now, for example, it doesn’t mean you are a bad parent or a failure.  You are a good mother.  You love your children and do the very best you can for them and by them, but you also need to “put your own oxygen mask on”, so to speak. 

    Sometimes God doesn’t seem to answer our prayers outright, but it is in the silence and the prayerful pondering that an answer reveals itself.

  • I cannot presume to speak for Melanie, but as a long-time homeschooler, as a mother who continues to homeschool through physical disability and big life changes … I want to share my opinion that the issue here isn’t homeschooling. It’s just not. Again, I’m sure that Melanie is fully capable of speaking for herself, I’m not trying to speak to this for her regarding the suggestion that she stop homeschooling, or find a preschool for the kids. I know that for my own self: homeschooling my children is a commitment that springs from deep in my heart and soul, I feel called by God to raise my children in this manner; it is a family living philosphy, for us, as much as it is an educational method.

    Life with a big family is always going to be super busy and complex in ways that are specific to that big family.

    Discerning what we need from friendships and community is a long-term, changeable process. There will be periods of loneliness, there will be growing pains. This is normal!

    Melanie, I so appreciate you sharing your heart with us, your stangers-in-the-internet readers. To blog is to make oneself vulnerable. I hope that you are receiving the support here that you need.  {{hugs}}

  • This all sounds familiar. My mother always said “It’s productive pain” about labor.  That phrase has always stuck with me as a sort of mantra, which I’m reminded of when I read this, having often, often thought “I just want to be alone!” while mothering and then feeling unnatural about that sentiment.

  • Oh, Melanie. *HUGS*

    Is it too ridiculous for me to say I know how you feel? I’ve got an obscene amount of time to myself every single day but I’m still bone-dry and I have no idea how to fix it.


  • We recently moved from the suburbs of New York, where there were lots of stay-at-home moms and lots of young children around with their nannies, to semi-rural Virginia where all the young children are in daycare or preschool.  It is like a wasteland during the day.  I know there are other moms around, but where are they?  I used to get all the social interaction I wanted from going to the park or the library, but here it is rare that we find any other kids to play with.

    I have been reading your blog for many years but rarely commented.  It has often been my lot to be lonely.  I think that I too am an introvert, but I am also very shy, which is different from introversion.  Anyway.  I’m not sure what point I want to make.  I haven’t made any friends yet in our new town, and it is lonely.  There are two families with older children down the block from where we live, and I always see one mother walking across the street in her pajamas with hot coffee in the morning.  I don’t know whose children are whose because they are always playing at each others’ houses.  I think that it how it should be, and how it was for most people until not too long ago. 

    My father was just telling me on the phone one of his favorite childhood memories: a group of maybe 50 children, the oldest about 6 the youngest around 2, tied their bicycles and tricycles together with rope and made a train and spent the whole day pulling it around the block.  This is before preschool or kindergarten were common, so none of them were in school.  Parents weren’t afraid to let their children play unsupervised outside, and all the moms were home.  Very different from now. 

    We put our daughter in preschool a couple of months after moving here, because there was no one else to play with.  It is lonely for me, and for her too.  I love the rare times I get to talk to our neighbors or someone comes over, but they are really rare.  Maybe once every month or two.

    In terms of recreation, I took violin lessons for my whole childhood, and didn’t play much after going to college.  I recently started to play nearly every day, and it has been wonderful.  I spent ages searching for ‘something to do’, never realizing that the answer was right in front of me.  The violin is perfect for me because I can do it at home, with an awake toddler who has her own garage sale violin now, and I already have a certain level of competence.  Maybe there is something you used to do that you are overlooking?

    And one more thing.  Early this year I read ‘Bringing Up Bebe’ about the American mother raising her children in Paris.  My husband is from Italy and was always telling me to be more strict, that I would be happier and our daughter less needy and happier too, that Italian parents don’t become so overwhelmed like Americans, etc.  I didn’t believe him, but after reading this book, with a grain of salt, I was more willing to have rules and to be very strict and it helped tremendously.  I only have one child, so our situations are different, but I think that having rules about when your children can ask for things vs. when they have to do things themselves,  might really help.

    Beyond that, I think that this is just the way of the world now, and that as a homeschooling mother of many, you are doing everything that you can to change it, and maybe someday it won’t be like this for young mothers anymore.

  • Poor Melanie!  I checked, but it’s a literal 2 day drive from Texas.  And who am I kidding, I’d spend the entire time there lying wretchedly on any available flat surface.  I don’t have the energy to blog, my house is a disaster, I can’t even make it through Mass (too much up and down).  I’d be worse than useless.

    Part of the pressure of play dates and such, I think, is that they aren’t work, they cut away from time when we could be working, and replace it with something that (for an introvert) is neither leisure or useful work.  It’s just some sort of grown up busywork that produces nothing and wastes energy.

    As much as I wish I could quit and stay home with David, to homeschool him and care for this new one (hopefully), and as much as I resent how my boss tries to squeeze 40 hours of work for 20 hours of pay, I have to acknowledge that, even miserably sick, it is a little bit of relief for me to be working with and alongside other adults.  And I think this is what you’re missing, what is missing from the stay at home mother’s life in general that makes it difficult.  Work is easier, somehow, with others around to share it – even when you aren’t working on the same project.

    …I gotta go.  David’s left hand is fighting with his right over which gets to pat me on the back.  But you can always email me if you need to talk.  About anything.

  • I love you Melanie! I wish I were in Boston right now. I am going to pray for you and ask my network to pray for you. You are an awesome person and a great mom.

  • Hey Melanie,

    I am so sorry – it is hard when you feel alone.  So… come to our “south support” meeting Thursday evening, if you can (see CHIME calendar for details).  And if you can’t, please get in touch with me.  I know another young mom who desperately needs support right now, who is very shy and far away from family.  Her husband tells me she needs friends, but unless she needs a surrogate mom, I am probably not the right person.  And if that doesn’t seem possible to you, either, please do pray for her – and i will pray for you.

  • Thank you everyone for your prayers and your sympathy and everything. Please don’t miss my follow up posts: In the Tomb with Jesus
    Making a Clean and Quiet Space.

    I just spent almost an hour typing up individual responses to everyone who has commented here and then when I tried to submit the comment the computer ate them all. Oy! Time to go to bed now. But do know that I have read them and cherished them and given each of them a response in my mind and heart even if the words I wanted to send have vanished.

    God bless you all. I am so very thankful for the wonderful community of my readers. Your prayers have been a source of grace and peace for me in the past couple of days.

  • Thank you for writing this. Especially for both you and Calah writing about ‘holy leisure’ versus me time. Right now I have four under five years old, a husband running a small business which takes him away three nights a week, and I feel stretched and empty and exhausted and guilty, all at the same time, even though we have help from friends and relatives.

    I think I need, ache for, something important and permanent to do which is not raising my children and taking care of my house. Instead of finding something I steal away to the computer and then snap at my kids for interrupting me.

    Thanks you, prayers, and hugs.

  • Melanie,

    I’m not in your shoes, really:  I’m single and work at a secretarial job on weekdays.  But I have felt similarly alone and overwhelmed in recent months/years.  This chapter of my life has been/is a difficult one. 

    Thank you for saying all that you did in your post.  I don’t care that you didn’t wrap it up or ‘have a point;’ I’m grateful that you allowed us in to your confusion and pain.  It helps me to know that someone else feels the way I have.

    I wrestle with some of the things you mentioned, but your comments about how right, proper, and necessary communio is vs it’s not present in your life (enough) right now and ok, you’ll offer that pain up to Him….that’s a hard question for me.  “Lord, this is *WRONG*! How come You aren’t helping me find communio faster?!  You of all people know that this is not how my life should be lived, this alone. Why aren’t You moving/opening doors FASTER?!!?!” —that’s been my response to it.  I hadn’t thought to offer it up to Him. How amazing that you were moved to do that, and said yes to the grace and did it.  I hope I remember that option next time I have words with Him about this.

    At any rate, I just wanted to thank you for letting me/us hear such personal thoughts and struggles from you, and to say that you are in my prayers.  Thank you, too, for sharing with us how your daughters’ chant about being in the tomb with Jesus spoke to you, and for the reminder that we are not alone in the pain/death we experience/perceive. 

    p.s.  I did read your post about Dom moving the television and your subsequently re-arranging/cleaning up a lot of things.  Sounds like that helped—at least, gave you some energy and encouragement.  Hurrah for that!
    Peace, ~MB

  • Margo, I’ve been single and lonely/overwhelmed too and in many ways it feels exactly the same. When I first moved to Massachusetts for school I felt so much like an alien in a strange land. And sometimes I still feel that way. At first glance the differences in culture between Texas and here don’t seem like they should make such a huge difference; but somehow they do. I think that sense of being perpetually not among my people, hearing a language that isn’t quite right, does contribute to my ongoing sense of isolation. When we went to Texas in September I felt this strange release even when among strangers: these are my people!

    I think my response in general has been pretty much the same as yours. Offering it up was a solitary moment of grace. Mostly I yell at God about how colossally unfair it all is. I do often find that those moments of grace come with a compulsion to write about them. I think the grace is one that’s meant to be shared, not just for me but for me to console others with the same consolation that I have received. It’s a small mission, a little thing to share; but one that I am immensely grateful for.

    I must confess the last couple of days I’m back in the slump. Moving furniture only goes so far, I guess. It would probably help if I were getting more sleep at night but I’m stuck in a pattern of staying up far, far too late.

    Anyway, thank you for the prayers. I appreciate them. And yes, it is so nice to know I’m not alone. Sharing the experience, even virtually, is a consolation in itself and a form of communio, even if not as satisfactory as a face to face encounter. That’s not lost on me.

  • I also love Leila’s advice about keeping a house clean and organized.  For me, a messy house exacerbated the chaos and my bad moods.  I made it a priority to get rid of clutter and just have less stuff. I would rotate toys and keep some in boxes in the basement.  The kids seemed to play better if there was less to play with and they had more room to move. Plus when I brought out new boxes, it kept them very interested.  So, I guess I am saying, simplifying helped me.  Also, going to the grocery store by myself was key! my husband would watch the kids on a Sat. morning and i would get a much needed break by myself even if it was just to the store.

  • Melanie,

    Yes:  virtual communio is not the same as face-to-face, but there is some grace that comes through it. *So* not lost on me, either.  Truly, thank you!

    I will pray for you especially re: things you mentioned.

    Thanks for writing about your grace-filled moments, too.  I have to say, I saw some grace today, too:  I currently work for an RN who thinks she should be allowed to dictate exactly how I do my secretarial work.  This afternoon, she insisted I spend over an hour copying a manual when several schedules are due this week, we had a student available, and I’m out after 5pm tomorrow.  It was stupid on several levels.

    But:  one of my co-workers on the same floor listened to me, coached me on what to remember and expect in conversations, AND, when I chafed to her about the stupidity of the RNs demands, basically turned the RNs demands into a game.  In effect, this co-worker said to me, “Come on; we’ll play the game.  Forget about being actually helpful, just do what RN says. Watch me play; ok, now it’s your turn; got it?”  She couldn’t have given me better if she’d made it up herself! I knew, without a doubt, that God had just given me the *perfectly*-tailored help/encouragement I needed to let go of my frustration and give up my way.  He didn’t have to give me that or let me see Him at work but, generously, He did.  smile

  • Hello, I just discovered your blog via Leila.  You are a wonderful writer.  I have been in your shoes – just a few years ago when my children were younger.  I have 3 children.  The winter when my oldest was age 3 and my twins were age 1 was so, so hard.  I like food from scratch, but for me, something had to give and so I made just simple stuff so I didn’t have to spend much time in the kitchen.  I loved to use the crockpot, too. Although I tried to take the children out every day, sometimes that was too much.  I rarely socialized because at the end of the day, I was just exhausted and all I wanted to do was read or surf the web, so I did this.  Looking back, I wish I had taken up one older friend’s offer to go with me on outings to make it easier.  she was age 75 or so and I really should have done that a few times.  I know you are homeschooling, but I enrolled my children in preschool and then public school and this really saves my sanity – I get a nice block of time to myself when they are at school.  I work from home so I am working during that time but it is peaceful.  When my twins were 2 and my older son was 4 and he was at preschool, I got a nice break when my twins took a nap. I was vigilant about the nap schedule as it was my only break all day!  Hang in there!  Hang out with Leila, too; she has been there and done that and she is very understanding and helpful!