Never Alone: An Update

Ten Things On My Mind

1. I’m finishing up a week of filming in Boston and it’s been fun. Also very tiring and lots of hard work. I always feel funny telling people how exhausting it is (“it’s SO HARD being on a television show…”) but it is. It seems to take a lot more energy and pep than normal living, even with the six kids part of my life.

2. Yesterday when I got back to the hotel, I wandered down to Walgreens to grab some essentials (dark chocolate, sparkling water, nasal spray). There was a woman a block ahead of me with the tallest stilettos I’ve even seen, which also included some kind of platform that rendered this average size lady around seven feet tall. Of course I gained speed on her and it started feeling like that scene in Captain Phillips where the pirate boat slowly, eversoslowly, catches up to Phillips and his crew. That was me, gaining on this vertically-assisted gal, as she hobbled (with more grace than I would have predicted) down the street. I eventually passed her and I was tempted to say something like “BOOYAH! You look fashionable but who’s kicking butt in the efficiency department? THIS GAL!”

3. To which I suspect this woman would have held up her index fingers and thumbs in the shape of a W and mouthed “whatever” because she clearly isn’t dressing for practical purposes.

4. It was a short lived victory after that because I got to thinking, after I refrained from gloating and pointing to my ever-faithful Dansko sandals, how I’m at an age where I put form over fashion every single chance I get. I can think of almost no occasions where I would opt for an uncomfortable shoe over something that feels good on my feet, and I’m still at a point in family life where I need shoes that I can use to actually chase down a fast child, should life circumstances dictate. Even when I’m out without my kids I’m not convinced I won’t need to move fast and always opt for the practical, beautiful choice that is German footwear fashion.

5. Which of course leads to my next questions: how long before I’m sporting SAS orthotics and sansabelt pants? Will you stage an intervention if I turn to this option before I’m sixty? Do you promise?

6. The other thing I’ve been pondering this week is how much I don’t really love too much time to think after all. I kind of enjoy the crazy of life with kids because it forces me to take my gaze of me — and every little ache and pain and weird feely feeling in my body. Unfortunately I’m one of those people always trying to connect the dots of any physical ache and pain and as anyone with access to WebMD knows, all roads lead to death. So the less I think about myself, the better.

7. Having said that, I do indeed appreciate the opportunity to unwind and reset. It’s just that I’m not in the habit. Today I got back to the hotel much earlier than expected and found myself wanting to plan my next move, even if it involved taking a walk a few hours later. I had to remind myself it’s okay to just be. That’s not a bad thing. Having said that — I did take a walk, but I didn’t pick an exact time to leave the hotel. So who’s the party animal now?? THIS GAL.

8. I know that concept might seem foreign and even enviable. It’s nothing to complain about. It’s just different, that’s all.

9. I was just sitting here reflecting on what to write for number nine and did a step back assessment of myself. I’m sitting in a crowded hotel restaurant that seems to be filled with local professionals here for the bar’s happy hour. And I’m sitting here with my chin in my hand staring out the window pondering and hahaha! It kind of looks a little lonely. If only all these people knew how NOT lonely I am.

10. No. 9 was lame but I’m out of talking points. xo

All Kinda Firsts

So it’s a strange new season, I guess I’ve established that. And maybe it will be easier for me to move forward into the brave new old world of blogging if I focus on that. What happens is I try to think of the ways I did the things I’m “used to” and these days that doesn’t seem to happen too often.

For starters, Paul and I took an overnight trip this weekend and left the boys (all five of them!) home alone. That was a REAL MILESTONE. Of course Papa and Gramma live next door, so this helps. And this is one of those events that I think can only happen in a family when the stars align just so. It requires no one being too young (we sent Isabel to stay with my brother and sister-in-law) and everyone being in a good place “relationship wise” which is to say I’m not going to leave if there is a sibling unit currently hating on each other.

There is not.

The Lord is kind and merciful.

On that note, I’d like to offer a word of encouragement to those of you who have children that hate each other — this too shall pass. It won’t necessarily pass quietly or without your hard work, but at some point, with enough prayer and encouragement and reminders that they are Brothers For Life, these children of yours who fight constantly might one day really actually become friends.

When Charlie and Elliott were about seven and nine (on up to ten and twelve) they HATED EACH OTHER. I don’t like using that term because I don’t really encourage “hating” — we grew up with my mom telling us we could only hate “sin and the devil” and all other items needed to fall slightly below that.

So maybe we will stay one step below hatred and say deep, abiding loathment. That’s the sentiment that generally spewed between those two boys of mine. I thought it would never end, their agitation for each other.

And it broke my heart.

And then, one day, well something else broke. Whatever it was between them just stopped being a problem and literally overnight (maybe not, maybe it was gradual) they because teammates and then friends and then really, really good friends. And now, as crazy as it sounds, there is no brotherly bond in our family that I would say is stronger than theirs. Many others equally good, but none stronger.

The Lord is kind and merciful.

Don’t despair, dear mothers. Hear what I say.

And when I had a new friend share these words with me back when we were in the thick of this, I didn’t believe it would be true. Lori, who I met through our friend Fr. Tim, told me two of her boys suffered that same abiding agitation and one day they just got over it. She said they even had a season where some kind of dividing line of tape was placed in the boys’ room because things were so terrible.

When she shared that story, my boys were little and hers were college age and older. She had proof that you survive these things and lo and behold, now I do to.

Who’da thunk?

Weird Times at the Pool

I have something to confess, something I did today that I never thought I would do. It was strange and not like me at all, not like anything I ever would have predicted: I read a book — at the pool.

I know. I’m lightheaded at the thought.

I posted a picture on Instagram (I kind of cheated because I made a deal with myself that I could only get on Instagram after I’ve posted here each day) but I was at that delicious, gut-wrenching part of the book where you are a little too far from the end to finish it in this particular sitting but you are about to be done. And you need to get to the end to see how it all ties together (or how it doesn’t) and yet you aren’t ready to part with these characters and this world.

So I took a picture of that last half-inch of pages because readers everywhere can identify with the mixed feelings. I snapped a pic and posted those sentiments.

A few minutes later I got a few texts from friends admitting they saw my picture and had feelings on me being in that position. What a strange place to be — Rachel Balducci, reading at the pool.

Folks, I can’t believe it myself.

This summer has been a strange new place of relaxation and please, don’t walk away hating on me. Not that I want to boast about my life being un-relaxing — but don’t get the wrong impression. There is plenty of life and busy-ness but right now, when I’m at the pool, I’m in a position to sit back and read. And soak up a few calming breaths.

And it’s wonderful.

I do try to keep in all in balance. Isabel and Henry still want me to get in a play with them, and I do. I’m not ready to be a mom that comes to the pool merely to sit and watch. It’s fun to be a part of playing and splashing around.

But yes, it’s true — I also enjoy the part where I sit back and let them do their thing while I do mine. I think it’s important and healthy and honestly, it’s wise. We moms need to find our down-time and in this season of my life, I can get it at the pool. We don’t have nap time anymore, so here is where I will find my quiet.

And for all you momma’s out there who can’t believe you will ever be in this season, trust me when I say: you will. Just believe me. It’s true. For years I was the mom with so many little boys climbing on her it was almost foolhardy to go to the pool.

I remember a day when I was standing in the shallow holding baby Augie while watching Charlie in a float and one of the big boys (Elliott? Ethan?) jumped in to me without a warning yell and slammed his head into my face.

There I stood in the pool holding a baby in one arm with my other hand on a float and a small boy swimming back to the side of the pool (after happily jumping to his mother!). And I cried. I stood there and cried. I cried because my face hurt and because my life was overwhelming and because I had this recurring thought that “I will never be the kind of mother who can easily manage life outside her home with all her children.”

And just like that, here I am. I’m that lady, the one reading at the pool while her kids frolic with each other in the deep end.

It’s gonna be okay. You’re gonna make it. There is grace for this season, and there are so many good things to come. I say that to you. I say it also to myself. xo