I can remember back to a time when I was the blessed mother of five kids, all under the age of seven. The looks and remarks I would get everywhere were priceless. Of course there were always the comments from kind-hearted souls who would say, “Don’t you know what causes that?” Or the always popular, “Them all yours?” I would always smile benignly and offer some witty remark about how fun that many kids really were. All the while I am sure I looked like a crazed lulu bird with iridescent “questionable matter” on my shoulders, bright yellow “you know what” from a diaper oozing down my white skirt, and as I ran past them chasing after another one that got away, they could catch a glimpse of the warm dribble rolling down my back. I mean really, who would voluntarily take other peoples kids to the grocery store for an hour of public humiliation?

When asked how many kids I have, people often respond, “Wow, you don’t look like a mother of five!” I have always pondered that statement, what does a “mother of five” look like in their world? Maybe the mommy gets larger with every child? Maybe she becomes totally unable to articulate a full sentence and only babbles “Stop that, don’t hit your sister!” While having five is a larger than average number, I have several friends with twice that number. I have found them to be women who are patient, flexible, loving, and very organized. They are incredible witnesses and examples of the power of womanhood to myself as well as others.

A friend of mine who has six grown children shared with me what her then oldest son of 12 told her. It seemed Ryan loved to sit near us in church. Apparently, we were so entertaining for him that mass just seemed to whiz right by. Each week we would try to secure the area where there was an aisle split between the pews. We found it would leave plenty of room so that the girls could spread out and make carpet angels, the boys could be properly separated, and we would be far enough back to be less likely to make the Sunday edition of the Most Embarrassed List.  In my day, if mom or dad pinched you at church, the message was painfully clear…shut up, sit still and pay attention.  I tried the pinch trick on my kids one Sunday, what was heard loud and clear was, “OUCH! STOP! Why are you HURTING me mommy?” If I tried to take one of them out for a little heart to heart, they would scream all the way down the aisle, “NO! No! Pleeeze don’t SPANK me!” We had parishioners who either wanted seats for the 10am Lishko Show or those that wanted to sit as far away as possible.  On many weekends when my husband was away on business, the cast and I wouldn’t even make it past the homily, not alone to the curtain call.

We actually tried the “Cry Room” …once.  It was like a three ring circus in there. Yes, it was far worse than the act we had going on inside church. Kids were juggling cheerios and juice boxes, toys were flying and the parents just sat there smiling blithely. Either they had found a way to have an out of body experience and were actually present at the mass or they had found their “happy place” deep inside their minds and didn’t come back until the recessional song.

I’d like to report that there has been an enormous behavioral shift as they have matured…and most likely when they are on their own, attending mass all by themselves this is true. However, at Midnight Mass when we are all gathered together again, it’s time for, Lishko’s… the Sequel. Yes, after 15 years they are still turning heads and I am still making the Most Embarrassed List. I pray that I shall live long enough to observe them as parents. My husband and I can sit in a choir loft and watch from above as their own little angel’s wiggle and squirm. With my luck however, they’ll send them to sit with grandpa and grandma!

Being a mother is the hardest job on the planet. It is filled with long days, rarely restful nights, and being on-call 24/7. Nothing can fully prepare you, and constant prayer is your only hope. “With God all things are possible” including enduring the rough patches and embracing the joyful moments.  Our faith makes possible the small successes, and the painful dark nights pass swiftly.

I wonder if the people of Nazareth ever said to Mother Mary, “you don’t look like a Mother of God?” We are always reminded that God’s ways are not our own and it is very possible that we just might be raising the next St. Francis or St. Thérèse of Lisieux.

I share with you my motto courtesy of St. Paul; “Rejoice in hope, endure in affliction, persevere in prayer.”

May our Lord continue to strengthen all women to witness the beauty of being faithful women of God.

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