Before I Had a Seven Year Old: Kendra of Catholic All Year

06 August 2014

This is the first in a series where I ask moms about their experiences in early motherhood. And today we're talking with Kendra from Catholic All Year.

I first met Kendra when Blythe invited me to dinner at her house. So I went to dinner with my then-fiance, Jacob Rhodes. I remember I brought a dessert involving vanilla wafers because I wanted it to be kid-friendly...and then of course we ate it on the Tierneys' china. I've since learned how the Tierneys roll when it comes to hosting people and parties, and I'm proud to say I attended several a Hooley before our stint in So Cal was over. 

I'm so excited to have Kendra here today!

How many kids do you have and how old are they?
I have seven:
Jack 12, Betty 10, Bobby 8, Gus 6, Anita 5, Frankie 2, Lulu 7m
What are the biggest differences in your home life now that you have slightly biggers running around and not just really littles?
So much. 

Nap time: A renowned introvert and lover of accomplishing things, I have always cherished and defended nap time. When I had two and three little kids, getting them all down at the same time was a challenge. I'd start really early, reading a story to the four year old and putting him down, then songs and snuggling for the three year old, and by that time the one year old was throwing a fit because he was overtired, but he took the shortest naps, so if I put him down first, he'd wake up before I'd had a chance to do anything but put other kids down for naps. 

Now, if the baby is fussing, I take care of the baby, and my preschoolers have four big kids to choose from to get their stories and songs. And, to my knowledge, the big kids don't even skip entire pages of story books because they really wanna get out of there.
TV: We used to have the TV on every day. I'd put it on in the morning so the kids would leave me alone while I tried to get all the chores done. I'd put it on for myself during the aforementioned nap time while I'd fold laundry or work on a project. I'd put it on in the afternoon during the post-nap grumpy period and sometimes again while I made dinner. Then the husband and I would watch something together after the kids went to bed. The TV was probably on five or six hours per day.

Now, we go days and days without ever turning it on. We don't have cable any more, and don't miss it. In the morning, we do school (and I have help with the chores) so there's no TV. During nap time, my bigs aren't napping, so, for better or worse (probably better) I just can't watch all those super-edifying programs I used to indulge in all by myself. After naps, the little kids have the big kids to play with, and don't even ask about shows. Often I'll be working on something and realize that the little guys are already up and someone's gotten them a snack and I didn't even know. Same with dinner time, the little kids don't need the TV to keep them occupied. And sometimes I'm not even the one cooking dinner! All three of my oldest can prepare a meal, and do. And as the big kids go to bed later, they're around in the evenings, so, again, less grown-up TV watching. Some. But comparatively little.

Chores, laundry, bathing, all are improved by having big kids.

What's something you miss about that stage of only really littles?
I miss the freedom that we had in our days before we had school. I miss little kid outings. I miss going to the children's museum and winter beach days. We're a homeschooling family, so we do take field trips at least once a month, and we all go together. But I miss those days of chatting with a four year old over breakfast and deciding what we might do that day. There were so many possibilities.
Whether or not you homeschool, your day changes dramatically once you have school-aged kids. You've got responsibilities and things that need to be accomplished and places to be a certain times. There's MORE flexibility as a homeschooling family, but still there are things to be done and times to do them

And kids' sports really change the dynamic of your week. We used to have our afternoons free for errands and always eat dinner as a family every night. Now, our afternoons and evenings 3-4 days per week are taken up with sports. And that's having found what we think is a workable compromise and NOT pursuing the most rigorous sports opportunities for our kids.  

What are some things you did with your first baby that in hindsight seem a little ridiculous?
Ummm, ALL the things?

I recently wrote about how my introduction of solid foods has taken a decided turn for the less-structured.

I also once called my husband from a motel parking lot about halfway home from the Target that was three miles from our apartment to tell him that newborn Jack was crying in his car seat so I was just going to walk home with him and leave the car there and Jim would need to walk to the motel to pick up the car after he was done with classes for the day.

My plan was not approved. Somehow Jack did live through the car ride home.

Also, I always remembered that Jack HATED his first bath and screamed through the whole thing. It seemed odd because my babies now have all liked their first bath, and found it soothing and whatnot. Well, we were watching some old videos, and there came the video of Jack's first bath and OH MY GOODNESS of course he didn't like it. I put his bath seat in the sink, stripped him down, and just turned the faucet on him. Who does that? Poor thing. It's a wonder he bathes at all now.

These days, our new babies take a nice warm bath IN WATER with mama, and they like it just fine.

What's something you stressed about that doesn't stress you out at all anymore?
The realization that my child's being upset about something didn't have to upset ME has changed my whole life for the better.

If I've made what I think is a proper parenting decision, for instance, "we need to leave now in order to make it home for lunch at a reasonable time" or "babies should not eat earbuds," I can't let that decision (or my own peace of mind) be derailed by a kid getting upset about that decision. Now . . .  I don't take it personally, I just always mean what I say and don't let upset kids upset me. Calm but firm is my mantra.

Not allowing being upset to be an effective way of getting what you want is actually a great deterrent in itself, but even when it's not, there's always "Cryin' babies go to bed." It's very liberating.

What's an expectation for yourself/your kids/your husband that you have totally let go of?
For me, it was that I could do it all. That I could cook our meals, and raise my kids, and educate my kids, and volunteer, and get kids to activities, and run errands, and host events, and do the cleaning, and do the laundry. It's easy to say, "I should be able to do all of this. Look at all these modern conveniences. I have a dishwasher and a microwave and a washing machine. My grandmother and her grandmother didn't have those things and she got all this done." 

But that doesn't take into consideration the truth of our days. We have more modern conveniences, but we also have more expectations. We have a washing machine, but we have ten times or a hundred times more laundry. We have a car, but we travel a hundred times or a thousand times more miles in a year. We have a refrigerator and a microwave but we cook more things and more often.

The fact of the matter is that our days are full, fuller than our grandmother's grandmother, because SHE didn't have electric lights that allowed her to keep working into the night. She had servants or extended family or neighbors to help in a way that few of us have now. And it doesn't do anyone any good to not be honest about how hard this job is.

I can't do everything on that list on my own. I don't think any woman can. I had to pick some of the things to do. And some of the things to outsource. And some of the things to not do. And be okay with it. I think that's what every head of a household needs to do.
How do you conquer nap strikes?
By just really loving naps and being more stubborn than a three year old.

I wrote all about it here: Pushing Past the Nap Strike

What's one specific thing you're glad that you've taught your older children?
I'm going to cheat on this one and gift you one specific CONCEPT rather than one specific thing, but it's so, so important to me: Independence.

My kids can do things on their own. They expect to. The confident extroverted ones, and the cautious introverted ones, they all do things for themselves. It helps me run a big family household and I think it's a skill that will serve them well throughout their lives.

What was your hardest transition after having a newborn? 0 to 1 kid? 1 to 2? 6 to 7? Why?
Two to three was the hardest for me. More kids than parents. More kids than hands. Still no one old enough to help in a meaningful way. But with baby number three, I got to my 10,000 hours of baby-parenting, which made me a bonafied expert. And baby-parenting got easier after that. Then, between babies six and seven, my oldest turned ten. And EVERYTHING GOT SO MUCH EASIER!

If you could go back and tell something to your newmom self, what would it be?
That my baby wouldn't be like the ones in the parenting books I read. It was a really painful process to discover on my own. I read the books by the experts. I did what they said. It didn't work. My baby didn't sleep the way they said he would. He was actually injured by the way they told me to feed him. He had sensory and behavior issues they never mentioned. I think my process of learning to mother him was really hindered by having so many false expectations of what he would be like.

I wish I could tell myself, "Read the books if you must, but remember that your baby is a new and unique person who has never existed before in the world. A book isn't going to be able to tell you how to mother HIM. Only experience and trial and error and YOUR MAMA GUT will be able to do that."
For more of the same - or to share your stories from early motherhood - head back to the link up here. And a big thank you to Kendra for starting off this little series!!


  1. This is so encouraging! Especially the TV once the kids get older. I find myself using it more than I would like just so I can get SOMETHING done

    1.'s encouraging to know that even though I cave and use Netflix as a babysitter now, that doesn't necessarily mean we'll always have to rely on the TV...

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  3. This is so good! I'm so excited for the rest of this series. I still feel like we have one foot in either world but this helped me to think in the positive...

  4. Kate this is fantastic and so encouraging to read. Bravo!

  5. I definitely think I'll miss these years of hardly ever having to be somewhere at a certain time. And I know I'll miss getting do (and eat, ha!) whatever I want during naps.

  6. Such a good read! Got me thinking about how things have played out in my own family. My oldest is now 11; 7 more after her (baby is 6 mo). Them growing up was actually one of the reasons I started blogging; I wanted to remember what things were like when I just had young children and to share that with them (mental note to self to start writing about that stuff!).

  7. Great post. I recently discovered Kendra's blog and have really been enjoying her perspective!

  8. Love this series so far! Kendra is equally lovely on your blog as she is on her own!

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