April 21, 2014

Dear Blogger Moms of Older Kids,

Dear Rachel, Dwija, Mary, Cari, Kelly, Mary Kate, Jessica, Nancy, Kathryn, Susan, and many more,

I've been scrolling through my Facebook feed and over and over again I see your beautiful faces and your beautiful kids. I see your handsome husbands and your cute dresses and all the smiles. And I want to tell you something:

I have five little kids. The oldest is nearly six, the youngest is only nine months. I feel like I have finally hit a good stride and, with the grace of God, I have a lot of things under control. But I wonder and I worry about what will happen as my kids get older.

Will this one ever learn to think of others first? Will that one struggle with school? Will this one resent decisions I've made? Will that one be a flirt? Will they all grow in virtue? Will they love God and their faith? Will they make good decisions about dating and sex and college and parties and friends? 

I am happily married and I have been for over seven years. I really like my husband - I like spending time with him and hanging out with him and talking about things with him. And I really like my husband - see the five kids above. He is an amazing man - a strong leader, a humble servant, a man of many talents and capabilities and a good sense of humor. But I wonder about rough patches that every marriage seems to have.

Will we have one? How will we navigate through it? How do I encourage him and not nag? How do I support and follow him when I disagree, when I'm scared, when I'm nervous? 

 I am eighty shameful pounds heavier now than I was when I got married. Six pregnancies in six years and a NICU stay and all kinds of emotional eating have left me round. Embarrassingly round.

Will I ever lose this weight? Will I have the time to exercise and do school drop off and pick up and attend daily Mass and keep the house clean and read blogs? Will I ever again fit into that Everyone Loves a German Girl t-shirt I've been holding on to for all these years?

All these thoughts, worries, questions: You answer them for me. When I see your pictures, when I read your Facebook updates and blog posts and tweets I breathe out a little sigh of relief.

Your beautiful, handsome, happy children seem so confident, funny, kind, thoughtful, eager to learn, and happy to be Catholic, even though you don't hide the hard. Your marriages seem happy, fulfilling, not without their crosses but also not without their deep, sustaining joys. Your lives seem balanced, even if that means that you are having to shift the balances every few months, seasons, or years.

I see you take the time to pursue things you love and enjoy: running, fashion, photography, chickens, gardens, writing, crafts, pampering and cooking.
I see you take the time to enjoy, encourage, support, play with, read to and love your children, meeting them where they are and raising them to the next level.
I see you take the time to honor, love, respect, care for, date, and enjoy your husbands.
I see you take the time to nurture friendships, to pray with and for your friends, to surprise them with flowers and cookies and phone calls.
I see you live a life pursuing God, finding time for prayer, enjoying and living and celebrating your faith, reading your Bible, sharing the Good News of Jesus Christ.

Your presence online is a presence in my life and I am so grateful. You are a role model for me. The words you write, the pictures you post, the quotes you share, the prayers you offer - these are sustaining and encouraging me through these years of little kids, of a still-young marriage, of eighty pounds.

Please know that I appreciate the gift you give. Please know that as you share your life you are giving me hope. Please know that I am so grateful.

So very, very grateful.

May our good God bless you and tell you "Well done, good and faithful servant."



  1. Yes! If I had a blog I would have written this exact post! Also know, Bonnie, that there are those of us who LOVE following you as well, those of us that are in the trenches of little kids just like you. You give me hope whenever I read your posts as well!

  2. Many of those women encourage me, too, and they are a big reason I still 'do Facebook.'

    I have nothing to offer except my prayers. I vow to pray for you, Bonnie.

  3. This made me cry and is, in so many ways, exactly the way i feel with my three in three years.

  4. You know... You are strong example of goodness yourself. I mean we are younger and have been married less and we are only at one kid in the big world and one on the way and I often panic. But you've got your beautiful kids who are smiling, don't hate each other and are not traumatized by additional siblings. Plus you struggle sometimes. That's so real and good. It makes it okay to have bad days myself. Or a kitchen full of dirty dishes or what have you. I am glad we have examples of families with older children to look to, but I am also glad to have families with younger ones to look to as well!!

  5. What a beautiful letter, Bonnie. As others have said, your blog is a hopeful, encouraging place for us, too.

  6. When there are days of endless household chores I constantly think of Kendra and her post about having a 10 year old. Love having that inspiration, even if it's just online.

  7. I second this! Thank you for writing such a beautiful letter.

  8. You are so generous with your encouragement in this letter, Bonnie. I'm sure all of us with olderish kids feel this same way about moms like Elizabeth Foss Auntie Leila who have managed to make it into and through the teenaged years and beyond with such beautiful results. Each of us looks to the other for inspiration and that is the thing I love most about our community :)

  9. So, so beautiful Bonnie. You are an inspiration for more than you know, and you're in my prayers :)

  10. What a sweet post! I am only now just starting to understand the different seasons of childbearing/raising. I remember marveling at the moms with older kids when I was the mom with littles...and now, I get to have a few of those moments myself. It is grand. So glad you have found motivation and support!

  11. Truly, this is what Christ intended us to receive from fellowship with one another - being able to draw strength and encouragement from one another. I've been involved in one blogging community or another for almost ten years now and it seems like my favorite Catholic mommies do a better job than any other demographic of encouraging one another. Love this blog post! *hugs*

  12. Bonnie, you are such a beautiful person and I think most of us would agree that having this virtual community of Catholic moms is incredibly inspiring and offers just the amount of reality and brevity we all need from time to time. Motherhood is a circle and I'm deeply indebted to the awesome moms that showed me the ropes. Loved this post.

  13. Bonnie, this is a lovely thank you note. I feel the same way. The world surrounds us with so many wrecks and tries to pass it off as inevitable but we know, we witness the good, true and beautiful by surrounding ourselves with a beautiful community of women living their lives with intention before the Lord.

  14. I love this and all your posts!

  15. Dear Bonnie, you are right about what you are observing. I am a mother of five, ages 9 to 18. I have three teenagers and one entering middle school next year. My baby will be the lone elementary student. Things are looking different. Not a whole lot lighter, but somehow, the perspective is there. When you're at the place I'm at, you are both looking back and ahead, and it is a good place to be. The pain is poignant at times, and yet somehow, the grace arrives in necessary amounts to keep us moving forward, one day at a time. I think the most important word I can use at this point in my life is: surrender. Surrender is what makes us able to put the smiles on our faces, despite the difficulty, and mean it. :) God bless you!

  16. Yes, and YOU!!! I am in AWE of the generosity you have offered the Father in totally showering the earth with the gaggle of Engstroms you have been given, all in a cluster, and the opportunity to truly make you into a saint by the necessary transforming/remaking that HAS to come with such a gift! We have taken the more cautious route - not without serious reason, consideration, and prayer - but the magnanimity is yours, as will be all the grace and reward. You, Jennifer F, and Grace P have me totally in awe in that way - and Jen is a great example of someone I've watched for a long time gradually become more and more adept and expressive and capabale in her motherhood and ministry.

    We all need the inspiration, the vision, the encouragement and support - you are relentless in your pursuit of the good and a terrific inspiration to me!

    Happy Easter!

  17. So beautiful--and you're an inspiration to me, Bonnie, as a mom of almost 3!

  18. I had no idea this post would be so meaningful and relatable to so many of you.

    THANK YOU for your kind words. I am honored.

  19. Amen! It's so hard when there aren't a lot of real-life examples of large families with older kids around us - thank goodness for the fellowship we can find online!

  20. Bonnie, I saw this post via e-mail early yesterday morning and meant to respond sometime yesterday thanking you for your kind words. I also wanted to thank you for putting into words, yet again, what so many of us has thought/experienced/felt at different times. You are SUCH a gifted writer. Anyway, during the day I had separate and completely different (actual) crises with three of my three children to mediate/navigate/experience and I just felt by the end of the day: "I don't know at ALL what I'm doing. Why did God let me be a mom?" But that brings me back to my knees in prayer, and leaning hard on the support of friends and family. Thank you for your post and know that we are all in this together.

    1. Clarifying that I wrote "Why did God let me be a mom?" because I feel sometimes unqualified, not because I don't love it. Because I love completely being a mom, and at a deep level I know I'm a great mom to my kids, but even moms can have moments of doubt about their abilities, and that's okay. Also, because my older teen reads your blog sometime and might come across this So, hi babe! Love, your awesome Mom. :-)

  21. Thank you for writing these words and acknowledging the gift that comes from the online community. Every time I get down on myself for how much time I've spent online, I realize it's not just time with a computer - but with a community of like-minded and inspiring women behind that screen. Also, I somehow missed the fact that your kids were all so young! You certainly don't give the frazzled-mom aura off online - I'm so impressed with all that you do, and the inspiration you give to those of us with even younger families!

  22. Oh Bonnie! There is nothing shameful about being a bit out of shape after going through so many pregnancies! You grew a family - and that's something very awesome in and of itself. I'm one of the older moms with older kids and we have our own struggles. Lots of things I don't put on facebook or on my blog because my adult children need their privacy- but it's a different sort of thing. Instead of wondering if my oldest will learn to share, or if my other children will pick up their clothes and toys, I worry that they will leave the faith, or waste their 20s, or make some other mistake they'll regret. It doesn't show up in the pictures though. Every phase of motherhood has its own trials and we just keep the faith and keep going. Sounds like you are off to a great start!

  23. I don't know how it is that I'm only reading this now. But this is beautiful. Totally beautiful. You are a voice for many (me included.)

  24. Bonnie what a beautiful post!
    You are a big inspiration to me.

  25. Bonnie! I have been buried in life this week and had no time to read my fave blogs until tonight, and I must tell you how touched I am to have read this post! You don't realize what an inspiration you are to so many.So, while you're thanking a few of us, really we come full circle around you and around so many of the incredible Catholic moms who share their lives and their stories each week. I feel supported in this virtual network, too, and can only think of how exciting it is going to be to meet you face to face this summer and give you a huge hug!! Thank you for your beautiful words, this post means so much to me!!

  26. Aw! That is a beautiful, and wise post. You already know that it is so good to look at life from another perspective, especially when we feel entrenched. As a mom of many adult children and a few teens, I can tell you I still have to do this! every season has it's joys and difficulties. I don't have shining Catholic success story (yet!) but I like to share my broken but healing life to hopefully encourage others.
    I am so glad you do find strength and encouragement! You do so much of that for lots of us!

  27. What a beautiful post! You are humble and gracious. I just found your blog and love it. I have wanted to learn more about Fulton Sheen and through your son's miraculous story I am inspired too! Through a powerful reversion, my husband and I are blessed with 3 big kid and 3 little kids, so we get the best of both seasons. We miss our "big girls" when they are away or busy!

  28. Bonnie, thank YOU.

    It's just smoke and mirrors on a lot of days. And, God's grace!

    Every season has it's ups and downs and it's so so so good that you see that already! I'm learning the ropes of having "adult" children now and, whew, is it mentally and spiritually challenging. But, I know that we will make it and sometimes even enjoy the ride! ;)

    Keep up the good fight. You're doing great!

  29. Bonnie. I am new here. But I have to say I read some of the other blogs you've thanked in this post and I have fallen in love with yours.

    My husband and I have been married for 7 years as well. Last weekend was our anniversary and I can tell you that we've had probably the hardest road (outside of loss of life) that any of our peers have had. I was diagnosed with cancer six months after we got married, and at 25 weeks pregnant. We met and married in six weeks, got pregnant on purpose quickly and the moment the doctor said cancer it's as if someone lit the fuse on a time bomb. We made choices no couple should have to make. Do I save myself or my child? She's six and I am typing this so I guess you could say it was a win/win. We lost our house so that we could "afford" cancer treatment which was botched and has led us 2,000 miles from home to a state we know NOBODY in. For cancer treatment at 38.

    I love him more than the moon and stars BUT OH how we've been in the trenches and at the end of each day all I can say is it was God's will for us to make it work. For us to have her. For this to be my world.

    80#s? Who cares? You are beautiful. You are a wonderful mother and a wonderful wife AND a child of God.

    I used to be 400#s. I am not anymore, but my husband is and has gained at least 100#s during our marriage. He sees how difficult it is for me to maintain my weight loss, to maintain my drive to be a marathon runner, to maintain it all while sick. BE YOU. YOU ARE BEAUTIFUL. YOU are more than a #.

    THANK YOU for writing this post.