I can’t sleep. I’ve been lying there in the dark listening to the sound of the fan, mulling over why in the world I can’t keep up with life. Why does everyone else seem to be handling it fine while I’m barely keeping my head above water? I realize the fact that we’ve had a bunch of travel going on lately contributes significantly to the chaos in my life, but even without the travel things are crazy. After packing up all the kids and getting them to Max’s baseball game the other day (late, of course) I realized I had forgotten to bring my own shoes. Now that’s bad. I provided some good amusement for our friends at the game when I showed up wearing Gracie’s flip flops.

I sometimes like to attribute the craziness of my life to the fact that I have five kids. Is that why waves of busy-ness keep knocking me off my feet? But then I see other mothers with five, six, eight kids who have it all under control and I get so frustrated with myself, and I realize it’s not the kids, it’s me. What in the world are these other mothers doing that makes them so on top of things? How do they do their planning so that they are in control of their time rather than their time wrecking havoc on them? How do they keep so many sets of fingernails and toenails trimmed? How in the world are they on time for things? How do they keep their kids sitting in a line, reverent and happy in church? (Ok, I know that’s rare, but it happens, and my question is HOW??) How do they keep up with laundry? How do they plan healthy menus and keep up with the grocery shopping? How do they find time to help each of their children with practicing and homework? How can they volunteer to bring meals to other families in need without throwing any semblance of order in their own homes out the window? How do they let their husbands and children know, I mean really know, how much they adore them amidst the whirlwind of chaos of trying to get there and be there for everything and everyone? I feel like I’m just whisking my kids in and out of the car to get places, always late, and always forgetting things. I know it’s a phase, and I know I’m not a horrible mother, but I’d love any kind of advice to come my way. I’m just not naturally a planner and the more I’m into the thick of this mothering thing the more I realize planning’s not just nice, it’s essential to keep sane. So any planners out there please send me some words of wisdom!

I love this quote:

“Have courage for the great sorrows of life and patience for the small ones; and when you have laboriously accomplished your daily tasks, go to sleep in peace. God is awake.”

Now that I’ve vented I think I can “go to sleep in peace” (even though all my “daily tasks” will never really be accomplished.) And how could I not, knowing that these five sweet ragamuffins are nestled in their beds sleeping peacefully themselves…hopefully for at least four more hours.
five little kids can sometimes create overwhelm

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  1. i have a husband who gets up at 2:30 am for work and on this particular morning apparently he is having a hard time with volume control so here is sit. 🙂

    you have 2 more kids than i do and 40 extra finger/toenails to cut and way more activity than i do and i STRUGGLE with all things organized. it’s a desire that i have but can’t seem to aquire. i wish i could leave you with words of wisdom but i’m affraid that at this time i have’t learned the lessons necessary to become the woman i desire to be in that area. i will say this, hang in there and you’re right it’s just a phase AND fingernails aren’t that big of a deal, ask josh he probably wonders if tristan even has parents cause at this point his nails are about 5 inches long. 🙂 i hope you got great sleep.

  2. Shawni – I’m sure there are people out there trying to figure out how YOU do everything you do and do it so well with all of those little ones to care for! And you look fantastic while you do it – with little-person flip-flops or not 🙂 A couple of comments: 1) I’ve noticed that being out of town makes the next week (or weeks) a lot more crazy for some reason , and 2) I don’t have any kids yet, but I still find myself coming back into the house multiple times for things forgotten when I’m just heading out to do errands! It’s normal when you have so much to remember and coordinate for a few things to slip here and there. Your brain can only hold so much.

    You are getting the important things done, and everything else will take care of itself. I guess my suggestion is just keep first things first, because in the large scheme of things no one will remember what exact time you got to the activity, but they will remember you were doing it together as a family and that you were there! Hang in there 🙂 You are a great mom!

  3. Shawni,
    You totally speak to me. In the last month I have learned a lot about myself. The biggest and most important thing was that being the best at something is never easy. What I mean is becoming an amazing mother is a lot of work for years and years and years. Look at Tiger woods. He sure makes golf look easy, something anyone could do, but it’s not true. He has worked incredibly hard to be as good as he is. I guess my point is, being a good mom takes A LOT of work. I am not a perfect Mom, but I am a great Mom because I try. this year I have been late to pretty much everything. Including school. I have at all times nine loads of laundry to be washed, and only a few items hanging in each closet. My downstairs and upstairs are never clean at the same time, and I am in constant fear that I will die and the relief society will come and clean my house and know “the truth.” We are the only family on the block that have their trash cans out a day after the trash man came. All these things used to bug me and embarass me and make me feel just horrible, until last month. I read something and I realized that while my days are absolutely exhusting and overwhelming at times, and while I feel like I can’t keep up, I am still and incredible Mom because I keep doing it and I’M the one doing it. My perfection comes in my imperfection. I’m doing EXACTLY what I should be doing. Exactly what Heavenly Father wamts me to be doing. I don’t think he cares so much if my bathrooms spotless. So much as if I’m taking care of “his” children.

    To me you look like the perfect Mom. Your kids are beautiful, your home is gorgeous, you couldn’t be prettier if you tried, and your kids are always smiling. From my view, you are doing an amazing job. I bet if you dug deeper you would see all those Mom’s that look perfect do struggle at times, too. And it doesn’t matter if their nails are cut and if everything is in order. Life would be easier, but it would be boring. Take some time for yourself and let some of the small stuff go. And before you know it your kids will be bigger and not as demanding. That’s what I keep telling myself, anyway!

    Keep your chin up. You’re the best!

  4. Shawni I totally hear you on feeling overwhelmed. I really think that is a part of the mothers journey. Finding a balance in life. It is our obligation to nurture and love these children. It doesn’t ever go away.
    I think we all like to act like we have it together but we are all in the same boat. We all have different priorities and focuses in our lives. One mom may be a gourmet cook, where the other is organized. At the end of the day all that doesn’t really matter. What matters is what I think you do excepetionally well. Loving and nurturing and caring for those kids. You are a natural at it! I think you really could have ten kids and they would feel your love. For a lot of people that is the hard part. Pat yourself on the back for doing what is really important.
    We are all hard on ourselves but if we lower our expectations (easier said than done) and stick to the basics i think it would be so much better.
    I have really lowered my expectations over the years and I always try to take a step back and look at my life and think what is really important? and what will benefit my kids and help them feel loved? Really that is all that matters.

  5. shawni,

    first of all those pictures are beautiful and they totally made my day sitting here in the library procrastinating.

    second, i have the same issues you do; we must be sisters. i don’t think you have to be a mom to wonder why everyone else seems so much more put together than you are. the funny thing is that everyone is wondering that same thing and i’m pretty sure tons of moms look at you wondering how you do it all. i sure do after spending six days with your kids (who are abnormally good, by the way). i think it’s the “grass is always greener” thing. we get really caught up in what we are doing that we compare ourselves to others but really they are comparing too! that’s what i’ve learned. it’s hard to let extraordinary people inspire you instead of make you feel defeated or not good enough!

    anyway, i agree with you and i love you and think you are seriously the best mom in the world! and that’s a great story about grace’s flip flops!! enjoy it!

    love you!

  6. I know your intent was not to make me feel better, but you did. Thank you. I will admit that YOU are the one I am usually looking at and saying those things about. “how does she do it?”

    On that same note, I know you are such a REAL person. You amaze me with your ease around chaos. I drive myself crazy with how flustered I get. I’m afraid people can sense it – especially my kids.

    My word for the year has been “simplify”, and the irony is that I don’t think I have ever felt more overwhelmed and inadequate as I have this year. I do think that it is true though. Simplifying what is important to YOU!! Not anyone else.

    You read my mind on the homework, housework, planning meals, making meals, connecting with each kid, etc. We have all been there or are currently there with you. My word for next year is going to be “gentle”. It will apply to how I treat people and their emotions, abilities, and personalities. It will also apply to how I treat myself. We are often too hard on ourselves. I hope to try to focus on how the Lord sees me an be a little more gentle with myself.

    I love you. You are doing an awesome job.

  7. I am quoting a friend’s comment to me on an a recent overwhelmed post of my own. It’s amazing how this applies regardless of where we are in life or what we are doing. (Or what has us stressed out or breaking our hearts…) I hope she does for you what she did for me:

    “You know, Jennifer (Shawni), I think part of your problem here is that you are a perfectionist (your own admission a few posts back, remember???)at working yourself over. One of my favorite C.S. Lewis books is “A Grief Observed.” So much a favorite, in fact, that I think I have six copies of it – all marked up and highlighted. He has a lot to teach me. One of the most profound things he teaches me is this: “You can’t see anything properly while your eyes are blurred with tears. You can’t, in most things, get what you want if you want it too desperately: anyway, you can’t get the best out of it. ‘Now, let’s have a real good talk’ reduces everyone to silence, ‘I MUST get a good sleep tonight’ ushers in hours of wakefulness. Delicious drinks are wasted on really ravenous thirst…And so, perhaps, with God. I have gradually been coming to feel that the door is no longer shut and bolted. Was it my own frantic need that slammed it in my face? The time when there is nothing at all in your soul except a cry for help may be just the time when God can’t give it: you are like the drowning man who can’t be helped because he clutches and grabs. Perhaps your own reiterated cries deafen you to the voice you hoped to hear. On the other hand, ‘knock and it shall be opened.’ But does knocking mean hammering and kicking the door like a maniac? And there’s also ‘To him that hath shall be given.’ After all, you must have a capacity to receive, or even omnipotence can’t give. Perhaps your own passion temporarily destroys the capacity.” Sorry for that long excerpt, but it’s so good and so true…and I share it out of nothing more than my own frequent experiences of wanting something hard different or over with NOW, and I’m anxious enough and strong enough – at least strong-headed enough – to believe that if I just work harder and faster or try really, really, really hard to be more insightful I’ll figure it all out. I have been in this place. And the end of it for me usually tends to be when my exhaustion and desperation finally leave me quiet enough to actually hear that small voice saying, “be still and know that I am God.” He is. I’m not. And I generally learn that all I really need to do with effort is bring myself to Him because He it is who heals. He it is who redeems. Sin, sorrow, heartache, fear. He redeems everything. Changes it into something infinitely more precious than my paltry efforts can ever produce. At the deepest darkest time of my life MoTab closed General Conference by singing these words, “He clothes the lilies of the field. He feeds the lambs of His fold. And He will heal those who trust Him, and make their hearts as gold.” About the same time that our buddy, Job, taught me, “Behold, I go forward, but he is not there; and backward but I cannot perceive him: On the left hand, where he doth work, but I cannot behold him: he hideth himself on the right hand that I cannot see him: But he knoweth the way that I take: when he hath tried me, I shall come forth as gold.” You are being burnished and refined, my friend. You are fine, not lacking any major quality or endurance that would make you good enough not to have to suffer. Suffering is part of the deal. We don’t like it and we try to get out of it as fast as we can. My efforts at that have taught me that if I will just get quiet and allow Him to teach and lead me, the morass becomes less abysmal much more quickly than when I try to navigate my way through it on my own. You are so good, sweet friend. Let yourself feel that instead of all the frenzied effort to make yourself better. You are so good.”

    She’s great, isn’t she??? Hang in there! We’re all fighting this anxiousness of mortality together.

  8. If you, or someone you know has ever felt overwhelmed by all they
    >>>> feel they need to do, Vickie Gunther of Redlands, California, wrote
    >>>> a hilarious poem, Dr. Seuss style, about how much LDS women try to
    >>>> take on. David B. Marsh used it at Women’s Conference, and Vickie
    >>>> has given permission to share it.
    >>>> —————————————————-
    >>>> The Girl in a Whirl
    >>>> by ‘Dr. Sue’
    >>>> (a.k.a. Vickie Gunther)
    >>>> Look at me, look at me, look at me now!
    >>>> You could do what I do
    >>>> If you only knew how.
    >>>> I study the scriptures one hour each day; I bake, I upholster, I
    >>>> scrub, and I pray.
    >>>> I always keep all the commandments completely; I speak to my little
    >>>> ones gently and sweetly.
    >>>> I help in their classrooms!
    >>>> I sew all they wear!
    >>>> I drive them to practice!
    >>>> I cut all their hair!
    >>>> I memorize names of the General Authorities; I focus on things to
    >>>> be done by priorities.
    >>>> I play the piano!
    >>>> I bless with my talents!
    >>>> My toilets all sparkle!
    >>>> My checkbooks all balance!
    >>>> Each week every child gets a one-on-one date; I attend all my
    >>>> meetings (on time! Never late!)
    >>>> I’m taking a class on the teachings of Paul,
    >>>> But that is not all! Oh, no. That is not all .
    >>>> I track my bad habits ’til each is abolished; Our t-shirts are
    >>>> ironed!
    >>>> My toenails are polished!
    >>>> Our family home evenings are always delightful; The lessons I give
    >>>> are both fun and insightful.
    >>>> I do genealogy faithfully, too.
    >>>> It’s easy to do all the things that I do!
    >>>> I rise each day early, refreshed and awake; I know all the names of
    >>>> each youth in my stake!
    >>>> I read to my children!
    >>>> I help all my neighbors!
    >>>> I bless the community, too, with my labors.
    >>>> I exercise and I cook menus gourmet; My visiting teaching is done
    >>>> the first day!
    >>>> (I also go do it for someone who missed hers.
    >>>> It’s the least I can do for my cherished ward sisters.) I chart
    >>>> resolutions and check off each goal; I seek each “lost lamb” on my
    >>>> Primary roll.
    >>>> I can home-grown produce each summer and fall.
    >>>> But that is not all! Oh, no. That is not all .
    >>>> I write in my journal!
    >>>> I sing in the choir!
    >>>> Each day, I write “thank you’s” to those I admire.
    >>>> My sons were all Eagles when they were fourteen!
    >>>> My kids get straight A’s!
    >>>> And their bedrooms are clean!
    >>>> I have a home business to help make some money; I always look
    >>>> beautifully groomed for my honey.
    >>>> I go to the temple at least once a week; I change the car’s tires!
    >>>> I fix the sink’s leak!
    >>>> I grind my own wheat and I bake all our bread; I have all our meals
    >>>> planned out six months ahead.
    >>>> I make sure I rotate our two-years’ supply; My shopping for
    >>>> Christmas is done by July!
    >>>> These things are not hard;
    >>>> ’tis good if you do them;
    >>>> You can if you try!
    >>>> Just set goals and pursue them!
    >>>> It’s easy to do all the things that I do!
    >>>> If you plan and work smart, you can do them all, too!
    >>>> It’s easy!” she said
    >>>> and then she dropped dead.

    I just remembered this poem and thought it was perfect for you and all of us to hear on this subject.

  9. Man those are some awesome comments. I am totally inspired by you guys and today’s been so much better. It’s kind of a shift of priorities and taking things as they come. Sometimes I’m good at rolling with the punches, but lately I can’t even seem to keep up with the punches! So all your sweet comments helped so much and now every time I get overwhelmed I’m just going to come right back to this very spot and read them all over again. Thanks guys.

  10. WOW! Just so you know, you don’t look like you feel this way and this post and comments totally made me cry. It’s so true that we all feel this way. While this post got me emotional, I totally think I needed to hear it. So thank you! 🙂

  11. Shawni, you don’t know me, but I got onto your blog somehow, I think my friend Lori has a sister in law who knows you and their dog checks your blog (in other words, I found your blog by some roundabout way:). I think you’re crazy to be so critical of yourself! I look at your blog for the photography inspiration and I always think, “how can a mother of all those beautiful children who must be so busy, have such a inspirational talent!?” So it’s all about perspective- that said, I hope you don’t mind if I come back every now and then…

  12. Wow, you were right, those are some very amazing, inspirational comments. I just know that God loves us and is satisfied with our best. What the world thinks is the best is different from what He thinks. I love your sweet blog. I’m glad you’re feeling better. It seems like we take ourselves at our worst, and compare them to someone else at their best–never a fair comparison, but we all do it.

  13. thank you for this post and prompting all of those awesome comments. i seriously think about someday being at the stage where you are with 5 kids and homework and practices, etc., and i get a little sick to my stomach. sometimes, i feel like i can hardly keep things together with my 2 little ones. i keep reminding myself that we have them 1 at a time (hopefully) to help us build up to that point…right?!

  14. Shawni, I just found your blog through Mike Z and it’s great to see that someone you think has it all under control gets frustrated sometimes. We now have three boys under 4 and I feel like I’m going to lose it on a daily basis. I’m glad to see other Mother’s feel like I do. I don’t know how you do it with 5 kids, with Brian in school full time it has left me over tired and I feel like some days I just lose all my patience. What a beautiful family you have, it’s great to keep up with your family. You are still as beautiful as ever…on the inside and out.

  15. Hi Shawni! It’s Darcy in Cali. I just checked on your blog and read this post. I know it’s a few days old–but I HAD to comment. First of all, You are SO awesome and SO real. I remember a few years ago trying to get some errands done with all my kids. Of course you can imagine the tremendous effort of getting out of the house, carseats buckled, faces cleaned, hair brushed, everyone loaded up, etc… And when we pulled up to the store and pulled into our parking spot, I realized that I forgot my shoes too–just like you did!! I know you know the feeling. 🙂 Glad to hear someone else with 5 is still trying to figure it out! I loved what one person wrote about how we compare our worst to another person’s best. How true! We need to be kinder to ourselves. Whenever I get overwhelmed my Mom always tells me that it’s much easier to keep up, than catch up. It’s a great concept, just not always easy to implement –especially after a big trip when you already feel so behind. It always takes a toll. Anyway, you’re post inspired me and gave me a smile to know someone else gets what I constantly think about. I think you’re a fabulous, down to earth Mother. You’re kids are so lucky to have you. It’s so fun to look at pictures of you guys. Caitlin misses Elle so much! Tell her hi from her! Hopefully we’ll be out there in the spring some time for a visit.

  16. I found you thru Tiffany. I love your quote you put in her blog. I will remember that!
    You’ve got three more than me and I am overwhelmed. I think we all get overwhelmed. It is the admitting of it that is hard. Good for you! 🙂

  17. Darcy, you got me all excited because I thought you had a blog and I could get caught up but your name didn’t link to anything. Let me know if there’s a way to link up. I’ll try e-mailing too. Miss you. Hope that baby’s doing great.

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