Thursday, April 16, 2015

Eight is Enough

I was the oldest of four children (well, I still am!). As a child, I was always well-behaved, and I modeled excellent behavior for my younger siblings. Even though we were very close in age (2-1/2-years between my youngest brother and me with twins in the middle), I knew that my mother counted on me to set the I accepted the responsibility with grace and maturity from a young age.

At least this is how I remember things ;). Please note, I did not interview my mother before writing this post!

Because I was so angelic (until middle school...then I'm very grateful that anyone loved me!), I expect my oldest, who is also a girl with younger siblings very close in age, to shine in good behavior. And, in fact, according to her teachers, she does just this in school! And, I am very grateful that she stands out as a "great kid" in sports, Girl Scouts, and everything else, as well.

But, when I take her out, for example to Target with her younger siblings, we tend to have major issues. I don't even think she realizes it, but she immediately starts imitating the behaviors of her younger siblings (whining, meltdowns when I won't buy something, complaining about walking instead of riding in a cart, you name it!). And, I get much more frustrated with her than I do with the younger kids because, after all, she should know better!

Just yesterday, she was home sick from school. She wasn't so sick that she had to stay home in bed, so I ran a few errands when her brother was at preschool. One stop was to AAA to get some brochures. While I waited to be helped, we (my daughter and her two young sisters, ages 3 and 1) browsed in the little store.

There was a life-sized monkey propped up in a window display. He was wearing a safari hat and was balanced in a very odd position. I thought it went without saying, but I said it anyway. "Please do not touch the monkey." I was directing this to the 3-year-old, but maybe I should have been more specific.

A moment later, I was being helped by a kind associate. My oldest daughter walked away because she decided it would be a great idea to let her younger sisters hold/give a hug to the monkey. What the? Really? Never mind that the monkey was much larger than my 1-year-old.

I spent the next few moments mortified as we tried to get the monkey back in its spot (much easier said than done!). I settled for a kinda leaning monkey holding his hat in his lap...and got out of there.. without making eye contact with!

I started lecturing as soon as I started the car. I didn't stop until I felt better. After all the excuses stopped, she simply said, "I'm sorry Mom, but 8-year-olds aren't perfect."

Ouch. Suddenly 8 sounded like a small number. Certainly not an age worthy of my very high standards. She should have standards for sure, but I wondered how is it serving either of us if she's never allowing her to behave like a child without my quick judgment and correction.

This certainly isn't the first time that I've had such a realization. It's just that when one's kids are 8, 7, 5, 4, 3, and 1, one is anxious for be able to hold it together and survive a 10-minute trip to the store without drama! Ironically, usually the 5- and 3-year-olds are quite good, so maybe I can afford to give the 8-year-old a (very small) break?! And, in this instance at least, she wasn't trying to defy me, but rather to be kind to her sisters.

I need to remind myself (daily, sometimes hourly) that my oldest daughter is still a child who deserves to be a child (lest I blink and she's 18!). I constantly pray for extra graces in my dealings with her, as I need to treat her as the precious individual that she is...not the "model" that I want her/need her to be.

Tonight she had so much fun putting on the same pajamas as her younger sister. Never mind that they're Christmas pajamas in April! I loved hearing the giggles and childlike joy of two young children. For a moment, I realized that my oldest was not doing what I asked her to do. Namely, a laundry list of chores like getting her clothes ready for the next day, finishing her homework, and brushing her teeth.

But, watching a child enjoy a silly, carefree moment without the pressure of her mother telling her to hurry up and grow up already...

Priceless! Chores will always be there, but sweet moments with my young children will not. I'm glad I didn't blow it (this time!).

God, please give me all the graces that I need to treat each of my children with patience and love. Amen.

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

The Best Piece...

 Image result for valentine's day, heart, pixabay pictures

Here's my February post to Thanks for stopping by! I apologize for the lack of writing. My lack of free time to do what I want to do is very hard on me these days...but, I know that God wants me to pay attention to my little ones rather than what I choose. Some days are easier than others :).

I decided in early February that I now hate Valentine's Day. Now, I really don't mind a day focused on loving others...

It's just that this year, I have five young children in school. And, one of those children is in two different preschool classes. So, this means I (er...I mean, my children!) had six different classes (and 7 teachers) to prepare valentines for. And, gone are days when a little card is enough! Each valentine needs an accompanying "gift." Since we are on a tight budget, I got the biggest bag of dum-dum lollipops that I could find and called it a day!

The writing of the valentine's took several stressful afternoons. My 7 and 8-year-olds were fairly independent...after I printed out their class lists, helped them sort out the cards to have the proper number of "girl" and "boy" cards, and attached the stickers and tattoos. My 5-year-old was semi-independent. But, I had to do the whole job for the almost-3 and 4-year-olds...with a 1-year-old grabbing my leg desperately wanting to be included in the activity! Not to mention that there were six parties which required me to send in food. Enough...

As I was doing the dinner dishes the night of all the Valentine's Day parties, I was feeling relieved that it was all over. The children were delighted with their valentines, and I had run around behind them throwing away candy wrappers and broken trinkets. The house was pretty much back in order, and there was the potential of a return to "normal" (which is plenty crazy on its own!).

Then my 1st grader, Joseph, approached me. He had something in his hands and I could tell that he was very excited to give it to me. I noticed that it was a valentine as I quickly dried my hands. I remembered that I had never cleaned out the papers from his book bag that afternoon (my regular habit) as I had been obsessed with wiping out all signs of Valentine's Day. I would've found the valentine sooner if I had done that. But, then I might not have had this moment...

On the front was a big heart that had been created with little crumpled up pieces of tissue paper. It read, "I love you to pieces." On the back, he had written in his 1st grade handwriting and spelling the answer to several questions. For example, " I love it when you..."make my bed." I love it when you..."take me on vakashun (vacation)." The first answers were totally appropriate for a 7-year-old boy.

But then I read the last question. It read, I want to go with you to ____. Joseph wrote, I want to go with you to "hevin" (heaven).

Tears stung my eyes as I held him tight. He struggled to get out of my embrace and go back to playing. But, I was totally refreshed and renewed. My burdens felt light. The nagging voice that reminds me of all the ways that I'm failing was silenced. I was happy and peaceful.

Could he possibly have written a better answer? I could not think of a single solitary thing. He nailed the whole meaning of life. He wants to go to heaven!!! Every mother's prayer came to my lips: God help my sweet boy to always have the light to know and grace to do. Please protect him from all illness and accidents. Please grant him a long life doing your will. And, then to heaven for eternity.

After all, doesn't everything I do...a hundred children's valentines included...come back to this? My entire life's purpose: To get my husband and children to heaven (and please God, myself)!

I've decided that I really love Valentine's Day! And, that really rolls off the tongue since I'm writing this on February 15th!

Friday, January 30, 2015

Not the norm...

I was reading a "smell the roses" article on Facebook the other day. It was the usual about how fast our kids grow up and how we must really savor the small things that will be gone before we know it. The author had a list of things that she wishes that she could remember. For example, what her son's bedroom looked like when he was 7. This one stayed with me because my older son turned 7 just last week...and, his bedroom is nothing spectacular (but I do love the innocence of the piles of well-loved stuffed animals...I know that I will miss this stage)!
Lucy, age 2-1/2, is little Miss Independent these days! She loves to pick her clothes!!!
Her conclusion, however, was that she misses the "everyday" stuff the most, you know, the seemingly mundane things that make up the seconds, minutes, hours, days, and years. When I read something like this, it hits me...and this time was no exception. I resolved, until I came to my senses again, to really treasure (and memorize, lest I forget) the nitty-gritty of a typical day.

It lasted about an hour...or, until the baby woke up from her nap, Justin (age 4) and Lucy (age 2) started getting on each other's nerves (again), and the three older kids got off the bus and sprinted into the house leaving a trail of backpacks, shoes, gloves, and homework assignments behind them. 
Teresa gets some morning cuddles before the kids go out to the bus!
BREATHE, I thought. Don't try to store up any memories, just breathe. Say a quick Hail Mary and ready, set, GO. It was time to do what I do best...create a semblance of order while attempting to meet everyone's needs.

And then I came to my own conclusion (again!). It is this: I would probably do best to forget the "everyday" stuff and instead, to let the special moments shine brightly in my mind and heart! 
The "birthday buds" doing crafts together!
Because, at least for me, normal is crazy intense! I don't think my brain could store much without short-circuiting! I try my best, but at any given time, someone is melting, whining, fighting, crying, and/or complaining.  Of course, what keeps me going is God's grace, gratitude, and all the unexpected blessings that happen in the midst of all this chaos. At the end of the day, I could (if I had an ounce of energy left) fill a page of the blessings of the day!!! But, I don't think it would contain any "routine" moments (such as getting dressed, meals, bedtime, etc.) because they tend to bring out the worst in all of us (me included!) these days!

A birthday hug for little brother! The other little brother is not welcome in the picture!

Here's to ""survival" mode! Maybe I'll advance to "smell the roses" mode tomorrow ;).

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Right where I'm supposed to be....

Don't have time to blog today, but I thought I'd share this piece that I wrote for a few weeks back. Their site has wonderful material on it if you're interested! Have a blessed day!
Right where I'm supposed to be!
Photo Credit: Flickr/Caden Crawford

Friday, December 12, 2014

Come with me!

Handsome and beautiful for the Christmas show! It looks like Cecilia has too much lipstick on, but in reality,
her lips are just very chapped!
Last night my husband and I were lounging on the couch after the kids were in bed. He said that he would like to go to Mass this morning for Our Lady of Guadalupe Feast Day. He was thinking of going to the 8:30 a.m. Mass at our parish, which happens to be the school Mass (so our older kids would be there).

I was instantly sad for two reasons. Number one, if you read this blog, you might remember that I have a very special devotion to Our Lady of Guadalupe. Her picture is in our hallway and I stop to talk to her often. I wanted to go to Mass too!

Number two, it meant that I would be left trying to get three kids (and me) ready and out the door for preschool by myself. This isn't a big deal, but it sure is nice to have an extra set of hands (usually my husband sticks around a little after the big kids get on the bus at 8 a.m. so I have a few minutes to get myself ready).

When I expressed the first reason to my husband (I kept the second reason to myself...this is my job as a stay-at-home mom...I'm sure that he has things that he doesn't like about his job too!), he simply said, "Come with me."

"Really!?!" I felt like asking him if he was nuts. We take all six children to Mass every Sunday, and it's less than fun (especially for me as I usually end up in the narthex with Lucy and Teresa). And this week, we went to Mass on Monday for the Immaculate Conception (with the three little kids as the big kids went to Mass at school)...the mishaps of that Mass were still fresh in my mind. Plus, it would be a rat race trying to get everyone out by 8:20 a.m.


I quickly decided that it would be good for me to go to Mass on such a special day. The benefits could greatly outweigh the hardships. Maybe the Eucharist would give me the grace and strength that I've been seeking this week (Teresa is kinda/sorta/not really weaning and it's making a mess of my hormones!). Plus, it felt nice to be invited somewhere. Even if it just was by my husband!

Mass expected. I left very early with a screaming toddler who promptly took shaky steps right into the wall...and screamed even louder with a new goose egg. Lucy thought it was fabulous to go and out of the church door (it is much too crowded on Sunday's to play this fun game). I missed the Consecration so Lucy could spend some "I think I have to go" time on the potty.

But, I was there. And, the blessings, graces, and strength are coming (I just don't feel them yet...but that's faith, right!?!).

Wishing you a beautiful blessed Advent. I have very little time to write these days, but thanks for stopping by! Our Lady of Guadalupe, pray for us :).

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

The Shock...

I told Gianna to brush her hair and it turned into a sister's hair it :)
I started this post on Monday! Lucy stopped napping again, so writing just isn't happening...

Anyway, there was no school on Monday because it was the first day of deer hunting (that's not a big deal where I grew up, but it is here in Pennsylvania!). Luckily, I had some place fun to go with the kids.

Every year, my good friend Anna hosts a Toys for Tots (collecting new toys so unprivileged children will have something to open on Christmas morning) party on this day. It has grown from a handful of kids in her playroom to quite an event! It was held in the big fellowship hall at our preschool, and there was Zumba, Hershey characters, crafts, picture-taking stands, and tons of Christmas snacks. Everyone had a blast...and for such a great cause!!!

Getting out the door to this party was complete chaos. I sadly watched my husband get dressed and leave for work. That left me with seven people to get together before we went anywhere. You'd think the older kids would get dressed (appropriately) when I asked them, right? Too much to ask? I guess so!

Cecilia (age 5) and Lucy (age 2) actually love to dress themselves. And, if I let them pick their's a win-win :). So, at least two out of seven were ready to go!

The rest was a ridiculous struggle (because I had to feed them breakfast!). After asking Justin (age 4) nicely no less than five times to take off his pajamas and put on the clothes that I had laid out for him, I finally lost my cool.

And, I'd be lying if I said that I regained it (my cool) before we left :). Somehow, everything happened and I sent the kids out to the minivan.
The Zumba instructor is helping Lucy bust a move (with a Hershey bar looking on!!!)
I asked...not holding my breath, of course...that everyone get themselves strapped into their car seats (and/or help the little ones who needed help).

I took the baby upstairs with me to brush my teeth. I assumed that I was going to open the garage door and find children gleefully playing. I was picturing Lucy in the driver's seat (she loves it there!), a few kids wandering around the front yard, and Daddy's yard tools (hanging in the garage) strewn about. my complete and utter shock, I opened the door to the garage and found five children strapped into their car seats. And, no one was fighting. In fact, it was...silent.

I just stared...and then I broke into a silly, goofy grin. I could feel my blood pressure returning to normal and my crankies melting away. Alleluia...someone had heard something that I said! And, not only heard it, but followed through!

"Oh wow!" Joseph said. "We made Mom happy!"

I asked if it was hard to make me happy. Joseph said, " get strapped into our seats." I said, "Actually, you did it the first time that I asked and without complaining."

And, Mommy wanted to sing, hug each of them, say prayers of thanksgiving, and dance. :)

I hoped it would sink in that I'm really not a cranky, scream-y, high stress, ready to explode Mommy...but I just get that way when I'm ignored (repeatedly). Lesson learned?


But, I'll call on that moment of opening that garage door often...because it means there is HOPE!!!!!

Wishing you a beautiful and blessed Advent, friends! Thanks for reading!

My sweet boys at the holiday train display at a downtown museum!

Saturday, November 29, 2014

Marked Tardy

My big 1-year-old :)
This is my piece for November if you missed it:

"OH! No wonder you were late," said the pleasant nurse after I told her the ages of my children (she had asked). There was only one problem. And, really it wasn't a problem at all. Rather, it was just the slight wounding of my pride.

"I wasn't late," I said a bit too harshly. "I was told to be here at 7 a.m., and I signed in at 7 a.m.!" She apologized and said that she hadn't noticed me in the waiting room (probably because I had taken the baby into the farthest corner so that she wouldn't disturb anyone!). I just smiled a fake smile.

My baby had arrived at 7 a.m. to have a bilateral myringotomy...otherwise known as ear tubes! After months of chronic ear infections, I was relieved that a procedure would take away her pain (and perhaps mean more sleep for both of us!).

Thank God, my prayers were answered and the short procedure was a success with no complications. Everyone was very competent, professional, and lovely to the baby. We were home by 8:30 a.m., and I could see the improvements in my baby immediately! All was great.

A few days later, I got the evaluation in the mail. Was I happy with the service that I had received? Yes! If so, would I please send in the questionnaire (very simple...just circle 1 to 5) in the pre-paid envelope?

All I could think of was what the nurse said to me about being late. I felt that she had judged me as a woman and as a mother. Sensitive much!? Trust me, I am well aware of my shortcomings as a wife, mother, daughter, sister, friend, etc.! There's quite a list of things that I would like to change about myself and things that I am working on. But, being late is just not one of them!

Later than night, my 8-year-old daughter came downstairs in tears around 9 p.m. A little bit of honesty: It's very hard for me to be a loving, caring mother at 9 p.m. when I'm so wiped out myself. I tried though (this time)...really!

Turns out that her once-a-week computer class (which she had that day) was stressing her out. She said that the teacher pointed out that some students were clearly not trying their best because they did not finish the project. This devastated my daughter. She told me (and I truly believed her) that she DID try her best, but she's just not as fast as others (I can see this as she has very limited technology time at home). She said that she didn't finish...therefore she must be a terrible student.

I lovingly explained (luckily, I snapped back into maternal mode!) that this comment was not intended to hurt her...or even geared toward her at all (her teacher herself told me that she's in a "difficult" class). She internalized the message and it was making her feel rotten (not to mention anxious about her entire future!).

Hmmm...internalizing something and letting it take over your emotions. (Female anyone!?)

I want my children to be able to put things in perspective. How can I teach them this if it is one of my growing edges? I know emotions (and sensitivity, in particular) are gifts. But, letting them take over rational thought is not me or others!

My daughter actually came up with a beautiful solution for both of us. She asked me, "Will Mary help me with this if I ask her?" YES!!! She asked to be better at computers and I asked for graces to know my worth in God's eyes (lest I not be so concerned with what others think) and to take myself more lightly.

We said a Hail Mary together....and we both felt better.

And, I was late for preschool the very next day. I glanced at the clock...and smiled. If the nurse had said the exact same thing to me on that day, I would have readily agreed! :)