12 February, 2015

Introducing Mr. Nutsy!

Much to my surprise and delight, Kevin surprised me with permission to start looking for a dog for Christmas. I grew up with pups ALL my life. I don't think there was a moment of my childhood that didn't include a dog. However, early marriage and young children are not super conducive to the attention a dog requires and Kevin isn't a huge dog person.

He has seen me pining. Pining for my sister's dogs, pining for my friends' dogs and desperately waiting. I made a concerted effort not to push the issue. A dog is a big commitment and I never wanted it to be a source of resentment. I had resigned myself to the fact that a dog was going to have to wait until at the very least all young things could feed and dress themselves. And then he sprung it on me...

Kevin told me that he had been looking at a dog for me, but he didn't want to make the decision without consulting me. I nearly jumped out of my skin as much as a mom can without raising the hopes and expectations of her children.


We decide we wanted to welcome a rescue dog into our home and quite frankly as the process went on I began to believe that im it very well have to trade my firstborn in order to convince anyone to let us love a dog. We looked at and inquired about four dogs.

Dog 1: Despite a bio that said she was good with kids, we were denied because she was too skittish for kids. ???

Dog 2: We called, we drove 4 hours round trip to visit, we loved on him and filled out an application. I called to thank the shelter. I called to follow up on the application. I never received any further information even after being promised a call later that afternoon. I found out through a Facebook post that he had been adopted...???

Dog 3: Loved him, inquired, applied, talked with a lovely rescue worker and waited for a call from the foster mom. Got an email stating that foster mom was keeping him. After a year of fostering him, our interest sparked her desire to finally adopt him???

Dog 4: Perfect. Small, young, but not a puppy. Good breed. Good with kids and cats. Our applucation was the best fit. We set up the perfect time to visit on our way through town as she was being fostered 2 hours from our home. We got there and she hid in the corner. I picked her up to love on her and she quivered. She shook every time our kids walked up. The foster dad tells the kids to be careful because he doesn't want her to bite their faces. ??? Then he tells us that her spay incontinence is under control, but she doesn't ride well in the car - poos, pees, and pukes in the car. ???

Dog 5: We almost didn't visit him. He was bigger than we wanted. We had just set up the visit with Dog 4 and were to,d we would need to make a decision quickly because there were other applications behind us. Having already applied to meet Dog 5 who was being fostered in the same city as Dog 4 we wanted to meet them both, but we were waiting on application approval before we could be put in touch with his foster mom. I sent a Hail Mary email and prayer asking if there was any chance that during the rescues holiday shutdown that we could even meet Peanut. The night before we were to be travelling we got the call. His foster mom spent 30 minutes telling me all about him and agreed that we could meet him the next day on our way through! Kevin's response, "You still want to meet him?"

My response, "We might as well."

We met him after the fateful first meeting of Dog 4. We were disheartened and disillusioned. We pulled up the foster's home in a neighborhood that looked suspiciously Like our old neighborhood. We were welcomed with open arms in their home and their lives. Peanut was energetic and immediately took to me. He showed off his tricks and his love of television and food. We now understood why he was overweight. The family that surrendered him had fed him primarily people food - white bread and sausage sandwiches were he favorites.??? He was well trained, but had been surrendered because his family had gotten a puppy. ??? He had already lost some weight but needed to lose more.

Not five minutes in, I mouthed to Kevin, "He is it!" Our rescue had a 5 day foster period to make sure the dog is a good fit. I wanted to take him with us that day! I didn't want to leave him! However, we were on our way to my parents house for the weekend and didn't want to confuse him. We agreed to pick him up on Sunday.

Sunday was a miserable cold and snowy day. Instead of a nice visit, we picked him up in a flash, but he jumped right in and settled down. And the rest is history.

Peanut is an amazing dog. Loving, friendly, communicates well, and such a sweet companion. He is a six-year-old pointer/terrier/border collie mix. He is house-trained and despite the bitter cold and snow has not had a single accident. He is a land shark and will do anything for food. He stole cucumbers off my salad one day and then stole a bunch of bananas off the counter and proceeded to eat half of one, peel and all. It's a learning curve, but we are managing!

Already I can't imagine life without him. We are a dog family now and Mr. Nutsy makes us better than we were before. We can't wait to enjoy him outdoors as the weather improves!

And as per the theme of our family, we almost missed out on him. But God knew...

Stay awake for a lifetime of the unexpected!



01 February, 2015

The Scoopy Six

My oldest turned six a few months back. I'm just now getting around to publishing this! It's hard to believe we've been parents for five full years now! There is never a dull moment.
Time to start the list - one item for which I am grateful for each year of life.
1. I'm grateful for his smile. His desire to please and to share love and joy is contagious and will serve him well. He always knows when I need "Scoopy-lovin'".

2. I'm grateful for his feelings. John Ross is my emotional compass for our family. He is overall an even-keeled kid with lots of heart. However, when I see his good nature waiver, I can place a sure bet that something is out of balance in our family as a whole.

3. I'm grateful for his curiosity. Questions like, "Why do we need time?" And "Why does Jesus matter anyways?" keep me on my toes and give me opportunities to evaluate my answers.

4. I'm grateful for his boundless energy. Sigh.

5. I'm grateful for his servant's heart, which silently chides and inspires my own heart.

6. I'm grateful for his perseverance. Never did I believe that when we taught him the word that it would become such a driving force in his life. He is not easily foiled and has a rock-solid work ethic.



25 August, 2014

15 Months + 30 Years Equals Childhood

I always say that 15 months is when my life changes with a baby. Thomas has been no different. At the end of this month we will hit the 15 month milestone. He is walking, indicating needs, calling me mama, and feeding himself. He is as much joy and contentment as he was as a newborn. He brings so much light to our lives.

Next month marks another milestone for us as our beautiful Clara starts school. I will put two of my children on the bus each morning and spend a few blessed hours with my baby and my house. Never before have I had this blessing, challenging as it may be sometimes.

This year would have been so different if it weren't for the unexpected arrival of our Thomas. I would be working outside the home. I would be contemplating a move to full time. We would still have a nanny. The kitchen cabinets would not be refinished...

Because of the open nature of our marriage and my womb, our lives have been changed in such a miraculous way. I am now home with my children. I am now more present to their lives. Because I am now home during the day, my career as a writer and speaker has taken off in directions beyond my wildest dreams. My health has never been better in my adult life.

Today I sit in the visitor center of The Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe in La Crosse, Wisconsin. I am preparing to give a retreat for the executive board of Catholic Charities, La Crosse. Never in my wildest dreams did I imagine this as part of my life.

But my Lord did.

As I turn 30 this year, so many things have settled in my heart and become the focus of my prayer life. 30 so far seems to be the decade of reflection and reconciliation. We've lost some dear friends this year and come closer to others. We have been called to face the mortality of our loved ones and the mortality of ourselves. The great blessing in reflecting on our limited humanness is the opportunity to remember God generosity, God's provision, and God's fortifying love.

Since losing a dear friend in June I've spent a great deal of time reflecting on those in my life who have impacted the woman I am today. Two weeks before his death I ran into him while dining at a local restaurant with my children and mother-in-law. He bought our dinner, unbeknownst to us, until the bill arrived. I thanked him, Clara gave him a drawing and we went on our way with a light quip about lunch sometime soon. About a week later, I drove past the parish where we'd worked together and saw his vehicle out front. I considered stopping to talk, but told myself I'd do it later. A week later, he had gone to our Lord. It is one of those moments I will never forget; one of those missed opportunities that will stay with me forever.

As such, I'm making it a point to feel more in my 30s. My husband regularly reminds me that I need to trust God and follow my heart, not the way society tells my heart it should be feeling. In the past 20 years I've left so many things unsaid. Raised to move around, I've left so many relationships unfinished. It is only now that I am beginning to appreciate the person God created me to be. It is only in the present moment, stable and supported, that I have truly begun to appreciate the awkward, precocious, curious, and genuine young woman of my youth. My adolescent emotions and anxiety had validity. These experiences make me authentic and I must not go forgetting them or pretending they didn't happen. I've already spent too many years running away and then trying to catch up to whom I really am. I'm tired of starting over.

I want my daughter to know authenticity. I want her to trust her heart at any age. I want my son to recognize, name, and embrace his "old soul" in a way I wish I had. I want my baby to forever live in his simple joy of risk. I want to protect them, but I want them to grow to love their own identity and their own place in this world, unmasked by my fear and trepidation.

God guides our hearts if only we take time to listen. It's easy to talk. It's hard to listen. As a child, I was a great listener. When I found myself no longer heard, my ability to listen diminished, leaving me vulnerable, confused and broken. When I married Kevin, my voice once again took on sound and I am now in a place where I need to practice the art of listening once again. I must re-learn listening so that I can grow in Faith, Hope, and Love.

Matthew 18:1-5 "At that time the disciples approached Jesus and said, "Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?" He called a child over, placed it in their midst, and said, "Amen, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven. Whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. And whoever receives one child such as this in my name receives me.""

I having been hearing God's call in this passage for the past few months. 30 marks a new childhood for me. I must embrace this time with my young children and husband as a time to not only example, but practice these childlike arts. I am being called to fill myself up with knowledge and experiences like a child. I am being called to practice once again the genuine love, innocent trust, and fearless abandonment of my childhood. It is time to laugh like Christ and the little child.

I am excited and I am grateful. I miss my dear friend, but I'm in debt to him for being an example of Christ's selfless, ever-giving love and for inspiring me to embrace the Christ child within.

"Come, sit, and tell stories of those loved."





Welcome to the Herd!

Family road trip! Complete with at least 3 potty stops (and iced coffee to take the edge off so many potty stops) and at least one newly coined word from Clara. This trip it was, "gooseballs".

I love the Blogsy app! Never before have I been able to type a blog post while on a road trip.

We are on our way to a weekend trip to Chicago to visit with my family and celebrate my beautiful niece Elizabeth's 2nd birthday. I can't help but reflect on how big all of our children are getting! They are growing so beautifully and becoming such wonderful little people. What a joy and immense blessing to be co-creating them with our Lord.

We often quote the movie "Ice Age" when talking about our very unique extended family. Sid the Sloth says, "We are the weirdest herd I've ever seen." And truly WE are. Not only do we have unique upbringings and values set, our family has grown in very unique ways. A family of 3 girls, we welcomed a 2-year-old brother (through adoption) at the same time we were welcoming brother-in-laws into our lives. And just when the lake cabin was the perfect size for our extended family, God surprised us with both my niece Elizabeth and our joyful son Thomas. And the story of Elizabeth's adoption is what brings me to today's post.

Elizabeth joined our family through adoption. Her story is worth telling and retelling as a powerful example of God's generosity and provision. My sister and brother-in-law found out Elizabeth just a week before she was born. Elizabeth's beautiful and generous birth mom has two other daughters and was working to get her feet back under her when she found out she was expecting Elizabeth. She knew that God was not calling her to parent this child. She did not search for an adoptive family until she was nearly nine months pregnant. She found my sister and her husband through a friend.

An uncomplicated pregnancy with good maternal choices, Elizabeth's mom had not had any prenatal care. Shortly after meeting my sister and her husband, she visited the doctor to check her dates. During the examination, the medical staff discovered a tear in the amniotic sac which was leaking amniotic fluid. Fluid levels were so low that they decided an emergency c-section was in order.

My sister was called and she rushed to find a floating replacement nurse on her pediatric critical care unit. In tears, she and her husband rushed to the hospital. They waited in the waiting room for news of their child. Elizabeth arrived healthy and they were told they needed to wait out the recovery time. Expecting a wait, my sister sent her husband home to let the dog out. Shortly after he left, a recovery nurse came up and offered to sneak my sister into recovery. As she entered the room and held her baby for the first time, the tears flowed freely. She was the first person to hold Elizabeth and 3 days later our sweet little Lizzy came home.

I visited my little baby girl the Monday after her birth. I snuggled her up close as I sat in the sunny outdoor swing at my mom's house. Never had my heart been so full. All of the sudden I understood the sheer awesome task of being an aunt. There is something so deep about that relationship.

(Insert flux of mama hormones here...and despite scientific hormonal tracking and charting to the exact opposite, said hormones miraculously led to the birth of our sweet little Thomas exactly 9 months later.)

3 weeks later marked the forfiture of parental rights.

6 months later marked the offical adoption date.

Upon her formal adoption, family and friends received a pink announcement with the scripture passage, "For this child I prayed."

And truly there could be no sweeter answer to our prayers. Happy Birthday my little Dizzy! I love you.

(Blogsy and traffic in Milwaukee is not a good combo for this motion sickness-prone mama...)



17 August, 2014

Stay-at-Home Sacrifice: It's NOT all Bunny Rabbits and Roses!

This is what summer is for!

I probably should have been blogging through our massive family transition, if for no reason other than to record it for myself, but alas, I didn't feel much like writing.

I announced it on Facebook, shared it with family and friends, and processed it with anyone who would listen, but I couldn't write about it.

In November, our dear nanny decided she needed to be spending more time with her kiddos. I respect that and am grateful that we had the kind of relationship that allowed her to say so. Since then she has taken time to spend days with Clara and Thomas and given this mama a break once in awhile. We are so grateful for all that she gave and gives to our family.

As a result, Kevin and I had to figure out what to do. With John Ross in school half days and the two littles still at home, finding help and a workable schedule was not easy. After some trial and error, we decided it was time for me to stay home. Working for the church didn't offer the kind of monetary value that allowed us to hire another sitter and give us any additional take home income. Why work to pay the nanny to raise our children? (There is a whole other blog post in there somewhere...an institution that takes the moral high ground on family life, but doesn't provide a living wage or family-friendly benefits like paid family leave.) In addition, here are some things we had to come to terms with in light of our decision:

Always with the tongue!

1. This was God's plan.I tried to explain this to my pastor. I wouldn't have chosen this. If it had been up to me, I would have stayed working the limited hours and limited responsibility job at my parish. I came in, worked, and went home. It was a good break for my head and a good way to appreciate my children. I didn't make much after paying my nanny, but it was worth it. I wouldn't have chosen this drastic course correction, but it was given to us. Everything leading up to this decision was God. We are very much at peace with our decision despite the monumentous adjustments it has required. We are trusting in God's providence.

My first little love.

2. We are grateful.There has been so much peace in our household. I've completed chores on a weekly basis that hadn't been fully complete since John Ross was born. I've gotten into a routine with my two littles which has been invaluable. I've been able to commit hours each week to my physical and mental health with the gift of a YMCA membership from my family. I can slow down and appreciate these fleeting moments with my children and provide more fully for my husband's needs. We are so grateful for this gift.

3. Contrary to popular belief, staying home is not all bunny rabbits and tulips.This is God's plan, we are at peace, and we are grateful, but this is hard. I have several friends who have walked the journey of working outside the home with me for the last 5 years and I so often hear, "It must just be so much easier. I'm so jealous."

Yes, there are times when it is easier. I'm not pushed out the door by a schedule and I'm not rushing home to get dinner on the table during the famous witching hour. My laundry gets done. I don't always have to shower or get dressed in the morning.

But I am always on. There is no physical or mental break. There is no change of mental pace or shift in the demographic I serve. I can't leave it at the office. At work, projects come to an end. At an office, I can close the door. On the phone, the conversation wraps up. At home, the house is never clean, the kids are never ready, there is always another meal and another load of laundry. The closets don't stay clean. There is always needs and you are considered on the job 24/7. When you're working, you get a few hours where ultimately, you're still the top executive of your household, but you've got a director below you managing for awhile.

Again, thankful, grateful, blessed, and honored to have the "luxury", as many call it, of choosing to stay home. That said, I would contest that it isn't much easier than working outside the home.(And for the record, it's hard to blog about something when the only feedback you get on your thoughts is in non-sense all toddler song, baby babble, or Star Wars speak.)

4. We must live with less.We have had to make a lot of mental and financial adjustments. The small amount of money I was bringing in was our "mad money". It allowed us to do extra things like traveling, eating out, and little shopping splurges. We've had to take a closer look at everything we buy. We've done a lot of repurposing, reselling, and rummaging.

Recently, I received a check for some freelance work that I did with a note saying "Buy yourself something nice!" While the sentiment was lovely and thoughtful, there is no extra in our life. We live paycheck to paycheck, making every effort to keep our savings account intact.

If it looks the same on the outside, that is a huge testament to the sheer amount of work we have done to maintain our life despite our financial changes. It is also testament to the generosity of others, our families and those who have generously given their time and "cast offs" to help our family thrive.

3 kids born in Green Bay, it's about time we get to family night!

I say this not because I care what my blog readers and friends think of us. We have made a commitment to a way of life that God called us to and we are at peace.

I write this because I know there are other moms and couples out there that have made similar choices and perhaps can't put them into words. How many of us have worked tirelessly to create a beautiful, peaceful and loving life, but because the grass is always greener, others believe that we're just "lucky"?

No, we are called. We are gifted. We have responded to God's invitation to co-create, sometimes not knowing the sacrifice He is going to ask of us.

And yet, we are so blessed.


11 August, 2014

CMO: My Piece of Heaven

Below you will find a post I wrote a while back for Catholic Mothers Online. Check out the site as it has been recently updated and looks fantastic!

My husband told me during date night last night that the reason he wants to consult is only to make enough money to move to the Mediterranean with his trophy wife...

Besides the fact that after 3 kids I consider myself pretty far-flung from a trophy wife (although I adore his playful compliment), there is something so enticing, simple and poetic about that dream. If only it could be true. And yet, there is something biblical about that dream. There is something so deep in my heart that yearns for that kind of simplicity. I recently read an article about an island in the Mediterranean with many of these life-giving qualities and I suppose I've been working on this vision for awhile now.

Luscious, tart, fresh olives and their sweet, silky oil draped gently over today's catch. Fresh peppery greens and velvety sweet onions that transform your body from the inside out. Homemade wine and vinegar known for its properties of longeviety. Fresh, creamy goat cheese and pollen-laden honey on freshly baked flatbread. Chewy pasta and pungent garlic settling comfortably at the core of my body.

Living to survive. Growing and gardening to feed oneself. Hunting off the land and learning to every part of an animal or bird to nourish your body. Treating the land with the necessary care to continue its living cycle. Working because it is God's gift, not because you are compelled to compete or to achieve or to buy. Tying my long hair back at the nap of my neck and never again wondering what people think of the frizzy little tendrils that frame my face. Knowing that every mark on my body, wrinkle on my face, and ache in my bones is an outward sign of my story and my journey and knowing that everyone else around me knows it too.

Immense solitude and deep relationships. Time in the olive groves when the only sound you hear is the heat of the sun and the occassional pitter patter of falling olives. Listening for God's voice and the voice of the earth on the wind. In the heat of the day, stopping for a long meal and a nap in the shade with those within walking distance. Conversations of real life, real growth, and a loving Creator. Conversations of silence. A place where death is just another conversation, another step on the journey. It is not something to be avoided, hidden from, or conquered. A life so focused in the moment that death is embraced like an old friend.

There are so many versions and visions of Heaven out there. And yet, for me, this simple, at times challenging, existence that focuses on the simplest of feasts to nourish the body, mind and soul is what I believe Heaven will be someday. Heaven is when we will live to our fullest potential because we will be free from the bonds of sin and society. We will be able to do the work and live the dignity that was granted to us before our very conception.

And yet, as a Christian and a Catholic, I ask myself if there is a way to bring some of that peace and simplicity to our life now. And the only conclusion that I come to is the same one I am often brought to in these moments...conversion of heart. My heart must be converted to that place. To change ones actions or routine only serves to focus one on the new routine. The true transformation must happen in the heart and soul. Moreover, for Catholics, this conversion flows from our source and summit, Jesus in the Eucharist. Then the actions, whatever they may be, will flow from that source as refined, peaceful, simple, loving and disciplined.

With Lent so quick on the heels of Christmas this year, I think conversion is a good place for me to sit for awhile. I invite you to sit with me - what in your life is being called to conversion? Where is your Heaven on earth?

01 August, 2014

Buttercream Frosting (and Other Recipes)

Okay, I promised this post to some lovely ladies in my Foundational Catechetical Certification class and I'm SO behind the ball.

French Buttercream Frosting - I remember this silky, sweet, wonderful frosting from my childhood and I finally had it. I love this recipe, but I find that this guy's instructions are so clear and easy that I suggest you get them directly from the source. Buttercream is no longer intimidating to me. For my fresh wildberry version I just substituted tart cherry juice for the water in the syrup and then added blended (and slightly drained on a paper towel) fresh berries once the frosting was complete.

Also, here is the promised soda bread recipes from another good friend and instructor, Julianne.

Makes one loaf
In place of King Arthur’s flour use Bob's Red Mill Stone Ground Whole Wheat Flour. You can use any whole wheat flour, but the coarser the better for this. For those of you in the Fox Valley, The Bulk Foods Shoppe in Greenville carries a course whole wheat flour that is amazing!

1 cup flour
2 cups coarse whole wheat flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon kosher salt
4 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cut into small cubes {plus more for pan} ( Use Kerrygold, I get it from Woodmans)
1/4 cup old fashioned rolled oats {plus more for top of bread}
1 1/4 cup well shaken buttermilk
1 egg white, beaten

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Lightly grease a cast iron skillet, or baking sheet with butter.
In a large mixing bowl, combine the flour, whole wheat flour, baking powder, baking soda & salt. Mix together with a whisk. Sprinkle the cubed butter over the mixture. Using a pastry blender, cut the butter into the dry ingredients, until the mixture resembles coarse meal. Add the oats and stir to combine. Pour in the buttermilk and mix until a dough begins to come together. Using your hands, knead the dough into a ball. Transfer the loaf to the baking sheet, cut a large "X" into the top. Brush the top with the beaten egg white and sprinkle a few pinches of rolled oats over the top.
Bake for about 40-50 minutes, or until the crust is golden brown. You will know when it's done, if you take it out, tap on the bottom of the loaf and it sounds hollow. Transfer to a wire rack to cool and serve with a generous helping of Irish butter.


04 September, 2013


Drum roll please...albeit 3 months late!

Thomas Robert Boerschinger!

Born May 24th, 2013 at 2:10p weighing 6lbs, 9oz.

My smallest baby and my easiest so far. He's sweet and snugly and Mama's little tank.

He is named after Kevin's grandfather, Thomas the courageous apostle, and two holy men in our lives: Bp. Robert Morneau and Fr. Tom Hagendorf, Opraem. He has some great saints to follow and be inspired by and we can't wait to see him grow.

He sister and brother adore him. John Ross is the best and most hands on big brother and Thomas loves to hear him sing. Clara loves to give him nicknames and play with his feet.

Mama is doing well, albeit tired. Easiest recovery so far!
And if that wasn't enough, my brother-in-law brewed me a celebratory batch of beer with dedication label and all! Only in our family, but who could possibly feel more special and blessed than to have such a labor of love dedicated to them? Thanks to Andrew and Alida, 2/3 of Thomas' Godparents!

The beer label reads:

If you like tasting marshmallows or just enjoy a charred juicy steak, then campfire stout it your cup of tea – or should I say, your cup of beer.

This beer is dedicated to the newest member of the Boerschinger family, because when a pregnant, future mother of three asks for a batch of beer, you comply!

Congratulations to Amber and Kevin!

The Women Raising My Children

 Color hands by 4lexandre on Flickr

I intended to write this post months ago, but how does one tackle a topic so close to one's heart in a blog post? Here I will try.

I’ll admit it. I’ve watched “Sister Wives” on TLC. You know, the one about the 4 wives and 1 husband and their very blended family? Now, before you judge, I’m not proud of my choice. After the first season – there isn’t much on TV for 2am feedings and Netflix is SO convenient – I stopped watching because the whole concept of polygamy and their lifestyle left me feeling uneasy.

That being said, there was definitely a draw to the concept of parenting my children with other women. There is nothing like the perspective and extra hands of other mothers. It made me step back and reflect on my own mothering experience. I realized that in many ways, I share the job of parenting with many other wonderful and blessed women. I share them with you here.

My Mom, Sheila – As I’ve shared in the past, my mother is a foster mom and my brother was adopted into our family. As such, my mother’s “parenting” years have been extended. From my mother my children learn that family doesn’t begin and end, it is constant. From her they learn unconditional love and acceptance as we share the lives of so many unique children. They also learn in a special way the difference between a mother’s love and a grandmother’s love. Only a grandmother would spend time running around collecting items my 4-year-old insists “mom is out of.”

My Mother-in-law, Pat – My mother-in-law is legally blind and has been most of her life. You wouldn’t know it to meet her, however, as she has learned to thrive in her disability. My children have learned perseverance, attentiveness and acceptance. They see in her a wicked independence. They don’t know Grandma any different than she is and they love her all the same. John Ross has learned to sense her needs and respond to them. It brought my heart great joy to see him lead her into church with her cane the other day, carefully maneuvering her through the doorways and around the pews. And just like any other grandma, I find myself coming to grips with the spoils of a visit and the sugar overload aftermath.

My Sister, Alida – When my family is together there are so many children that we just parent whichever one is closest to us. My children see my sister as an extension of myself. She loves them all fiercely and goes out of her way to make sure they know she loves them. She and I share a similar life stage and she keeps me sane. At the same time, she thinks of all the fun “aunt” things to do. I’ll never live up to the bonfire and toasted marshmallows visit.

My Sister, Johanna – My sister Johanna is my respite. When “Ana” is around, you know the kids will be out of my hair. Ana spent much of her teen years helping my mom with foster babies and our brother Matthew, many of whom had special needs. As such, Ana is very creative and inventive when it comes to entertaining the kids and reducing parental stress levels. Strangely enough, she is the best and most loving disciplinarian I’ve ever met. Even without kids, I look to her for ideas and support when it comes to keeping my kids happy and in line. She doesn’t put up with nonsense, but knows the art of distraction best of anyone. She has a love and passion for life that inspires and lights up my kids and for that I am eternally grateful.

My Neighbor, Ann – Ann is a dear friend. I don’t think there are many people who can say they have as good of neighbors as we do. Ann greets our children regularly, waves to them from the car, and invites them to swim in her pool. When she stops over to visit she gives them hugs and asks them questions about their small person lives. With 2 girls of her own, she regularly drops off hand-me-down toys, bikes and equipment. She praises them for their politeness and encourages us as parents. Clara always prays for “Miss Ann” first during our night prayers and we thank God for her as well.

My Nanny, Jeannine – Jeannine gets it. When I needed to hire someone in home to care for my children, I long for someone who could be an extension of me. While we are very different, Jeannine is just that. She loves them like I would. She gives them experiences and joy like I want to. She challenges and holds them accountable. With 4 children of her own, she is a skilled teacher and guide. During a very difficult time in my 3rd pregnancy when I was suffering from debilitating depression, Jeannine made holidays and birthdays something special. Not only is she another mother to my children, but she has become a support for me too – sharing our lives and helping to keep my house (and more importantly my head) in order. It took us a lot of time to find her and we would be lost without her.
My children’s Godmothers – We don’t see these women as often as we’d like, but perhaps that is why they make good Godmothers. They are called in a special way to support us in prayer, both the kids and us as parents. Without their prayers, we would be lost. We count on them to be spiritual warriors and resources for our little ones and we count on their prayers to protect us as we ride the crazy parental rollercoaster.

These women and I don’t share a husband (thank goodness), but these are the women helping me to raise loving, fun, and passionate children. These are the women who help me to be a better mother and live in the example of our Blessed Mother. Clearly, we share a heavenly Father and we are all responsible for the little lives, hearts and souls entrusted to us. So with great humility and hope, I say “thank you.” I hope someday to be as pivotal in the lives of other children as the women in the lives of mine.

Who cares for, teaches, and inspires your children? How have you thanked them?