Saturday, November 29, 2014

Marked Tardy

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Extra Incentive...

Lucy's very first time on stage at preschool for Grandparent's Day...she nailed it :)
Last night Cecilia (age 5) was sitting in my lap playing with my hair. Suddenly she stopped and stared. Then, she was trying like crazy to "get something out of my hair." I knew what it was, but I didn't offer the answer. 

Finally she said, "Mommy, what are these white strings in your hair?" I said, "They're white hair." She gasped, "You mean, you're just like Elsa!?!" She seemed to love this development.

Ha! I wish I was as excited about my white hair (and they do seem to be white...not gray!). Luckily (unless I'm deceiving myself!), they're not too noticeable yet unless you are standing close to me and searching for them (at least that's what I tell myself!).

My sister is a hairdresser. She has an adorable salon in the Boston suburb that I grew up in. She offered a free haircut (badly needed!) and free highlights (would love!) for Christmas if we come up. more reason to make the trek to Boston!

Wishing all of you a beautiful and blessed Thanksgiving with your loved ones. Thank you God for sending Jesus and for countless blessings in my family and in my country! Amen. :)

Saturday, November 22, 2014

This is the day that the Lord has made!

A celebratory smile after a first step :)
Last night I captured this picture after Gianna was present for Teresa's first step. Gianna had been "teaching" her to walk right before the big moment! Of course, I was in the kitchen and I missed the step. I said, "I am with this baby 24/7! How is it possible that I missed it!?!" Oh well...hopefully there will be another "first" step because Teresa is 100% back to crawling today!

Anyway, last night I drove Gianna to basketball at 7 p.m. Her basketball class is 7:15 to 8:15 twice a week through January. I hate that it's so late. Gianna does well, but some of the other kids in the class appear to be overtired (read: acting crazy!) at that time of day. But, she really enjoys it, and that's only time for 2nd graders. So, out we went into the dark freezing cold night for basketball!!!

On our way, we drove by the Orange O at our neighbor's house. I've mentioned this several times before on the this blog. Our neighbors tragically lost their 8-year-old son three years ago when he was hit by a distracted driver. To honor him, they have created a foundation against distracted driving. At their home, they have the letter O in bright orange lights. It shines 365 nights a year.

I always say prayers when I drive by. I assume that Owen is in heaven so I ask him to pray...first and foremost for his mom, and then I add the rest of his family and our family too! Last night, I was very aware that I had an 8-year-old in the backseat. And, after some quick math, I realized that Gianna was EXACTLY the same age as Owen when he passed. This just made me pray for his mom even more (I think of his dad too, but my prayers come from one mother's heart to another). Needless to say, I really enjoyed basketball last night!

In action...

Saturday, November 15, 2014

In the moment...

A throwback to a year ago! A computer virus has sadly eaten all my recent pictures :(.
 I love remembering little baby Teresa though!
Today is Saturday. And, I am a single parent today as my husband is giving presentations at a big conference for our Diocese. I have not handled this day very well. It's easy to blame my children for being SO ridiculous!!!
No really, so ridiculous! There have been so many unavoidable tears this day that it's kind of insane! Just for an example, if Mommy says, "Take off your shoes when we get into the house," then you shouldn't wait until you're at the top of the stairs...and throw your shoes down the stairs for them to hit the several siblings running upstairs behind you. And, if Mommy says, "Please watch the baby for just a second when I wash my hands," you shouldn't give her a big cup of ice water (this baby did not sign up for the ice bucket challenge!).
But, they are children. I am supposed to be the adult who is in control of herself (if not her surroundings). I have pleaded and begged my older children to help me (for example, simply doing something the first time that I ask makes a huge difference in my sanity!). My pleads went unheeded by Gianna. I am amazed that so much attitude can come from an 8-year-old. I do remember being loaded with attitude as a child, but I could've sworn that I was older :).
I recently read about Blessed Elizabeth of the Trinity. I guess she had horrible temper tantrums as a child...until she received her First Holy Communion and became a totally different child at age 7. I have decided that I am going to ask her intercession as my Gianna prepares for her First Penance (January) and First Holy Communion (May). Of course, I am going to equally ask that she intercede for me as Gianna's mother. I know that a lot of her (Gianna's) behaviors could be eliminated if I was a more effective parent. I'm trying, but it's so hard to try to be loving, patient, just, and forgiving of first offenses when your adrenaline is pumping and you are angry...especially when you are trying to deal with other children at the same time!
Throwback of Gianna and Teresa! Both have grown so much this year. Gianna is a great girl...I got a very good report from her teacher at conferences this week! I'm so proud of her.
Joseph might have saved the morning. He was in a great mood. As he saw me begging Justin to take off his sleeper and get dressed this morning so we wouldn't be late getting Cecilia to dance, he said, "Mom, I'm going to say a Hail Mary for you right now." did he know that this was the most perfect thing to ever!?!
I was instantly more peaceful. Joseph loved my reaction so much (big hugs for that!) that he went on to say a Glory Be for his father and an Our Father for everyone in the world. Love that!!!
I must go now to wake the nappers (Lucy has been napping again...Alleluia!!!!!) so we can pick up Gianna at Brownies. Speaking of Brownies, I know that a lot of devout Catholics do not have their daughters participate in Girl Scouts because of their known connection to Planned Parenthood. This connection is troubling to me. But, our Diocese has wonderful Catholic scouting programs and at least right now (not sure about when she gets older), I love what she is learning (about her faith, leadership/friendship skills) and that she is completing service projects (they are making baskets of Thanksgiving food for the needy this afternoon). And, she LOVES it! Just FYI!
Have a blessed day, friends! It is 2:30 and Daddy should be home by 5. We'll be very happy to see him :).

Sunday, November 9, 2014

100% happy!

My sweet boys spent hours making a "bedroom" for their favorite stuffed animals (King the lion and Stripes the tiger)!
I'm so glad that God plans families. And, I'm so glad that we were open to His plans. When Cecilia was four months old, I started feeling strange. I was exclusively breastfeeding (no bottles, no pacifiers, etc.), she was not sleeping through the night, and my cycle had not returned. For these reasons, conceiving a child was not on my radar yet. Yes, our other kids were closely spaced, but I had a few cycles so I was not shocked when I was pregnant!

Anyway, I was at the mall one day in January of 2010 with Gianna, Joseph, and Cecilia. It's not a great mall, but it has an indoor playground which is key during Pennsylvania winters. I suddenly felt kind of lightheaded, and then I had a huge craving for McDonald's. I don't hate McDonald's food, but I certainly don't eat it often or "crave" it, either!

As I was navigating my preschooler, toddler, and infant through the mall, I passed by a dollar store. Hmmm...feeling faint and having cravings sounded familiar. I decided to get a $1 pregnancy test to put my mind at ease. Most moms can probably relate to the mental anguish you feel if you, "could be pregnant!?!?!"

I took the test right there at the mall...yes, with three little ones in the stall with me :). Fun times! As the line showed up within the three minutes, I couldn't wait to get home and call my husband (it didn't seem like an appropriate cell phone conversation for the indoor playground!). When he answered the phone, I said, "Are you sitting down?" His reaction was great, and I'll never forget it. He laughed out loud! It put my mind at ease. Most moms can probably also relate to the millions of emotions that rush through your mind when you get the result of the (positive or negative) pregnancy test!

Love my clean-haired ladies :).
Anyway, Joseph and Justin are the best of friends these days. Sure, they have their moments; and at times, it is obvious that Joseph is almost 7 and Justin is just 4. But, I'm so grateful that they have each other. Watching them play together is one of the greatest joys of my life right now! Thank you, God. St. Joseph and St. Justin, please watch over my boys!

The OB/GYN told me that there was a only 2% chance of conceiving Justin (because I was exclusively nursing a young infant with no bottles/pacifiers, no extended sleep, no cycle return). Hmm...sounds like God really wanted him to a part of our family...

Like I said, I'm glad God's in charge :).

Friday, November 7, 2014

To be small...

My rose (or, at least half of her!)..
One morning this week, I was sorting through some gently used clothes that a friend had given me. I love doing this; it is such a blessing for our family to receive these clothes! And, it feels like a Christmas morning to my daughters (my sons couldn't care less!) when they look at all their "new" clothes.

On this particular morning, a bright, sparkly shirt sporting a dressed up kitten caught my eye. I knew that this shirt would become a favorite of one my daughters! I glanced at the size and noted that it needed to be put away. It was a size 4...too small for the 5-year-old and too big for the 2-1/2-year-old.

Just then, the 2-1/2-year-old, Lucy, burst into the room. Her eyes quickly landed on the glittery kitty shirt. "Oohhh," she gasped as she tried to rip off her sleeper to put the shirt on NOW. I tried to explain that this shirt needed to be put away. There was no dissuading her. She managed to get it on and broke out in a huge grin. Besides the fact that the sleeves were too long, it didn't look that bad. I didn't have the heart to take it off of her, so I rolled up the sleeves and helped her pick out some pants (not too many pants would match such a busy shirt!).

The agenda for Lucy that day was errands with Mom and baby sister. She goes to school two mornings a week and LOVES it. She is quite disappointed when it is not her day to go. We went to the Girl Scout store because I had to pick up uniform stuff for my Daisy (Cecilia) and Brownie (Gianna). Lucy went into the small store and made herself right at home. She crawled under a table in the corner and found a bin full of stuffed animals. She proceeded to bring them out one at a time and present them with noises (most were correct, others were just humorous!).

The cashier asked how old she was. I said, "Two." Then the cashier, who didn't look old enough to have kids yet (but you never know!), said, "Looks like such a fun age!"

I should have just said, "YES!" Because, it is a wonderful age. So are ages 8, 6-1/2, 5, 4, and 1 (the ages of my other children!). And, 39 isn't so bad either :).

I often think of the quotes in St. Josemaria Escriva's book, "The Way," about small children. In particular, "Be little, very little. Don't be more than two years old, three at most." He goes on to explain that older children have lost their precious simplicity. St. Josemaria goes on in another quote to remind us that before God, WE (grown ups!) are smaller than 2-year-old toddlers!

Anyway, two is wonderful. The cashier saw it! And, I did too (she did look absolutely adorable making animal noises in her too-big kitty shirt!).

But, I said, "Yeah, but they get very challenging as they approach age 3." True enough! But, why did I have to vent that to complete stranger who was complimenting my toddler!?

It is easy to get caught up in the drama and meltdowns and lose sight of the big picture. I am praying for the grace to appreciate each of my children as they are...not as I would have them be! I want to see the rose (as the cashier did) and not the thorns! Yes, I do have to feel the thorns sticking in me...but, if the world just sees the rose...

That's awesome :).

I love this prayer...especially the part about our children...

Prayer to Our Holy Guardian Angels

Heavenly Father, Your infinite love for us has chosen a blessed angel in heaven and appointed him our guide during this earthly pilgrimage. Accept our thanks for so great a blessing. Grant that we may experience the assistance of our holy protector in all our necessities. And you, holy, loving angel and guide, watch over us with all the tenderness of your angelic heart. Keep us always on the way that leads to heaven, and cease not to pray for us until we have attained our final destiny, eternal salvation. Then we shall love you for all eternity. We shall praise and glorify you unceasingly for all the good you have done for us while here on earth. Especially be a faithful and watchful protector of our children. Take our place, and supply what may be wanting to us through human frailty, short-sightedness, or sinful neglect. Lighten, O you perfect servants of God, our heavy task. Guide our children, that they may become like unto Jesus, may imitate Him faithfully, and persevere till they attain eternal life.



Sunday, November 2, 2014


Joseph's 1st grade class made this Olaf for the Fall Festival. I love Holy Name of Jesus School!
We are blessed with everything that we need. We have a lovely home in a safe neighborhood. We have plenty of food to eat, and the children are receiving a wonderful Catholic school education. The older three children are involved in their choice of activities, and our playroom is filled to the brim with toys (in fact, we are due for a purge...just don't tell the kids!). I am profoundly grateful for all of our blessings!
That said, there isn't a lot of money for "extras." We won't be going to Disney World (at least in the foreseeable future), and we don't "splurge" on many things! And then, there are always the unexpected costs of home ownership (like our new garbage disposal). And, I could go on and on about the price of orthodontics (although we lucked out there because Gianna's teeth "showed vast improvement!"), car repairs, and anesthesia costs for Teresa when she gets ear tubes this week. Although, I won't go on because I know that you have your own list of costly concerns!

Birthday celebration huddle!

Because we are on a tight budget, I am careful when I am shopping (although I'm still always shocked at how quickly things add up!). I was recently at Target and I remembered that I needed socks (like good old-fashioned white ankle ones to wear under my sneakers!). Like most moms I know, I rarely buy things for myself. I honestly don't remember the last time that I bought socks...maybe 10 years ago? Anyway, I've been throwing out pairs left and right as they get holes. I picked out a 6-pack of socks and threw them into the cart.
As the cashier was ringing up my order, I was watching the price go up and up. Most of it was household necessities and stuff that the kids needed. I quickly decided not to get the socks. Note that if one of the kids needed socks, I wouldn't have thought twice!
I forgot about the socks. Later that week, I was sorting through some lovely hand-me-down clothes from a friend. People are extremely generous...they often ask if would like some gently used clothes. I always say yes!!! I saved all of Gianna's old clothes for Cecilia, and Cecilia (my 5-year-old fashionista) refuses to wear most of them. But, luckily, we have received lots of styles that Cecilia WILL wear. I can't afford to go out and buy all new clothes for Cecilia, so this is a great blessing (although it would not be the end of the world if Cecilia had to wear a pair of!).
Anyway, I got to the end of the bin of clothes, and there were six pairs of brand new socks. As I was checking to see if they would fit Gianna or Cecilia, I realized that the answer was, "Neither." They were adult socks. And, they were exactly like the ones that I had put back at Target. My heart was filled with such a feeling of God's presence...He is here, He hears me, He provides. Coincidence? Perhaps. But not to me!
Don't remember the occasion for this picture, but happy times in the kitchen :).

It happened again this week. Gianna needs brown leggings for Brownies before her field trip this weekend. I found a pair of leggings, but they were more than I wanted to spend. I put them back on the rack and made a mental note to check out a few other stores.

I got home and the mailman had delivered two boxes from my mom. She works at a high school in Massachusetts. One of the teachers has two daughters who are a few years older than my girls (and the oldest is named Gianna Marie, just like my daughter!). She gives the clothes to my mom who then sends them to me. Later that night, I opened the box. Anyone want to guess what was in there!?!

I'm not kidding....the perfect pair of brown leggings. Again, I sent up a silent prayer of thanks. Coincidence? Not to me.

The last example is not about clothes. I recently deactivated my Facebook account (and then reactivated after my family asked me to send Halloween pictures of the, I plan to deactivate it again). Since Lucy is not napping consistently, I am feeling out of balance.

I've not found any time for prayer and silence. So, when I've had five minutes, I would go on Facebook to browse. I convinced myself that there wasn't enough time to do anything "productive" before I was interrupted, so I might as well spend a few minutes of mindless "vegging" out.

One day last week when the kids were doing their homework and everyone was quiet for a minute, I snuck on Facebook again. Joseph asked, "Why do you like to look at pictures of other people so much?" Hmmm...that was kind of a good question. I suppose that I wanted to feel connected to other people as I felt rather stuck in my kitchen at that moment. However, I was left feeling disappointed and depressed because others seemed to be enjoying their lives so much more. I did not feel connected, I simply felt...worse...and cranky.
The next day at preschool, I saw a sign. It was about the benefits of solitude and silence, and the well-known psalm, "Be still, and know that I am God." I realized that God was calling me to recapture some "stillness" in my life. I knew that the allure of Facebook surfing would be too strong, so I deactivated my account. I instantly felt peace. However, there was one thing I was afraid of missing.
A friend, not a close friend who I speak to often, but someone who I see a few times a year and whose friendship I treasure, was past due with her third baby. She had recently switched to my OB/GYN (I highly recommended them to her) because they would support her in her attempt to have a VBAC after 2 C-sections. Her old OB/GYN practice had told her that it was too risky.
Anyway, I had been praying for this friend, and I was afraid that I would never know when her baby was born if I was not on Facebook. I considered reactivating my account. I resisted. A few hours later, I got a text. It was a picture of a gorgeous newborn with a note from my friend, "unmedicated VBA2C"...thanks for all your support and prayers! I do not ever remember giving my friend my cell phone number. Or, maybe I did...once...years ago.
Coincidence? Perhaps. I know all of these are easily explained otherwise. But, through the eyes of faith, they are gifts from my Lord reminding me that He's here, He's in charge, and I should continue to invite him into all of my decisions...because He knows and cares. This is of great comfort to me!
Have a peaceful week, friends. Don't be afraid of silence. :)