Thursday, August 30, 2012

Spread your wings, Gianna Marie!

Gianna and Cecilia at the bus stop
Today is a big day at our house. Our oldest child started Kindergarten! With a September birthday, she had to wait a whole extra year to go. But, after much anticipation, the day is finally here! 

Most of my friends' children (Gianna's first friends in life) started Kindergarten on Monday. But, at Holy Name of Jesus Catholic School, the first day is today (Thursday)! On my once-a-day perusal of Facebook this week, I have seen countless first day of school pictures and read multiple "it will never be the same again and everything is already different" commentaries. I guess it's my turn!

I had mixed emotions as I watched the giant yellow school bus drive away. I have been very excited all summer about Gianna starting school, and not really sad at all. I know that Gianna (and I!) are both more than ready for this milestone. I joke all the time that with 5 children under the age of 6, it's about time that someone went to school :).

But, I must admit it is a most unsettling feeling to watch your constant companion of almost 6 years drive away without you. She has never even been in anyone else's car, and yet there she is in a giant vehicle that is quickly moving out of sight. I fight feelings to rush back to my car to stalk the bus, to watch her walk into school, to make sure that she is safely in her stop everything (too late to homeschool?!).

It wasn't until the bus pulled away that I realized that I had absolutely no plans for the day (this is quite rare for me as I keep us pretty booked!). The only thing for my calendar for today was "Kindergarten." I don't think I fully grasped that we all weren't going with her!

Luckily, a friend called and invited us to the playground on this gorgeous late summer day. We said a Hail Mary in the car that Gianna would have a wonderful first day. I added my own silent prayers that St. Gianna and her guardian angel would watch over her. That her Blessed Mother would be with her as her earthly mother sits this "one" out.

It was when we first got to the playground that I started to miss Gianna. There was no one but me to unstrap all the carseats!! And, Joseph (age 4 1/2) isn't quite strong enough to hold the bathroom door open wide so I can squeeze the double stroller inside!

But, when I gleefully watched my younger children playing in the sandbox and chasing a ladybug, it struck me that Gianna is exactly where she needs to be. She has done the sandbox and ladybug thing (and she will continue to do so in the afternoons and weekends).

Now is her time to learn to read, to write, to grow in character, and to continue to learn her Catholic faith. She will have a life away from our family...and this is okay...and even good. And, we are so blessed that she is able to do all of this at a wonderful Catholic school just minutes from our house.

Spread your wings, Gianna Marie...

But know that we'll be waiting for you at 3:13 when you get off that bus!

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Paint Nailish

My daughter Cecilia is 3-years-old. I have written about age 3 before. Although my oldest is not yet 6, Cecilia is my third child to turn 3. Thank God they are so physically cute at this really helps me to remain cool (well, sometimes!).

With a 3-year-old in the house, I often feel defeated before breakfast. I try so hard to be cheery. I've read that mom sets the tone (for the whole family, for the whole day) first thing in the morning...not fair, right!?

In a nutshell, most everything is wrong for Cecilia. The wrong bowl, food, drink, outfit, outing, you name it. And because everything is wrong, there must be loud, dramatic outbursts at every turn. These outbursts are mentally exhausting for everyone involved.

I know that I am not alone. At a play date last week, the other moms of 3s were spouting off the months, weeks, days until their child turns 4. Not that it's magic, but I have noticed a huge decrease in impulsiveness and tantrums once my older two children turned 4. "Only 1-1/2 months," one mom said. "Lucky," said another!

I most certainly do not wish this year away. I would not in a million years trade one day with Cecilia or with any of my children. But, I do pray extra hard for my daily bread. I count to 10 (a lot) and I try to remember that I am the adult. I am not to respond, "You're boring" when a child tells me they are bored.

There is one particularly adorable thing that Cecilia does these days. She asks for "Paint Nailish"...a lot. Yes, this is nail polish. I remember that it was a very extra special treat for Gianna (my oldest) to get her nails painted at age 3. It seldom happened as I had a toddler and infant also.

Time and experience have mellowed me (already...God help me when they are teenagers...ha!). Cecilia has kid paint nailish at her command (I still keep it out of reach, but I hand it over willingly). One afternoon when I was desperate for her to entertain herself for a moment, I gave her a bottle and told her to paint her nails. She did...beautifully, I might add! She spent so much time painstakingly getting those tiny nails perfect.

Layers of colors later, she has almost perfected it! I am hoping that she will apply that concentration to other, more important areas of her life. Her eye-hand coordination should be off the charts as she starts preschool next month!

Thank you God for a colorful journey with this amazing child. Please grant me the patience to lovingly and calmly guide her all the days of her youth. These days of paint nailish will wear away...too quickly.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Slow Down!

Click to show "cow crossing the road" result 7

Okay, so it wasn't this cow or this road. But, it did happen...I just didn't have my camera!

We were driving home from a great morning at a place called "Let's Pretend". It was a fun morning filled with pretending, creating, and friendship. I was driving my hungry and tired kiddos home for lunch and resting time. We were all a little bit whiny (even me!).

Then...right in front of my minivan stepped a huge black cow! Yes, there is a farm there with lots of cows that we drive by regularly, but NEVER have we seen a cow on this side of the pretty significant fence. How did she get out!?

Regardless of her escape method, my children were absolutely delighted. They asked if they could get out and pet her. The almost 2-year-old suddenly wanted his milk. It WAS highly entertaining, but I quickly became stressed as the cow seemed quite content.

I honked my horn, flashed my lights, yelled out the window, and inched my minivan closer. Nothing. The cow just stood there staring at us. There was no going around this thing...and I would add so much time to our journey if I turned back to go the other way.

What to do? LAUGH. And did we. My frustration quickly turned to giddiness as I listened to four of my children roll with laughter. The baby slept through it, but she smiled at the faces who told her about it later. Daddy got four renditions of it as soon as he walked in the door from work. Even though Justin could only say, "Cow Road"...his laugh told the whole story.

It was one of those unpredictable moments that I never could have scheduled. At another time in my life, it probably would have irritated me to no end. I would have only seen the inconvenience of being stopped on a country road when I had places to go. At another, less carefree time in my children's lives, it will irritate them to no end.

However, this time, thank God, it was a moment to treasure. This memory will probably fade quickly for my children as they fill their days with new experiences daily. But, I think I'll hold on to it for a while.

When the cow decided to move 3 minutes later (felt MUCH longer), I felt happier. I will not always have a minivan full of happy children (in fact, the 5-minute ride to Target later that day was a nightmare). And, the fact that they were laughing at God's creation rather than a screen was also nice.

Here's hoping God throws more "cows" in my path...and that I have the grace to recognize them as gifts instead of nuisances.

Friday, August 17, 2012

Sit Still and Pay Attention...

My almost 6-year-old is always asking me if she can help me. I know I should relish this! Unfortunately, most of the time, it is much quicker if I do it myself. So, beyond fetching things and sorting laundry, I do not utilize her willingness nearly enough! Funny though, she is never responsive when I ask her to pick up the toys...I guess that doesn't count in her mind!

Earlier this week she was lying with the baby on the bed. After completing a mental list of 100 things to do before we got out the door, I took a chance. "Gianna, do you want to dress Lucy?!" Gianna was very excited. "Absolutely," the response.

I picked out a simple top and fussy snaps. I thought she might have trouble getting the top on, but I was nearby.

I went into the other room for a moment. I came back and asked how it was going.

Gianna exclaimed, "She will not sit still and pay attention!!" I burst out laughing. I think or say the exact same thing about Gianna and her other older siblings at least 20 times a day! The irony was lost on Gianna!!!

It was nice though that, if only for a moment, Gianna shared some of my frustration!

Lucy, 4 months, just refused to sit still and pay attention...even for me. She flashed one of her million dollar smiles though, and frustration was the farthest thing from my mind. Thank God for babies (and for bigger kids who want to help!).

Sunday, August 12, 2012

My Classroom of Distractions

After the rat race of getting out the door yesterday morning, we had a very peaceful ride to vacation bible school. The kids have attended quite a few vacation bible schools the last few weeks, and they spontaneously sing loudly (there are some pretty catchy songs I must say!) and ask lots of questions about God.

I am so grateful that my daughter will attend a Catholic elementary school and that the younger kids will continue to attend a Christian preschool. Talking about God is just expected and normal! It's one thing to do this at home, but I appreciate the reinforcements.

We were driving along and I was trying to say my morning prayers. I say some out loud with the kids and then I *try* to add some of my own silent prayers. I was deep in thought about something that I heard on a Matthew Kelly tape the day before. He had been advocating the "classroom of silence." Meaning that God speaks to us in the silence.

I found this to be a fascinating truth (I remember sitting in the Adoration chapel in college and feeling as if God was speaking to me). However, at this point in my life, I find that I hear God most in the midst of chaos...a classroom of distractions, if you will!

If I had more silence, no doubt that I would encounter God. But, He has blessed me with this noise, and I believe that He can speak to my heart in the midst of the meltdowns, quarrels, baby coos, and off key songs too!

For example, as I was driving, thinking, and praying, I was half-listening to my kids talking to each other in the backseat. I had been silently asking God to help me to know His will for something on my heart. Just then, I heard my daughter switch from counting the cows (there are some beautiful farms on this route) to inquire how high heaven is in the sky. My son answered that it was very high, but God can still see us and talk to us.

Intrigued by his confidence, I asked him what God says. He said that God sometimes says "YES", God sometimes says "NO", and God sometimes says "WAIT". This was something he had taken away from one of the vacation bible camps. Funny that it didn't come up when he told me about the crafts and snacks (his favorite parts!).

But WOW...that was powerful for me to hear just then. I recognized that perhaps God's will for me in this instance is much simpler than I thought. I could easily pick which of the three (yes, no, and wait) was applicable. Among all the distractions in the car, I heard God answering me through my little boy.

I know that someday I may have more time to return to the classroom of silence (probably much sooner than I realize too!). But, in the mean time, I will try to appreciate the blessings in the distractions (most of the time!) in this classroom of life.

Monday, August 6, 2012

Thank you, Mother!

My last post was a shout out to my biological mother. This post is about EWTN's Mother Angelica.

Although we do not have cable, we are fortunate enough to have EWTN. I will sometimes catch a bit of a rerun of her show, and I am always left laughing and feeling uplifted.

I often retreat to the living room after cleaning up the dinner dishes. I like to have a cup of coffee (to have energy for the bedtime routine and hopefully a little post-bedtime energy too!) while watching the evening news. The kids are winding down at this time of evening and often play around me or climb in and out of my lap (with a cup of hot coffee, this is much more stressful than relaxing!).

My oldest daughter is the only one who pays any attention to the news. Lately, she has been asking me in a quiet voice if the people on the screen have died. My answer is often yes. This is new for me...discussing serious matters with a child who is just beginning to realize that there is a world beyond her family. I try to answer her innocent questions truthfully and simply without dismissing her fears. Her world is going to become bigger when she steps on that bus to go to kindergarten in a few weeks...ready or not!

The other children tend to only tune in during the weather and commercials with animals.

On a recent evening, I got sick of the news and turned to EWTN. There was Mother Angelica. For whatever reason (maybe because of the presence of someone holy!?), all 5 children instantly stopped playing and looked at the screen (even the infant!).

Their questions made me laugh. After a moment of silence:

Joseph (age 4): "Is that Noah's wife?"

Gianna (age 5 1/2): "Did she used to be a bad guy?"

Cecilia (age 3): "Is her hat for the Olympics?" (we had just been talking about why the swimmers wear swim caps for races).

So, thank you Mother Angelica. Mostly for sharing your faith and for your memorable pearls of wisdom...but also for the additional entertainment (of course, their questions were dead serious...but I was too busy laughing to answer!). The laughter refreshed me more than the cold coffee.

Friday, August 3, 2012

Thank You, Mom!

I am thoroughly enjoying watching the summer Olympics. Even the commercials are catching my attention, which is rare. Of particular note are the "thank you Mom" commercials by P&G.

My children are too young to thank me...unless it is for giving in to something that they really want (I get thanked for a lot of treats and special outings!). It is not about the thank you...but man, I bet those Olympic moms are enjoying one of the highlights of their be publicly thanked for years of sacrifice! I can only hope and pray that I am worthy of such gratefulness.

Today I had my own "thank you Mom" moment. My mother is a secretary at a high school in Massachusetts. She has been at this job (she gave up her previous job once I was born) since I was, she is about to start her 26th year. She loves her job, and she is grateful for her health which allows her to keep working past retirement age as my parents still need her income.

Having the summers off is both a blessing and a curse. The blessings are mostly in the past. She was able to be off with us during school vacation and all summer! Although I didn't fully comprehend this blessing, I appreciate it especially now as a stay-at-home mom myself. She was available to us and this shaped my life in ways that I will never fully know.

Now the summers are long and hot and, at times, boring. I think time weighs heavy on her, but she is grateful for the time to spend with my Dad who is retired (that is a current blessing). She also uses this time to take care of all the medical appointments that come up when you get older and to spend time with her only local grandchild!

I got this e-mail this morning. "Had my colonoscopy yesterday -- 2 small polyps removed -- first time I've ever had any. They were spent to the lab and will get results next week. I'm not concerned -- God is good and it is what it is anyway."

The e-mail continued with details about my brother's visit with his puppy and her plans to keep my 1 1/2-year-old nephew entertained in high humidity (indoors, she joked!). I read the rest of the words, but what has been resounding in my head ever since is this...

"I'm not concerned -- God is good and it is what it is anyway."

This is my mother's approach toward her whole life. It is the unspoken foundation that has shaped me, my siblings, and my father. Maybe she is just saying it so I am not nervous...but I really don't think so.

She is a strong woman of strong faith, and she has made it through trials that I can't fathom (and thank God, I haven't had to deal with yet). She lost both parents within months of each other when she was 30, her closest sister die of a brain aneurysm, she suffered a miscarriage at 40, raised 4 children all born within 2 1/2 years, stood by my Dad's side through unemployment, house foreclosures, treatments for advanced prostate cancer, and the list goes on and on.

But, she is not concerned. God is good and it is what it is anyway. Even as a 37-year-old, I am instantly calmed and reassured by my mother's words. I can continue on with my day without undue worry. What a gift my mom has given me today...the gift to trust God and know that everything will turn out for our good. The gift to make your child feel safe and secure instantly.

I pray, with God's grace, that I am able to do the same for my children. Thank you Mom!