Sunday, December 30, 2012
Around 3:30 p.m., I started the project that is getting the kids ready to go out in the snow! All mothers know this project....complete with, "Are you SURE you don't have to go?" and "Your thumb is NOT in the right place!" Around 4 p.m., the last mitten was on and they were outside...to enjoy the last half-hour of daylight :).
Luckily, Daddy went outside with them while I stayed inside with the baby. Snow is much more fun with Daddy!
That leads me to our summer and winter gem....the hill in our backyard. It's not very visible in this picture, but it's behind the kids to the left. I spend the better half of a year cursing this hill, and the other half of the year loving it!
In the spring and fall, the hill leads to HUGE puddles in our backyard. We are situated at almost the lowest point in the neighborhood, and so the rain collects in massive muddy puddles right in front of our swing set. I don't even let the kids go in the backyard when they puddles are there...they are quickly covered in mud. This leads to unhappy kids and an even unhappier mommy!
But...in the summer, the hill has been awesome for slip-n-slide. The kids have spent hours running up the hill before sliding down in fits of laughter and glee. I will really miss sitting under the covered patio on those hopelessly humid summer days and watching my kids entertain themselves for hours (our new backyard is flat).
And, snow means sledding! As I write this, my own children are downstairs watching a movie, but the junior high age neighbor kids are borrowing the hill. Again, free entertainment provided by God's landscape...love that!
We are moving in 12 days. Yikes...better get off the computer and start packing again! Memories of this house will no doubt fade, but I bet I will always hear the echo of my children's laughter on that hill. Can't wait to discover new gems at our new house.
Thursday, December 27, 2012
I had been writing a post about packing in my head all morning. We are moving in two weeks!! But, I think venting instead will do wonders for my state of mind!
Today is our first day back to reality after Christmas. It was the first day in almost a week that Daddy got up and went to work...leaving the rest of us to figure out our day! We had no plans...that will change for tomorrow :).
It was a banner "Are they all yours?" day at the mall. I think I was asked that 5 times. It is usually only a few times a week, so it was a record day.
Of course, no one would've asked me that question if we weren't standing out so much. But, we were.
I was officially the crazy lady at the food court chasing around the disobedient 3-year-old girl and her younger brother who thought she was SO cool. There were exploding ketchup packages and loud demonstrative tantrums (the 6-year-old and the baby were fabulous, for the record) over....everything.
Yup, they are all mine.
A cousin (who I see only very rarely) asked me recently how many kids I had. I said, "Five." He probably just couldn't keep track as they all ran past us. Without changing his expression, he simply said, "Why?"
I had a million emotions rushing through my head....and a few poorly phrased comebacks circling around as well. In a moment of either grace or stupidity, I said nothing. I just kept a smiled pasted on my face. I ended the conversation by excusing myself and talking to the next relative.
I am incredibly blessed to have five children. I vividly remember only 7 short years wondering if I would ever have any children. I wonder if I had gotten pregnant easily if our children would be spaced so closely. Perhaps we would have thought it would be easy to "get pregnant next time," and we would have waited. But, I think that period of infertility really changed our minds and hearts to be open to God's timing.
Yup, they are all mine, and "my hands are full" (another favorite)...full of blessings!
As we were waiting to get on the elevator at the mall, I looked up and saw a picture (it was at one of those middle-of-the-mall stores that pops up at Christmas). The picture said (paraphrased), "Enjoy the small things in your life, for looking back, you will see that they were really the big things."
I just read a prayer by St. Teresa of Avila that mentioned "responding to the slightest prompting of grace." I had been praying for peace as we walked through the mall, so perhaps this picture was a slight prompting of grace. It did snap me out of my mood. I could now leave the food court behind me and go on with my day.
And, I was able to smile at the person who said, "Are they all yours? They are so cute," as we left the mall. If I had not seen that picture, I would probably have had a demonstrative temper tantrum...well, not really...but I don't know that I would've nodded in agreement!
Monday, December 24, 2012
Yesterday my husband said, "I think the kids would enjoy making Christmas cookies." He said it simply...just like that.
I had two familiar gut-wrenching reactions in a row.
The first one was DREAD. NO...ABSOLUTELY NOT. Too messy...too many fights...not enough patience in the world to make cookies with four elves.
That was very quickly replaced with the second one, GUILT. How could a mother not want to make Christmas cookies with her children?! I have seen all the pictures on Facebook...priceless memories of children with big smiles covered in flour. Plus, there were so many beautiful homemade reindeer cookies for preschool snack this month (poor Joseph only brought in a bag of pretzels and fruit gummies this week!).
One thing that I am learning (slowly) as an adult is that I am much happier when I do not compare myself to others. Don't we learn this lesson over and over again throughout our lives!?
There was a good two years when I was not on Facebook. I found that I would be in a fabulous mood when I logged on....only to see pictures of someone having *seemingly* the best time at work, or at a party, or on vacation, or looking like a million bucks when I was either pregnant or struggling to lose baby weight. I would log off a few minutes later...good mood ruined! I was perfectly happy with my amazing life (I did know that I was very blessed) until I compared my life to others. Seeds of jealousy were planted...and they can be destructive.
I also kept thinking that the whole concept (Facebook and social media) is SO not what God wanted from me (or for others). In my few spare moments, I wanted to read something inspiring and deep...not everyone's opinion about nothing. It seemed to be so "ME" focused.
Luckily, Facebook and I have made friends. In order to become a columnist on catholicmom.com, I had to start up my Facebook page again.
I "liked" a couple of great Catholic sights, so now prayers and inspiration come right into my feed. Seeds of jealousy can't take root as I quickly click to a soul-feeding article or blog. And, I can keep up friendships with family and friends that I don't see that often, all the while just ignoring things that would have bothered me in the past. I have come to see that there are benefits of social media.
Back to cookies.
"Yes," I replied. The children probably would enjoy making Christmas cookies.
I went to the grocery store and bought a refrigerated roll of cut-and-bake sugar cookies, some vanilla frosting, and a bag of Christmas M&Ms. SIMPLE. It's what I can handle right now...no comparisons!
My husband just spent an hour decorating them with the kids (after all, it was his idea!). He added his own touches of food coloring and sprinkles. I stayed upstairs...I enjoyed listening to memories in the making... Daddy style!
The end result...
Perfectly simple Christmas cookies for happy children and parents!
Wishing you and your families a most blessed and simple Christmas! Thank you for reading my blog this year. I am privileged and honored to share this journey with you!
Friday, December 21, 2012
My kids love to paint. They ask to paint all the time. I joke with my friends that I like to "outsource" arts and crafts. I have so much to clean up already, why would I possibly want to clean up (insert art supply here!) also?!? These smiling children remind me why: The joy is in the creative process!
My kindergartener learned how to cut snowflakes this week. You know...fold a white piece of paper and go to town cutting out random snippets every which way. The result...a masterpiece! I have to keep after her to clean up all the scraps, but she is busy making them as Christmas gifts for everyone in the family. This is a great reminder that Christmas gifts do not have to cost a lot...it is the love behind them that matters!
I had a few friends over yesterday morning. It was most likely our last playdate in this house before we move. Our families have grown, so it was a lot squishier than when we first started playing here six years ago!
We shared laughter, fellowship, and encouragement over a hot cup of coffee. Coffee brings people together, and it just makes me happy (and more alert!). Maybe next year I will remember to bring out my nice Christmas mugs :).
I really didn't want to put up our tree this year. Not because I don't like Christmas trees, but because we are moving in mid-January, and the thought of UNpacking anything seemed like a rotten idea :). But, we have kids, and Santa needs to put his gifts under the tree (and the table top fiber-optic tree wasn't cutting it!).
I tried to capture Lucy discovering the tree for the first time. I wanted to capture the glowing tree and the wondrous look on her face. All I got was a blurry picture, but it will still bring to mind precious memories!
I'm having one of those days when I feel like answering, "Crazy," every time someone asks me how I am. Despite my efforts at creating order, chaos is finding me at every single turn! And, I have to remind myself....that's just fine! For...the craziness of having young children is God's will for me right now...and my joy (if I only remember to enjoy the wild ride!).
Wednesday, December 19, 2012
Last week my sister-in-law was visiting from Ohio. She went to pick up my daughter Gianna from kindergarten with my husband. Gianna was SO excited to have special people (Grandpa, Grandma, and Chickie the dog were also there!) pick her up from school!
I just got an e-mail from my sister-in-law with this picture attached. The words are so touching and powerful:
Monday, December 17, 2012
Here is a picture of Lucy wearing her "My First Christmas" outfit in front of the tree (and Gianna, who didn't like the fact that I wanted a picture of JUST Lucy...how dare I?!).
This outfit doesn't really fit Lucy that well...I could barely snap the onesie closed! So, she had to wear it to celebrate the third Sunday of Advent instead of Christmas Day...I doubt it'll snap at all in 8 days!
I have a picture of Cecilia wearing this outfit also. The size didn't line up for Gianna's first Christmas (maybe that's why she wanted to be in this picture so bad!). It's a special outfit.
As I snapped this picture (this was the only good one...other attempts have her falling backwards into the tree!), I couldn't help but wonder if I will have any more baby girls (or baby boys...but this outfit is a little feminine!) to wear this outfit. We really hope that we are not "done" as we love our growing family, but it is out of our hands. God alone is the author of life.
I am reminded of this fact in a poignant way today as I pray for my sister who mourns the loss of her third baby through miscarriage this past weekend. And, of course, as I continue to pray a Hail Mary every time I think of the families of the Newtown tragedy (at our priest's suggestion during his homily yesterday).
I also have a First Easter outfit....BUT, Lucy was born on Easter Sunday. So, it will technically be her second Easter! I will have to save that one for...God willing...another baby. Or, I will keep it for the memories of Gianna's first Easter (she did get to wear that one!).
Although we can't possibly imagine how right now, good will come of all that happened as good always triumphs over evil. That is why He came. This is another thing that I took from yesterday's homily. Hard to conceive right now...but comforting, no?
Merry First Christmas, Lucy!
Saturday, December 15, 2012
I just got back from a 5-year-old's birthday party. Everyone in my son Joseph's class was invited, and we all had such a nice time. I love this age...everyone is welcome and included.
There was confusion for a few days because a few of the boys did not receive their invitation (they were absent when they were handed out). Thankfully, it was all worked out with the help of a few mom detectives, and there were no hard feelings. I love that the moms can still make everything all right...I know these days are numbered :(.
Of course, we kept bringing up the school shooting in Connecticut. Even when as a group we would decisively move on to the next topic, it would come up again. As parents, our hearts are absolutely broken for those parents who lost their children. All around me I kept hearing, "I am so thankful for my kids. I am so blessed."
And so I add....ME TOO!
I can only pray that the peace of Christ that surpasses all understanding will guard the hearts and minds of those families. Rest in peace sweet babies.
Thursday, December 13, 2012
My in-laws are here from Ohio right now. My children are in heaven with all the extra attention from Grandpa (above), Grandma, Aunt Laura, and Chickie the dog! I could barely get my kindergartener on the bus the past two days...she doesn't want to miss a minute of the three short days that they are here.
One thing that keeps hitting me...I love seeing my children through their (grandparent's) eyes. My husband and I think our children are so pretty, handsome, adorable, smart, you name it, all the time (well...most of the time!).
But, their grandparents also think that they are the BEST (even more so, because they don't have to handle all the discipline, meltdowns, etc.!). Grandparents have such an unconditional love for their grandchildren...just because they are alive. Priceless! Perhaps I wouldn't appreciate this bond as much if I got to see it in action more frequently.
It is a gift for us to spend time with family as Christmas approaches! As I watch my children with their grandparents, everything seems new again....even the Chocolate World ride in Hershey, PA that we have been on 500 times!
Tuesday, December 11, 2012
On the home front, Justin is driving me absolutely crazy! It is all very typical 2-year-old stuff.
He is a little speech delayed (even though he's talking more and more every day) and hard to understand, which often leads to frustration for both him and me.
If I won't let him under the sink to play with the cleaners (and I won't unless I am cleaning and I give him his own wipe...I use a Clorox wipe and he gets a baby wipe!), he screams. If I won't let him have anything he wants out of the pantry/fridge/freezer, he screams. If I won't let him have his pacifier (my only child to ever take one!) whenever and wherever, he screams. You get it...tantrum city at every turn!
I have most definitely learned to pick my battles. As a result, I give in a bit more frequently than I would've with the first few kids (an extra ounce of juice probably won't hurt him in the long run)! But, I am not a pushover...which means that I have to deal with this tantrum stage with as much grace and peace of mind as possible. Not much, apparently!
I was feeling very tapped out last night when I sat down at the computer after bedtime. I was only going to check out a few sites (before moving to the couch to vegetate instead...ha!). However, I got hooked on a blog that made a profound impact on me.
It's at bringinghenryhome.blogspot.com. It is the story of a Catholic woman who had six children and was trying to choose a New Year's resolution. One year, she chose running and completed a half-marathon. Another year, another respectable goal. Well, in 2011, she chose "helping orphans," which she googled.
Long story short (although it's not short by any means), she felt God calling her family to adopt a little boy with very complicated special needs in Eastern Europe. Once she realized that God was asking her to adopt this boy (she woke up at 3 a.m. one night and realized it...love the way God communicates!), she asked her husband and then was SILENT (talk about hard to do...ha!) for about a month when he discerned.
After a very long process (which she chronicles beautifully in her blog), Henry came home. He changed the lives of everyone he met for the BETTER. In a blog post entitled, "Henry is finally home," this woman (Carla Dobs) speaks of how her special son Henry, age 2, is finally home in heaven.
As soon as I finished reading, I went into my 2-year-old's room to watch him sleep. He was perfect...so healthy, so peaceful. I thought that every tantrum is just a little step to becoming who God wants him to be! How blessed I am to be his guide on this journey. Blessed Mother, help me to be a better mother.
And, talk about a new perspective on life. I can think about what I want my New Year's Resolution to be in 2013...but I wonder what God wants my New Year's Resolution to be! Better keep praying. Maybe little Henry can intercede for me!
Sunday, December 9, 2012
Something awesome happened to our family last night...the true meaning of Christmas type of thing!
It was a typical Saturday evening. The dinner dishes were done, and the whole family was lounging in the living room. The TV was being flipped between football and the news, and the kids were playing on us and around us. The baby was getting fussy, so I was starting to think about heading upstairs for the bedroom routine.
All of a sudden, the doorbell rang twice. "Oh no!" was my first thought...we are definitely not dressed for unexpected company! The kids all ran to the door to see who it was (they know to only do this when an adult is in the room...they learned that from me because it's hard to pretend you're not home (think random salespeople/election workers/etc.) when there's a small child staring right at you from the window by the door!
My husband got to the door just in time to see a car speeding off! Outside was a big box with a brand new TV, a Christmas movie for the kids, and a bag full of popcorn and candy. I'm not kidding! The note above was taped to the TV...it is computer generated, so this Santa really did not want to be identified!
The kids were AMAZED! But, what was Santa doing out of the North Pole, and why was he driving a car instead of a sleigh!?! Was Rudolph sick? Why did he come early?
Of course, we have our suspicions about Santa's identity. My husband's local family is at the top of the list! They knew that we were talking about buying a second TV for the finished basement in our new house. I had joked with them about going out to Walmart on Thanksgiving (something I would never do on a special day to spend with family) because of the good prices of TVs. My husband joked that he hated the thought of buying a TV in January (when we are moving) because the prices are jacked up because of the Superbowl.
Anyway, it would've been just as appreciated on Christmas morning, but I doubt any of us will ever forget the magical feelings and excitement that surrounded the unexpected knock at the door one random rainy Saturday night in December. It felt like the ultimate feel-good Christmas movie...except it was real life, and it happened to us!
I instantly remembered a similar incident in my life. It was my senior year in high school right around Christmas time, and my family had fallen on very hard times financially. I was standing in the kitchen with my mother when the doorbell rang. My mother got to the door to find no one...just a certified check for $1000 taped to the front door.
I will never forget how I felt that moment. One thousand dollars is still a lot of money to me today, but when I was 17-years-old and making $5 an hour, it seemed like a million bucks! I was SO touched that someone would do that for our family....and anonymously! It made an enormous impact on who I am today. It made me want to be a better person and to always help people in need. Although my children are very young, I am hoping that they might always remember how they felt last night. No worries...I will retell the story lest they forget!
All of this excitement...and it's only the second week of Advent!
I want my children to remember that Jesus is the real reason for the season. I felt hopeful this afternoon as my girls played. Below is the Virgin Mary, baby doll Jesus in a manger, and the Angel Gabriella (I was told that Gabriel is a boy's name!).
Merry Christmas, everyone!
Saturday, December 8, 2012
why Lucy was taking this bath. She looks so happy, huh!? She was absolutely thrilled to be splashing around. So joyful...despite the fact that she was in there because she just threw up all over herself. Yup...my baby has the stomach bug that's going around :(.
I love this special time of year, BUT, it is also stomach virus season (or at least it has been for the last 6 years in my house). Funny, I don't remember this season before I had children! Even when I taught, I managed to avoid the yucky ones. Not anymore...
Last Christmas Day I spent the entire afternoon in the emergency room. Instead of enjoying the "Santa Came!" moments, I was in the bathroom feeling Horrendous (which is why I am so amused by Lucy's demeanor in the tub last night!).
If I wasn't pregnant, I probably wouldn't have needed an I.V., but I was very dehydrated and started having contractions which made me nervous. WHEN (it hasn't been an 'if' lately!) I get the stomach bug myself this year, I at least hope that it is not on December 25th again :).
This part of parenthood surely isn't fun. I can handle the countless colds, ear infections, and strep throats, but the stomach bugs require extra special graces! I need to lean on God a lot more when there are multiple sleepless nights and so much cleanup and laundry.
I DO always get through it with God's help, and it's never as bad as I anticipated (well, better not say that out loud...3 of my children still haven't been sick yet!). And, of course, I do realize how very blessed I am to have healthy children who heal quickly. God bless all parents with sick children.
At least this time, I am blessed with an adorable, chubby, happy little patient (Lucy). If she does get sick again, at least I know she'll enjoy the tub...and so will I!
Thursday, December 6, 2012
Joseph wore this new sleeper last night. It has stars, the moon, and rockets all over it. Thus, when I tucked him in, I suggested that his dreams might just be "out of this world."
This morning he came down to breakfast with a sullen face. I asked how he slept. He informed me that he could not wear the sleeper again. I thought he might have been cold...it got down to 25 degrees last night.
Nope! Rather, he informed me that he didn't have any dreams last night, and he needed them to "come back into the world." So, we must get rid of this sleeper. HA!
Today is also December 6th, the feast of St. Nicholas. We told the kids to put their shoes out last night so that Daddy and Mommy could put a treat in them in honor of St. Nicholas and the good deeds that he did when he was alive.
In past years, it has gotten rather confusing for them (and for me as I tried to answer their questions thoughtfully!). Last year they asked, "So, St. Nicholas comes down from heaven and puts things in my shoes?! How is St. Nicholas different from Santa Claus? Do St. Nick and Santa Claus know each other? Is it Christmas Eve!?"
My favorite are the size-2 Mary Jane's in the middle. Gianna insisted on putting Lucy's shoes out. She must have figured that she (Lucy) needed something better than all the peas and bananas that I feed her!
St. Nicholas, Pray for us.
Tuesday, December 4, 2012
Last night was Gianna's Christmas show at Holy Name of Jesus School. It was in a very crowded, hot gym, and the kindergarteners only sang one verse of Away in a Manger....from the bleachers (they did not even get up on stage)!
I went by myself. Good thing...it would have been a nightmare trying to keep the rest of our crew patiently quiet and sitting still (a lot of waiting). I heard a lot of young children melting around me, and I was grateful that Daddy was at home with everyone else!
If you can't tell, I really wasn't that excited about the show! I had to drag myself there, hoping that I would get home before the baby needed to go to sleep. I know that these are the moments that a lot of parents live for, but because we have so many young children right now, I could think of a hundred other things that I would rather be doing...especially in the early evening as I am usually so tired and ready to begin the bedtime routine (because there is "me" time on the other side of bedtime!).
In spite of Scrooge (ME), Gianna had the time of her young life! She literally skipped into the gym (loving her new sparkly shoes!), and sang her heart out. After the short(!) program (K-4 went first and then there was an intermission before the older kids so we got to leave...great planning!), she found me with a huge grin.
"Mommy, wasn't that an awesome show!? How did we sound? Did you see me? Did you hear me? Do you think that Jesus liked the show?" I snapped this picture before we skipped back to the car. That is JOY on her face. I was very proud and happy that I had shared this moment with my daughter.
Gianna happily chatted all the way home. I was lost in thought. Memories came rushing back to me of my Catholic school Christmas shows! First, 3rd, and 6th grades especially stand out in my mind. One thing that I remember VERY clearly is nerves. Even if I was just singing in a big group, I remember being absolutely terrified to get on stage. Luckily, Gianna did not seem nervous at all.
I had a flashback to three years ago (you know...yesterday!). Gianna had her very first nursery school Christmas show. She looked so pretty and I couldn't wait to see her on stage. She never even sang a note...she spotted me in the crowd and walked right off the stage! I was horrified. What a very long way she has come!!!
God willing, last night was the first of many Christmas shows for Gianna. I can't make any promises, but I will try to have a much better attitude next year. I just pray that she doesn't lose her innocence, fearlessness, and desire to perform. "YES," I told her. "Jesus LOVED your show...and so did I."
Shine on, Gianna!
Sunday, December 2, 2012
This morning my children were playing a rather advanced game of "doggies and kitties." It is one of my favorites (so innocent, no violence, everyone included, etc.). They play it all by themselves (no encouragement or direction from me...love that!), and they role play very seriously.
The dogs and cats had people names, like Olivia Rose the cat (Cecilia). And, they were practicing to sing Away in a Manger (Gianna will sing this in her first elementary school Christmas show tomorrow night...thus, she was leading the gang!) in a show. The song had appropriate barks and meows interspersed.
Lucy and I were in the kitchen listening to the choir practice in the living room. I was preparing her breakfast, and she was playing in her exersaucer (we finally got it out of storage!).
Suddenly the dog/cat choir came in to serenade Lucy. I guess they had practiced enough and were ready for an audience. Four strong, they stood around the exersaucer and began to sing/bark/meow VERY loudly to a melody that faintly resembled one of my favorite Christmas carols.
Rather than the anticipated smile and laughter, Lucy gave them a positively frightened expression before bursting into tears. Instead of reasoning that they might have been a bit overwhelming and scary to a hungry infant, someone said, "Oh well...I guess she doesn't like animals." Another added, "I guess not. Let's go find Dad."
Daddy was much more receptive, and Lucy enjoyed her breakfast. No harm done. I just love when my children play nicely together...it is one of the sweetest rewards at this stage in my life. The choir was rudely disbanded when it was time for church, but I'm hopeful it'll come back soon!