Monday, September 29, 2014

The eye of the beholder...

Gianna got the best birthday present. It's a book teaching kids to draw animals. Here's Gianna and Cecilia drawing zoos!
I had a ridiculous conversation in Kmart this morning. I was thoroughly enjoying a shopping trip with just my baby...the other five kids were at school! And, major bonus...the baby was sleeping! I was pushing the cart oh-so-gently so I wouldn't wake her up. I had some good coupons and Kmart is having a double coupon week, so good for me all around :).

Until...I approached the pharmacy. I saw a sign for flu shots, and I was reminded that I should really get one. I wondered if the baby would sleep if I got one then.

I waited in line behind a lovely looking elderly woman. She smiled at me and I smiled back. She ran over to see the sleeping baby...ugh!!! Luckily, she did not wake her up.

Instead, she commented, " precious. They start off so ugly and parasitic, but then they get so cute. Mine both looked like Winston Churchill when they were born, but they turned out great." I just looked at her. What!?! She went on, "I mean, for three months, they are just parasites who can't give anything in return...they just suck the life out of you...literally," she added with a laugh.

Um okay, I have never once thought of my newborns as ugly parasites, and I'm so sorry for this woman if she did :).

As Teresa woke up, I was thinking that I didn't need a flu shot so badly anymore. I should've left. But, I decided to confirm that they took my insurance so that I could come back later. The sweet looking lady said, "Did you see the news this morning? There was a story about a man being pulled over by the cops and he had an unrestrained 14-month-old child in the backseat. If that's not a case for sterilization, I don't know what is! Some people should not be allowed to have children!"

I did hear that news story in the background this morning when I was making school lunches. And, I did find it terribly disturbing and sad. I was grateful that the baby was okay. But, again, I never made the leap to sterilization!

I cut my losses and left...didn't want to see where the conversation would go next :). The thoughts ringing in my head as I drove away: Life is beautiful at all stages (especially when most vulnerable), and we have no right to judge others fit or unfit...none of us are worthy of our gifts!

Lucy says, "I am a big girl...and her (Teresa) is a peanut!"
Bizarre conversations aside, I wanted to share a special memory from this weekend:

On Friday afternoon after school, I was in the basement playroom with all six children (I've been going down there a lot more often because all the toys are down there...and Teresa can't go down there by herself!). Our moods were all over the place after a long week! My children and I then shared a very special moment when Teresa walked for the first time ever (well, while pushing her cart). The room was instantaneously filled with tremendous joy, happiness, laughter, and excitement! The kids were all congratulating her and cheering those little legs on! LOVE.

Moments like these make everything seem so light. Sure, there are so many unpleasant moments during parenthood...but, one moment like this makes everything all good! I hope that I just remember the love.

Welcome to the upright world, Teresa! Now maybe you will stop putting everything in your mouth as you crawl around on dirty!
I hope the lady at Kmart has memories like this stored in her heart...after her kids turned 3 months, apparently :). And, I hope the man in the news story is able to turn his life around, with God's help. God Bless that innocent child too.

How's that for connecting random story lines together? :)

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Morning Glory...

I don't take enough pictures of my sweet strawberry blond baby!
I realized something on Saturday night around 10 p.m. that made me kind of upset. I had not said a single prayer that entire day....not even a Hail Mary. This is so rare for me! And, it made me feel bad that I had not raised my mind and heart to God even once (well, we probably said Grace before meals and bedtime prayers...but I gotta be honest, I'm not always concentrating on the words!).

Now, even I think that I have good excuses! The early morning was/is...just crazy! I try to hurry up and have my raisin bran and coffee so that I can continue taking care of everyone else. On Saturday, Joseph had a 9:30 soccer game (which I had to leave to walk Cecilia over to her dance class at 10...luckily it's in the same complex!), Teresa had a high fever and was unbelievably fussy (so Gianna and I made the trip over to other side of Harrisburg to see the pediatrician who was available last minute on a Saturday morning), and then we took the whole family to Hersheypark (a very kind friend gave us tickets!).

Hersheypark was SO crowded that it was a challenge just to keep an eye on our five walking children (luckily Teresa...who felt better after antibiotics for a double ear infection and ibuprofen for the fever...cannot walk yet!). It was too crowded for us to enjoy it much (I usually love watching my children have so much fun!), but it was still a nice family activity.

We got home just before 8 p.m. with children who were melting and/or wired. Bedtime was a not-so-fun blur. I took a long shower before sitting down to eat a late dinner. It was after collapsing on the couch that I first turned my thoughts to God. I felt so bad that I had ignored my Lord and his Blessed Mother the entire day! (Of course, I do realize that taking care of my family is exactly what I was meant to do this day...).

A pic from our last trip to Hersheypark. I was afraid that I would lose a child if I stopped to take a picture on Saturday!
Then I remembered something that I had read. For my birthday in August, my husband got me an AWESOME book called, "33 Days to Morning Glory: A Do-It-Yourself Retreat in Preparation for Marian Consecration," by Michael E. Gaitley MIC. This book was mentioned on EWTN one night when I was channel surfing. My husband was in the room working on his laptop. I told him that I would love this book, but I didn't think he was paying attention. I was thrilled to receive it on my birthday...guess he was listening! I love surprises like that!!!

Anyway, I eagerly read the book. I have been saying a daily consecration to Mary for many years now, but I had never formally consecrated my life to her. Detailing all that consecration involves would take way too much explanation for this blog post, so I recommend this book if you're interested :).

According to the book, it is supposed to be 33 days until consecration. And, you're supposed to wait so that your consecration will end on a Marian fest (for example, start the book 33 days before August 15th, which is the Assumption). Well, I dug right in and I read way more than I was supposed to each day...woops!!! I don't even remember the actual day of my consecration, but it was not a Marian feast. With my six little ones, I don't have much free time, so I hope that my eagerness is forgiven :).
Image result for picture of blessed mother
Mary, please help me to be a better wife and mother!
Recalling a few quotes by St. Maximilian Kolbe made me feel better on Saturday night. Summarized, he says that, "It is not at all necessary that the thought of the Immaculata (Mary) should occur to one's mind...for the essence of our union with her does not consist in thought, memory, or sentiment, but in our will."

And, "We belong to her...because we have consecrated ourselves to her once, and we have never taken back our consecration."

This is comforting to me. It makes me feel like, "Mary's got this!" She is still loving me, protecting me and my family, guiding me, helping me, working in my life and in the lives of my loved ones in ways that I recognize and ways that I know will never know anything about...

YAY! This is not to say that I no longer need to pray. In fact, I really enjoy prayer! I find the more that I pray, the more that I want to pray. But, some days I will not be able to say the Rosary...or even a single Hail Mary...and it's still okay! PHEW!

Better get off the computer (no excuse not to say a few prayers today!)! Thanks for reading! Have a blessed day.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Confessions of a slacker mom...

Justin's orientation day at Holy Name preschool. Lucy got to come and she loved it!
Justin, now 4, is really enjoying both of his preschools! I'm so happy that he enjoys them...because I would send him anyway (and hope that he learned to enjoy them at some point!). :)

When my older children are home, Justin is wonderful. He plays very well, especially with his big brother, and he disappears for long periods of time to entertain himself. When I check on him, he is happily engaged in something building with legos, coloring, digging in the dirt outside, swinging a baseball (with no one around him...ha!), etc.

When my older children are not home, Justin is a nightmare! He seems to be lost without the big kids, so he entertains himself by picking constant fights with Lucy. Or, by doing things that tend to drive me crazy (for example, taking all the cushions off the every room...and then he can't put them back by himself...ER!). He complains about errands and play dates (and that's about all this mama life is not that exciting!). You get the point...I'm thrilled that he has safe, fun, educational programs to attend for a few hours each morning. I think it's great for all of us!

Lucy looks at Justin like this A LOT these days :).
I am such a slacker though! Justin was supposed to bring a picture of himself for a project the first day of Holy Name preschool. Did he? NO. He was supposed to bring a picture of his family the next day. Did he? NO. The other kids couldn't wait to give their teacher the coloring page "homework" that they had completed. Did Justin complete his? YES! But, did it make it to school? NO.

Woops! Clearly, this is all on me. Thank goodness, Justin doesn't even seem to notice (and we turned in the pictures late (well, it was kinda a family picture...the kids were there, just no parents. Who has time to go to the store to print pictures!?).

But, for the record, my three school-aged children (as far as I know) are faring much better. They arrive at school on time every day with uniforms ironed, lunches packed, and completed homework in the correct folders. I breathe a sigh of relief when they get on the bus everyday! I am wiped out by 7:55 a.m. after getting everyone ready. I feel lucky that Justin puts clothes on his back and grabs a spoonful of peanut butter and a half a banana before leaving a few minutes later :).

Justin is supposed to bring an apple one day next week (I only know this because I overheard a grandmother say this and I made a mental note to remember this!). Anyone want make a bet that Justin shows up with an apple? I wouldn't either.

I recently wrote a reflection on catholicmom. com confessing that I took the, "How many children should you have?" Facebook quiz...and that I got "3".

Jesus, you know how much I love all of my children...not just numbers 1, 2, and 3. Justin, child #4, may not have pictures and apples and a green wardrobe (another thing I forgot!), but he shows up clean, fed, and dressed appropriately (thank you for these gifts!), and loved (I love the quote about how children who are not loved at home show up at school to be loved...children who are loved at home show up at school to learn).

Please help me to grow as a parent so that, God willing, by the time Justin goes to Kindergarten, he will join the ranks of my other children who show up for school prepared.

Love, The Slacker Mom :)
ps -- I don't really think I'm a slacker (well, I kind of do), but I'm writing this to make fun of myself!!! At this stage of my life, I have to let some things go. Otherwise, I will explode :).

Thursday, September 11, 2014

The next best thing...

I love that my children still dress up! Justin and Lucy are "twins!"
I called my husband at work at 11:30 a.m. today and told him that it was an emergency. He needed to come home quickly so that I could go to a! I really wanted to just take off and go have a few beers...that way I could forget about my morning and enjoy a nice buzz...ha!

Of course, he did not drop everything and come home. And, I did not start drinking (although I was tempted!). I am going to write about my morning to gain some perspective and to vent. I hope to entertain you and to make you feel like you're not alone. But, if I just bore you with details of a crazy day, I least I feel better for having written :).

It's funny to think of how I looked forward to Friday Happy Hours when I was teaching. It was a great reward after a long week of teaching. I didn't realize that the hardest (yet best...sometimes!) job of my life was yet to come...

After a crazy morning of getting the older three kids on the bus, I had to quickly wash and cut grapes for Justin to bring for his birthday leader day at school. After seeing Justin off to preschool (my husband dropped him off on his way to work), I got Lucy, Teresa, and me ready. Teresa had a bath (notice this story starts with a nice clean baby!).

Off to school!
By the time the three of us got out the door (there were lots of chores to complete in addition to Lucy's high maintenance morning routine...she insists on doing everything herself which takes forever!), we had about an hour before we had to go get Justin (I'm not a fan of this early preschool...8:30 to 11). We are out of yogurt and this is not good at our house (6 kids who eat yogurt regularly makes it a staple!).

There is a discount grocery outlet that sells yogurt that is just expired or just about to expire. It is deeply discounted and I stock up every few weeks (and I always remember when I was in the hospital having Joseph. My sister-in-law was watching Gianna and she called me to tell me that the yogurt I had packed for Gianna was expiring the next day...did I want her to give it to her!?! I think I said no...oh, how times have changed!!!!!).

Anyway, Lucy insisted on the ridiculous size shopping cart with special seats. If only she stayed in the special seats, it would be lovely. But one aisle into the trip, she always wants out. She causes a huge scene if I don't let her out, and I pick my battles!! So, Lucy ends up free in the store. Sometimes this is fine. Today, it was not. First, she pushed the tractor-trailer size cart right into a display of oatmeal cookies. I cleaned it up as best as I could (which wasn't very good!). After that, I strapped her into the cart as I picked out yogurt (the whole reason for my trip!).

Lucy was being very good and quiet. I should've known better! After putting the yogurt all around Teresa (isn't much room in a cart when her baby seat is in there!), I noticed that Lucy had been dumping the children's body/hair wash bargain everywhere. I struggled to remain calm, but a few bad words slipped out. I raced to the bathroom (and it was tons of fun pushing that huge cart into their storage room where the restroom is tucked away!). I did the best that I could (again, not too great!) to clean up. Suds everywhere. One of us thought it was really fun and one of us did not!

Girls had an awesome first soccer game of the season!
Jump ahead. Preschool pickup went well (Justin had an awesome birthday leader day) until he darted into the parking lot when he saw our minivan. And, he came much too close to being hit by a car that was backing out. How many times can you give this lecture!?!?! Parking lots scare me to death...obviously for good reason! Justin was standing right next to me when we waited for a friend to run to her car to grab something for me. I told him to stand right next to me on the sidewalk and wait. He clearly did not listen. So, I am left continuously thanking God and blaming myself (again) for trusting a 4-year-old near cars. I let my guard down around age 4 because I think that they're old enough to know better. Joseph did the same thing at age 4. So, even though they do not seem to know better, I do...a good (and terrifying) reminder for me!

Back to the baby who was clean. As we were about to leave preschool, Lucy asked me for a yogurt smoothie. She normally eats these without a problem, and I was glad that she would not be hungry when we got home. So, I handed one over. On the five...yes, five...minute ride home, Lucy somehow gave the yogurt to the baby (or more likely, Lucy got distracted and the baby grabbed it). Upon opening the minivan door in the garage, I was greeted by a very happy and smily 10-month-old baby...who was covered in yogurt. Head to toe...and, the car seat was not spared.

I went inside and called my husband to come home NOW. He was great. He listened, gave me some good advice (from now on, go to that store when Lucy is at school and park illegally right next to the sidewalk at preschool like some other moms do!). The best part though...he offered me the next best thing to going to a bar stop at the wine and spirits store during his lunch hour (we're out!).

Ahh...I felt myself getting calmer. The wine will be nice, sure, but having all my kids home safe and a husband who cares...what more could I ask for!?!

Well, maybe a clean baby :).

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Fall is my favorite!!!

Lucy loved her first day of school!!! Finally HER turn. She kept asking to go back today!
Five out of my six kids are now in some kind of school! This makes me so happy. Not because I want my children away from me, but because I feel like I can be a better mommy to all of them. There is more routine, structure, and overall balance in my life. I am able to handle stress better when I am not stressed out for 12 or more hours of the day!

I was joking with friends recently that I've actually googled "states that have year round school." In other words, where can I move in the United States where there is no three-month break in the summer!? A few spaced-out shorter vacations during the year sounds perfect to me! I'm pretty sure that I would be a saner person with less fear of June, July, and August!

Of course, we're not really going anywhere, so I will just have to appreciate TODAY (whatever today might be!). And, I'm quite happy because today is September :). Happy fall everyone...wishing you pumpkins, apples, colorful leaves, chilly nights, and all things fall!!!

Justin left me kicking and screaming (literally!), but he had great first days (at both schools!)

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

The Truth of the Matter...

Not an exaggeration...Justin has worn this shirt every other day this summer (it would've been every day it I didn't instead on washing it after each wear!).
I love when answers become clear. If you read my last blog post, you might remember that I did not know what I was going to do about Justin (almost 4) and preschool this year. For some reason, preschool decisions have caused me great stress for years! When Gianna was almost 5 and she could not go to Kindergarten because of her September birthday, I spent countless hours worrying about making the right decision for her 3rd year of preschool. The past month I've been going back and forth about Justin.

I know those of you reading this who have older children are probably thinking to yourselves, "These are the EASY decisions of parenthood...just wait!"

Anyway, the answer about Justin suddenly became clear yesterday morning. I got the older three kids off to school, and I was really looking forward to a playdate at a friend's house. It had been a difficult morning of making lunches, ironing school uniforms, followed by lots of preschool, toddler, and baby issues, but I knew good coffee and conversation were just a short car ride away...

Justin usually plays really well with his older siblings!
Until...dead battery in the minivan. NO!!!! I called AAA and then waited over an hour for them to show. The technician was there for over an hour confirming that it was a dead battery and then replacing it. My husband reminded me more than once that I was very lucky that I was at home and not in a parking lot somewhere with the kids in the car. True!

But, during these two hours, I was finally able to make up my mind about preschool once and for all :).

True or False? During those hours, Justin was a bad boy and I was a bad mommy. Both TRUE!

True or False? We both had quite a few meltdown moments, temper tantrums, and loss of impulse control? TRUE again!

True or False? We were both acting age appropriately. This is FALSE, of course. Justin is almost 4. It is practically his job to test me and drive me to my absolute limits. And, to torture his little sister (luckily, only the 2-year-old...he's quite sweet to the baby)...can't forget that! I am 39. I should have enough virtue and grace by now (at least in theory!) to deal with 4-year-olds, right? After all, I've had three of them already, and I always swear that I love age 4 much more than age 3 (although Justin is still technically still 3 for another 10 maybe that's the problem!).

This is Justin at his end-of-year preschool show in May. I was SO proud of my adorable boy!
It was a rough two hours. I didn't want him to watch TV because he watches it when his little sisters nap (and I really need him to watch it then so I get a break!), and I feel very strongly about limiting screen time.

However, letting him watch a little TV might have preserved my sanity and prevented some ridiculous behaviors (here's a few: daring Lucy to eat chalk, squeezing out almost an entire bottle of sunscreen and promptly getting it into his and Lucy's eyes, running in and out of the house and successfully locking all of us out (twice)...luckily, I used the hidden spare key (twice), dumping pieces of games that he couldn't possibly play alone anyway (Candy Land, etc.), opening a package of cookies, spilling them all over the kitchen, and eating just enough to ruin his lunch (and Lucy's too)).

Of course, I had said NO to each of these (the ones that he bothered to ask about), but I was trying to talk to the AAA guy and take care of an infant at the same time, so I wasn't as watchful as I usually am.

I felt like an out-of-control woman as I yelled at him for each of these offenses (aware that a stranger was in my garage!). And then it hit me...he needs to go to school! He's not even trying to be bad...he's just bored!!! Lucy (when not falling under Justin's influence) was quite happy pushing her baby in the stroller up and down the sidewalk. The baby, despite an ear infection, was content crawling around and exploring. Justin needs more than this now...

So, Justin will go to school! Justin will go to two schools (see previous post!). He will (hopefully) make friends, complete crafts, sing songs, dance, play at the playground, etc. After 2.5 hours, I will pick him up and I will be so happy to see him again!!! I pray that he will learn, grow, and have fun. If it is too much for him, then of course, we will reconsider because...

True or False? I do love Justin dearly (at every age). I want to make wise, educated decisions for each of my children as individuals. I fail as a mother (miserably) constantly, but I want to do better. I can do better by avoiding (as much as possible) situations that lead me and others down the wrong road. TRUE!!!

Blessed Mother, St. Justin, and Justin's Guardian Angel, please stay close to Justin and me as we begin this new stage in his life...