Thursday, November 29, 2012

All dressed up for....


Yesterday my mom's club had a pancakes and pajamas party. We showed up dressed in our Christmas best (see above!).  I could've changed their clothes, but everyone looked so nice. I figured a little syrup never hurt anyone :).

The real reason we were dressed up was for our photo shoot! It was not at a professional picture place...because I just couldn't bring myself to go there (more below)!

A few posts ago, I wrote that I felt terrible because Lucy was 7-months-old and I did not have her picture taken professionally at 6 months like all of her siblings. Well, she's almost 8-months-old and not getting any, it was time.

My good friend Anna takes beautiful pictures, and she kindly offered her services and lovely home! I am very pleased with the results. I will print out an 8x10 at Costco, and Lucy can join the baby wall! Thanks, Anna!

So, getting back to the professional picture place strike!

It has really hit me this year how much I hate consumerism. I did not want to put Lucy (or myself) through the never-ending process of taking pictures, selecting pictures, refusing packages, refusing more packages, defending my choices, and convincing someone that I am really okay if I do not buy the CD and lose the 79 pictures that I did not choose...even if they are gone...forever!

I have tons of leftover wallets of Gianna and Joseph as babies because I was not strong enough to say no the second and third cute pose! I've gotten stronger (well...maybe just poorer!).

I know the photographers are only doing their job...and doing it well, in some cases. But, I find the whole process brings out the absolute WORST in me. I try to be a nice person. I like to be kind to people. I know it is good to be assertive, but I find myself being mean when I feel I am being pushed. And, I don't want to be mean. Especially not as the Advent season approaches. My goal for my family is to really focus on the TRUE meaning of Christmas this year!

So, Anna was hired, the photographer was spared, and we enjoyed our pancakes...dressed to the nines!

Does anyone know how to get out syrup!?! 

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

My kind of weather...

I hate snow. People often assume that I love snow once they learn that I grew up in Boston. I suppose I did as a child. I fondly remember sledding and making snow angels; and of course, hot chocolate with marshmellows to warm up!

At this stage of my life however, snow means cancelled school and ruined plans. I know...these are selfish reasons to hate nature! In fact, just a few short years ago (or a lifetime ago!), I loved snow days as a teacher in Washington, D.C. They cancel school down there at the mere threat of snow. I had full weeks off at a time!

Today is our first (and maybe last if it's like last year!) snow of the season. And, though there is snow on the ground, I love it! This is my kind of weather. It is enough to be extremely beautiful and to cause my children great joy, but not enough to change our daily routine in any way. There was not even a delay for the start of school. I went to Costco after preschool drop-off, and the roads are fine!

And though my oldest daughter is home from school with strep throat today, she just spent about a 1/2 hour trying to make a snowman...with only an inch of snow on the ground! Love it! Joseph stepped on the snowman (Didn't see it, he claimed. Probably just being a brother is more like it!) before I got a picture! It's okay though...I'm sure that they'll be out there again in a few hours...after they warm up with some hot chocolate.

I feel silly. I saw the weather forecast last night and all I could think was, "NO NO NO! Not fair." It has been a lovely Thanksgiving break, but Tuesday is supposed to be the first day back to school (here in Central Pennsylvania, we have the Monday after Thanksgiving off because it is the first day of deer hunting season...with a rifle, that is...bow and arrow already started. I'm definitely not in Boston anymore...I never met a real live person who hunted before I moved here!). I was ready to resume "normal" for a few weeks before Christmas!

I don't know what the rest of the day holds. So far, however, it's been a day of great unexpected blessings...better than "normal." Love those!

Saturday, November 24, 2012

So grateful for...

OUR NEW HOUSE!!! It wasn't even on the market (hence this picture was quickly snapped during our inspection...kind of a random angle), but God had a plan!

I had mentioned to a fellow preschool mom a while back that I loved her neighborhood (only a mile from our current neighborhood). She told me that she would be on the lookout for any houses that came on the market. I never thought we would buy HER house...but, her family found their dream house and decided it was as good a time as any to sell and move! The timing was perfect for us, and we just love the home! This was my petition to Our Lady of Guadalupe a few posts ago...that if it was God's will, everything would fall into place for us to buy this home. Thank you,  Mary...I will hang your picture in a place of honor in our new home!

A few weeks ago, an acquaintance at preschool asked me how our search for a new home was going. I told her that it was not going well...that we were nervous that we might have to pull out of the contract with our buyers and try again in the spring (when more houses come on the market). As I was trying to not run over anyone while pushing my double stroller through a crowded hallway, she called after me, "God is never late... He just doesn't come early!" I loved this phrase and have shared with many as I tell them how we found our new home...just in time!

I will continue my gratitude list below. I know that society is telling us that Christmas is here (just ask my kids!), but as it is not yet Advent, I am still rather in "thanksgiving" mode!

I am grateful that our new house has this cool SWING SET (it is staying with the house!) VISIBLE FROM THE KITCHEN WINDOW. I have always wanted to make dinner while watching my children play outside. My current kitchen doesn't allow this (I have to hike around the corner and go to the door to check on them), so I will enjoy this!

SIBLINGS! Gianna told me on Thanksgiving morning (appropriate!) that she was glad to have brothers and sisters because she always has someone to play with (or fight with, depending on her mood!). Blessed indeed, Gianna! Amen to that.

SILLY TODDLERS! The other night I was rushing through the bedtime routine. I was so tired and ready to have the children clean and sleeping. Justin (2) was not coming to the bath when called. Frustrated, I went to physically bring him to the tub...and I was not happy. Until I encountered him wearing my shower cap. He was SO proud that he had put it on himself. It snapped me out of my bad mood! I bet I could be snapped out of a lot more bad moods...if only I let go of MY time table and expectations and let my children entertain and delight me! I bet the children would be grateful for a happier mommy.

Happy Thanksgiving, friends!

Monday, November 19, 2012

God help those...

Mail carriers!?!

I remember a lot of little things from my childhood that made a big impact (in a good way!) on me. For example, my mom was very good at spontaneous spoken prayer.

I have vivid memories of her saying, "GOD HELP US AND SAVE US ALL!" I now know that she used this phrase when she was at her wits end with us! Her tone gave her away. It was not said calmly or in quiet moments; but rather, when she encountered a war zone in our living room. It was a plea for help for her, for us kids, for everyone! I have lots of "those" moments now, and sometimes (if only a prayer was always my first response!), it comes out of my mouth too!

Another prayer that has stuck with me is for ambulances and fire trucks with sirens blaring. Whenever we would pass an emergency vehicle on the road or hear one in the distance, we would say "God help those people." I still do it to this day, and I am trying to teach this habit to my children.

I am amazed that they seem to remember every time (if only they remembered other stuff this where their shoes go!).

Gianna and Joseph have both prayed for people pulled over by police officers on the side of the road. "Look Mom...God help those people!" I think that it is very likely that those people are praying...for no ticket, that is!

Cecilia, age 3, has a new twist on this whole concept. For the past few weeks, she has been praying every time she sees a mail truck!!! Although her siblings have told her that no one is in need of help, she continues to blurt out, "God help those people!" at first sight of a postman/woman.

I have not corrected her. We all need prayers. And, I'm thinking that with the Christmas season just about upon us, mail carriers probably could use some extra divine intervention!!!

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Shouldn't have done it...

This morning was a little crazy (the norm!). After what seemed like an eternity, we were finally ready to head out on a Saturday adventure. I was excited because it was the first Saturday in a long time that we had no plans: no swimming, no soccer, no house showings, and no obligations! It was just a beautiful fall day for a fun-filled family day trip!

After the kids were all strapped into their car seats, Daddy had to run back in the house for a few minutes. That left the kids and I to say our morning prayers. For as long as I can remember, I have always said my prayers once I get in the car. When we lived in Arlington, VA, I had to take four busy highways to get to my teaching job in Maryland. I would say a decade of the Rosary immediately...mainly for a safe white-knuckle commute!

I have kept up this habit since I became a mother. Although, I don't start with the Rosary anymore. Rather, I start with a Morning Offering, a Consecration to Mary prayer for the children and me, and the Guardian Angel prayer (lots of guardian angels watching out for our minivan!).

The prayer to Mary starts like this: O Mary, my queen and my mother, I give myself entirely to you. To show my devotion to you, I consecrate to you this day my eyes, my ears, my mouth, my heart, and my whole body. Then it continues...

Long ago, the kids started saying the body parts with me. Occasionally, a nose gets added to the list.

Today, however, something new was added. In true 4-year-old humor, Joseph added his bum.

Immediate giggles erupted from the car. I instantly lost my train of thought...I would have to start the prayer over (This happens quite frequently! Sometimes I get to the end and I don't even remember saying it, so I say it again then too!).

Listening to my children all sharing a good laugh (even the baby was giggling), I did something that I should not have done!!!!

I laughed too.

Not at "bum", of course (I've heard enough potty talk to last a lifetime in the past six months), but at the laughter in the car which was absolutely contagious. It was just so joyful!

But now, I fear that (at least for a while until they forget), the children will be consecrating their bums to Mary on a daily basis.  I hope she doesn't mind! I figure there are worse things than a bunch of holy bums walking around Harrisburg :).

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Cheap Candles and Answered Prayers...

I love Our Lady of Guadalupe. I don't think I knew of her growing up because I don't remember a special devotion or anything. When I lived in Washington D.C., however, I used to go to the Shrine of the Immaculate Conception (the largest Catholic Church in the United States!) and pray in the magnificent chapel devoted to her.

A few years ago, I bought a very cheap candle with her image and a beautiful prayer. Literally, it was at Walgreens for like $2 or something!! I thought to myself, "How could I not buy this!?" I felt guilty walking away...there were about 20 of them, and I thought of buying them all. How could I leave Mary at Walgreens? Ha! (Only bought one, by the way...other people need her too!).

When I was pregnant with my third child, I had a little more time than I do now! My infant and toddler were napping, and I lit the candle one afternoon. I hate to say that might have been the last time (over 3 years ago!). I was praying for my new baby; and though we didn't know the gender, I asked for guidance in naming him/her.

We had a boy name picked out (Justin...used it for the 4th baby!), but the girl name was totally up in the air (that's kind of our thing with girl names!). Ryan had suggested Cecilia after St. Cecilia, but I was rather unsure. I decided to ask Our Lady. "If this baby is a girl, should we name her Cecilia?!"

Of course, I was not expecting an answer. I know that my prayers are always heard, but if only it was so easy to get responses, huh!?!

Well, after praying, I went upstairs to check my e-mail before the kids got up. There was a e-mail from my sister-in-law. She is a lovely woman from Brazil. Although we have a great relationship, we do not often e-mail because English is not her first language, and she is not very comfortable writing it.

Anyway, my sister-in-law had randomly sent me an e-mail about a little girl in Brazil. Her name!? was Cecilia. I just stared at the screen in disbelief. Of all the names in the world?!

Could this be coincidence? Perhaps! But, I like to believe that Our Lady wanted our daughter named Cecilia. And, Cecilia Rose, age 3, is at preschool right now.

I have another intention to Our Lady of Guadalupe right now. My close friends here know what it is. I promised to honor a picture of Mary in a prominent place if my intention is answered. But, honestly, will I honor her anyway, even if I don't get what I think I want? Of course!

Because, as Saint Teresa of Avila said, "There are more tears shed over answered prayers than unanswered prayers." A lack of an answer might be the right answer, whether I like it or not. So, I will trust. Sounds easy, eh?

Our Lady of Guadalupe, Pray for us.

Monday, November 12, 2012

What am I?

Daddy is working tonight. After a crazy dinner hour, I decided to bathe the kids early in hopes of an early bedtime. Sometimes (only sometimes!) changing into their pajamas will change the mood in the house (from chaotic to calm). The kids will (sometimes)play nicely together again when I try to get the laundry folded and put away (thank goodness for 2nd floor laundry...I don't think that I will have it in our new house, and I will miss it greatly!).

The plan worked (tonight). Once the kids were clean and in their sleepers (and the baby was down...she's very early to bed these days!), they started to play doggies and kitties. Gianna was the master mind, and she assigned her siblings a role.

Justin was a doggy because he was cuddly and playful. Cecilia was a kitten because she was cute and had a nice meow. Joseph was a grumpy dog (he was pretty grumpy...not sure why he was a dog rather than a cat!).

I was enjoying listening to them as I folded my laundry. Then I made a big mistake. When they came into my room (crawling on all fours), I asked Gianna what I was (meaning a dog or a cat). Just curious.

She thought for a quiet moment. And then she told me. I was a "great big horse."

Fabulous! Not having the best self-esteem day, I decided not to ask her why!

Serves me right for interrupting!!! At least they're in bed early :). Neigh...Good night!

Friday, November 9, 2012

Beautiful, the mess we are...

My good friend Anna took this picture at a park one recent Saturday...Lucy wasn't in the mood, and  Joseph kept saying the sun was in his eyes (even though it was cloudy!). Still cute though! Thanks for your patience with these five wiggly subjects, Anna!

This morning my life was a mess. Literally, that is. Figuratively, my life is very mess-y, but certainly not a mess! This is EXACTLY the life that I always wanted and prayed for (I just have to remind myself of that occasionally!).

I walked downstairs this morning after my too early wake-up call (kids have STILL not adjusted to the time change almost a week later!), and I was greeted by...a mess. Even though I had just cleaned up the living room (we don't have a play room...yet!) just hours earlier (well, it seemed like just hours earlier!), there were toys everywhere. I caught myself in time (not easy before coffee), and I greeted my children warmly instead of reacting to the mess! "Aren't you glad we didn't wake you, Mommy!? We just started playing!"

Breakfast meant spilled cereal, spilled apple juice, and spilled baby food (Lucy likes to "help" now). You wouldn't mind, but the kitchen floor was only mopped last night.

I had to abandon my laundry efforts to get to preschool on time...socks without mates taking over my bedroom. Cecilia tried on every pair of shoes (literally, I think...everyone's shoes!) and left them. Every crayon in the house (exaggeration) was under the arts and crafts table, along with tons of scraps of paper left by someone just learning to use scissors (not an exaggeration).

There were snotty noses and dirty diapers. The minivan is quite scary unto itself. I try to clean all the food/drinks out daily...but, there is always a "treat" that surfaces from under a car seat weeks or months later.

Messes everywhere!!!

Problem is, I often overreact and forget the goodness and blessings behind the messes. I feel so much more peaceful and in control when my life is orderly. I tend to go a little crazy when faced with a bunch of disorder. I'm working on it...but, it's so hard to work on things "in the moment!" (especially when the moments never seem to stop!).

This morning on the way to school, I heard a lyric that was perfect for me (love that!). It was from Amy Grant's song Better Than a Hallelujah, and it said, "Beautiful, the mess we are...."

These messes can give glory to God...if only I can remember that they are beautiful because they are the work of my greatest mess makers!!!

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Don't Blink...

Lucy is 7-months-old today.

I love this age. She can't move yet (besides rolling around and around!), and she's pretty easygoing if she's not hungry, tired, or stressed (kind of sounds like me...ha!). That smile just warms my heart instantly!

But, I feel terrible that I did not have her picture taken professionally when she was still 6 months old. Only because she will not have a 6-month picture hanging on the wall next to her sibling's baby pictures. This is my favorite age for baby pictures. At 3 months, smiling is hit or miss, and by 9 months, they tend to look at the photographers like they have six heads! But, 6 months is just pure joy because someone is talking to them!

For the record, I did make three separate appointments at my favorite place (I can get one pose...with more sizes/copies than I could ever use in a lifetime...for $9.99. It's quite a process taking 80 pictures to buy one pose, but to capture this precious baby stage is worth it!). Well, the first appointment was cancelled because I was simply not in the mood for the above-mentioned had been a long day! The second appointment was cancelled due to Hurricane Sandy, and the third because she had a mild case of croup.

My husband recently flipped through one of Gianna's (many) photo albums. As she is the oldest, there is a picture from every day of her first two years of life (an exaggeration, but not by much!). I only have about 5 pictures of Lucy in the recent photo album (although there are more on the computer). I know all those mothers of multiples out there can relate! That's why I at least have to get her on the wall (well, right now, there is no wall of baby pictures...but, hopefully there will be one in our next home!).

I do plan to get her picture taken soon. But, I better hurry because these seven months have been some of the fastest in my life! God bless Lucy on her 7th month or not, we love her dearly!

Monday, November 5, 2012

My enemy...

...supposedly has lots of data to support its validity!

I'm talking about daylight savings time. Changing the clocks back an hour has benefits. I just read about them: lower traffic accidents, better productivity which leads to a better economy, lower energy demands, etc.

At our house, however, we only have 5 children who are completely messed up and 2 cranky parents!!! My fellow preschool moms were in full agreement with me this morning: This really needs to be outlawed! Stop the madness!

For example, it is 7:34 p.m. and all my children are asleep. The baby has been down since 6:10 p.m., and I forced the others to stay awake (I read 4 books tonight!) until 7:15 p.m. I'm trying to re-set their internal clocks. The baby was a lost cause, clearly!

Any guesses what time everyone will be up in the morning!?! Better not think of'll ruin my quiet hour....before I fall asleep at 9 p.m.

On a positive note, I talked to my mom today. She said that she and my dad thoroughly enjoyed their extra hour of sleep. Though she doesn't seem to remember it, I'm sure that it messed us up as children too (there were four of us very close in age). So, it must come full circle. God Bless all those people who needed the extra hour of sleep...and got it. And, God help the rest of us :).


Cecilia and Justin: My two peas in a pod. At 13 months apart, not quite Irish twins, but close enough!

As my children are all close together, it has been fun to watch them pair off. It tends to happen naturally according to their age. Gender has not really played a role yet, although Gianna and Cecilia will sit and do crafts together. They also share a room, so there is now giggling at night (it doesn't bother fact, it's a nightly trip down memory lane for me as I remember how much fun it was for me to share a room with my sister...when we were younger, that is!!).

Justin is a little too young to keep up with Joseph's complex train scenarios, but Cecilia is just right for a playmate! She is a little older and wiser, a whole lot more vocal, sassy, and full of fun ideas (not all my first pick of activities!).

This morning we dropped Joseph off at preschool. It is Monday, which is our day with no plans. The rest of the week includes play dates, mom's groups, and story hours, but Monday is open-ended. I had a few ideas in mind: an errand or two followed by the library (fun kid area) or the local mall (indoor playground). After everyone was strapped into their car seats, I asked Cecilia where she would like to go. Justin and Lucy wouldn't object (goes along with the not much talking thing!).

She surprised me by saying rather decisively, "Home. Let's go home." I thought of the fact that we had just left home about a half hour earlier. That it had taken me about 3 hours to get everyone dressed and fed, and fed again (the kids are getting up extra early due to time change). The piles of laundry on my bed and the chores that were ignored over a busy weekend. "Really? Home?"

I'm not used to my children wanting to spend extra time at home. I have created my own monsters, actually. Since becoming a stay-at-home mom six years ago, I have discovered how much I need people. I am more social than I ever thought I could be (I was a very shy child and young adult, so this is still new to me!).

Being with other moms, or even chatting with strangers casually at the store, fills a huge need in me. I think most people who go to work everyday probably fill this need naturally, but I need to seek it out as my job is at home. I treasure my friendships greatly as they keep me happy and sane on this journey! That said, after being with people, I am often grateful to be home again in the afternoon/evening and I can happily settle in...need filled!

As a result of my "need" (more of a want, I realize!), if everyone is healthy and nothing out of the ordinary is going on....we go out every day! My children are used to this. I am often asked, "Where are we going!?" I usually have an answer! If I don't though, it can lead to complaints of boredom and restlessness (two of my least favorite emotions...especially in young children!).

I started driving today...not totally committed to the whole "home" idea. But, I started to think of how good it would feel to get my breakfast dishes done before the food dried on them! And, Lucy could get a proper morning nap...for once. Yes...let's go home!

As for Cecilia and Justin...they had a blast. With the big kids at school, they were left to themselves and I marveled at how well they play together. I smiled to myself so many times as I folded my laundry and listened to Cecilia talk (for both of them). I even said some prayers as no one seemed to need me for the better part of an hour. I thanked God for a lovely morning. Perhaps I should write this on my calendar for Mondays: HOME. What a concept!

Here's a blessing for homes:

O heavenly Father, Almighty God, we humbly beseech Thee to bless and sanctify this house and all who dwell therein and everything else in it, and do Thou vouchsafe to fill it with all good things; grant to them, O Lord, the abundance of heavenly blessings and from the richness of the earth every substance necessary for life, and finally direct their desires to the fruits of Thy mercy. At our entrance, therefore, deign to bless and sanctify this house as Thou didst deign to bless the house of Abraham, of Isaac, and of Jacob; and may the angels of Thy light, dwelling within the walk of this house, protect it and those who dwell therein. Through Christ our Lord. Amen!

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Seeking serenity...

This picture has absolutely nothing to do with my day...except for the fact that there was a similar picture on the wall of the doctor's office tonight. It looked so serene. And, so unlike my day!

It started off as a normal day. I was grateful to have "normal" back after a hurricane. I got Gianna on the bus, dropped Joseph at preschool, and went to story time at the library with the younger kids. It is All Saints Day, so I even attended a beautiful noon myself (Daddy came home to be with kids)...a rare gift which I loved!

The afternoon plan was the gym. For a half hour (that's about all I can leave the baby without major guilt...she isn't always happy when I pick her up from the babysitting room!), I work out. This is something that I have always enjoyed. It makes me feel so great, so I try to keep it up as I know it makes me a better wife and mommy. Luckily, the four older kids really enjoy the babysitting room. The baby, who is entering the "stranger danger" phase, is the reason that I haven't been going much lately.

I first noticed IT (the day changer!) as the kids were piling into the minivan. Everyone had a snack and gone to the bathroom, so we needed to leave SOON (these needs come up again quickly!). I was about to buckle Cecilia (3) into her carseat when I noticed a very goopy yellow eye. It came out of nowhere. "Mommy, I can't see very well right now." Ya think? 

Bummer! Everyone back inside. 

I called the pediatrician and I was really hoping that they would just call in a script for pink eye. This has worked in the past...but probably only because it was going through the house and I needed a new bottle of drops for the next child (we drop like flies when it comes to contagious ailments!). Didn't work this time...they wanted to see her. Luckily, I found a bottle of drops that are not expired yet...I'll try those first :).

It was when I was *attempting* to make dinner (staying in all afternoon tends to make for very needy children at my house), I noticed that Justin (2) was shivering. Burning up!!! Very good thing we didn't go to the gym.

The next few hours were a blur. No one liked my makeshift dinner (not even me!). The baby also has a cold and wanted to be held the.entire.time. Justin's eyes also started to leak something unpleasant. 

Thus, I ended up at the urgent care center with Justin after dinner. It wasn't until I got there that I realized that I was quite a sight...I passed the time by peeling something crusty off my sweatshirt :). I saw the sunset picture on the wall while we waited (and waited) for the doctor, and all I kept thinking was "Serenity Now." I realize that this is actually a quote from Seinfeld (I believe), but luckily, the Serenity Prayer also popped into my head. 

I used to say the first few lines often when I was younger because my mom had made a beautiful needlepoint piece which hung in my childhood houses. It wasn't until years later that I stumbled upon the rest of the prayer which is equally beautiful.

Here is the prayer:

God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference. 

Living one day at a time; enjoying one moment at a time; accepting hardship as the pathway to peace. Taking as Jesus did this sinful world as it is, not as I would have it; trusting that He will make all things right if I surrender to His will; that I may be reasonably happy in this life and supremely happy with Him forever in the next.

What a beautiful prayer to reflect on when I have days like these. And, I can easily apply the serenity sentiment to both little when I want to snap my fingers and make something stop (like during a  child's meltdown)...or to big moments (like being impatient about finding our next home). 

As always, stopping to pray (however briefly) helped me to remember the big picture. I am SO blessed to be surrounded by all these wonderful children (crusty eyes and all). To serve them is my true joy and my path to heaven. God help me to do it more willingly....and with more serenity!!! Amen.