Friday, December 31, 2010

Goodbye 2010, Hello 2011!

Another year gone. My kids are taller, we are older, hopefully, a year wiser. 2010 was not the perfect year, but then, I could not name a single year that was perfect. 2010 was the year our baby turned 1 year old. It was the year our oldests turned 20. It was a year of medical miracles, and of such great sadness as we watched our Nain just deteriorate due to a brain bleed. It was a year when I had to adjust to the idea that my parents are not 30 years old, and have some medical issues, and that my grandmother, whom I never realized how much I loved, is never going to be that same grandmother again. Those were hard lessons, most gave some precious insight, and thankfully, some wonderful outcomes.

2010 brought a lot of political angst, as a liberal administration rammed as much through Congress and by executive order as possible. It also held a light at the end of the tunnel for those of us who prefer things to be run in a more Conservative, constitutionalist way.

2010 also brought some marvelous successes for my husband  - he works so hard at his job and this year brought some recognition of that, and for that we are so grateful.

This little blog turned a year old this year, in October, and while I have not been able to keep up with it as I would like, it has given me a place to vent, brag, and wax poetic on whatever happened to be on my mind. Happily, more than a few people from all over the world read this little blog, and that tickles me more than a little, so I am grateful for that, too.

2010 had it's joys, like the births of two nephews, our little burrito, Petey, and Spencerific. And two little great-nieces, Bella and Brooklyn, to boot. Such beautiful babies, and though I love babies so much, when I visited their mamas in the hospital, I did NOT have an overwhelming desire to tuck them into my coat and make off with them, which is a sign, I think, that my time of having babies is done, and we are ready to move on to the next phase in life. I think I'll always be wistful over newborns, but more often than not this year, I have been grateful when I hear a baby cry, that it was not my job to do something about it. 

2010 was such a good year, in so many ways, we caught our stride with school, finally, in November and I think the decision to use an online school was the right one for us. My husband and I have been married for 15 years this year, and together for 16. We seem to have hit a new stride, too. Renewed love and gratitude for each other, as we have sadly watched a marriage or two fall apart. It's almost like a second, or third wind, and it's been lovely being in love with someone for so long. I look forward to 2011, and the 40 years or so after that, God willing.

I pray that 2011 with be as kind, and as joyful. I will never pray that trials pass us over, but that feel safe in the knowledge that God will never give us what we cannot handle. So, thank you, 2010, for your joys, and yes, even your sorrows, as the sorrows have taught me so well. Welcome, 2011, I look forward to the lessons you have in store for me.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Christmas Card Guilt

We have been receiving beautiful Christmas cards for weeks now. I have a thing about Christmas cards. I love doing them. I always have a photo taken of the kiddos just for this purpose. I get religious cards, and even buy the Madonna and Child stamps,  and get a really good pen, so that everything is "just so". I wait until the kids are in bed, and then I turn on one of the silly Lifetime Christmas movies and write out my cards. It's a ritual. It takes a few hours, and more than a few dollars, but I love staying in touch with people, even if it's only once a year.

I didn't do them this year. Between lack of time, money, and availability of children for a photo, it just wasn't going to happen. I feel guilt. Tremendous guilt. My husband didn't even blink, he thought it was just fine to not send out cards. I can't even bring myself to hang the ones we have gotten because I feel like I don't deserve them when I didn't send any out. I know that is pretty silly, since they are here and all, but the whole not sending cards thing is not sitting well with me. I don't know why I feel so much guilt over it, or the fact that I am not baking a lot this year, or that we have trimmed everything back so far that I feel like a big, fat GRINCH. The cards were simply the first thing to go, but they are such a big part of the season. I love sending them almost as much as I love getting them. So, if you sent me a card, and I didn't send you one back, please forgive me. I still love you and your family! I don't want to be rude,  and it was necessary, but still...I FEEL  SO RUDE. Ugh. Just another version of the feminine guilt we all tote around with us I suppose.

So, did you send cards out this year? If you chose not to, are you feeling the guilt I am feeling, or did you make the cut without batting an eye?

Monday, December 13, 2010

Helping Littles Understand the True Meaning of Christmas

Because we have always home schooled these little kids, I think I have assumed that they just absorb what I have actively taught my older children. This is especially true when it comes to matters of faith. Prayers that we have always said, tend to get passed from one child to the next with very little active planning on my part. They are part of our day, so they are taught repeatedly, without my ever sitting down with a child to have them memorize the prayer. This year I wanted to really impart to them what Christmas is all about. I want them to experience not just the wonder that comes from Santa and the commercial Christmas season, but the hope, expectation, delight and love that comes from the real Christmas story. I wanted them to think of angels and stars, and of the Savior born in Bethlehem. I want them to think of the little drummer boy, who had no gift to give, and so he played his drum for Him.

So this year we have started a new tradition. For each "little" goodness or kind act the children perform, they will get a bright star to hang, with the goodness written on it. These stars will be displayed all through Advent, and will be their gift to the Savior on His birthday.

My sister started this with her kids this year, and my Kolbe loved it so much that he wanted to do it, too. So far, he has offered the most stars for Jesus' birthday. Even my wee small Benji has taken to doing small jobs or sharing his toys with Yeb to be able to hang another star. I'm not sure he understands it all, but he does understand that you have to do a goodness to get a star. He'll even tell you that all the stars are for Jesus' birthday.

My sweet Jenna, always one to offer to help, or do  a job without being told, should have far more stars up there. I need to watch her for a few days, and surprise her with the stars, even when she doesn't ask for them to be displayed. She knows that God knows what is in her heart, so I think she doesn't need to see them up there, but will be pleased that I noticed how much she really does for others.

We're just getting started with this new tradition, but I already see that it has changed how the kids look at Christmas. Kolbe asked me today how many more days there were until Christmas. A typical question. I saw him counting the days on the calendar, and heard him tell Luke that he thinks he can get a bunch more stars for Jesus with the time left. He is so excited! Jonah wants to try and beat him, because it has to be a competition, you know. Until he finds his DSi. Ah, they are all so different, and so dear, in their own ways. My baby is just old enough to rip the stars down, and the ornaments off the trees, but he is precious in God's eyes, and in mine. I can't wait to see what he makes of Christmas morning!

It's Christmastime...

We wrote and mailed our Santa letters, and my small ones were so thrilled when Santa wrote back, himself, on special Santa stationery, postmarked at the North Pole. This delighted our 8 year old, Kolbe, who being homeschooled, still believes, but, being 8, has started to question. These lovely letters and a special video from the Portable North Pole TV really lit up his imagination and the twinkle in his eyes, and that special belief is still alive in his heart. Even our 10 year old, Jenna still believes so fully that she sent her Santa letter without even telling me what was in it. Thankfully, a helpful elf alerted me to what she had asked for, and so she will not be disappointed Christmas morning.

But, it's Christmas, and with it comes the flurry of activity that  makes every day tasks seem burdensome. All I want to do is bake and make candy and ornaments and paint stuff with my kids. I don't want to do school, or work, or anything I am supposed to do, and I imagine most other people are feeling the same way. I want to stop and savor the wonder. I want to watch my little Luke get up and look for snow every morning and clap and jump up and down when he spots a few flakes fluttering to the ground.

I want to watch Jonah and Kolbe drag out all the snow gear and help their brothers layer it all on so they can go outside and roll around in the 6 or so inches of snow that are out there, just because it is so darn exciting that it's that time of year again. My kids are snow babies, rather than water babies. They will be outside everyday, playing in whatever form of precipitation God offers them from now until it hits 75 degrees again. Then they will tell me it's too hot to go outside.

I want to shop and wrap and plan the perfect gifts. It'll soon be time when I have to do those things, but for now, we have to buckle down, do school, get our work done, keep the house straight, and wait anxiously for the two delicious weeks when we don't have to do a lick of school, and my husband and I will both be off work for a little while. We can bake with the cousins and chat with old friends. Revel in the joy of time well spent doing nothing whatsoever.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

The Ordinary Days...

It's been a while since I've posted. I'm not really sure why. Life gets busy, I guess, and I have not really had time to let my usually overly flowery thoughts roll through my brain. School has been overwhelming, been doing some other things that take up my time. And for some reason, I just don't seem to be in a writing mode. Even regular writing that I do for work, or whatever is taking me more time - I don't really know why. Writer's block? I don't know that I write often enough to develop writer's block, but I just don't seem to be able to generate any interesting or new thoughts on anything.

So, since it has been so long, I'll just fill you in on what's been happening around here instead. I am not really one who wants to write a whole blog post about the daily happenings, I tend to think that is what Facebook and Twitter are for, and I generally use those outlets pretty regularly. We've been doing school (religiously - which is new for us), getting our Kolbe ready to make his First Reconciliation and First Holy Communion,  Mackenzie is studying and preparing to be Confirmed in the Spring.

All the Jeffery Girl Cousins
We hosted Thanksgiving this year for Doug's side of the family. Thanksgiving was truly a lovely day, so much family gathered around, happy and healthy and so, so blessed. There are many children on both sides of our family, and I feel so thankful that our families truly embrace the gift of children and cherish each and every one. We have great-nieces now, five of them, to be exact. I remember when the nieces were just young girls themselves. Now they are grown, beautiful wives and mothers.

We also had dinner at my parents' house later, surrounded by the 18 children, 2 teenagers. We had lots of food, fun, and the company of my brother and sisters and their spouses just makes everything perfect. I am lucky that my siblings all married wonderful people. You always hear how so many families don't get along and have a hard time over the holidays. I am so thankful that we are blessed with a mostly harmonious family. Everyone squabbles from time to time, but we all truly love each other. It's always fun to be together - and our kids are growing up feeling like extra-special siblings rather that cousins who don't get to see much of each other. Another thing to be thankful for!

My sister's new baby, Spencer, was baptized on Saturday, so we went to Mass and then a big dinner for little Spencer right afterward, with most of the cousins switching houses and spending the night with cousins. So much fun! We finished the weekend off by making homemade pizza and decorating our tree and getting the rest of the house ready for Christmas. The girls were home, and I was grateful for one more year when we had all of the kids under one roof for this ritual. I have to admit that I hate the thought that they won't always be here to help us decorate the tree, so, in an effort to make sure we always have this special day, we have told them that we will always put up the tree the Sunday after Thanksgiving, and when they are married, that will be OUR Thanksgiving. We'll do the turkey, and put up the tree. That way they don't have to feel pressured to be ONE MORE place on Thanksgiving, and we are creating our own tradition. With nine children, I think we are going to have to create some of our own holidays in order to have all of our children in the same place at the same time. We can't expect nine families to do that on the regular holidays. I hope this takes the pressure off them and makes them want to come celebrate with us. We plan to do the same thing with Christmas. I hope one of them will let us come watch their babies open presents Christmas morning!

So, that is my update, I hope to have something interesting to offer soon, I feel so scattered, I can't collect my thoughts into a cohesive post! I hope you are all having a Blessed Advent season!

Friday, October 15, 2010

Old Love, New Love

Reading the title, you might think I was talking about a first love, an old flame. I am in a way. Today was my husband and my 15th wedding anniversary. We've been through a lot together. Not as much as some, not as easy as others.
Okay, so I was going to start off this post as another of my mushy, love laden posts, because, you know, I am just corny like that. But then I saw a post on a picture from my reception from my niece that made me remember something from that day, and I decided I'd rather get it all down, what memories I have left of it, because I never have and you know, I like to have a record of these things.
If you know me at all, you know that throwing parties, any kind of event where I am in charge and want people to have fun, I sort of wig out a little. Just a little. Anything that goes wrong sends me into a frenzy of panic. It's not pretty. I pretty much lose it, and ya know - that's just a good time for everyone, right?

So, to start off my wedding day, it was raining. That wasn't too horrible, as my grandmother pointed out to me that rain on your wedding day was good luck (she's Welsh). My sisters and I had an appointment to go and get our hair done. As I was getting some long, loose curls put into my hair, I look over and see that my sister, Dana, who had beautiful, long, blond hair at the time, was sitting in a chair. She had a bun in her hair. On TOP on her head. On top of the bun on the top of her head was ANOTHER BUN! I was under the impression she was just going to get a partial up-do, and let most of that beautiful, curly blond hair hang down. What she had was a bee's nest, people. A BEE's NEST, like from 1960. For my wedding. Then, I look to the other chair, where my other very beautiful sister with long blond hair sat, her hair all twisted up in the BIGGEST. FATTEST. French twist ever. It was less horrible than Boo's hair, but still horrible enough to leave me dismayed. My cool head went a little south, but I was okay. I hated the hair, but I couldn't do much at that point.

Exhibit A - The Ugly Hair
After hair we went to the church to get dressed. We were shown into a little preschool area with a little bathroom. We had the little girls ( Meg and Liz) get dressed, and they sat down so we could curl their hair. As I am curling away, my sisters make some startling realizations. 1. They had forgotten the pins I had given them to wear with their dresses - (it was all about a look, in my head), and my sister, Stacy had forgotten PANTY HOSE! Or she bought kids hose, or something. In any case she didn't have any. My sanity level shifted a little lower. 

Then the lady who did our flowers showed up with them. This lady was my soon to be husband's ex-sister-in-law. Needless to say, I was never crazy about having her do our flowers, but he really seemed to want her to, and she was cheap, and at that point I was all about wanting to be nice, and pretend I was okay with the whole ex's, divorce, blended family thing. So, the flowers. They were not great. They didn't even seem all that special to me. I had made my headpiece, and I LOVED it. I wished I had just done all of them, I am sure I would have been a lot happier. I asked for flowers that matched my bridesmaids dresses. Mostly lilies and other more exotic flowers, and I got carnations and roses. Uck. My sanity level sunk a little more. I was starting to panic. Plus the ex-sister-in-law was still there, curling Elizabeth's hair and commenting that she and Doug's ex-wife didn't know why she hadn't been invited so that she could watch Elizabeth be a flower girl. The idea of her being there made my nerves do a little not happy dance, and my stomach started to churn.

Soon, it was time for the ceremony to start, and the best man had yet to arrive. He was flying in and his plane had been delayed and he was going to be an HOUR LATE! I wanted to just have someone else stand in, but my Douglas wanted to wait for him. This conversation was carried out by other people running back and forth, giving us messages, because, you know, the groom was not to see the bride before the wedding! My level of comfort was at an all time low, when I hear the singer we hired start to sing the last song she was supposed to sing before the wedding started. No one gave her the memo on the best man. So, the poor girl sang. She sang and sang and sang. THE SAME SONG. No one thought to run up there and tell her to take 5. I could hear her singing all the way in the basement. I started to see stars. It was bad. So bad. If you look at my wedding photos, I do NOT look happy. It's because I was ready to KILL! I was 10 seconds shy of going psycho on everyone in sight when someone came down and said they were ready. Man, I had the hardest time conjuring up a smile.

I remember my dad walking me down the isle. He didn't look any happier than I did. I was worried that he didn't want me to marry Doug. I would later find out that he would NEVER be happy when giving one of his girls away. It was the end of an era, each time, and it was bittersweet.

I'd love to say that all my angst washed away as I walked down the isle, but my nerves were shot. I just wanted to get it over with by then. The girls were supposed to sit down with their grandmothers after they walked down the isle, but they pretty much bounced back and forth the whole time. When we went to light the unity candle, we hadn't planned what we were going to do while the soloist sang the song we had chosen for the moment. Silly, really. We had like, a 20 second thing to do, but we made her sing a 3 minute song. So, we stood up there, with nothing to do, for like 2 minutes and 40 seconds. Like a couple of dopes. We kept kissing, every few seconds, because we were standing there in front of all those people, all watching us. I couldn't just stand there. IT. WAS. AWKWARD! and people mentioned it all night long. I am pretty sure that's what they remember most. Uck.

In the end, it wasn't about the things that went wrong, like the fact that the best man wore a suit bought at Goodwill 20 minutes before the ceremony for $4 (so glad I did not know that at the time!), or my sisters' ugly hair, or that one of the groomsmen wore a tuxedo shirt, or even that my husband's ex-wife's sister made ugly flowers for my wedding, it was about the fact that we had found each other. It was that truly, God had found us for each other. See, I finally got to the mushy part.

The next few years were long in some ways, blending a family is about the hardest thing. I never knew how hard. It took a good five years to feel "blended", and even then issues would arise from time to time. In the mean time we lived. We loved. We had a bunch of babies. We were broke. We made some good decisions and some bad ones. We moved. We had more babies. We had more money, but somehow, always still broke! But, I wouldn't have wanted to do this with anyone else. He is the other half of my heart, and lots of times, he is more than half my heart, because I am just to tired to do my share, so he does it for both of us. I hope I have done that for him, too. We've learned each others moods and habits, and we put up with each other in spite of them. We are blessed with really good chemistry (thus all the babies!), and for some reason, Doug always smells REALLY, REALLY good. I think that is just God's way of reminding me why I like him so much, during the times when I need some reminding. I think we know that we aren't always going to be head over heels, but we will always come back around to feeling that way again. And when it does, look out!

To my Douglas, who never reads my blog, but still. I love you. I have since the second time we met! Thanks for being everything; my very best friend (he knows ALL my secrets, everything, for reals), my partner in crime and baby making, the dad to all the beautiful tornadoes, my retirement plan, and my heart. Thanks for putting up with me, and my sloppiness, and my blog, and my love of the internet, and shopping, and all the other stuff I do that makes you nuts. Thank you for giving my children dimples. I love you the most in the world. Happy Anniversary!

Thursday, October 7, 2010

A Strange Kind of Sense

My grandmother had been back in the hospital due to another fall. The first night she was in so much pain, it was hard to be with her. I started to wonder why God was letting her flounder like that. Why leave her in torment? She was much better the next day, happy, talking. I sat with her for a while late that night, in the quiet of her hospital room, and I found myself rather entranced by all her ramblings. If I hadn't been listening so closely, she would not have made a whole lot of sense. But, she was so intent on telling me all the things running through her mind, I could not help but listen. I think I learned a few things about her that surprised me.

If you have ever had someone you love go through Alzheimer's or something similar, you know how hard it is to watch the person you love just melt away. I couldn't stand it. I  was having a hard time understanding what the purpose could be behind this suffering. I should never have questioned. When will I learn that God is truly awesome?

As I sat with my Nain that night, she was full of light. Her face was animated and so, so happy. She held my hand and looked into my eyes. I just let her talk. She told me so many things, some fragments of memories, some stories, and some bits and pieces that I could not make any sense of. She told me about falling in love with my grandfather. She said she loved him the moment she laid eyes on him. Nain talked about her baby girl, and her two little boys. My grandmother has always been a little hard, a little unreachable, so this little lady, with the bright eyes, just pouring love out at me...I was mesmerized. She truly had me hanging on her every word. She told me how we need to love, always. That the only thing that mattered was that we love. And to pray. She told me to always be on my knees in prayer, that it was so important, and the only thing we could ever do that mattered. She told me that we have a wonderful family and that she was glad that we all loved each other so much.

Nain talked about her mother and dad, and how much she loved her brothers. She told me that whenever she was in trouble her boys, as she called them, would swoop down and carry her away. She told me about her best friend, Jean. She and Jean had grown up with one another. They had been neighbors from the time they were 1 year old. Nain talked about Jean a lot. She said she was a true love. They stayed friends all of their lives. She told me she missed her terribly when they were apart, married and raising children.

I stayed a long time that night. She was just too fascinating to leave. She told me all about how there is a job that must be done, and that we must be the ones who do it, because no one else will. She did go on to say that the job was about creating a new "healthy gum" because "so many kids these days chew gum" and if she didn't create the healthy gum with lots of vitamins and nutrients, then no one else would. I got the feeling that perhaps this was something she thought about a lot when her kids were small. She had it all planned out and presented it as a proposal, almost. She made me laugh, and I had to agree that gum was indeed a big problem and someone needed to do something.

 I think these moments with my grandmother are so precious. I think it makes a strange kind of sense. Her ramblings have me falling in love with a grandmother I never knew. I am learning bits and pieces of her life, and seeing why, maybe, she was a bit on the hard side. She'd lived an incredibly hard life. She's had many great sorrows, which I knew, but all along she'd had a quiet joy that I did not suspect. I like getting to see pieces of that now. Her devotion to prayer surprised me a little, but not my mom. Mom told me that all her life, Nain was down on her knees. I'm glad to know that. God has a funny little plan here, don't you think? This little woman, who has been through so much, but has been hard to reach, maybe a wee bit hard to love, is suddenly a joy. She is sweet where she used to be a bit mean. She tells me she loves me often, when growing up, I was never too sure she liked me at all. Her smiles, her strange little stories, her falling, hospitalizations, all of these things, I think have been part of a plan all along. Because I pray for her so much now. I prayed for her always, of course. In a perfunctory sort of way, except in times of trial. But I pray for her now like I never have. I love her, I want her days left on earth to be peaceful and happy, and I want for her to go to the Lord when it is time, so I pray, and I love. I think it is all starting to make a perfect kind of sense.

Monday, September 27, 2010

How to Raise Boys Who Read -- Signs of the Times News

How to Raise Boys Who Read -- Signs of the Times News: ""

My husband handed me this article today on his way out the door. He thought I might want to take a look at it. The article is entitled "How to Raise Boys Who Read". Very interesting topic as we have five sons, and I feel that reading is the number 1 essential to a good education, and number 2 to pretty much nothing other than the study of faith, for which, (mostly)one must know how to read.

I am an avid reader, and a life long lover of the classics. My mother developed a love of books in us early on. She gave me some classics to read when I was really small, probably as early as 1st grade. So I grew up on The Five Little Peppers and How They Grew and Little Women, and An old Fashioned Girl. I fell head over heels in love with books. With a mother who was also a great reader, I had access to plenty of books, many of them saved from her own childhood. I still have many of her treasured copies of Nancy Drew.

I remember clearly when my mom gave me Anne of Green Gables, my favorite book of all time. We were going on vacation, so we stopped at our favorite used books store (which may as well have been Disney Land to me)and she got me a well read copy. I devoured that book in short order, only to turn back to the first page and read it all over again. I think I have probably read it fifty times. I have read it at least once a year since I got it, and have actually read it many times in one year. It is a comfort to me. I love the way Anne (Anne with and "e"!) thinks, I love how she sees the world around her, and I love that she has a good imagination. I have taken pieces of that book and tried to instill a healthy imagination in all of my kids, as well as a love for the written word.

Though I love Anne with all of my heart, I have to mention the real trigger that turned me into a life long reader. Remember the Trixie Belden books? Well, a sweet little friend gave me the first one along with a bunch of other books as a gift for my 11th birthday. The Trixie Belden series were very sweet little mysteries based on friendship, honor, integrity and love of fellow man. I fell in love all over again. My mom would take me to the book store in the mall and let me get two at a time. I can remember worrying about what I would do when I ran out of Trixie Belden books. What would I read?! Turns out, everything I could get my hands on.

We homeschool a crowd here, and in doing so, one of my goals has always been to create readers. I wanted my children to be able to travel the world, time, and space through books. I think I am working on a 70/30 ratio, which is okay, but it took us a long time to get here. My oldest didn't turn into a reader until she was about 17, and she discovered (shudder) the Twilight books. I shudder because there is such an abundance of truly wonderful literature at her fingertips. I have purchased and collected books from the moment I started reading. My kids barely have to go to the library, we have so many books here. While the Twilight books are by no means what I would have chosen as a trigger, they have turned my girl into a reader, at last.

My other children have had a somewhat better start, having always been homeschooled. Everyone in my house read the Wimpy kid books over the summer, even my 2nd grader. They LOVED them! From the oldest all the way down to Kolbe, they were a hit. My younger kids seem to be somewhat less jaded than the two who went to school, and more open to the classics. (There isn't anyone here telling them they are dorky!) So, we have read a number of lovely books outloud, such as Sarah, Plain and Tall and we've recently started reading Tom Sawyer. We had so much fun reading the Junie B. Jones books, even my oldest would listen in because they were so funny! I think reading to the kids, even the big ones, is as important as getting them to read. Don't be shy about funny voices and sound effects - those things make the stories come to life in the imagination of your child! If you need a place to start, get a couple of the Shel Silverstein books such as A Light in the Attic or Where the Sidewalk Ends. They are light hearted and really funny. Children love them, and they will memorize them quick as you please.

Well, this turned into a big, long love story when what I wanted to post was a cautionary tale. You see, all these years, I have never allowed video games into the house. Then, for some reason I still cannot imagine, I caved and let both my son and daughter get a DSi for their birthdays. Now I feel like a sell out. I feel like taking the games away and handing them each a copy of Sign of the Beaver or Little House on the Prairie or something a bit more worthwhile. So, read the article - and go a buy a truly good book and read it with your boys, and your girls - do what you can to make them fall in love with books. And while I don't mind if they read the occasional "Captain Underpants" if that's what it takes to get them to read, I think it's important to read really good books. Like Treasure Island and Oliver Twist and Sherlock Holmes and Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn. And the Chronicles of Narnia! And a hundred others. There's good stuff out there, there's a reason they have been loved for generations. Fill your children's hearts with these lovely stories. Your children, and their SAT scores, will thank you for it.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Just like my very own...

I come from a large family. There were four of us growing up,  and we used to visit the rest of the family almost every other weekend. We spent many happy hours with our cousins running all over the 8th Ward in Johnstown, Pennsylvania. It was awesome. We walked all over, ran between my grandmother's house and my Uncle Jim and Aunt Pat's. I grew up thinking that cousins were my favorite people in the world.

The four of us, my brother and two sisters, have gone forth and multiplied. One of us just multiplied a couple of weeks ago, as a matter of fact! (Sorry for the math metaphor - homeschooler)

Between us there are 21+ cousins. I love that my kids are growing up with their cousins, but what I love even more is that when I pick up one of these babies, and breathe them in, I know them. I know them, and they know me. They know I love them. If I close my eyes, the little body I am holding in my arms feels like one of my very own, because my heart knows that little child belongs. I love the security that brings me as a parent, and as an aunt. I know that, God forbid, anything should happen to Doug and me, that my children will be loved. I have sisters (including my beautiful sister-in-law, Amy) who will make sure my kids get pieces of me, that they will know what was in my heart. And my sisters and brothers know that if need be, my heart  and arms will stretch wide open to enfold their beautiful little ones. What a blessing. God knew so well what was needed when he built the family.

Family dinners are a regular occurrence. We all decide at the last minute to converge at my mom and dad's. We cook, or grill out, or order pizza. The kids run all over the place. But, as the go dashing by, I grab one. I hug them, smell their kid-dirt-goat-pizza smell, and set them back on their feet, but not before I whisper something at them, a blessing, or just an "I love you", or tell them they are beautiful. That last trick I learned from my Uncle Jim, and my dad. Both great lovers of family, it is a regular sight to see my dad snatch up a child for a squeeze and a toss. Every time I saw my Uncle Jim he made me feel like he was waiting just to see me. A squeeze and a "Where have you been, Beautiful?" always made me smile, even when I was no longer a little girl. Family. There is such perfection in the way a grandparent, uncle or aunt can love a child. I hope all my beautiful nieces and nephews remember always how much I love them, that I pray for them, and that they are part of my heart and soul.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Jonah, Joey, Jo-D, D-Man, Deedlicious

I have a 12 year old son, Jonah. Jonah was born after a near perfect pregnancy, with a knot in his umbilical cord, wrapped around his neck twice, and then twined around his entire little body. The doctors seemed to think something was wrong even before he was born, though all of his tests came back perfect. We were all so glad that everything turned out okay, despite the doctor's worries. But, for some reason he wouldn't wake up enough. You know that wide awake period that most newborns have shortly after birth? He never had that alertness, the wide open eyes that try to make sense of the world they have just joined. I asked a nurse about it, but she just replied that some babies were sleepier than others, but it niggled at me.

The day we went home from the hospital we had a lot of trouble waking Jonah up to eat. He went six hours without nursing, and I was starting to get really worried. When the day dragged on and calls to the nurses' station assured us that he would wake when he was hungry, we hoped that everything was okay, but we were nervous. By the next morning we knew something was wrong. Jonah had not really woken up to nurse, and was now not very responsive and exhibiting some jerking movements. We piled into the car and took him to the ER. The staff put us in a room where a doctor eventually looked him over. He was not as responsive as they would have liked, so he ordered a CAT scan. He walked out, and I looked down at my tiny son. I was so scared, and it felt even worse than when Kenzie had gotten sick as a newborn.

I was looking down at this tiny little guy, and he started to turn bright red, and his little body just seized up. I screamed for someone to help us. No one even looked our way. It felt like that nightmare where you can't scream and you can't move. I yelled, no one responded. My husband, my Douglas, walked out of the room and roared...ROARED for help. People came running. I still don't know if I made any noise or not when I yelled for help - but they were finally coming. I thought my little baby was having a stroke. They whisked him away to start working on him. While they were getting him stabilized the doctor said that he felt they could not handle Jonah as well as the Children's hospital, so they were going to life flight him to Akron. I was scared and relieved at the same time. We had gone to Children's with Mackenzie, and I knew how amazing the hospital was. When the life flight nurse arrived, she took over, and I grabbed my Douglas and just prayed. I prayed to my Blessed Mother. I asked her to watch over my son, and to beg her Son to protect him.

The life flight nurse, who was as beautiful as any angel, discovered that Jonah had 0 blood sugar. ZERO. This shocked me, but I knew he had not eaten. We hadn't been able to get him awake, and had been placated by nurses since his birth. They never checked his blood sugar when he was born, but I think his umbilical cord had been pinched when he flipped and got the big knot, wrapped it around his neck, and around his whole little body. The doctor knew something was off, but could not say what it was. Now we knew.

The angel nurse who flew with Jonah promised me she would take very good care of him on the flight, and that we could see him as soon as we arrived at the hospital. Jonah spent a harrowing five days in the NICU while they ran test after test trying to find the cause of what turned out to be a hypoglycemic seizure. Doug and I spent the days with him and the nights taking turns while the other got some sleep. We were so scared that something was terribly wrong, but every test showed that he was fine. We took him home on an anti-seizure medication, which the doctor weened him from a month later. Jonah  and I spent the next 18 months nursing. Day and night, night and day. I was NOT going to let that happen again. If he wanted to eat, he ate, no matter where we were, what time it was, or if he had just nursed. I'm still not completely over it. I watch over his eating more than anyone else's. Not that I need to, Jonah, now 12, eats like a horse. He goes through at least a box of cereal everyday all by himself. Breakfast, snack, regular lunch, snack, regular dinner, snack.

My Jonah has been through so much because of that rough start. He has some learning challenges that, in my mind, are a direct result of the problems he had at birth. He has a seizure disorder, and has undergone many tests,  and takes medication every day. The meds change the alkaline in his saliva, which causes severe tooth decay. He has put up with some pretty horrible dental procedures to try and correct this problem. Through all of this, he has been brave, strong, and completely uncomplaining. I am so proud of him.

Jonah is, of course, much more than his medical issues, but this is one of those things that will always haunt me. The night before the first seizure he was awake, and screaming. Doug was walking the floor with him. Why didn't I feed him? Why did it not even occur to me to try? We had, at that point been up for several days straight with no sleep  (chicken lice - whole other post!). It is amazing what sheer exhaustion will do to your judgment.  I have had nightmares ever since where I have a new baby and I forget to feed him. He nursed a lot in the hospital, through his sleepiness. The doctor tried to tell me not to let him do that - he camped at the breast - but I am so glad I didn't listen! It could have been so much worse.

As an aside, I know this all would have been so, so hard without our family. My parents kept our girls, Megan and Mackenzie, while Jonah was in the hospital, and made sure they were with us as much as possible. My brothers and sisters took turns with them, too. Both of our parents sat with us, brought us food, and comforted us. It would have been so, so hard without them - so, if they see this - thank you. I truly don't know what we would have done without you, especially during this particular crisis, and Mackenzie's.

In the end, Jonah is a healthy 12 year old, who also happens to have a seizure disorder. He has a seizure every 5 to 10 seconds. They are tiny, and he doesn't feel them, they are doing no harm. But, with that kind of frequency one is bound to go to the body and become a grand mal every once in a while, so he is on the medication to keep that from happening. He's beautiful and funny and clever. I pray that he knows, and God knows  how very much I love him.

Monday, September 6, 2010

A Grandmother

My grandmother is 89 years old. She always used to tell me I was her 50th birthday present, as I was born just a few days shy of that birthday. I would be lying if I were to say she was the cookie baking, sweet little grandma who welcomed you with open arms and told you to put on a sweater. She was much more worried about how neat we were and how we were dressed. And that we were being raised Catholic, she was really worried about that!

We used to go visit my "Nain", which is Welsh for "grandmother" and Pop-Pop about once a month or so when I was growing up. I have vivid memories of her following me around dusting and picking up. I never understood why she spent the whole time cleaning. She kept a very clean house, and I am sure it would have made her crazy to watch it deteriorate as the four of us swept through it and created chaos in our wake - which we certainly did. Or would have, if she had given us a chance.

Growing up, I think Nain softened a bit. She told us our first dirty joke. She taught me how to iron, which is a skill I have put to good use! Really, I have. On Sunday mornings, if one of my kids has a shirt or pair of pants that I cannot "release" with wrinkle releaser, I have been known to whip out the iron and give it a once over. I have also been known to iron in the instance of a wedding or funeral, but that's where I draw the line.

Anyway, back to Nain. Even with a less than demonstrative person, a grandmother is someone special. Someone you tend to love no matter what. So, I did. We all did, growing up. We all loved her with all her quirks and preferences. We knew she liked things neat, we knew she would always be dressed to the nines, we all knew she loved to be the belle of the ball, we knew she always smelled good. Not grandmother good, but really, really good. Like clean laundry and light perfume. It always made me feel good to smell that "Nain" smell. She used to laugh at us, she couldn't figure out what we were talking about. We all tried to make our laundry smell like hers, but could never get it quite right. We also knew she loved us, in her own way, and always did what she thought was good for us.

My grandmother faced some challenges and real heartbreak. Nain grew up the youngest of 5, the only girl, during the Great Depression. Her family was 1st generation,with her being the only child actually born in the U.S. . Her parents didn't speak English at first, and she could understand Welsh, but never spoke it. She married Pop-Pop during WWII, and raised my mom by herself for most of her first year. She lost one son in a tragic accident, and the other when he abandoned his entire family. She also lost her husband long before she should have, when they were only 72. She is now the last one left of her generation, all of her brothers, their wives (whom she loved dearly), all of her friends are gone.

Until recently, Nain has been fairly healthy, and very alert, most of the time. She might get confused as to how to get somewhere, or what day it was, but she always knew who we were. After a bad fall where she broke her hip, she has had some problems with memory. She has now been diagnosed with a subdoral hematoma, bleeding on the brain. The doctors say it could have been caused by the slightest bump on the head. She is in a nursing home, and is deteriorating. We go to see her, one day she knows me, the next she is very polite, but you know she can't remember who I am. She cannot put sentences together. She has had a few good days, and some bad. She looks so tiny and frail. She says "I love You" so easily now. I HATE LEAVING HER THERE. I hope she can still tell that I love her, because I do. I always have. I hope that somewhere in there, she's still Nain. Nain, who loves football and baseball. Nain, who dresses to kill, and always, always smells good. The Nain who made tiny, fancy, mince and plum pies at Christmas. Nain, who loved peach schnappes, black licorice and oatmeal raisin cookies. Nain, who chased after me with a dust rag. Nain, who told me I was her best birthday present, ever.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

An Open Letter to Oprah

Dear Oprah and Oprah show family,
     I know you have done many make-over and organizational shows over the years, but I wanted to offer a unique idea.
I am a married mother of nine children. Two are in college, and seven 13 years and under. We live in a small but nice 3 bedroom house in a small town. We have converted the attic and one room in the basement into bedrooms. We have two girls in the attic, two girls in the basement, two boys in one room, and three boys in the other. The attic and basement rooms have no closets at all. The other two rooms have very tiny closets. I can’t decide how many clothes each person actually needs, how to store them, how to keep the clothes where I can find them when I need them. How many clothes should I keep for hand-me-downs? I use them, but I think I keep too many. I can’t seem to part with the things I think I will have to replace if I get rid of them. Also toys – what is the best way to store toys? How do I help my older boys store their things so that the baby boys can’t get to them? How do we make the attic room, which is fairly small, work for teen and preteen girls? In the basement our college girls’ room looks like a clothing store exploded. How do I get this room organized to where they can find what they need for school, and for at home? How do I even get enough storage in that room when there is not closet?
My husband and I share a room, and I promise, you don’t have to go in there. It’s above and beyond anyone’s call of duty. It is the catch-all for the house. I would not put anyone through it.

     Obviously, space, organization, and sanity have become scarce. It cannot survive in this environment!

     As our family has grown, so has our budget, and luckily, our income, to a certain extent. However, due to some overwhelming medical bills (one with had a heart condition {Wolfe-Parkinson-white syndrome} and one has a seizure disorder as well as various surgeries, etc) and some very bad budgeting skills on my part, our finances are a mess. We have many medical bills and have a hard time making our money stretch as far as it needs to go. How do I make the money we have go as far as it can? How do I make judgement calls on what should be paid first, and what can wait?

     We also home school. This has gotten better, as we recently joined an online academy, but our school room is our dining room and it does not suit our needs well at all, especially since we still need to be able to use the dining room for meals. Where do I put all the school supplies, science materials, art supplies, math manipulatives, paper and endless amounts of  textbooks. Right now it is all stacked on one very messy humungous bookshelf circa 1977. This room also houses my “home office” which consists of a plastic table with two pc towers, one monitor, printer, and all that, plus a stack of bills and papers that I need to attend to, or should have six months ago, but did not because it was lost in the huge stack.

    Our living room is pretty large, thankfully. However we cannot fit our whole family in there  to sit and watch a movie or play a game. How do I arrange my couch, loveseat and tables to make room for all the children? We love spending time together, but it breaks my heart that we cannot even seat everyone in the same room to watch a movie.

     Meal planning for 11 is daunting, and I have really never even tried. My husband and I pretty much go with whatever is in the house. We buy the same ingredients all the time, and therefore, eat the same meals. It get boring, and I am sure I could be saving money, but I feel like I don’t have time to figure out a better way.

     Time management has always been an issue for me. I am a “fly by the seat of my pants” kind of girl, and I have always been okay with that – until your house is such a mess that you can’t figure out where you put your underwear, you are still wearing maternity clothes because it’s easier than digging out your regular clothes and your children don’t put anything away because they can’t figure out where it should go…then it’s time to make a change.

     Sadly, my husband is really no better – actually he’s worse. He’s a pack rat , so our garage is filled with everything he’s ever owned, just in case we need it someday. He’s not a hoarder, quite, but the garage has pieces parts of everything from bikes to plumbing, stray wood and every screw, nut and bolt just in case something implodes at 4am and he has to fix it before a store would open. He’s a protector, and this is one of his ways of being prepared for any eventuality. Unfortunately, that also means he is very messy and if something would implode in the middle of the night he would never be able to find what he needs to fix it.
I was hoping that perhaps it might make very interesting television to help make over one very harried mom, a hard working dad who never has enough hours in the day, our house, budget, meal plan, laundry system.  If I could figure out how to do it, I would implement a family closet, but I just can’t seem to find the space in our crowded basement. I would also love to find the space down there for a playroom for our very active little boys.

     We would be willing to accept whatever advice and organizational tips your team might have, and filming our noisy family and messy house will surely have you, your staff and your audience amazed at the mess, but laughing at our happy, crazy, disorganized but loving family. Thank you so much for your time and consideration, Megan and Doug Jeffery and the nine beautiful tornadoes.
P.S. - If the Container Store execs happen to read my blog, please could you open a store somewhere in our vicinity? Please? That would really help me out. Thank you.
One more thing - maybe an IKEA? Oh, that's asking too much? I guess Pittsburgh really isn't too far to drive.
P.P.S. - Oprah, if you feel Nate Berkus is the best man for this job, I am totally okay with that!

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Is There Anything Better in the World?

Is there anything on this earth better than happy, healthy sun drenched children? Little hands grimy with sand, and small faces sticky with kool aid? Maybe when the faces of your children are joined by their cousins. I am so happy my kids are being given the chance to grow up with their cousins. I think cousins are a special kind of sibling. Just like brothers and sisters, but sometimes, even better! The sweet camaradarie that belongs to children is deepened by a shared history. Brothers and sisters are often friends, or grow up to be. Quite often it takes the growing up part, but cousins seem to just love one another. Most of the rivalry seems to dissipate when it comes to cousins, with the possible exception of toddler age-mates. Then it is fierce!

We have just a few of the cousins staying here for most of the week to attend VBS with my kids. It's been a little hectic, but the kids are loving being together. My big boys are wishing for the other big boy cousins, who are at home, but the littles are having a great time!
Soon, most of us will be off on another adventure, with even more cousins, when we go to Assateague next week for our annual Karcher family camping trip. I love seeing my cousins, and watching my children bond with them, and their children. It's a special place, and a really special time. I can't wait, and I know the kids can't either!

Thursday, July 1, 2010

A Short Trip

My husband and I are going on a short trip this weekend. I am pretty sure it will be our first night away without any kids since our honeymoon, almost 15 years ago. I am sort of excited, and I think it will be so great to have a break, but at the same time, I am leaving my baby behind. My baby. My Yebster. My Mr. Yummypants. I can't think about it too much because it makes me not want to go! He's still nursing, after all. He's just a wee, little lad who needs me.I have never, ever spent the night away from one of my babies before.

On one hand, my Douglas and I will be able to dance the
night away without worrying about rushing home to the
short people. Could be very romantic - especially since it's a wedding - I totally love weddings. That's a whole other post, but weddings really are so much fun, and the perfect reason to take a night away "by going of for a weekend special... at the Holiday Inn!"

My Benjamin isn't going to like this idea, either. My little Boodle likes his mom and dad. He loves to be held, and he'll kiss me over and over and tell me "I Love you so much, too, Mom. I Love you so much, too." How do you walk away from that, even for one night? Especially knowing that he'll have a hard time. He's full of "Don't weave me!" every time I head for the door, even if it's only to the store.

Who knows, maybe I'll be totally fine, and maybe the babies will be totally fine, too. I really hope so. I think we've earned one night away in almost 15 years, don't you?

A Wedding

We are going to a family wedding this weekend. Ahh, I love family weddings. I love getting to see all those faces. It's a family reunion. All those aunts and uncles and cousins. It's a plus that it is a wedding, and not a funeral, which is pretty much the only other time we see all the family.

This particular wedding is that of my beautiful cousin, Emily. Emily is a good deal younger than I am, I was already a very awkward teen when we traveled to Maryland for her baptism. For some reason I was out and about with my Uncle Mike on that trip and had my first and best ever cannoli, which began a quest to find another as good. It still hasn't happened.

Anyway, back to my cousin's wedding and our generational gap.  Emily is a good deal younger than I am, which made it so I didn't get to know her as well as I have some of my other cousins. I think it's probably likely that my own daughters know her better than I do. I remember that she was the prettiest baby I have ever seen. Remarkable beauty that has only increased with time. I remember that as a little girl she was sweet, athletic and friendly. (picture stolen from Aunt Carla's FB page) . I pray that her wedding day is all that she wants it to be, leading into a life that is full of love and  LIFE.

Though I haven't gotten to know Emily as well as I would have liked, I am excited to see her get married this weekend. I can't wait to see my cousins, hug the babies and see the faces of my uncles that seem to be almost a mirror of my dad's.  I am getting ready to make the most of the next day or so, and soak them all up. We'll eat and drink and dance (some will sing, and others will probably do something horrifying and hysterical - it's the Karcher way), and party away the night until the last song of the night, which, if tradition stands, will be American Pie. Then, in the Foster and adopted Karcher tradition, those left standing will wrap our arms around one another in a circle and dance like crazy until we all fall in a sweaty pile at the end - FAMILY. I can't wait.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Do You Believe in Angels?

Angels hold a fascination for many people, especially those raised with a belief in them. I was reading an article about a new book, called Angels in My Hair, written by a practicing Catholic on the subject of angels. The article was really interesting, and it got me to thinking. So many, many times in my life I have attributed the safety or other good outcome to the work of angels. What a world we could have if people just set aside doubt and did what their hearts cry out for, and just believe. People want so badly to have faith in something, most claim to adhere to one religion or another, and most major religions, Christianity, Judaism and Islam all believe in angels.

When I was very small, my mother taught me the guardian angel prayer so many Catholic parents teach their children. She taught me that I had my very own guardian angel to watch over me.
Angel of God
My Guardian Dear
To whom God's Love
Commits Me Near
Ever this Night
Be at My Side
To Light, To Guard
To Rule and Guide
I really loved this idea, and would even scoot over in my bed to make sure my angel had room to lie down if she got tired. (Of course the angel was a she, who else would God send to a little girl?)  Many, many nights I prayed to my angel when I was scared. I had a big imagination, and that lead me to have what my kids have come to call "bad imaginations" - just scary images in your head before you fall asleep, usually evoked by the evening news. My angel, and the picture I had of her in my head, gave me great comfort.

As an adult, I have felt my angel praying for me in times of trouble. I have felt her arms around me when I needed her most. When my baby son was so sick and in the ER, I know she was praying with me for his safety and well being, and I am sure his angel was with him, too. I have asked my angel to follow my children into scary situations when I could not be with them, surgeries, tests, and other procedures. I love knowing I can call upon the angels of my children and ask them to keep a vigilant watch when I feel my children are going to need it.

I humbly salute you, O you faithful,
heavenly Friends of my children!
I give you heartfelt thanks
for all the love and goodness you show them.
At some future day I shall,
with thanks more worthy than I can now give,
repay your care for them,
and before the whole heavenly court
acknowledge their indebtedness to your guidance and
Continue to watch over them.
Provide for all their needs of body and soul.
Pray, likewise, for me,
for my husband,
and my whole family,
that we may all one day rejoice in your blessed company.


I know there are angles around us. I know it deep in my heart. A year or so ago Elizabeth slept late, and had to be to work very early. As she raced down the winding road to the convent where she was working, she rolled her car. Rolled it, as in crushed the car. She walked away with only a few scratches. When I close my eyes I can still see that crushed car, and feel the sick, hollow feeling in my stomach. Pieces of the car were strewn about the field. It was bad. The other thing that will always stay with me is that she rolled the car, it was crushed, except right where she had been sitting. You can almost see her angel wrapping herself around Elizabeth so she would not be harmed. What an amazing angel indeed, and we are so very grateful!

My angel has been so good to me, guarding and guiding me my whole life. I was happy, and surprised to learn at a class for our Parish School of  Religion, that it was possible to ask your guardian angel what his or her name was. I, something of a skeptic at heart ( really, I am!) was uncertain for some reason, but decided to give it a try. I just sat quietly a few times a day, for a couple of days and just simply asked her what her name was. Her name is Evelyn. Several of my children have also asked their guardian angels names, and I love knowing what they are when I ask for their guidance and protection of  my little ones.

Do you believe in angels? Care to share an angel story? - You'd be surprised, most people have one or two!

Saturday, June 19, 2010

The Father of My Children

I know the blogosphere is going to be filled with odes to dads this weekend. I am so glad that all these families have amazing husbands and fathers. My own family is thusly blessed.

I often complain about how my boys, even from a newborn babe, tend to prefer their dad. We sleep with the baby's bed pulled right up close to ours, so that we can sleep peacefully - without having to worry about where the baby is, but keeping the baby close. When the baby wakes up to nurse, I reach over and pick him up, but already that little head will be twisting and turning to try and spot Dad. They learn fast just where he'll be, and they do whatever they can to get a glimpse of him! Probably makes him feel like a rock star. I get a little jealous, but then  - it seems that these littles are already understanding what their dad is all about.

This dad that we have here is all about keeping us safe, and happy and protected. He makes sure we all have what we need. From a glass of water next to the nursing mama, or a car repair, he's our man. Shoveled walks and cleaned off cars, so our girls can safely drive away without snow blocking their view (because he knows they won't take the time do it it themselves), shopping for bats and mitts for a first T-Ball practice, to attending early morning soccer games, to dance recitals, to many nights tending a sick child or a fussy baby. Might as well throw in cooking a bazillion pizzas, millions of meatballs and spaghetti, and about a ton of meatloaf. He's changed approximately 37,000 diapers (no exaggeration), give or take, and taught three boys so far how to be 'straight shooters' in more than one sense of the word. He's watched more Pixar films than the Pixar people (Toy Story is his fav), and read more Sandra Boynton books than Sandra herself.  I love that our kids never, ever have to wonder if their dad is  going to be there - for the big events, and the little ones. Not only will he be there, he'll be there ahead of time, to make sure he gets a good seat! He'll be there early to pick them up, so they don't have to worry, and he'll make sure they have enough money, snacks, and drinks before they leave.

I love that the father of my children is so head over heels in love with his kids that he laughs as hard as I do at them, he cries as hard as I do for them, and he prays as hard as I do for and about them. He is showing our sons what it means to be a good, honest man. He is setting the bar very high for the kind of men our daughters should look for when they are ready to marry. They will be lucky to find one half as good, but I think we have taught them never to settle, go for the big love, the one that makes your day every single day. I love that one look from one of our kids can change the expression on his face from tension or fatigue to sheer joy. I love that nearly every picture we have of him, he is holding a child (not necessarily his own!).  I love that he took my girl and made her his own child, and has loved her and cared for her  and raised her up, just like all the rest of the kids. An unbelievable blessing.

Thank you, my Douglas, for being the dad you are - I couldn't ask for anything more. You never stop moving, helping me with everything in the house, then going outside to work on the girls' cars or lawn or whatever goes on in the garage. Thank you for being the guy who stops to help everyone you encounter on the road, or in life. Thanks for being the strong one, the whiskery one, the one who lets the littles steal sips of his Coke before they are really old enough, the one they all look up to and love.  Thanks for setting such a magnificent example for all of our children. I thank God every day for sending you to me! I love you with all of my heart, and I know our kids do, too. Happy Father's Day, my love.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Birthday Birthday

 We've had a lot of birthday going on around here. Our baby, Caleb (Yebbi) turned a year old a couple of weeks ago. I've been so busy, I never got to write him a proper post, so I have to make up for it.

Yeb, you are pure love. You are real trouble, and you love to put everything in your mouth. You are a pro at climbing EVERYTHING, and have been really lucky that you have big brothers who jump to your rescue constantly. You have dimples that flash a bazillion times a day, and they are so big, I could keep beans in them! You are delicious in every possible way. Happy Very 1st Birthday, my baby boy. I can't believe it's been a year already! Our world is so much happier with you in it.

I know it sounds ridiculous for a mother of so many to say she was surprised to find out she was pregnant, but when we found out about Caleb, we were stunned. I had suffered a miscarriage on a Wednesday, and by Friday, was bleeding so very heavily that we ran to the ER in the middle of the night. They performed an ultra sound and discovered, much to our total shock and amazement, that while his twin had miscarried, our little baby Caleb was 7 weeks along and doing just fine, completely unfazed by all the turmoil going on around him! God must have great plans for this little soul!
When it was time for Caleb to be born, there was again, a lot of turmoil, which I wrote in one of my very first posts - but, he has survived against the odds, and for that we are incredibly grateful. God Bless you, Caleb Blaize!

Friday, June 11, 2010

Benjamin the Birthday Man

My baby Benjamin, who is not actually the baby, turned three today. I still think of him as a baby, and since he only weighs 29 pounds, it's not hard to pretend he is a baby. But, he is talking like crazy, demanding, and often, quite creepy, but head over heels in  love with his dad - and me too, most of the time. I really love him. He is a ridiculously beautiful child, but makes up for it by being one of our crankier kiddos.

Benjamin was sort of a surprise pregnancy. He came after a loss, and we were so glad. I have had ups and downs when it comes to finding out about a new pregnancy, it's hard to feel like wanting to do it all over again, the sleeplessness, especially, really gets to me. but, every time we think we are done, the idea of never having a new baby really haunts me.

I love babies, really, truly enjoy every bit of babyhood. I relish every moment (except the sleeplessness). Even with the lack of sleep, I marvel, every time, over tiny toes, little babbles, and those first smiles. I know all parents feel a great deal of joy at their child's development, but I think my heart takes it a step or two further.
                                                                                                                                                                                            I think it's nothing short of ecstasy, every time I watch one of our babies yawn, or catch a whiff of sweet baby breath. I love the faces they make, and the small mews and grunts of a nursing babe.

I enjoy the heck out of toddlerhood, too, and we are deep in it now, with a 1 year old and a three year old. these people are pure, unadulterated bliss. Yebbi is a happy, delightful little guy. He is in love with his whole family, and grins a huge, drooley grin at any attention from an older sibling. I dare you to find anything better than a big, wet, drooley baby kiss. The love just pours out of them, and fills your heart right up. Those flashing, smiling eyes that tell you they have a really good, really bad idea, and you have to brace yourself for what ever they come up with. How can I live happily without that? Can I ever really look back on all of this and say - yeah, I am so over all that joy and bliss n'stuff. Totally not into it anymore. Can I honestly say I can happily live without it? Why would anyone ever choose to live without it?

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

A Bad Day

Do you ever think about the road not taken? In truth, I hardly ever do. I am usually pretty content. I have the regular ups and downs of any mom, especially one with many children. For the most part, I plod along and get done what I can manage every day. I don't think anyone who knows me would say that I slave away all day or anything. Most days I just do what I can do, ya know? Laundry, three meals, clean up from usually 1 or 2 of them, with the girls cleaning up the other. School, which means math and  reading with each child, and then letting the big ones work on science and poetry, language arts on their own. Baths, books, prayers and bed. Computer for work as long as I can manage without losing focus.

Most days I am just fine with this. But not today. Today, I am having a bad day. I am thinking about all the things I never got to do when I was younger, all the places I never got to go. Don't get me wrong, I made my choices. I would most certainly change some of them, and others, most certainly would not.

I would for sure wait longer before having a baby. I would play more, go more places, and maybe make more friends. I cannot name a single person I went to college with  - I cannot remember a face or a name - how sad is that? I would like to have had some good friends I made in college, but I don't. My own fault, but there it is.

I wish I had had more fun before settling into parenthood, then another marriage and more parenthood. I have two kind of crazy memories - two. I wish I had more memories, of any kind, really. Most of everything since I was 19 is a blur -  kind you get from just being busy. I just wish I had had more fun. Kid fun, stupid fun. You know the kind I mean, right? Then, there  comes a certain point when you are just too old to have that kind of fun - even if the opportunity presented itself. You have duties, responsibilities, and an example to set.

I'm supposed to be this mom - this nice, Catholic, homeschooling mom. I am supposed to pray for grace, and be a calm presence in my children's lives. I'm supposed to have it all together. But I don't. I don't know if I have even articulated this well, but I hear the baby splashing in the toilet. He's having fun. I am so not.