Start Here

(Purse State Park, MD)

Jonny took four of our kids camping in a remote part of western Virginia over the weekend, their first real camping trip.  He hardly slept.  The kids claim they could hear some creature “crunching bones” outside their tent.  They arrived home Sunday evening and Jonny had to go straight to work.  He worked all night and all of Monday without stop.  I was up through the night with Job, whom I suspect has an ear infection after playing in the river on Saturday.

Monday quickly became one of those days when the messes were growing far more quickly than I could contain them.  Just trying to do the bare minimum to stay afloat, I became discouraged and started down the mental, “I am doing a terrible job” path.  If you measure my worth as a mother by the state of our house, well,  I just don’t cut it.

Because most days, we have a messy house.  And, some of our children fight, a lot.  The majority of them don’t go to bed as early as they ought to.  I have one child that I can’t for the life of me keep on task.  Sometimes I forget about lunch.  Last night I brushed Beatrix’s hair for the first time in three days.

When it comes to raising children, there are so many things that we aren’t doing well.  I could continue to list them, but then I’d start to feel panicky.

But, I would wager that dwelling on all the ways you feel like you are failing rarely brings about positive change.

Instead, maybe start by focusing on what you are getting right?

With seven kids, we are often asked how we give them all enough attention.  In a sea of mistakes and flawed parenting, this is what I hope we are getting right.  Jonny and I work hard to nurture our relationships with our kids.  I don’t typically worry about whether or not our children are getting enough quality time with us, either together, or individually, because we truly pay attention to each of them.  I try to genuinely listen when they talk to me (most of the time).  Don’t underestimate the profound impact of simply looking into a child’s eyes and listening when they speak to you.  Really, it’s the little things that matter most.  Not the dates alone with one child, though those happen naturally here and there, but the way you close the book, set the knitting down, or turn off the computer screen when a child addresses you.  This goes for housework as well.  I could easily clean all day.  But I would neglect my kids in the process.

I try to remind myself of these things when I start to panic over everything that seems to be falling through the cracks.

You are getting something right.  You are actually probably doing a lot right!  And that is where you start.  Then choose the next thing.  An area that you feel needs work, something to be deliberate about.  Standing on the solid ground of what you do well, begin to work on the area that needs to change.  But most of all, make your relationships your priority.  And lunch.  Don’t forget about lunch!

(Dominion Back Creek Recreational Area and Campground, Bath County, VA)



  1. Ginny, I’ve read your blog for a long time and always loved it. I’m not normally one to comment but I need to let you know that your blog especially this post has helped me so much this week. I’m a homeschool mom of five that through one of life’s funny twists I’m having to move back in with my parents. My poor husband is working hard so this won’t have to last long, however packing our home into storage when I should be preparing for the school year has really stressed me to the limit. Everywhere I turn there’s more mess, and I needed a relaxing moment. I logged onto your blog and stayed up enjoying your pictures until 1:00 a.m.
    Thank you so much for helping me look outside my own troubles. Your words and pictures are so calming and beautiful. I pray all the things you panic over in life won’t be so harsh. So far you’ve helped this panicky mama calm down for a bit.

  2. Although I have been reading your blog for a while, this is the first time I’ve commented. The thing I loved about this post is its utter honesty. It is a real snapshot of what we all feel at times. Thank you for sharing those feelings.

  3. Such sweet encouraging words. Thank you.

  4. Oh I do so enjoy reading your thoughts. You ARE such a great mom and wife and though I don’t know you personally, I feel I really do know you through reading your blog. You are SO honest and genuine and I think love flows out of you uncontrollably for your husband and your kids and God. Thanks so much for sharing with us. Blessings to you and yours. You HAVE chosen the right path….

  5. You my dear are doing just fine! I felt the same way with just two kids and often lament the many mistakes that I made as they were growing up. Alas at 27 my daughter called me her “best friend” the other day! I was thrilled beyond belief because when she was a teenager it was horrible times. Not what I intended as a homeschooling mother. It was all fighting and bad times. A child knows if you love them and obviously you do, that is what they need. They don’t need a perfect house either and I think yours is clean enough. Your children are blessed.

  6. Ginny,
    I love this! Thanks for everything you said. My expectations for myself can be kinda crazy at times, I think so many of us feel that way. Yes, relationships are the most important. And I agree that it’s best to focus on what we are doing right and start from there.

    Thanks for all you share. Always a blessing.


  7. Hahaha! I love the hair brushing & forgetting about lunch! How about bathing babies & clipping kids fingernails? Oy!
    I think this is very typical for the mom of many, our personalities are often a bit, um, “weathered” so we are more laid back about things- until things spin out of control! Then we flip out, the children rally a bit & pitch in, and we admire the love in our house, lol.

    My husband & I do get a lot of one on one time with each of them, but in pockets. I find that each of children will come to us in quiet moments, just to talk… it’s beautiful how it works.

    One minor thing I have done is to put a more diligent child, who has a good grasp of time, in charge of lunch. She reminds us to break & eat. This kid is so sweet & will often make the 3yrold a sandwich (now if the 3yrold will actually eat it is another matter all together).

    Last year we had 7 doc ranging from 16-2 years, but God has a marvelous sense of humor & blessed us with twins. My memory wasn’t great before, but now it is just gone! I rely on lists on the fridge dry erase board & tasking kids who can actually remember things to remind me.

    Love the post!

  8. Charlotte S says:

    Brilliant thank you for that Ginny! I think you are fabulous. 🙂

  9. Love the rainbow over your son fishing!!

  10. Thank you for this…my house is messy and with summer coming it will only get worse. The fighting throws me over the edge though…I don’t handle it well at all…any advice to get through it? I don’t imagine I can ever eliminate it, but I tend to let an argument or bickering to cloud the day or the outing. It really throws me…

    Love the advice to listen…actively listening.

  11. Elizabeth Alvarez says:

    Our kids swim in the bay a lot. Our beloved old-school pediatrician once told me to carry a little bottle with a dropper == equal parts alcohol and vinegar. Put drops in everyone’s ears as they come out of the water. Alcohol dries up water in the ear canal while vinegar acidifies the ear inhibiting the growth of bacteria. Works like a charm.

    Love the reminder to stop and look in their eyes when they’re talking to you.

    I am currently surrounded by couch cushions, laundry, cereal bowls, books, a folders worth of “work” and “projects” spread out on the floor, etc…. I feel pretty happy though, maybe a little distracted by it, but happy. 🙂

  12. A lovely post Ginny that also made me smile. I read the ‘crunching bones’ part to my husband and he laughed. Camping to us means ‘tenting’ too! with the four kids. My house is messy , with home school papers everywhere. I am trying not to get panicky about cleaning it before my parents, grandma and in laws arrive next week for our oldest’s graduation – how that happened I still haven’t figured it out! We do our best and that’s all that can be asked of us right? 🙂

  13. Such words of wisdom and your images are always so beautiful.

  14. We got to the states 4 weeks ago and forgot to pack a brush. We haven’t bought a new new one yet. 😉

  15. Thank you for this beautiful and honest post, Ginny – as a mother who is also in the thick of the “messy” years, it is just what I needed to read this morning! It can be so tough to see the success behind the mess of everything we don’t get right 100% of the time. You share a good reminder on how to navigate through it all.

  16. I remember when my kids when they had to tell me something in “real time”. I received so much information and emotion when I stop dropped and listened. If I said wait, I got the watered down version and the excitement of how they were feeling!

    Lovely photos and crunching bones sounds really scary. I wonder what it was?

  17. Is it ok to sometimes forget about lunch?! 😉 Sometimes I really want to. We need to eat again? Really? 😉

    I’ve jotted down my accomplishments before as the day wings by. Just every little thing because some days it can feel like and look like, “What did I get done?”

    Yet, the daily is such a blessing. My kiddos are getting so grown up and they are lots of help, too, and I know in my head and heart that we won’t ever, ever have everything done the way I imagine it in because we’re living life and clean floors don’t stand a chance and it really is ok. Just so thankful for every good day and every peaceful day amid the chaos and crumbs! Because that’s what they are ~ just a mixture of it all.

    What a great trip!

  18. “Not the dates alone with one child, though those happen naturally here and there, but the way you close the book, set the knitting down, or turn off the computer screen when a child addresses you.”

    YES. My parents are exactly like this. Growing up, the house was always messy, but I didn’t even notice until I was about 12. And even then, I didn’t care one bit, because why does it matter? My parents were (and are) always there, they genuinely listen, and they care. And that’s all that matters.

  19. Thank you for your words and wisdom! It’s so easy to get lost in the mess and forget what is really important.
    Sometimes house can wait.

  20. A whole lotta fun there! There’s something special about water, isn’t there? And camping! We’re taking 5 kids camping in a couple of weeks. I can’t wait! I need to start planning…now. LOL Words of wisdom!

  21. Thanks ginny, just what I needed to hear today x

  22. Thank you thank you thank you! Your ability to write about the good and the bad really supports me in my motherhood!

  23. MotherOwl says:

    Listening and having fun is so much more important than serving lunc or chasing dust bunnies. Crackers and banans do fine. The dust bunnies won’t ever go away. Have fun and God bless

  24. You got it. The key is not to let one’s mind go down into thinking that all is unwell – and being there for your children as you describe IS huge. Hang in there; so much goodness in this post. God bless and protect you and your family!!

  25. Beautiful words! I am so glad you get it! I tried with my three boys now men to be intentional but not as good as I should. I worked outside of the home and not as organized as I could have been. I learned and was given another chance with my beautiful grandson. It is amazing how he lights up when he realizes I have stopped to focus on him. I also caught a glimpse of his Daddy watching with a smile. It filled my heart. They only stay that way for a season and then poof they are grown men living in 3 different areas of the world. Treasure and enjoy! You are a wonderful Momma!
    Thank you for your writing.

  26. Just what I needed to read. Thank you so much

  27. Thank you for sharing the messy parts of being a Mom. This post was so encouraging to me and I *only* have 4 children!

  28. Thank you for your beautiful and wise words!!!

  29. Amy Corley says:

    Ginny, thank you for the gift of these words and the wise and gentle reminder to be gracious and kind to ourselves. Beautiful words, and beautiful pictures as well.

  30. As a Mom of five grown children I wish I had more often chosen the messy house and been more engaged with my children. You cannot go back and as I see it you have chosen what is best.

  31. You know Ginny, there will be plenty of time in the future to clean house, just keep on living and loving those beautiful babies of yours, that’s what it’s all about. Oh, and thanks for letting the rest of us have glimpses into your world, it makes my day. Written from the home that is now clean, but at one time always looked like a hurricane had hit.

  32. Needed to read this, to go outside my bubble and know others are in the same place. So glad I found your blog!

  33. This has to be my favorite batch of photos yet! The one of kids sleeping in the tent, you on the shore & all the water ones- perfect!

  34. Beautiful words and such a timely reminder. Just the thing I needed to read today. Thank you!

  35. Nancy M says:

    What great memories and experiences! I can so relate to your words, thanks for sharing from your heart!

  36. I loved every word of this — yes, yes, yes!
    I’ve seen you with your children, and it is glorious. You are attentive and gentle and engaging and beautiful.

  37. You are so right–listen, put down the task, step away from the computer. A garden that gets attention thrives. You are doing a fabulous job, and what a wonderful camping trip, and what amazing beach shots–so much nature, and experiences, and memories. Lucky family!

  38. yes yes and yes! thank you for the beautiful reminder. <3

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