Busy moms share how they get it all done

QUICK CHAT: Shelli McNeil chats with her eldest child, Rachel, and youngest child, Miranda, as she picks up the kids after school. (Pioneer photo/Candy Allan)

QUICK CHAT: Shelli McNeil chats with her eldest child, Rachel, and youngest child, Miranda, as she picks up the kids after school. (Pioneer photo/Candy Allan)

MECOSTA COUNTY — Getting everyone up, fed breakfast and out the door on time is when the day begins, but somebody has to remember to defrost the chicken for dinner, get Susie to the dentist, Johnny to practice and Mary to her game.

Usually, that somebody is mom.

Many mothers are familiar with the feeling that they’re barely keeping it together. Lots of mothers also know a woman who looks like she’s got everything under control and has time to spare. To learn the secrets of how Super Moms handle it all, the Pioneer spoke to several area busy moms and asked for their secrets.

The first secret? Every single mother interviewed for this story said she does NOT have everything under control.

“I don’t think anybody is really ‘on top of it all,'” said Venus Costie. “It just works out and everybody measures what ‘on top of it’ is for their family differently.”

FAMILY PHOTO: Venus Costie (back, second from left) posed for a photo with her five children: Phelicia, Zavior, Theo, Ariana and Kiarra. (Pioneer photo/Candy Allan)

FAMILY PHOTO: Venus Costie (back, second from left) posed for a photo with her five children: Phelicia, Zavior, Theo, Ariana and Kiarra. (Pioneer photo/Candy Allan)

Costie and her husband, Jim, have five children: Phelicia, 18; twins Zavior and Theo, 16; Ariana, 12; and Kiarra, 9. All the children except Phelicia play soccer and Ariana also runs track. Costie is a paraprofessional in the early childhood special education classroom at Morley Stanwood Elementary.

Each family has a system for coordinating schedules. Color-coded calendars are popular, with several of the moms using this tactic, whether colors refer to family members or groups of family members.

CLOWNING AROUND: Ryland Nelson, 13, gives his mom Amanda Nelson a piggyback ride as the pair enjoy some silly fun at his younger sister Olivia's softball game. (Pioneer photo/Candy Allan)

CLOWNING AROUND: Ryland Nelson, 13, gives his mom Amanda Nelson a piggyback ride as the pair enjoy some silly fun at his younger sister Olivia’s softball game. (Pioneer photo/Candy Allan)

One proponent of the system is Amanda Nelson. She and her husband Jamey have seven children, four of whom are adopted: Aiden, age 16; Ryland, 13; Olivia, 10; Joslyn, 8; Jack, 6; a 4-year-old girl and a 5-month-old boy. Adoption proceedings are not yet finalized for the youngest two children.

Aiden plays baseball on two teams, Ryland plays baseball, runs track and ice skates and Olivia plays softball, ice skates and is in Robotics Club after school. The younger children don’t have extra-curricular activities yet.

“I have a color-coded calendar with colored Sharpies or highlighters. It includes everybody’s practices, everybody’s games and everybody’s appointments, including Jamey’s. This time of year is really busy with all the senior activities he needs to attend as principal,” Nelson said. “Then I put it all in my phone so I can get reminders constantly.”

Each Sunday, the Nelsons review the calendar for the week and determine who can take which child to which event.

SMALL GIFT: Joslyn Nelson, 8, presents her mother Amanda Nelson with a flower while at older sister Olivia's softball game. (Pioneer photo/Candy Allan)

SMALL GIFT: Joslyn Nelson, 8, presents her mother Amanda Nelson with a flower while at older sister Olivia’s softball game. (Pioneer photo/Candy Allan)

“It does help that Aiden’s 16 and can drive — a couple times, he’s brought Ryland home from practice,” Nelson said. “But we don’t ask him to babysit a lot because we don’t feel it’s his job to raise his siblings.”

In contrast, Shelli McNeil keeps the family calendar in her head, but she and her husband, Todd, also team up to get all four children everywhere they need to be. McNeil teaches fitness classes and works as a personal trainer at Beagle Fit in Big Rapids, as well as coaching high school and middle school cross-country teams for Morley Stanwood Community Schools in the autumn.

The children are busy with sports. Rachel, age 18, plays softball; Kevin, 16, runs track; Josh, 13, plays baseball and runs track; and Miranda, 9, plays softball.

ALL TOGETHER: Shelli McNeil stands with all four of her children after school. Pictured are (from left) Rachel, Shelli, Kevin, Josh and Miranda (in front). (Pioneer photo/Candy Allan)

ALL TOGETHER: Shelli McNeil stands with all four of her children after school. Pictured are (from left) Rachel, Shelli, Kevin, Josh and Miranda (in front). (Pioneer photo/Candy Allan)

“Todd and I work together,” McNeil said. “He goes one way and I go the other and we try to keep everything straight that way.”

Still, with four children and four sports, sometimes there aren’t enough parents to go around.

“When there’s a conflict, we have to rely on our friends and they rely on us,” McNeil said. “A lot of our friends have kids the same ages as ours, so we take one of theirs and they take one of ours, especially when it’s baseball season and there’s something every night of the week.”

TIME TOGETHER: Christine Corrigan-Persons (right) poses with her daughters Claudia (center) and Kendalyn (left) in this family photo. (Courtesy photo)

TIME TOGETHER: Christine Corrigan-Persons (right) poses with her daughters Claudia (center) and Kendalyn (left) in this family photo. (Courtesy photo)

Christine Corrigan-Persons also manages a busy schedule, but she has a degree of control over many of the meeting times because she either leads the group or can work it around her other commitments.

Corrigan-Persons has two daughters, Claudia, 14, and Kendalyn, 12. The girls are active in band and drama at school both take dance lessons and are Girl Scouts. Claudia also plays softball and is on the high school robotics team.

Corrigan-Persons is the leader of Girl Scout Troop No. 3398 as well as the area’s service unit director, a Morley Stanwood Community Schools Board of Education member, president of Morley Stanwood Little League and the middle school parent-teacher organization, volunteers and teaches Sunday School at Immanuel Lutheran Church and works full-time as a legal assistant.

While she’s got a lot on her plate, she feels the activities she’s involved in give her more time with her girls.

“I feel like the time with the kids is so short and I want to make the most of it,” she said. “These are things my kids are interested in and so I get to spend more time with the kids.”

REFEREE: Christine Corrigan-Persons separates a "battle" between her daughters Claudia (left) and Kendalyn. (Courtesy photo)

REFEREE: Christine Corrigan-Persons separates a “battle” between her daughters Claudia (left) and Kendalyn. (Courtesy photo)

Spending time with their children and being part of their activities, whether leading or cheering from the sidelines, was noted by all four women as an important part of their lives. In order to do that, they’ve all chosen to make certain sacrifices.

One family eats together, but not until about 8 p.m.; in another, family members eat as they have time between commitments. Nearly every mother mentioned fast food and eating in the car as an option for their family.

“Don’t ever think everything has to be perfect,” Costie said. “It’s OK if your house isn’t perfectly clean and the laundry isn’t folded. I’m not saying live in a dump, but don’t put that pressure on yourself. It’s most important that everybody’s healthy, happy and you all get to see each other every morning and say, ‘Good morning,’ and every night and say, ‘Good night.’

“It’s enough to raise good kids.”

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Posted by Candy Allan

Candy is the Pioneer's associate editor. She also coordinates the Family & Friends, Religion and Parenting pages. She can be reached by phone at (231) 592-8386 or by e-mail at callan@pioneergroup.com.

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